Start your fantasy NASCAR engines, racing fans! It is time to take to the race track this year in fantasy NASCAR Sprint Cup action! KFFL.com's free fantasy auto racing coverage brings you driver-by-driver fantasy analysis to help you when selecting your fantasy NASCAR team this year.
|1 Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing|
2 Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing
3 Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
4 Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing
5 Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas Racing
6 Brian Vickers, Red Bull Racing
|7 Kasey Kahne, Red Bull Racing|
8 David Reutimann, Michael Waltrip Racing
9 A.J. Allmendinger, Richard Petty Motorsports
10 Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing
11 Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing
12 Brad Keselowski, Penske Championship Racing
Burton returned to the Chase in 2010 after missing out in 2009, but his playoffs were forgettable to say the least. A miserable final 10 races capped a season full of missed opportunities. Burton has to correct the mistakes in 2011 if he wants to contend, but at this stage in his career, he may be on the decline.
Burton finished last season with a 15.1 average finish, but that average slid to 27.2 during the Chase. He failed to win a race and managed just six top-five finishes all season, although speeding penalties, poor pit strategy and plain bad luck robbed him of him several strong runs. A strong argument could be made that no driver struggled more in crunch time than Burton last season.
A look at his numbers the last five seasons reveals a more concerning trend. From 2006 to 2008, Burton averaged 19 top-10s, eight top-five finishes and a seventh-place finish in the standings. The last two years, he has averaged 12.5 top-10s, 5.5 top-five finishes and a 15th-place finish in the standings. His average finish of 13.5 in the first three years has slipped to 16.6 the last two seasons.
He may be on the decline, but that's not to say Burton doesn't have fantasy value. He is still a safe, solid option more often than not. That being said, his days as an elite option are probably behind him. He is still more than capable of being a No. 2 option for teams in Draft and Play leagues, but owners are overpaying if they take him in the first round.
After running hot and cold throughout much of the 2010 season, Logano finished the year on a scorching hot streak. The sophomore finished with 16 top-10s - the most of any driver not in the Chase. More importantly, another season of steady improvement makes him a prime candidate to break into the playoffs in 2011.
Logano finished his rookie year with three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. He improved those totals to seven and 16 last year. His average finish went from 20.0 to 16.8. He averaged a top-15 finish at intermediate tracks last year, and he emerged as a surprising short track force. In fact, road courses were the only glaring weakness for Logano last season.
The all-around talent Logano has shown in just two years is remarkable. He has three top-10s in four starts at Talladega, and he averages a top-10 finish at Indianapolis, Charlotte and Las Vegas. He has been a top-15 driver at Martinsville and Richmond, and he is a borderline top-10 option at the 2.0-mile tracks of Michigan and Auto Club Speedway. When you consider that he is still just 20 years old, it is pretty obvious why fantasy owners should be excited.
Blessed with amazing talent behind the wheel and armed with Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, Logano is primed to become NASCAR's next star. No driver has more upside heading into 2011 than Logano. It is still safer to take him in the second round of drafts, but there is legitimate chance he could perform like a first-round pick. Logano is only going to get better, and he should plenty of work from owners in all fantasy formats.
To say that McMurray had a big 2010 would be an understatement. His reunion with team owner Chip Ganassi brought victories in both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400; his season nearly ended with a trip to the Chase. He finished the year 14th in points with three victories and nine top-five finishes.
His time with Roush Fenway Racing never yielded the results that everyone expected, but the years of struggles were instantly forgotten with his win in the season opener. His nine top-five finishes were the most of any non-Chasers, and eight of those finishes were top-threes. He was either really good or really bad at the start of the year, which attributed to his 16.4 average finish in 2010. However, that mark improved to 13.3 in the final 15 events.
One season may or not be an accurate projection of what to expect from McMurray in the future, but fantasy owners have to find his 2010 season encouraging. He finished in the top five in two of the four superspeedway events, averaged a top-10 finish at the road courses, and averaged a top-15 finish at short tracks. After being largely written off with RFR, it's time to welcome McMurray back to fantasy relevance.
Expecting McMurray to suddenly become a top-10 driver is probably asking a bit much. In his best years with Ganassi, he was always just outside the top 10. He can be a No. 2 option in Draft and Play leagues, but he still needs to be used at only specific tracks in other fantasy formats. McMurray isn't an elite fantasy option, but he is no longer an afterthought.
After having a breakout season in 2009, Montoya struggled during an inconsistent 2010 campaign. He finished 17th in the final standings one year after making the Chase, and his average finish dipped from 14.2 in 2009 to 18.0 last season. On the surface, the numbers looks bad, but a closer look reveals that there are plenty of reasons to expect a rebound from Montoya in 2011.
Montoya's didn't have trouble putting together strong runs in 2010, but he struggled avoiding major trouble. He picked up a win and 14 top-10s last year, but he also finished outside the top 25 in 14 races, including eight DNFs. Although some of the bad runs stemmed from his aggressive driving style, many were just plain bad luck. In many of the major loop data categories, Montoya was a top-10 driver, including driver rating, average running position and fastest laps run.
When his car was in one piece, Montoya was a force to be reckoned with. Even with his struggles, he still offered plenty of fantasy value. He had a 5.5 average finish at the road course events, he had three top-10s in four superspeedway races, and he finished in the top 10 in half of his short track starts. Inconsistency aside, Montoya was actually one of the better all-around options in the series.
Montoya has all the makings of a fantasy owner's dream in Draft and Play leagues. He is an elite road course option, a solid short track and superspeedway driver, and he has shown in the past he can be a top-15 driver at the intermediate ovals. He may require a little more maintenance in some fantasy formats, but Montoya will be around in the second round of most drafts, and he has the potential to produce like a first-round pick.
After making the Chase in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Newman failed to make the playoffs in his sophomore year with the organization. That being said, he did notch his first victory with SHR and recorded 14 top-10s. Newman finished a solid but not spectacular year 15th in the standings with a 15.7 average finish.
There is no doubt that the move to SHR has revived Newman's stagnant career. He has posted a combined 29 top-10s in his two years with the organization, making the Chase in 2009 and contending for a spot again last year. Newman probably won't ever come close to his eight-win season in 2003, but he should be reliable as long as he is driving the No. 39.
The problem with Newman is that while he may be solid, he is never spectacular. He has averaged just four top-five finishes a season during the past five years, and not even the move to SHR has helped those numbers. Newman has just nine top-five finishes in his two seasons with his new team. Until he bolsters those totals, he simply can't be considered an elite fantasy option.
That being said, Newman's value is actually its highest in Draft and Play leagues. Outside of superspeedways, he is consistent at every type of track on the schedule. Last season, he posted a 14.3 average finish at intermediate tracks, a 14.0 average at road courses and a 12.5 average at short tracks. His career numbers are similar, and he is a solid No. 2 option for fantasy teams.
Vickers' 2010 season was a reminder to everyone in the NASCAR community that there is more to life than racing. His season was cut short after just 11 races after he was diagnosed with potentially life-threatening blood clots. He needed heart surgery and months of treatment with blood thinners, but Vickers has been medically cleared and will return to the track in 2011.
He will be back with Red Bull Racing, driving the No. 83 Toyota this season. For those that have already forgotten, Vickers made the Chase in his last full season at the Cup level. His career was taking off before his medical issues last season, and assuming he can shake off the rust within the first few races, Vickers should be a shoo-in to win Comeback Driver of the Year.
His incredible run to make the Chase in 2009 gave fantasy owners a glimpse at just how good Vickers can be. He reeled off 11 straight finishes of 12th or better to make the playoffs, including a victory at Michigan. Even last season, he posted six top-15 finishes in 11 starts, and he finished 10th at Darlington in what would be his final start of 2010.
Taking almost a year off could lead to a slow start for Vickers this year, but he should be a top-15 driver when all is said and done. He is stout at intermediate tracks and is solid at the superspeedways, as well. Vickers' career has taken some unexpected turns, but he is a former Nationwide champ and former Chaser. Expect Vickers to return with a vengeance in 2011 and be a productive driver in all fantasy formats.
Kahne's 2010 season was filled with drama off the track, but he was quiet for the most part. Rumors about his 2011 plans and conflicts with Richard Petty Motorsports personnel undoubtedly contributed to his lackluster 20th-place finish, but his future is now set in stone. He will drive for Red Bull Racing this season before joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and beyond.
Equipment issues and general poor performances plagued Kahne throughout last season. After posting two wins and 14 top-10s in 2008 and 2009, Kahne went winless with just 10 top-10 finishes in 2010. He finished the year with an 18.9 average finish. The only bright spot from his struggles was an early release from RPM, which allowed Kahne to join Red Bull Racing for the final five events of the 2010 season. The extra experience should ease the transition and help Kahne hit the ground running in 2011.
He has been a stud at the 1.5-mile and 2.0-mile ovals throughout his career, and he should return to form in 2011. Red Bull Racing has excelled at the intermediate ovals since joining the Cup Series, and the organization should help Kahne return to Victory Lane. Both sides know going in the relationship is a one-year deal. They have nothing to lose, which could make for a fun year for the No. 4 team.
Barring some unforeseen events, Kahne should be back in the top 15 this season. When he is running in the top 10 at intermediate tracks on a regular basis, he is always going to be in the mix for a Chase spot. From a fantasy perspective, he can be an excellent addition to any lineup when used properly. Kahne really isn't an all-around performer, and he is a top-20 driver, at best, at the other track types. Stick to his strengths, and Kahne can help in any format.
Reutimann had his second straight top-20 season last year, but in the end, he was never able to mount a push towards a playoff spot. He won a race for the second year in a row and recorded a career-best six top-five finishes, but his average finish slipped from 16.4 in 2009 to 18.1 last season. He finished the year 18th in points.
Consistency eluded Reutimann throughout the 2010 season. He opened the year with three straight top-15 finishes, but he then followed the hot start with six straight finishes of 20th or worse. He rebounded with four straight top-15s heading into the All-Star race, but the roller coaster continued all year. The high point was his victory at Chicagoland that included a late battle for the lead with Jeff Gordon. The low point came during an ugly retaliation incident involving Kyle Busch at Kansas.
Despite the bumps in the road, there were some encouraging signs in 2010. He remained a top-20 driver at intermediate tracks, and he posted an 8.5 average finish at the restrictor-plate tracks. He also showed signs of life at short tracks late in the year, finishing second at Bristol and 15th at Richmond. Reutimann will have to continue to improve this all-around production if he ever wants to make the Chase.
From a fantasy standpoint, Reutimann is a late second- or early third-round pick. He is usually reliable at the intermediate ovals, but fantasy owners shouldn't expect all-around production out of him. Draft him to be mainly an intermediate track starter, and if he ends up outperforming his previous numbers, that's great. If he doesn't, you will be prepared with a backup plan at short tracks and road courses.
In just his second full season in the Cup Series, Allmendinger put himself on the fast track to stardom. Consistent top-20 finishes led to a 19th-place finish in the standings and earned him a contract extension with Richard Petty Motorsports. He enters the 2011 season as RPM's No. 1 driver, and he should have a legitimate shot at finishing in the top 15.
Allmendinger logged a career-high eight top-10s and a career-best 17.8 average finish last season. More importantly, he emerged as a reliable sleeper option for fantasy owners, notching 26 top-20 finishes. He even flirted with a victory at Dover until a cut tire dropped him to a 10th-place finish. In short, he went from a fantasy afterthought to a regular addition to rosters.
Aside from the perks of being RPM's No. 1 driver, another year of experience should improve his numbers in 2011. He posted a 15.9 average finish at the intermediate tracks last season, and he has been a top-15 driver at road courses throughout his career. The combination is tough to find, especially outside of the elite drivers in the sport.
Fantasy owners should consider him an elite third-round pick in drafts with the potential of being a top-15 scorer. Allmendinger will have serious value in all fantasy formats. He has already been a consistent top-15 driver at Atlanta, Chicagoland, Indianapolis and Kansas; he has been a top-10 driver at Watkins Glen and Homestead. Expect a few more tracks to be added to that list this season.
The 2010 season was supposed to be a breakout year for Truex, but he struggled to find momentum in his first year with Michael Waltrip Racing. He finished the year ranked 22nd in the final standings, and he managed just seven top-10 finishes and one top-five finish. Unless another offseason to gel with his MWR team leads to some significant improvement, Truex is likely to finish outside the top 15 again in 2011.
That's not to say there weren't positive signs last year. An eight-race stretch of top-20 finishes heading into All-Star weekend had him 12th in points. However, he posted a 27.3 average finish in the next six races and never sniffed a Chase spot again. Needless to say, consistency remains the biggest issue for Truex.
Looking at his career numbers, it's tough to expect much more out of him. His 2007 campaign was essentially his lone productive season during his five-year career. He posted seven top-five finishes that year, and he has seven combined top-five finishes in his other four years. His average finish has been 18.2 or worse in four of his five years, as well.
As long as fantasy owners draft Truex to be a No. 3 driver on their team, they won't be disappointed. Expecting more out of him is a recipe for a disaster. He requires a little more maintenance in other fantasy formats, but he does have a few tracks where he tends to run well. Darlington, Phoenix, Homestead and New Hampshire have been kind to him throughout his career. The bigger intermediate tracks and short tracks have always been hit or miss.
Coming off a career year in 2010, Menard finds himself with a golden opportunity in 2011. After finishing a career-best 23rd in the standings and compiling a career-best 19.8 average finish last season, Menard will join Richard Childress Racing this season. The move puts him behind the wheel of championship-caliber equipment for the first time in his career, which could set up a breakout season for Menard.
His 2010 success was unexpected to say the least. From 2003 to 2009, Menard had managed just two top-10 finishes. Last year, he piled up six. On top of that, his average finish was nearly six full spots better than in any other season of his career. If the move to RCR can improve that average by just a spot or two, Menard should easily be a top-20 driver.
Tempering expectations is always the safer approach, but fantasy owners have to like what they saw out of Menard at the 1.5-mile tracks last season. Five of his six top-10 finishes came at 1.5-mile tracks, including a top-five run at Atlanta. He wasn't exactly a one-trick pony. Although his road racing skills need some work, Menard averaged a top-20 finish at short tracks last season and posted a 17.2 average finish at the superspeedways.
A repeat of those numbers makes Menard a solid third-round pick in Draft and Play leagues, and he should provide significant value at certain tracks in all fantasy formats. Offseason changes don't always work out as well as they should on paper, but Menard certainly seems to be in a perfect situation to succeed in 2011. He just has to take advantage of the opportunity.
He rolled to the Nationwide Series title in 2010, but his first full season at the Cup level was a rough one. Keselowski finished 25th in the final standings, and he didn't collect a top-10 finish until the 32nd race of the season. He finished the year with two top-10 finishes and a 22.4 average finish.
His best stretch came early last year when he notched seven finishes of 18th or better during an eight-race run from the end of March to the beginning of May. He was essentially a 20th-place driver after that, until catching fire and scoring three finishes of 13th or better in the final five races. He isn't going to catch any breaks thanks to his past feuds with guys like Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin; incidents of retaliation led directly to a few of his five DNFs last season.
There is no substitute for experience, and Keselowski should only get better in 2011. He probably isn't ready to contend for the Chase yet, but it is clear from his Nationwide Series success that he has plenty of talent behind the wheel. He will move over to the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge this season, and he should move closer to the top 20 in points.
Keselowski's biggest contributions to fantasy owners will come at short tracks. He posted a 13.8 average finish in six short tracks starts last year, finishing in the top 15 in five of the six starts. He still needs to work on his intermediate track consistency, but Phoenix, Texas and Darlington have been three of his strongest tracks. Expect better numbers this season than in 2010, but his breakout season is probably a year or two away still.