By KFFL Staff on April 22, 2011
Thanks to the new point system NASCAR implemented prior to the start of the season, slow starts are now harder than ever to overcome. Eight races into the 2011 campaign, there are still drivers trying to overcome one or two bad finishes. Being mired deep in the standings will keep many drivers off fantasy rosters, but that is a short-sighted approach. There are several drivers running much better than their points position indicates, and if the competition is shying away from them, it means savvy owners have a golden opportunity to gain some serious ground.
At the head of the class is Greg Biffle. He opened the year with three straight finishes of 20th or worse, but the driver that made the Chase and finished in the top 10 in each of the past three seasons is starting to emerge. He has finished 11th or better in four of his last five starts, including back-to-back finishes of seventh or better.
Biffle has yet to crack the top 15 in the standings, but he is getting close. His strong fourth-place showing at Texas was proof that he is officially back. Fantasy owners should once again consider him on a weekly basis, especially at the 1.5-mile tracks where Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing having excelled. Biffle's best is yet to come, and owners should start rostering him before he gets to Victory Lane.
After his win at Phoenix, everyone expected Jeff Gordon to go on a tear. Instead, he finished outside the top 10 in the three races following the victory. The talk of a dominant year quickly faded away as Gordon slipped outside the top 10. He is still outside the top 10, but Gordon has shown signs of becoming an elite option once again.
He has three top-five finishes this season, but two have come in the past three races. Gordon still has the versatility that warrants weekly consideration from owners as evidence by his top-five finishes at NASCAR's shortest track and longest track. His days of leading the series in victories are likely gone, but he is much better than his 13th-place position in the standings suggests. Owners can expect a lot more top-five finishes out of Gordon the rest of the way, and the four-time champ still has a lot of value left in him.
A quick glance at the standings, and one might think Tony Stewart is having a down year. After all, he is outside the top 10 in the standings and has just one top-five and two top-10s through eight races. However, anyone that has watched all the races this season knows that Stewart is a sleeping giant.
He has had a legitimate shot at winning four of the eight races in 2011. A bad bump draft attempt by Mark Martin cost Stewart a shot at winning the Daytona 500 on the final restart. The next weekend at Phoenix, he had the race won until a late caution brought guys with fresher tires to his back bumper. At Las Vegas, Stewart led the most laps only to see Carl Edwards take two tires to beat him on the final pit stop. A pit road speeding penalty at Texas on the final stop dropped him from the lead as well.
In other words, Stewart's results are not at all indicative of the type of cars he has had this season. Once he finally cashes in, owners shouldn't be surprised to see Stewart go on a serious winning streak.
These three drivers are a few of the bigger names that are trending in the right direction. Other drivers to keep an eye on include Brian Vickers and Joey Logano, who have both been plagued by awful luck. The Chase hopes of both drivers are probably already over, but that doesn't mean they can't be useful in fantasy leagues.