By KFFL Staff on April 20, 2011
The 2011 Sprint Cup season is eight races old, and with the teams enjoying an off week, it gives fantasy owners a perfect opportunity to assess what has gone on so far this year. While it would be easy to glance at the top-15 in the standings and file away the names as the reliable fantasy options, this strategy isn't necessarily wise.
There are a few drivers that have run well thus far that have been throwing out red flags. Knowing which drivers to be leery of going forward can give owners a leg up on the competition when the series returns to action at Richmond.
Topping the list is Kurt Busch. Despite sitting in the top five in the standings with five top-10s in eight starts, fantasy owners should pencil him into their lineups on a regular basis just yet. After opening the year with four straight top-10s, Busch has just one top-10 finish in his last four starts. He has maintained a solid 11.2 average finish for the year, but he has been far from dominant in the past month.
The biggest red flag for owners is the fact that Busch has just a single top-five finish in 2011. He is starting to look more and more like the driver that limped to the finish line at the end of 2010. Granted, Busch has a knack for managing respectable finishes despite mediocre cars, but fantasy owners expecting him to perform like a top-five driver the rest of the way are going to be disappointed.
A strong start to the season had Paul Menard firmly in the top 10 in points, but he has been slowly slipping down the standings in recent weeks. It isn't so much that Menard has been bad, but other drivers have begun to hit their stride and are starting to pass him. For fantasy owners, it is a trend that is likely to continue as the season progresses.
I still believe that Menard is going to have the best year of his career by far, but he isn't going to be a top-10 driver in 2011. Owners should still consider him one of the better sleeper options available, but picking Menard ahead of some established big names isn't going to pay off in the long run. Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle are just a few of the notable drivers currently behind Menard, and it isn't going to stay that way for long. Menard has a chance to finish the year in the top 15 in points, but he has some work to do to become a top-10 option in the Cup Series.
He is currently 14th in points and enjoying a solid season, but Mark Martin may finally be feeling his age a bit. While many fantasy owners were hoping he could recapture the elite form he displayed in 2009, it is becoming clear that his days as a title contender are gone. Martin remains a reliable source of top-15 finishes for fantasy owners, but he has just three top-10s through eight races in 2011, and he has yet to record a single top-five finish.
Martin won five races in 2009, but he will be lucky to win one this year. As long as fantasy owners don't ask too much from Martin, he will make a nice complementary piece to a fantasy roster. However, his results this season aren't on par with those of an elite driver, and there are no signs that they will be anytime soon.
Busch, Menard and Martin are all currently in the top 15 in points and have been important contributors to fantasy squads in 2011. They can continue to provide help to owners the rest of the way, but all three are currently overvalued if you base your picks on the standings alone. Don't put too much stock in first two months of the year. Like any sport, it takes a few races were drivers and teams to get warmed up and hit their stride.