Here’s Adam Ansell’s Top 25, for Charlotte.
1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson finished fourth at Darlington for his third Top 5 finish in his last three Cup starts. In 23 starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Johnson has six wins (2003, 2004 sweep, 2005 sweep, 2009), 11 Top 5s, 15 Top 10s and three poles with an Average Finish of 11.4. He’s led at least one lap in 20 of his 23 starts. He’s qualified fourth-or-better 10 times. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Johnson leads all competitors in Driver Rating (111.7), Average Running Position (7.9), Laps in the Top 15 (4,932), Fastest Laps Run (544) and Average Green Flag Speed (176.653 mph). His Average Finish of 6.7 and 44-point lead on the field in the Cup standings is abnormally dominant for the normally dominant Johnson. He’s running as well as he ever has and Fantasy owners that can spare a Tiered/Grouping format start on the No. 48 should do so.
2. Kasey Kahne: Kahne finished a middling 17th at Darlington despite a 5.1 ARP. In 18 starts at CMS, Kahne has four wins (2006 sweep, 2008, 2012), seven Top 5s and 10 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 12.4. He led 96 laps in his May 2012 victory at the site. Kahne ranks third in DR (98.0) and in ARP (12.4). He has an Average Finish of 26.7 in his last three Cup starts and zero laps led in his last seven starts. But Charlotte is arguably his best track and this is the week Kahne turns it around. He will come at a very solid value in Tiered/Grouping formats.
3. Denny Hamlin: In his first full race since a broken vertebra, Hamlin finished second at Darlington while posting a solid 7.5 ARP. In 15 Charlotte starts, Hamlin has three Top 5s and eight Top 10s with an Average Finish of 14.1. He’s led at least one lap in six of his last seven starts. Hamlin ranks sixth in DR (92.1) and fifth in ARP (12.9). After a four-race absence, Hamlin dusted off those cobwebs in a hurry. He has four consecutive Top 5s at CMS and will extend that streak to five this weekend.
4. Kyle Busch: Busch dominated at Darlington, leading 265 of 367 laps for a 1.4 ARP but a late miscue caused him to finish sixth. In 18 CMS starts, Busch has eight Top 5s, 11 Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 15.3. He’s led at least 36 laps in five of his last six starts. Busch ranks second in DR (107.7), ARP (9.6), Laps in the Top 15 (4,565) and Average Green Flag Speed (176.527 mph). He leads all drivers in Laps Led (793) and Quality Passes (833). His slump of three straight 24th-place-or-worse finishes is over and Fantasy owners can confidently roll Busch this weekend.
5. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth won his third race of 2013 at Darlington, leading 17 laps with an ARP of 3.4. In 27 starts at Charlotte, Kenseth has two wins (2000, 2011), seven Top 5s and 14 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 14.2. He led 46 laps in his 2011 win. Kenseth ranks fourth in DR (94.4) and in ARP (14.8). He’s posted four-straight finishes of eighth of better (Average Finish of 4.3) and it seems the No. 20 shows up on a weekly basis with the best car on the track. Kenseth can be trusted in all formats.
6. Carl Edwards: Edwards finished seventh at Darlington, giving him three-straight Top 10s. In 16 CMS starts, Edwards has five Top 5s and 10 Top 10s with an Average Finish of 12.0. He’s led at least one lap in three of his last five starts. Edwards ranks seventh in DR (89.0) and 10th in ARP (15.4). The difference between Edwards in 2012 and 2013 is he’s able to salvage quality finishes out of mediocre races. He’s taken an ARP of 12.7 and turned that into an Average Finish of 5.3 over his last three starts. He’s a must-start in Tiered/Grouping formats.
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior finished ninth at Darlington, giving him two Top 10s in his last three Cup starts. In 26 starts at CMS, Earnhardt Jr. has five Top 5s, 11 Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 18.8. He’s led at least two laps in two of his last five starts. Earnhardt Jr. ranks 18th in DR (78.8) and 25th in ARP (20.2). Fantasy owners looking to play it safe and secure a high-probability Top 10 should look no further than the No. 88 ride at Charlotte.
8. Kevin Harvick: Harvick finished fifth at Darlington. In 24 Charlotte starts, Harvick has one win (2011), two Top 5s and seven Top 10s with an Average Finish of 18.0. He’s led at least one lap in three of his last five starts. Harvick ranks 22nd in DR (75.6) and 21st in ARP (18.9). Outside of 42nd (Daytona) and 40th-place (Talladega) finishes at restrictor-plate tracks, Harvick hasn’t finished worse than 14th in any race. Now that he’s started putting up Top 5s, the No. 29 is a great value play across the board.
9. Greg Biffle: Biffle failed to record a Top 10 for the fourth-straight race with a 13th-place finish at Darlington. In 20 starts at CMS, Biffle has five Top 5s, eight Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 16.4. He’s led at least 50 laps in each of his last four starts. Biffle ranks fifth in DR (94.1) and seventh in ARP (13.9). He finished fourth in both Charlotte races in 2012 so I’m banking on The Biff using this race a spring board to bounce back into form.
10. Jeff Gordon: Gordon tied a season-high with a third-place finish at Darlington. In 40 Charlotte starts, Gordon has five wins (1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2007), 16 Top 5s, 21 Top 10s and eight poles with an Average Finish of 15.7. He’s led at least two laps in six of his last seven starts. Gordon ranks 10th in DR (87.3) and 12th in ARP (15.9). He’s starting to round into form by showing that consistency that made him famous. Fantasy owners should consider Gordon a risk-reward option with a lot of value attached.
11. Brad Keselowski: One Top 5 and one pole with an Average Finish of 15.7 in seven CMS starts. 83.2 DR.
12. Mark Martin: Four wins (1992, 1995, 1998, 1999), 18 Top 5s, 24 Top 10s, two poles with an Average Finish of 16.6 in 56 Charlotte starts. 88.2 DR.
13. Clint Bowyer: One win (2012), two Top 5s and four Top 10s with an Average Finish of 16.4 in 14 starts at CMS. 80.0 DR.
14. Aric Almirola: One pole with an Average Finish of 14.0 in two appearances at CMS. 84.8 DR.
15. Joey Logano: Two Top 5s and five Top 10s with an Average Finish of 10.1 in eight CMS starts. 88.4 DR.
16. Jamie McMurray: 77.0 DR.
17. Paul Menard: 64.0.
18. Kurt Busch: 82.1.
19. Martin Truex Jr.: 74.6.
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 64.6.
21. Tony Stewart
22. Ryan Newman
23. Marcos Ambrose
24. Juan Pablo Montoya
25. Jeff Burton
1. Regan Smith: Finished eighth in the May 2011 event at CMS.
2. David Ragan: Finished second in the May 2011 race with an ARP of 7.0.
3. Casey Mears: Won the May 2007 race with a DR of 110.8.
2013 NASCAR.com Fantasy Live Lineup for Charlotte (Salary Cap)
Jimmie Johnson $27.75
Kasey Kahne $25.25
Carl Edwards $24.25
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. $13.25
Regan Smith $ 9.50