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Fantasy NASCAR rankings: AdvoCare 500
Since the start of the 2003 season, all 17 Cup races held at Phoenix have been won from a driver starting inside the top 20. More importantly, 16 of the races during that stretch have been won a driver starting inside the top 15, including seven from a top-three starting spot. Given the trend, fantasy owners have to like Busch's chances. The fact that he is also a former winner at Phoenix and has been on fire in the Chase is all the more reason to add Busch to your lineup this weekend.
Two other driver starting inside the top five that should be strong contenders Sunday are Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne. The have combined to win the last two races at Phoenix with Kahne winning last fall and Hamlin getting to Victory Lane earlier this year. Of the two, Hamlin is the slightly better play. In 14 career starts at Phoenix, he has finished sixth or better seven times, including five finishes of third or better.
Fantasy owners looking for a couple of sleeper picks should consider Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch. The two drivers will start fifth and sixth, respectively, and both have had some success at Phoenix in the past. Busch is a former winner at the track, and he has finished in the top 15 in five of his last seven starts. Meanwhile, Almirola finished 12th at Phoenix earlier this year and enters Sunday's race in the middle of his best stretch of the 2012 season. Both drivers could crack the top 15 this weekend, and Busch's history suggests that a top-10 isn't out of the question.
While there were several solid fantasy options that qualified up front at Phoenix, the biggest story might have been the poor showing from the championship leader. Johnson will roll off 24th Sunday, but fantasy owners shouldn't hit the panic button. Yes, he has started seventh or better in all four of his victories at Phoenix. However, he has just a 12.4 average starting position at the track for his career compared to his series-leading 5.3 average finish. The point is that Johnson tends to run much better on race day at PIR than he does in qualifying. This is still the same driver that has never finished outside the top 15 in 18 starts at Phoenix and has finished in the top five in 11 of his last 12 starts at the track. The numbers may not be in his favor as far as getting to Victory Lane goes, but a top-five finish is still likely for the five-time champ.
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