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Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: Food City 500
Engine issues have slowed Kyle Busch this season, but nothing seems to be slowing him down this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He was already on the short list of favorites thanks to a series-leading five wins at the track since 2007, but after winning the pole Friday and shining in Saturday's practices, Busch surged to the top spot in the final set of driver rankings. With a series-leading 8.4 average finish at Bristol in the last 10 races, Busch brings reliability to the table. Meanwhile, the upside is obvious, and considering all five of his previous wins at Bristol have come after he qualified outside the top 10, a downright dominant performance could be on tap for Sunday.
Ironically, his two toughest competitors could be his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, who both landed in the top five of the final rankings thanks to solid efforts in qualifying and even stronger efforts in the practice sessions. Not to mention the fact that Hamlin is the most recent winner at Bristol while Kenseth is a two-time winner and has eight top-10s in his last 10 starts in Thunder Valley. Fantasy owners may want to seriously consider loading up on JGR drivers this weekend.
If you are looking for some sleeper picks, Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears could do the trick. After following a sixth-place effort in qualifying with a solid showing in practice, McMurray snuck into the top 20 of the driver rankings. With five finishes of 11th or better in his last seven starts at Bristol, he could be a sneaky source for a top-15 finish or maybe even a top-10. Mears, on the other hand, worked his way into the top 25 of the rankings thanks to a 15th-place run in qualifying and respectable practice times, particularly on longer runs. A top-20 finish isn't out of the question.
On the flip side, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among the big names that have had success at Bristol in the past that saw their stock fall a bit in the final rankings. Both qualified outside the top 20, and their practice times were average at best. Granted, both drivers are off to hot starts in 2013, but based on the speeds they have shown so far this weekend, neither is headed for a spectacular showing.
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