Fantasy NASCAR: Sleeper drivers

by Brian Polking on February 20, 2013 @ 09:43:06 PDT

 

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Paul Menard | Richard Childress Racing

Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing

Earning respect from his peers has been tough from Menard. After all, his father's sponsorship dollars have kept him in rides that he would never have kept based on performance alone. However, Menard has been holding up his end of the bargain the past two seasons, and after his solid showing in 2012, it is time he starts getting respect from both his fellow drivers and from fantasy owners.

Although he managed just a single top-five finish, Menard did record a career-high nine top-10s last year. He also finished in the top 20 in 28 races. More importantly, he posted a career-best 15.5 average finish and ended the year 16th in the standings. To top it off, Menard had just a single DNF and actually completed more laps than any other driver in the series in 2012.

Sure, he has his limitations as a fantasy option, especially in rotisserie leagues. Menard doesn't lead many laps, and he isn't going to have many elite finishes. However, he has quietly become one of the more consistent drivers in the series since moving to Richard Childress Racing. Menard stays out of trouble, and he piles up top-20 finishes. In leagues that base scoring solely off of the points a driver accumulates each race, Menard's reliability makes him the perfect addition to any roster in any format.

Brian Vickers | Michael Waltrip Racing

After missing out on a full-time ride prior to the start of the 2012 season, Vickers opted to take a part-time ride with Michael Waltrip Racing. The limited schedule turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Vickers had a strong season in his eight starts in the No. 55. He will be a part of the three-driver rotation for the team again in 2013, and even in his part-time role, he is primed to deliver big results for fantasy owners.

His final numbers last season were impressive. In his eight Cup starts, he notched three top-five finishes and five top-10s. For comparison's sake, Carl Edwards started all 36 races and managed the same amount of top-five finishes. Vickers also managed a 13.3 average finish in 2012, which was eighth best in the series. Take away an engine failure at Watkins Glen and his average finish jumps to 9.0. Plain and simple, Vickers got the job done was he was behind the wheel.

Of course, a part-time schedule does mean that his value varies depending on the format of the league. If you play in a draft-style league where the only category is points scored, almost any driver that races a full schedule is going to be a better option than Vickers. On the other hand, he is basically a must-start option when he races in leagues that allow weekly driver changes. Vickers is also a much better draft option in rotisserie leagues that factor in multiple categories. Keep in mind that in his eight starts last year he still managed to rank 13th in driver rating, 16th in top-five finishes, 17th in laps led and 21st in fastest laps run and top-10s.

Yes, Vickers is going to require some diligent roster maintenance on the part of his owners, but he is worth it. Many owners are scared away because of his very limited schedule, but acquiring him at a discounted rate only sweetens the pot. In any league that puts an emphasis on per-race performance rather than total points, Vickers is definitely worth snatching up ahead of several drivers with full-time rides.

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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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