Dale Earnhardt Jr. is unquestionably the most popular driver in NASCAR, but I wasn't among his fans last weekend at Sonoma. Junior made contact with A.J. Allmendinger, sending him spinning and saddling him with a 37th-place finish. I had Allmendinger on my roster in every fantasy league, and he actually led the most laps of any driver and was charging back to the front when his race was ended prematurely.
On the plus side, Jeff Gordon delivered a second-place finish, and Marcos Ambrose and Clint Bowyer finished in the top 10. However, the bad ending to Allmendinger's day ruined what was an otherwise solid showing from my fantasy teams.
Kenseth a stable choice
I will try to bounce back this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, but I am going to try to do so with a somewhat conservative approach. After all, Saturday's Quaker State 400 will be just the fourth Cup race held at the track. Driver trends don't mean as much when the sample size is only three races, and while some drivers appear to be ahead of the competition, there is still more uncertainty at a new track like Kentucky than at a track that has been on the schedule for decades.
With that in mind, I'm going to build my fantasy lineups around drivers that have been consistent both at Kentucky in the past and at other 1.5-mile tracks this season, but I'm not going to rely solely on big names. It just isn't possible for me to be as confident with my picks when the sample size I am working with is three races, and the last thing I want to do is to waste precious starts from the top fantasy options.
I'll sprinkle in a few upper-echelon drivers to anchor my rosters, but for the most part, I'll take my chances with value picks that have shown some promise at Kentucky.
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Matt Kenseth (A): Although Kenseth hasn't been nearly as dominant as he was last year, he has been dependable at 1.5-mile tracks. In fact, he and Jeff Gordon are the only two drivers with top-10 finishes in all four races at 1.5-mile ovals in 2014. He is also the defending winner of this weekend's race and owns a series-leading 4.7 average finish at Kentucky. Kenseth should be a safe anchor to build around.
Paul Menard (B): He hasn't had a lot of success at Kentucky to date, but Menard has been a factor at the 1.5-mile tracks all year. He has three top-10s in four starts to go along with a 9.2 average finish. Menard also ranks ninth overall in points scored at 1.5-mile tracks this year. I expect the trend to continue this weekend, and he should at least be able to provide a top-15.
Martin Truex Jr. (B): Truex has piled up some impressive numbers at Kentucky. His 11.0 average finish ranks sixth in the series, and his results haven't been because of luck. Truex also owns the ninth-best driver rating at the track and the seventh-best average running position. He should have a solid run this weekend and challenge for a top-10.
Kyle Larson (C): This pick came down to Austin Dillon and Larson, and while Dillon has had a lot of success at Kentucky in the Nationwide Series, Larson has been strong at the 1.5-mile tracks this year. In four starts, he has yet to finish outside the top 20, and he ranks 12th in the series in points scored. Throw in the fact that he has shown more upside than Dillon throughout the year, and I'll take my chances with Larson.
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About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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