Based on his track record alone, it was going to be tough for Kyle Busch to lose his spot atop the driver rankings for Saturday night's race at Richmond. After cracking the top three in both practice sessions and qualifying in the top 15, he easily hangs on to the No. 1 spot. After all, Busch already boasts a series-leading 6.5 average finish at Richmond to go along with four wins. He also has 12 top-five finishes in 17 starts at the track, including eight finishes of first or second. Throw in the fast times he has posted so far this weekend, and Busch deserves to be considered the top fantasy option in just about any format.
While Busch retains his place in the final rankings, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth slides up into the top three on the strength of an excellent showing in practice Friday. Of course, it also doesn't hurt that Kenseth finished fifth at Richmond last September and finished seventh while leading the most laps at the track in the spring event this year. He has a series-leading five wins under his belt in 2013 already, and don't be surprised if he adds to the total this weekend.
Another driver who climbs into the top five in the final rankings is Kasey Kahne. He posted some of the fastest laps during the practice sessions Friday, and he had arguably the most impressive car on longer runs. Kahne actually hasn't been the most consistent performer at Richmond throughout his career, but he does have three top-12 finishes in his last five starts at the track, including a pair of top-five runs. Kahne is also a former winner at RIR, so he offers plenty of upside.
Although he just misses the top five in the final rankings, Jeff Gordon does vault all the way to sixth after he and Busch were the only drivers to crack the top five in both practice sessions Friday. Gordon also qualified on the pole, and he has had a knack for being at his best in the September race at the track. He has compiled a 5.3 average finish in the last six starts in the event and has finished fourth or better four times during the stretch. Needless to say, a top-five finish isn't out of the question.
Rounding out the top 10 in the final rankings is Joey Logano, and despite just two top-10s in nine starts at Richmond, there is just too much to love about the guy this weekend. For one, he followed up solid practice times with an eighth-place run in qualifying. Meanwhile, he enters this weekend's race having scored 30 more points than any other driver in the series over the past six races. Throw in the fact that he finished a career-best third at Richmond in the spring event, and his mediocre record at the short track is worth overlooking.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper option this weekend may want to consider Mark Martin. Although he hasn't gotten off to a great start as Tony Stewart's replacement, Martin cracks the top 15 in the final rankings thanks in part to top-15 practice times and a top-15 qualifying effort. Meanwhile, Martin has three top-10s in his last four starts at Richmond, including a third-place effort last September, and he is driving for a No. 14 team that has four top-10s in its last five starts at the short track.
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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