It was almost appropriate that Kyle Busch vaulted to the top of the driver rankings after qualifying and practice at Texas Motor Speedway Friday. After all, he leads the series with 172 points scored in the past four races, and he stayed hot at Texas by grabbing the pole in record-setting fashion. Granted, Busch has yet to win a Cup race at the track, but he does have nine top-15s and five top-four finishes in 15 starts. At the very least, Busch looks a safe bet for his fifth-straight top-five finish of the season, and a career-best effort at Texas could be on tap.
Another big name that moved up the rankings Friday and into the top five was Carl Edwards. He was consistent in both practice sessions and capped off the night with a top-10 qualifying effort. Keep in mind that Edwards leads all drivers with three career wins at Texas, and in his last four starts at the track, he has three top-10s and a 7.3 average finish. Given his history of success at Texas along with the speed he showed Friday, don't be surprised if he is contending for the win Sunday.
Two other drivers that also boosted their stock Friday that could help fantasy teams were Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch. Truex was arguably the most consistent car during practice, and he capped things off with a fifth-place effort in qualifying. More importantly, he has 11 top-15 finishes in 15 starts at Texas, including three straight. Busch on the other hand joined his young brother Kyle on the front row during qualifying. He is also a former winner at Texas, and he managed to finish 13th and eighth at the track last year despite driving for two different teams.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper option this weekend may want to consider Aric Almirola. He showed some muscle during Friday's practice sessions and followed it up with a third-place run in qualifying. Almirola also finished a career-best 15th at Texas last fall and 16th in the first race at a 1.5-mile track in 2013. He probably won't finish in the top five Saturday, but Almirola jumped into the top 20 of the driver rankings and could definitely provide a top-15 effort.
Meanwhile, Friday's activities confirmed that Ryan Newman is a shaky fantasy plays as he tumbled outside the top 20 of the rankings. He didn't impress in either practice session and then delivered a dismal 31st-place run in qualifying. For a driver that is generally one of the better qualifiers, the poor starting spot is concerning. When it also comes at a Texas track where he has gone nine straight starts without a top-10, there is even less to love about Newman this weekend.
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.Follow @BPolking
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