By KFFL Staff on February 8, 2011
For fantasy NASCAR owners getting ready to make picks in draft formats, it is vital to select secondary drivers with potential to outperform the slot in which they are taken. The pool of drivers that are in contention for good finishes on a weekly basis is limited. Those in mid-size and large leagues will find free-agent options nearly non-existent, making the waiver wire an afterthought. You simply must nail it on draft day to compete.
Finding value and sleepers is still very important in other formats. Those in salary cap games can lock in a low rate early and use the savings to build up an elite unit. Meanwhile, those in allocation formats should be privy to worthy drivers flying under the radar in order to find start-saving options ahead of the competition.
Undervalued and sleeper drivers
With teammate Kevin Harvick hogging up the spotlight at RCR thanks to a stellar 2010 season, fantasy owners can catch a major value as attention shifts away from Bowyer. Last year, the Kansas native won a pair of races, doubling his career total, set a career best with 18 top-10 finishes and matched his previous ceiling of seven top-fives. In addition to improving performance, Bowyer is one of the few drivers that does not have a weakness on any type of track. By 2009, just four years into his Cup career, Bowyer had already notched a top-10 result at every venue on the schedule. Bowyer has the all-around skills, in addition to big upside, to help drive your lineup to the front on a weekly basis.
Even though he can't buy a beer until May, Logano has already been covered by champagne in Victory Lane once and figures to return there many more times over the course of his career. After struggling to find consistency during the regular season, Logano came close to another checkered flag on several occasions during the Chase. In 10 postseason starts, the kid they call Sliced Bread recorded seven finishes of 11th or better, including a streak of five results of seventh or better. Teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch have won races in bunches thanks to the top-notch equipment plus excellent tutelage that comes at JGR. Logano figures to be the latest young gun to make the transition from hot prospect to genuine star.
After posting a solid average finish of 16.4 in 2009, things appeared to be on the upswing for Reutimann. However, after going 44 starts without a DNF, the double zero team suffered three in the first eight races of last year. Reutimann would finish all the remaining 28 races, and collected his second career win, while seeing plenty of ups and downs. Already established as a solid driver on 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks, Reutimann took a quantum leap forward in restrictor plate races last year. In addition to collecting his first top-fives at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, he was a key bump-draft partner in each event. Short tracks were another area Reutimann improved. It is these added dimensions that make him a driver to watch out for despite a rocky 2010.
To say Truex had a rough 2010 would be an understatement. In addition to bad luck and late-race incidents, the first-year No. 56 team also struggled with making the proper in-race adjustments to combat track changes. In eight starts, Truex posted an average running position of 10th or better, yet only finished inside the top 10 on two of those occasions. In the 17 races in which Truex held an average running position of 15th or better, he managed to finished 15th or worse seven times. Assuming the team has learned from their growing pains, look for Truex to start cashing out good runs into strong finishes.
Prior to last season, Menard had only recorded one top-10 finish and seven DNFs due to crash in 111 Cup starts. Several years ago, after an incident, Tony Stewart, the two-time champ, said of Menard, "He's just got enough talent to just be in the way." In addition, Stewart and fans have questioned if Menard would even be in the series if not for the sponsorship dollars from the hardware business run by Menard's father. Well, in 2010, the son finally started living up to his end of the deal. Menard recorded six top-10s, all but one coming on intermediate tracks, and a dozen finishes of 14th or better. Now heading to RCR, as the organization will go back to fielding a fourth car, Menard will be driving elite equipment for the first time. With plenty of skeptical owners questioning his legitimacy, Menard's potential value is looming rather large.
In 2008, Ragan was putting together a terrific season for a young driver. In his sophomore campaign, a then 22-year-old wheelman cut an average finish of 15.6 with six top-fives, 14 top-10s and just barely missed out on the Chase. Heading into the next year, many assumed Ragan would be the next first-time winner with the backing of Roush Fenway and now a top sponsor. Instead, the program hit a year-long slump and Ragan's performance suffered greatly. Even as the other Roush drivers began their own resurgence in '10, Ragan was still flatlining. In late September, Drew Blickensderfer took over atop the pit box with some degrees of success. In those nine races, the team recorded two of their three top-10s. Now that the Roush organization has rediscovered its stride, Ragan is an attractive post-hype sleeper coming at a bargain price.
Eric McClung has been a KFFL contributor and fantasy NASCAR consultant since 2008. His work has been published on several prominent NASCAR websites, and McClung is one of KFFL's featured NASCAR experts. He can be followed on Twitter @ericmcclung