JIMMIE JOHNSON WILL MAKE IT THREE STRAIGHT
ADAM ANSELL’S TOP 30 FOR PHOENIX
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won his second consecutive race at Texas, starting from the pole and leading 168 laps. In 18 starts at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson has four wins (2007, 2008 sweep, 2009), 12 Top 5s, 15 Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 5.3. In the spring event, he started fourth and led 55 laps en route to a fourth-place finish. He’s led at least one lap in eight of his last 10 starts. He’s started inside the Top Four on the grid five times. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Johnson leads all competitors in Driver Rating (118.4), Average Running Position (6.4), Laps Led (846), Laps in the Top 15 (4,267), Fastest Laps Run (506) and Average Green Flag Speed (124.812 mph). He’s now tied for the Series lead in wins with momentum and the Chase lead on his side. He’s the unquestioned top driver in all formats.
[caption id="attachment_27678" align="alignright" width="300" caption="<strong>Jimmie Johnson has a seven-point lead in the Chase.</strong> NASCAR Media."][/caption]
2. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski lost the lead with a few laps to go in Sunday’s Texas race and ultimately finished second with 75 laps led. Keselowski posted his lone Top 5 at Phoenix in the spring race, starting 28th and leading three laps. He’s led at least three laps in each of his past two starts. His best start on the grid is ninth. Keselowski ranks 23rd in DR (72.9) and in ARP (20.4). He’s clearly not intimidated by Johnson, but his inexperience showed a bit last weekend. After the No. 48, Keselowski is the next best all-around Fantasy option.
3. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has now finished sixth or better (sixth at Texas) in each of his last four Cup starts. In 14 starts at Phoenix, Bowyer has two Top 5s and five Top 10s with an Average Finish of 16.9. He finished 30th in the March race, six laps off the pace. He led 21 laps in the April 2006 race. His best starting position is eighth. Bowyer ranks 19th in DR (79.4) and in ARP (17.7). He’s beenZ on fire with no end in sight and is a must-start in Tiered/Grouping formats.
4. Jeff Gordon: Gordon finished 14th at Texas. In 27 PIR starts, Gordon has two wins (2007, 2011), 10 Top 5s, 19 Top 10s and three poles with an Average Finish of 10.8. He finished eighth with a single lap led in the spring race. He’s led at least one lap in three of his last six starts. He’s started inside the Top Four on the grid nine times. Gordon ranks fourth in DR (99.5) and in ARP (10.7). He failed to lead a lap for the first time in six races last weekend. Fantasy owners looking for value should expect a solid overall performance at Phoenix.
5. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin finished 20th at Texas. In 14 starts at PIR, Hamlin has one win (2012), six Top 5s, seven Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 10.9. In his March victory, Hamlin started 13th and led 61 laps. He’s led at least nine laps in three of his last four starts. He’s qualified fourth or better twice. Hamlin ranks sixth in DR (98.8) and seventh in ARP (11.7). He’s dropped off the Fantasy radar with three consecutive lousy performances, but will want to end the year strong. He’s a great value in Tiered/Grouping formats.
6. Kasey Kahne: Kahne’s hopes at pushing for the Chase title ended at Texas with a 25th-place finish. In 16 Phoenix starts, Kahne has one win (2011), two Top 5s and five Top 10s with an Average Finish of 20.0. He finished 34th in the March race. He led 14 laps in his November 2011 win. He’s qualified fourth-or-better three times. Kahne ranks 21st in DR (74.2) and 24th in ARP (20.8). Despite the fact he’s not competing for the championship, he remains a top Tiered/Grouping format option. He should be in all provisional lineups.
7. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth finished fourth at Texas with one lap led. In 20 PIR starts, Kenseth has one win (2002), five Top 5s, eight Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 17.9. He snuck in one lap led en route to a 13th-place finish at Phoenix in March. He’s led at least one lap in each of his last six starts. He’s started inside the Top Four on the grid twice. Kenseth ranks 13th in DR (85.5) and 17th in ARP (16.8). He’s gone from afterthought to savior with two wins and three Top 5s in the past month and will continue that hot streak this weekend.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior finished seventh in his second race back from a concussion. In 20 Phoenix starts, Earnhardt Jr. has two wins (2003-04), four Top 5s and eight Top 10s with an Average Finish of 18.1. He finished 14th back in March. He’s led at least 63 laps in five starts. He’s started inside the Top Four on the grid twice. Earnhardt Jr. ranks 16th in DR (82.2) and 18th in ARP (17.3). He picked up where he left off, posting respectable finishes with mediocre Fantasy upside. That said he’s still a decent Tiered/Grouping format option.
9. Kevin Harvick: He finished ninth last weekend at Texas. In 17 PIR starts, Harvick has two wins (2006 sweep), five Top 5s and nine Top 10s with an Average Finish of 13.5. He led a race-high 88 laps and finished second in the March event. He’s started inside the Top Four on the grid once. Harvick ranks eighth in DR (97.5) and fifth in ARP (11.5). He hasn’t led a lap in his last four races, but is worth taking a flier on at one of his better tracks.
10. Greg Biffle: Biffle finished 10th last weekend in the Texas race. In 17 starts at PIR, Biffle has five Top 5s and six Top 10s with an Average Finish of 14.1. He finished third in the spring event. He’s led laps in four of his starts. He’s started inside the Top Four on the grid four times. Biffle ranks 10th in DR (93.3) and 11th in ARP (14.5). He’s been qualifying well and posting solid finishes, but his Fantasy appeal is limited. He’s a suggested start mainly for owners that don’t have better options.
11. Kyle Busch: One win (2005), two Top 5s, nine Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 14.0 in 15 starts at Phoenix. 96.9 DR.
12. Martin Truex Jr.: One Top 5, two Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 15.2 in 13 PIR starts. 89.1 DR.
13. Tony Stewart: One win (1999), eight Top 5s and 11 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 11.8 in 21 Phoenix starts. 100.4 DR.
14. Mark Martin: Two wins (1993, 2009), 12 Top 5s. 20 Top 10s and two poles with an Average Finish of 9.0 in 31 starts at PIR. 98.4 DR.
15. Ryan Newman: One win (2010), seven Top 5s and four poles with Average Finish of 18.7 in 20 starts at Phoenix. 88.6 DR.
16. Carl Edwards: Average Finish of 15.8 in 2012. 99.7 DR.
17. Kurt Busch: Led two laps in the March race at PIR. 98.9 DR.
18. Jeff Burton: Two wins (2000-01) at PIR. 85.1 DR.
19. Joey Logano: Finished 10th at Phoenix back in March. 76.8 DR.
20. Aric Almirola: Posted a season-high finish of fourth two races ago at Martinsville. 63.2 DR.
21. Juan Pablo Montoya: 80.1 DR.
22. Paul Menard: 59.2.
23. Marcos Ambrose: 79.6.
24. Sam Hornish Jr.: 59.3.
25. Jamie McMurray: 74.1.
26. David Ragan
27. David Reutimann
28. Regan Smith
29. Danica Patrick
30. Casey Mears
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