1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished 36th at Bristol, giving back-to-back (40th at Michigan) gut-wrenching Fantasy performances. In 21 starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Johnson has three wins (2004, 2007 sweep), 11 Top 5s and 13 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 11.1. He’s led at least eight laps in five of his last seven starts. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Johnson leads all competitors in Driver rating (108.3), Average Running Position (8.0), Laps in the Top 15 (4,043) and Average Green Flag Speed (171.699 mph). He ranks second in Fastest Laps Run (272) and Quality Passes (532). The good news is the lousy finishes are not going to become a trend. Johnson is typically very good at Atlanta and will be motivated to go into the Chase on a positive note. He’s all systems go across all formats.
2. Kasey Kahne: Kahne finished second at Bristol last weekend. In 16 Atlanta starts, Kahne has two wins (2006, 2009), six Top 5s, eight Top 10s and two poles with an Average Finish of 18.6. He’s led at least 15 laps in four of his last five starts. Kahne ranks 12th in DR (88.9) and 18th in ARP (16.5). With a win (Pocono), two Top 5s and three Top 10s in his last four Cup starts, he’s easily the best value amongst top-tiered drivers in the Tiered/Grouping format. Fantasy owners need to continue plugging the No. 5 into weekly lineups.
3. Kyle Busch: Busch fought his way back from last (43rd) on the starting grid to finish 11th last weekend, good for a +32 finish differential. In 15 starts at AMS, Busch has one win (2008), three Top 5s and four Top 10s with an Average Finish of 16.9. He’s led at least 19 laps in four of his last five starts. Busch ranks ninth in DR (92.8) and 10th in ARP (13.9). He remains the strongest mid-range Tiered/Grouping format option on a weekly basis as no driver has as much upside.
4. Carl Edwards: Edwards finished a season-worst 39th last weekend at Bristol despite starting third and leading 119 laps. In 15 AMS, Edwards has three wins (2005 sweep, 2008), eight Top 5s and 10 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 15.1. He’s led at least 14 laps in two of his last three starts. Edwards ranks fourth in DR (99.8) and seventh in ARP (13.1). He leads all drivers in Fastest Laps Run (341). Prior to last weekend’s debacle, the No. 99 had logged five consecutive Top 15s. He’s a safe pick in all formats this weekend with enough upside to warrant such a lofty spot in the weekly rankings.
5. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski finished 30th last weekend, putting him in a tight spot in regards to making the Chase. In four starts at Atlanta, Keselowski has one Top 5 and two Top 10s with an Average Finish of 17.5. He led two laps in the 2011 event at the site. Keselowski ranks 16th in DR (83.7) and 12th in ARP (14.6). He currently sits 11th in the Cup standings with zero wins. Not to say he will risk losing a Top 5 for a win, but the noose is definitely tightening. The defending Sprint Cup champ is a boom-bust pick at Atlanta.
6. Kevin Harvick: Harvick finished outside the Top 20 (34th at Bristol) for just the third time this season. In 22 starts at AMS, Harvick has one win (2001), five Top 5s and eight Top 10s with an Average Finish of 19.2. He led 101 laps in the 2012 race. Harvick ranks 13th in DR (86.4) and 15th in ARP (15.9). Fantasy owners looking for a safe starter with some upside need not look further. He won’t lead a ton of laps but is very likely net a Top 10 finish at Atlanta.
7. Matt Kenseth: The feast-or-famine king did it again, coming up with victory No. 5 on the season after posting three-straight finishes of 13th-or-worse. In 24 AMS starts, Kenseth has eight Top 5s and 14 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 12.7. He led 64 laps in the 2011 race at the site. Kenseth ranks sixth in DR (96.4) and in ARP (12.5). Same rules apply this weekend. Fantasy owners needing to hit it big are advised to roll Kenseth. Fantasy owners sitting pretty could probably play it safer this weekend.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: After back-to-back finishes of 30th-or-worse (The Glen, Michigan), Junior got back into the business of Top 10s (10th) at Bristol. In 25 starts at Atlanta, Earnhardt Jr. has one win (2004), eight Top 5s, 11 Top 10s and two poles with an Average Finish of 12.5. He’s led at least one lap in 12 of his starts. Earnhardt Jr. ranks eighth in DR (93.3) and in ARP (13.1). He’s actually doing something he doesn’t do often – lead laps. He’s led at least two laps in three of his last four Cup starts and looks to have more potential than usual in all formats.
9. Jeff Gordon: The unpredictable Gordon showed off his good side at Bristol, starting 32nd and finishing a very solid seventh. In 39 starts at AMS, Gordon has five wins (1995, 1998 sweep, 2003, 2011), 16 Top 5s, 25 Top 10s and two poles with an Average Finish of 11.9. He led 146 laps in his 2011 victory at the site. Gordon ranks second in DR (104.8), ARP (10.0) and Laps in the Top 15 (3,765). He leads all drivers in Quality Passes (549). Disclaimer: Whenever Gordon’s ranked this high here he tanks. But he’s finished second (2012) and first (2011) in his last two starts in “The Dirty” and has more upside than usual. He’s worth a look in Salary Cap formats.
10. Kurt Busch: Busch couldn’t have picked a worse time (for Fantasy owners and himself) to post a 31st-place finish (Atlanta). In 22 Atlanta appearances, Busch has three wins (2002, 2009, 2010), four Top 5s and nine Top 10s with an Average Finish of 17.2. He’s led at least 10 laps in two of his last four starts. Busch ranks seventh in DR (94.6) and 13thin ARP (14.8). He leads all drivers in Laps Led (519). At a time when he’s barely on the outside (seven points out of the Chase) he’s decided to ditch Furniture Row Racing for Stewart-Haas. The good news in all this is that Busch can ride without a pressure in the world. He needs the win to lock up a playoff spot and will be gambling for one this weekend.
11. Martin Truex Jr.: One Top 5, three Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 21.5 in 14 starts at Atlanta. 90.8 DR.
12. Clint Bowyer: Two Top 5s with an Average Finish of 18.2 in 12 starts at AMS. 83.0 DR.
13. Denny Hamlin: One win (2012), two Top 5s, five Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 16.2 in 13 starts at Atlanta. 99.7 DR.
14. Ryan Newman: One Top 5, six Top 10s and seven poles with an Average Finish of 18.4 in 20 AMS starts. 72.1 DR.
15. Mark Martin: Two wins (1991, 1994), 14 Top 5s, 24 Top 10s and two poles with an Average Finish of 17.2 in 52 appearances in Atlanta. 83.5 DR.
16. Greg Biffle: 92.6 DR.
17. Paul Menard: 64.5.
18. Brian Vickers: 80.9.
19. Juan Pablo Montoya: 84.9.
20. Marcos Ambrose: 65.8.
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
22. Aric Almirola
23. Joey Logano
24. Jamie McMurray
25. Bobby Labonte
1. Austin Dillon: Finished sixth in the 2012 Nationwide Series event at Atlanta.
2. A.J. Allmendinger: Posted a season-high 10th-place finish in his last Cup start (Watkins Glen). He finished 10th in Atlanta in 2011.
2013 NASCAR.com Fantasy Live Lineup for Atlanta (Salary Cap)
Jimmie Johnson $27.75
Jeff Gordon $24.25
Kurt Busch $19.75
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. $13.25
A.J. Allmendinger $ 9.50
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