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ADAM ANSELL'S TOP 25 FOR WATKINS GLEN
1. Tony Stewart: Outside of finishing 25th at Daytona, Stewart has an Average Finish of fifth over his last seven Cup starts. That hot streak hasn't earned him his first victory of 2010, but that figures to change this weekend. In 11 starts at Watkins Glen, "Smoke" has five wins (2002, '04, '05, '07, '09), seven Top Fives and nine Top 10s. His Average Start at the site is sixth. Stewart's lowest starting position came last year when he qualified 13th, but that didn't stop him from winning. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Stewart leads all competitors in Driver Rating (135.0), Average Running Position (3.9), Fastest Laps Run (104), Laps in the Top 15 (96.9 percent), Quality Passes (126) and Average Green Flag Speed (119.570 mph). With just five races remaining until the Chase, Stewart is feeling the pressure to get to Victory Lane. It will finally happen at Watkins Glen.
2. Kyle Busch: Busch won the 2008 event at Watkins Glen from the pole that he was awarded after qualifying was rained out, leading 52 of 90 laps. In his fourth-place finish a year ago, Busch led 15 laps. Overall, he has one win, two Top Fives and four Top 10s in five starts at the site. He ranks fourth in DR (104.9) and fifth in ARP (13.3). With Kevin Harvick uncatchable in the Cup standings, the battle for fourth in the Chase rankings is heating up between the Brothers Busch. Kyle is up just two points on his brother, Kurt Busch. Those three drivers have remained in a three-way logjam with two wins apiece for several weeks. If any of the three are going to break the tie at Watkins Glen, it will be Kyle Busch.
3. Marcos Ambrose: The road course specialist has been waiting a painful five races to get a shot at redemption. Painful in the sense he has an Average Finish of just 27th since the gaffe at Infineon Raceway that cost him the Checkered Flag. Finally, the time for the Sprint Cup Series to return to a road course has come and Ambrose will be ready. In two starts at the site, he has finished third (2008) and second (2009). It's important to note that Ambrose posted that third-place finish from the 43rd spot on the starting grid. Given that this will most likely be the final time this season Ambrose is a viable option, he should be started in all Tiered/Grouping formats, regardless of how he qualifies. He ranks second in DR (106.9) and sixth in ARP (13.8).
4. Carl Edwards: In his last four Cup starts, Edwards has two Top Fives and four Top 10s with an Average Finish of fourth. He's led at least one lap in three of those starts. In five starts at Watkins Glen, he has two Top Fives and four Top 10s. He ranks eighth in DR (91.4) and seventh in ARP (14.2). Last season, he started 33rd on the grid but fought his way back to a third-place finish. He's quietly become an excellent road course racer, winning the past two Nationwide Series road course events (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal last year and at Road America back in June). On the Cup side, Edwards has led at least two laps in two of the past four Infineon events. Despite his hot streak, Edwards remains under the Fantasy radar making him the best valued Tiered/Grouping format start of the week.
5. Denny Hamlin: In four starts at the site, Hamlin has never started or finished lower than 10th. He has one Top Five and four Top 10s with an Average Finish of seventh. He ranks fifth in DR (104.6) and third in ARP (9.8). Like many other Cup drivers, Hamlin has improved his road course racing skills. He started 24th but finished fifth with 33 laps led at Infineon earlier in the season. Since recording back-to-back June wins at Pocono and Michigan International Speedway, Hamlin has an Average Finish of 17th. Despite the minor dip, he's third in the Cup standings, ahead of Jimmie Johnson by 17 points, which puts him first in the Chase standings. They're tied for the Series lead in wins (five), up three on the field. This means points are more important for these two than gambling for a win. Not to say he doesn't want it, but Hamlin won't be pressing for the Checkered Flag as hard as some other drivers.
6. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson led the most laps at Chicagoland Speedway and Pocono, but has an Average Finish of just 18th in those events. If your league awards bonus points for qualifying, Johnson has been awesome. He has an Average Start of third in his past four races and 7.7 on the season. Since 2004 at Watkins Glen, Johnson owns an Average Start of 3.3, which includes last year's pole. In eight starts at the site, Johnson has three Top Fives and four Top 10s. He ranks third in DR (106.5) and second in ARP (7.5). Even with Johnson's impressive history at the site, he's just too spotty right now to trust. With the Chase around the corner, save your Tiered/Grouping format Johnson starts until then.
7. Kevin Harvick: Up 189-points on the second-place Jeff Gordon in the Cup standings, Harvick has all but clinched top spot in the regular season standings. What he needs to do now is make sure that effort doesn't go to waste. He's been doing an excellent job of that, with six Top Fives in his last eight Cup starts, but wins are the only currency Harvick should be dealing in at this point. In nine starts at Watkins Glen, he has one win (2006), two Top Fives and five Top 10s. He ranks 11th in DR (88.7) and ARP (16.0). He can afford to gamble for a win at least once in the final five events before the Chase gets underway. He's a trusted starter in all formats.
8. Juan Pablo Montoya: This will most likely be the final time Montoya graces the Top 10 of any pre-race rankings this season. While his solid road course history is well documented, he just doesn't have the mental makeup to be consistent in the Sprint Cup Series, at least not yet. His seven DNFs this season only begins to scratch the surface of that proposition. He does have one Top Five and two Top 10s in three Watkins Glen starts. He ranks sixth in DR (101.4) and fourth in ARP (10.6). Montoya also recorded a 10th-place finish at Infineon earlier this season. Once Montoya's psyche catches up to his talent, the sky's the limit. Until then, he's just a hothead Fantasy owners should avoid in non-road course events.
9. Robby Gordon: The road course specialist was excellent at Infineon back in June, recording a second-place finish. From 2000-05, Gordon led at least one lap in each start at Watkins Glen. From 2005-07, he had an Average Finish of fourth. In 11 starts at the site, he has one win (2003) and seven Top Fives. He ranks ninth in DR (89.2) and 22nd in ARP (20.2). Gordon won't be a viable option again this season, so make sure he's plugged into all lineups, especially in Tiered/Grouping formats.
10. Martin Truex Jr.: Forget his 28th-place finish a year ago at Watkins Glen. He finished sixth in 2007 and fifth in 2008 at the site. Truex is just now rounding back into form, recording a Top 10 last week at Pocono, his first since May. He also led one lap at Infineon. He ranks 12th in DR (83.1) and eighth in ARP (14.4). Truex is flying well below the Fantasy radar, and will provide owners with excellent value in Tiered/Grouping formats.
11. Greg Biffle: Finished fifth last year at Watkins Glen, recording a 111.9 DR and 5.7 ARP. 73.7 DR.
12. Clint Bowyer: Clinging to the final Chase spot by 34-points over Mark Martin. 77.7 DR.
13. Kurt Busch: Finished seventh and led 23 laps last year at Watkins Glen. 99.4 DR.
14. Boris Said: The road course specialist will helm the No. 83 Red Bull Racing ride at Watkins Glen. 77.6 DR.
15. Jeff Gordon: Finished 29th and 37th in his last two starts at Watkins Glen. 88.9 DR.
16. Mark Martin: 70.8 DR.
17. Matt Kenseth: 74.5.
18. Jeff Burton: 72.5.
19. Kasey Kahne: 71.3.
20. Ryan Newman: 76.7.
21. Joey Logano
22. David Reutimann
23. AJ Allmendinger
24. Jamie McMurray
25. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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