Jimmie Johnson opened the week atop the driver ratings for Saturday night's race at Kentucky Speedway, and if there was a spot above No. 1, he would be there after his performance in Friday's track activities. Johnson posted the second-fastest lap in the first practice, paced the field in Happy Hour and qualified third. Throw in the fact that he is the only driver to have finished sixth or better in the two Cup races at Kentucky, and he deserves universal consideration from fantasy owners in all formats.
While Johnson stands firm at the top, Kyle Busch moves up into the No. 2 spot heading into Saturday night's Quaker State 400. After ranking sixth and third in the two practices Friday, Busch turned in the fourth-fastest lap in Happy Hour. Keep in mind that he won the inaugural race at Kentucky, finished in the top 10 last year and has led the most laps in both races at the track, so Busch's strong showing in practice and qualifying is likely a precursor of what to expect during the race. Get him in your fantasy lineups.
Fantasy owners may also want to consider getting Jeff Gordon into their lineups this weekend. The four-time series champ climbs into the top five in the final set of driver rankings after putting on an impressive performance Friday at Kentucky. Gordon was the only driver other than Jimmie Johnson to post a top-five lap in both practice sessions. He then followed his strong showing in the practice sessions with a 12th-place effort in qualifying. In two starts at Kentucky Gordon has finished 10th and fifth, and he appears poised to add his solid resume at the track.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is yet another Hendrick Motorsports driver who moves up in the rankings. Fresh off a pole-winning lap that shattered the previous track record, Junior slides into the top 10 in the final rankings. While he blew a tire and finished 30th in the inaugural race at Kentucky, he finished fourth in last year's Quaker State 400. Another top-five finish isn't out of the question this weekend, and at the very least, he should be able to parlay his strong starting spot into a top-10.
Although plenty of big names appear ready to help fantasy owners this weekend, there are also a few sleeper drivers who land in the top 20 in the final rankings and are also worth a look. Jeff Burton, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon all cracked the top 15 in both practice sessions Friday, and Burton and Stenhouse qualified in the top 15, as well. With four top-15s in the five races leading up to Kentucky, Burton is probably the safest pick, but Stenhouse has finished in the top 15 in the last two races at 1.5-mile tracks. Dillon is a bit of an unknown given his limited seat time in the Cup Series, but with two dominating wins at Kentucky in two Nationwide starts at the track, he may actually have the highest upside of the three.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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