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Fantasy NASCAR rankings: AdvoCare 500

By Brian Polking

Denny Hamlin
While Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski have spent most of the Chase battling for the top spot in the standings and hogging the headlines, Kyle Busch has been flying under the radar. Missing the Chase will do that to a driver. However, Busch has been enjoying a strong stretch during the playoffs, scoring the fifth-most points of any driver in the last eight races. In fact, only Johnson has more top-five finishes than Busch during the Chase. The only thing he hasn't done in the past couple of months is win a race, but after capturing the pole for Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix, Busch might be checking that off his list later this weekend, as well.

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.

Rk
Driver
Car No.
Make Sponsor Team
Starting Pos
1
Denny Hamlin
11
Toyota FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing
3
2
Brad Keselowski
2
Dodge Miller Lite Penske Championship Racing
14
3
Kyle Busch
18
Toyota M&M's Joe Gibbs Racing
1
4
Jimmie Johnson
48
Chevrolet Lowe's Home Improvement Hendrick Motorsports
24
5
Kasey Kahne
5
Chevrolet Farmers Insurance Hendrick Motorsports
4
6
Jeff Gordon
24
Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger Hendrick Motorsports
11
7
Clint Bowyer
15
Toyota 5 Hour Energy Michael Waltrip Racing
16
8
Martin Truex Jr.
56
Toyota NAPA Auto Parts Michael Waltrip Racing
2
9
Tony Stewart
14
Chevrolet Office Depot Stewart-Haas Racing
9
10
Kevin Harvick
29
Chevrolet Budweiser Richard Childress Racing
19
11
Greg Biffle
16
Ford 3M Roush Fenway Racing
20
12
Ryan Newman
39
Chevrolet U.S. Army Stewart-Haas Racing
12
13
Joey Logano
20
Toyota Home Depot Joe Gibbs Racing
15
14
Kurt Busch
78
Chevrolet Furniture Row Furniture Row Racing
6
15
Mark Martin
55
Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine Michael Waltrip Racing
10
16
Carl Edwards
99
Ford Subway Roush Fenway Racing
13
17
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
88
Chevrolet Mountain Dew AMP Energy Hendrick Motorsports
23
18
Aric Almirola
43
Ford Medallion Financial Richard Petty Motorsports
5
19
Matt Kenseth
17
Ford Best Buy Roush Fenway Racing
22
20
Paul Menard
27
Chevrolet Menard's Richard Childress Racing
7
21
Jeff Burton
31
Chevrolet Caterpillar Richard Childress Racing
33
22
Juan Pablo Montoya
42
Chevrolet Clorox Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
21
23
Marcos Ambrose
9
Ford Stanley Black & Decker Richard Petty Motorsports
17
24
Sam Hornish Jr.
22
Dodge Shell/Pennzoil Penske Championship Racing
26
25
Regan Smith
51
Chevrolet Tag Heuer Phoenix Racing
8
26
Jamie McMurray
1
Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
18
27
Bobby Labonte
47
Toyota Kingsford JTG Daugherty Racing
30
29
Danica Patrick
10
Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing Tommy Baldwin Racing
37
30
Travis Kvapil
93
Toyota Burger King BK Racing
39
31
Dave Blaney
36
Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing Tommy Baldwin Racing
42
32
Casey Mears
13
Ford GEICO Germain Racing
25
33
David Ragan
34
Ford 8-Hour Alert Front Row Motorsports
29
34
David Gilliland
38
Ford MHP Front Row Motorsports
31
35
David Stremme
30
Toyota Inception Motorsports Inception Motorsports
32
36
Timmy Hill
32
Ford C&J Energy FAS Lane Racing
41
37
Jason Leffler
91
Toyota Aquaria USA Humphrey Smith Racing
40
38
Landon Cassill
83
Toyota Burger King BK Racing
27
38
Mike Bliss
19
Toyota Plinker Tactical Humphrey Smith Racing
36
39
David Reutimann
44
Chevrolet No Label Watcher Xxxtreme Motorsports
34
40
Michael McDowell
98
Ford Curb Records Phil Parsons Racing
28
41
Stephen Leicht
33
Chevrolet LittleJoesAuto.com Richard Childress Racing
35
42
Josh Wise
26
Ford MDS Transport Front Row Motorsports
38
43
Joe Nemechek
87
Toyota AM/FM Energy NEMCO Motorsports
43

 



 


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