The NASCAR season continues this weekend with the Kobalt Tools 400 in Las Vegas. Below, Adam Ansell of RotoExperts handicaps his top 30 racers before things get started at 3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished in second at Phoenix, leading one lap and totaling 21 Fastest Laps Run. In 11 starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Johnson has four wins (2005-07, 2010), five Top 5s and six Top 10s with an Average Finish of 9.8. He’s led at least one lap in nine of his 11 starts. He’s qualified fourth-or-better twice. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Johnson leads all competitors in Driver Rating (110.9) and Fastest Laps Run (283). He ranks third in Average Running Position (10.4). The schedule is borderline unfair to other drivers, as Johnson owns the most career wins at the site. Couple that with the fact that he’s been on fire to start 2013, and what you have is Fantasy’s top option in all formats.
2. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin made a bold move, diving to the bottom of the track to try and make a late pass and came out of PIR with a third-place finish. In seven starts at LVMS, Hamlin has one Top 5 and four Top 10s with an Average Finish of 12.9. Hamlin has never led a lap or started inside the Top Four on the grid. Hamlin ranks 16th in DR (77.4) and in ARP (17.4). Hamlin doesn’t have pretty stats at Vegas by any means, but he’s a great 1.5-mile intermediate track performer. He simply cannot be counted out and is an elite option across the board.
3. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski finished fourth for the second straight week; logging 16 laps led and 52 Fastest Laps Run. In four Las Vegas starts, Keselowski has an Average Finish of 30.5. His best finish is 26 th. His lone lap led came at the 2012 event. His best starting position is 13th (2009). Keselowski ranks 36th in DR (53.8) and 30th in ARP (25.9). The Champ has picked up right where he left off a season ago. Keselowski is a Fantasy owners dream right now, as he always has a nose for the Checkered Flag but also knows that a Top 5 will do. He can be trusted regardless of stats and history at all venues.
4. Jeff Gordon: Gordon finished ninth at Phoenix and added 17 Quality Passes. In 15 starts at Las Vegas, Gordon has one win (2001), six Top 5s and seven Top 10s with an Average Finish of 14.7. He’s led at least two laps in each of his last six starts. He’s qualified inside the Top Four three times. Gordon leads all drivers in ARP (9.1), Laps Led (370), Laps in the Top 15 (1,812), Average Green Flag Speed (169.952 mph) and Quality Passes (312). He ranks second in DR (107.9). Gordon has been running very well despite only one Top 10 this season. The numbers are also on his side making the No. 24 a very solid value for Vegas.
5. Tony Stewart: Stewart finished eighth and spent 241 of 316 laps running in the Top 15. In 14 starts at LVMS, Stewart has one win (2012), six Top 5s and nine Top 10s with an Average Finish of 12.9. He’s led a race-high 163 (2011) and 127 (2012) in each of his last two starts. His best starting position is second (2006). Stewart ranks third in DR (106.4) and fourth in ARP (10.8). He’s finished first and second in his last two starts at Vegas. Given his ability to take down races regardless of how hot or cold he’s running makes Stewart a nice sleeper option.
6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth finished seventh at PIR with an ARP of 7.4. In 13 starts Las Vegas starts, Kenseth has two wins (2003-04), five Top 5s, six Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 12.5. He’s led at least one lap in six of his last seven starts. Kenseth ranks seventh in DR (95.9) and 11 th in ARP (15.4). His transition to Joe Gibbs Racing has been seamless through two events. He’ll provide nice value at a track he’s done very well at on a consistent basis.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
Junior led 47 laps en route to a fifth-place finish at Phoenix. In 13 LVMS starts, Earnhardt Jr. has two Top 5s and six Top 10s with an Average Finish of 16.3. He led 70 laps in the 2012 event (finished 10 th). He’s qualified fourth-or-better four times. Earnhardt Jr. ranks 11 th in DR (86.2) and 14th in ARP (15.9). At Daytona, he started 19th and finished second. At Phoenix, he started 21st and finished fifth. In leagues where start-finish differential is a stat category, his penchant for improving track position is one more reason he’s a must-start.
8. Carl Edwards: Edwards snapped a 70 race winless streak by leading 122 laps en route to a Checkered Flag at Phoenix. In eight Vegas starts, Edwards has two wins (2008, 2011), three Top 5s and four Top 10s with an Average Finish of 10.3. He’s led at least two laps in four of his last six starts. He’s qualified inside the Top Four twice. Edwards ranks sixth in DR (98.2) and in ARP (12.0). He leads all drivers in Green Flag Passes (524). Good to see Edwards back in Victory Lane. Now that he appears to have his mojo back, Edwards is worth a look in Tiered/Grouping formats.
9. Kyle Busch: After spinning out early, Busch managed to climb back onto the lead lap and finish 23rd at Phoenix. In nine starts at his home state track, Busch has one win (2009), three Top 5s, four Top 10s and two poles with an Average Finish of 15.9. He’s led at least one lap in five of his last seven starts. He has an Average Start of 2.8 over his last five starts. Busch ranks fifth in DR (100.9) and in ARP (10.9). This is a nightmare start to the season for the No. 18 but for now, I’m chalking it up to bad luck. He will come at a nice value in most formats, but he’s on a short leash.
10. Mark Martin: Martin started from the pole and led 75 laps before finishing in 21st at PIR. In 15 LVMS starts, Martin has one win (1998), six Top 5s and 10 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 13.5. He’s led at least one lap in seven of his stats. His best starting position on the grid is fifth. Martin ranks 10 th in DR (90.1) and in ARP (14.7). He dropped to 38th at one point and then made it back to the lead, showing he still has a lot of competitive juices left at 54 years old. Martin is once again a quality Tiered/Grouping format option.
11. Kasey Kahne: Two Top 5s, four Top 10s and three poles with an Average Finish of 15.3 in nine starts at LVMS. 81.3 DR.
12. Clint Bowyer: One Top 5 and three Top 10s with an Average Finish of 15.7 in seven Las Vegas starts. 75.8 DR.
13. Greg Biffle: Two Top 5s, six Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 13.4 in nine LVMS starts. 106.3 DR.
14. Kevin Harvick: Three Top 5s and four Top 10s with an Average Finish of 13.0 in 12 Vegas appearances. 94.1 DR.
15. Jeff Burton: Two wins (1999-00), five Top 5s and eight Top 10s with an Average Finish of 10.9 in 15 starts at Las Vegas. 90.8 DR.
16. Aric Almirola: Sits 10th in the Sprint Cup standings.
17. Martin Truex Jr.: Led three laps in the 2011 race.
18. Ryan Newman: Has posted back-to-back Top 5s at LVMS. 83.1 DR.
19. Kurt Busch: Finished ninth in the 2009 race. 84.6 DR.
20. Joey Logano: Led one lap in the 2009 event. 83.2 DR.
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: DR N/A.
22. Paul Menard: 65.8.
23. Juan Pablo Montoya: 72.7.
24. Marcos Ambrose: 77.3.
25. Jamie McMurray: 72.7.
26. Bobby Labonte
27. David Reutimann
28. Austin Dillon
29. Trevor Bayne
30. Danica Patrick
Photos via Getty