Fantasy Nascar: Jimmie Johnson Back on Top

Adam Ansell, NASCAR Editor February 27, 2014

*Leads all Active Drivers
DR = Driver Rating
ARP = Average Running Position

 

THE TOP 15

 

1.  Jimmie Johnson: Johnson kicked off 2014 in typical Johnson fashion, finishing fifth with 15 laps led at Daytona. Despite his NASCAR-leading four wins at Phoenix International Raceway, it’s been five years since he won there (2009) and seven years since he took three straight races (2007-08). On the plus side, he’s posted three Top 5s in his last four starts at the site. The only concern is – and it’s a small one – is the lack of laps led recently. He’s led a total of two laps in his last three starts. He also leads all drivers in Laps in the Top 15 (5,009), Fastest Laps Run (574) and Average Green Flag Speed (125.835 mph). In my expert opinion, professionally speaking of course, he’s good. No driver is as safe or has as much Fantasy upside as the No. 48 in the desert.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

116.7*

6.9*

21

4*

14*

17

2

6.3*

933*

 

Jimmie Johnson leads all major Loop Data categories at Phoenix. PHOTO CREDIT: NASCAR Media

Jimmie Johnson leads all major Loop Data categories at Phoenix. PHOTO CREDIT: NASCAR Media

2.  Denny Hamlin: After last season’s abysmal performance following his vertebrae fracture, it’s clear Hamlin will run 2014 with a chip on his shoulder. He ran Daytona at an ARP of 8.5, leading 16 laps and finishing second. Forgiving November 2013’s 28th-place finish because of a down season, Hamlin has dropped first (March 2012), second (November 2012) and third-place (March 2013) finishes in each of his last three Phoenix appearances. Hamlin’s demotion to Tiered/Grouping format “B-Lists” is great news for Fantasy owners. He’s a must-start. 

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

98.2

11.7

17

1

8

9

1

10.9

417

 

 3.  Carl Edwards: Edwards finished 17th at Daytona, but got his turn at the front of the pack, leading eight laps. The No. 99 won this race in 2013, and he’s posted a Top 2 finish in three of his last seven starts at Phoenix. If they are looking for safe picks, Fantasy owners won’t do much better in Tiered/Grouping formats. 

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

100.0

12.7

19

2

7

11

3

12.3

386

 

4.  Dale Earnhardt Jr.: At least we won’t have to get into the whole “will Junior win a race this season” conversation. The No. 88 was by far the best car last weekend and totally deserved the win. At Phoenix he logged two Top 5s (fourth and fifth) and led laps (2, 47) in both races last season. Strategically, there are probably better spots to use Earnhardt Jr. in Tiered/Grouping formats, but he looked too good last week to ignore. 

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

84.0

17.0

23

2

6

10

0

17.0

509

 

5.  Kyle Busch: Busch was caught up in a last-lap wreck at Daytona, which accounts for the 19th-place finish, but he actually put on a masterful, patient performance. He fought through all the bad luck thrown his way and his true performance can be judged by the 100.5 DR he posted last week. He’s started inside the Top 4 on the grid in each of his last three races, and led 237 laps in the November 2011 race. Busch leads all drivers in Quality Passes (527). He’s an easy Top 5 in all Fantasy formats. 

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

97.4

12.0

18

1

3

11

2

13.5

509

 

6.  Kevin Harvick: Despite starting 38th, Harvick was lurking near the end of the race and ended up finishing a modest 13th at Daytona. He’s won each of the last two November races at Phoenix and has led at least one lap in four of his last six starts. He will come at a great value in all formats this weekend. 

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

101.3

10.7

22

4*

7

11

0

12.3

490

 

7.  Kasey Kahne: Kahne finished 31st at Daytona and had trouble most of the race, despite managing two laps led and two Fastest Laps Run. Things will get much better for Kahne in the desert, where he’s logged a win (November 2011) and three Top 5s in three of his last five starts. He’s a great Salary Cap option coming off a down week.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

80.0

18.8

19

1

4

7

0

18.2

55

 

8.  Brad Keselowski: Keselowski was in position to win the Daytona 500, but settled for an impressive third place with 13 laps led. He has two Top 5s and three Top 10s in his last four Phoenix starts. Because of his down 2013, his value coming into 2014 was way up. That’s about to change, if it didn’t last week. The 2012 Champ for, all intents and purposes, is back. Fantasy owners are encouraged to roll with Keselowski in Salary Cap formats before the price skyrockets.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

85.9

16.2

9

0

2

3

0

17.1

60

 

9.  Jeff Gordon: Gordon joked that if he won the 2014 Sprint Cup title he would ride off into the sunset. A fourth-place finish at Daytona is a great start for that potential John Wayne moment. A hot start is what Gordon was missing last year, as he posted one Top 5 and two Top 10s in the first 10 races of 2013. He won this race back in 2011 and makes a nice value play in Tiered/Grouping formats.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

99.4

10.5

30*

2

10

20*

3

11.5

438

 

10.  Matt Kenseth: Kenseth picked up at Daytona where he left off last season, finishing sixth. His pattern a year ago was wins and Top 10s in chunks, followed by a string of mediocre to lousy in chunks. Keep in mind he ended 2013 with three Top 5s in the final four races. He finished seventh in this race last season, and while Phoenix hasn’t been his best track, Fantasy owners should expect a solid performance.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

86.1

16.1

23

1

5

9

1

17.4

212

 

11.  Joey Logano: He finished 11th in the Daytona 500, leading two laps in the process. Logano posted a ninth-place finish with 33 laps led in the November race last season and will make a fine Tiered/Grouping format start.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

79.7

16.3

10

0

1

4

0

17.1

33

 

12.  Kurt Busch: Aside from the 21st-place finish, Busch had a nice debut for Stewart-Haas, posting a DR of 89.9 and leading 15 laps. He finished fifth in the November 2013 race, but will return to the desert with much stronger equipment. Busch is Fastest on Restarts (123.232 mph) at Phoenix. He’s a Tiered/Grouping format value play.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

98.0

10.6

22

1

5

12

0

13.5

750

 

13.  Greg Biffle: The Biff didn’t do much in last year’s Phoenix events (13th and 17th-place finishes) but did manage to lead at least one lap in each race. His upside has him on the Tiered/Grouping format radar.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

91.6

14.8

20

0

5

7

0

13.9

389

 

14.  Tony Stewart: His return after a seven-month layoff couldn’t have gone much worse. Fortunately Smoke is a lot better at Phoenix than he is at Daytona 500s. Has led at least nine laps in three of his last five starts and finished eighth in November 2013.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

99.2

10.2

23

1

8

12

0

12.0

555

 

15.  Clint Bowyer: He hasn’t led a lap at Phoenix since 2006, but did finish sixth in this race last season. Bowyer is not a very sexy option this week, but he needs a good finish after last week’s 42nd-place disaster at Daytona.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

81.2

16.5

17

0

2

6

0

17.1

21

 

 

TOP 10 BEST VALUE PLAYS

 

1.  Ryan Newman: Newman will be tough to judge week-to-week because he has solid history at a lot of tracks, but he’s still adjusting to a new team. Daytona didn’t give us any indication one way or the other, as he finished right in the middle (22nd). Fantasy owners should consider him a value option this week with upside.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

87.1

15.3

23

1

8

9

4*

18.7

207

 

2.  Paul Menard: Both of his Top 10s at Phoenix have come within his last five starts. He led an impressive 29 laps at Daytona and looked to have a very strong car. He’s going under a lot of Fantasy radars, but if you’re feeling particularly bold, plug Menard into Tiered/Grouping format lineups.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

65.1

22.2

14

0

0

2

0

21.9

0

 

3.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse Jr. always knew that if he won a Daytona 500, he would dump whoever he was with and find someone better. That’s the dream of winning a Daytona 500. Fortunately for Danica Patrick, her man finished 18th at the 500. He posted 12th and 16th-place finishes in his only appearances at Phoenix.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

72.9

19.0

2

0

0

0

0

14.0

0

 

4.  Martin Truex Jr.: Did not do Kurt Busch proud in his debut with the No. 78 team, finishing dead last. He has two Tops 10s in his last four Phoenix starts and will need a good finish this week, or it’s going to be a very long season.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

83.9

16.9

16

0

1

6

1

17.8

101

 

5.  Brian Vickers: It’s been a while since Vickers has done anything noteworthy at Phoenix (fifth in 2005 with 50 laps led), so call this one a gut feeling.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

70.1

21.7

14

0

1

1

0

22.9

52

 

6.Aric Almirola: Has two Top 15s in his last four starts at PIR. Will improve on

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

71.9

18.6

6

0

0

0

0

19.2

0

 

7.  Jamie McMurray: Has led at least one lap in two of his last four starts at the site.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

73.3

19.8

21

0

1

2

0

21.7

30

 

8.  Marcos Ambrose: The 18th-place finish at Daytona wasn’t bad for him. Expect something similar this week.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

76.5

17.0

11

0

0

1

0

17.6

0

 

9.  A.J. Allmendinger: He’s been hot at Phoenix the last few years with an Average Finish of 11.0 in his last four starts.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

82.1

15.8

9

0

0

2

1

15.7

17

 

10.  Bobby Labonte: Should finish in the Top 25 this weekend. Overachieved last weekend with a Top 15 at Daytona.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

67.2

21.9

30*

0

3

9

1

18.6

68

 

 

TOP 5 SLEEPERS

 

1.  Austin Dillon: After a week of being the Daytona 500 pole-sitter, Dillon lived up to the hype and dropped a ninth-place finish with a single lap led. He’s probably a better option than some of the drivers listed in “Top 10 Value Plays”, but it’ll be difficult for him to get off the “Sleepers” list because of his Tiered/Grouping format placement on the “C-List”. In fact, he’s the Jimmie Johnson of the C-List in the sense of, use your nine Dillon starts wisely. This kid is the real deal.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

N/A

N/A

0

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

2.  Reed Sorenson: Sorenson hung around for a while in the Daytona 500 and might be a solid option for Fantasy owners looking to fill out rosters (see Salary Cap team below).

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

56.1

27.9

9

0

0

0

0

27.9

1

 

3.  Casey Mears: Posted a Top 15 in this race last season. Combine that with his Top 10 a week ago and you have yourself… a sleeper.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

61.1

24.5

19

0

0

0

0

26.2

0

 

4.  Kyle Larson: Not a good start to the season for the rookie (38th at Daytona, but his Nationwide history at Phoenix leaves room for hope: sixth and seventh-place finishes in 2013.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

N/A

N/A

0

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

5.  David Ragan: Led three laps in this event last season.

DR

ARP

Starts

Wins

Top 5s

Top 10s

Poles

Avg. Finish

Laps Led

53.1

28.1

14

0

0

1

0

28.5

4

 

2014 NASCAR.com Fantasy Live Lineup for Phoenix (Salary Cap)

 

DRIVER

SALARY

Jimmie Johnson

$28.00

Brad Keselowski

$25.50

Denny Hamlin

$23.25

A.J. Allmendinger

$17.00

Reed Sorenson

$ 5.00

TOTAL

$98.75

 

Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks (Tiered/Grouping Format)

 

A-LIST

Jimmie Johnson

Kyle Busch

B-LIST

Denny Hamlin

Carl Edwards

Brad Keselowski

Ryan Newman

C-LIST

Austin Dillon

Reed Sorenson

 

 

NBA legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving has joined the Anthem Media team. Find out more about the Doctor’s arrival here

 

 

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