Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: The Profit on CNBC 500

by Brian Polking on March 1, 2014 @ 11:50:22 PDT

 


With restrictor plates and pack racing on the backburner until Talladega, drivers have had a chance to really get down to business this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. The race has already featured the debut of NASCAR's knockout qualifying system, and on Sunday, the drivers and teams will get their first chance to see where they really stack up to the competition.

At least for now, Team Penske has to be smiling after teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano swept the front row in qualifying, and not surprisingly, both drivers saw their stock rise in the final rankings. In fact, qualifying results impacted the fantasy value of several drivers.

Thanks to the flat corners and difficult passing conditions at Phoenix, track position is critical. In 35 races at PIR, only three eventual winners have started outside the top 20 while 17 have started inside the top 10. With that in mind, let's take a look at the final driver rankings for Sunday's The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

The Top 3

1) Jimmie Johnson

Johnson's numbers at Phoenix are head and shoulders above the competition, and his top-five effort in qualifying and strong practice times solidify his status as the top fantasy option this weekend. You may find it interesting that Johnson's average starting position in his four victories at PIR is 4.3. He will start fourth Sunday.

2) Kevin Harvick

He has been red-hot at Phoenix, and after qualifying 13th and dominating the morning practice Saturday, don't expect Harvick to slow down. He has a 4.3 average finish in his last four starts at the track, picking up two wins and a second-place finish. Owners should feel very comfortable building a roster around him this weekend.

3) Denny Hamlin

After a top-15 effort in qualifying, there is no reason to think that Hamlin won't live up to his standards at Phoenix, where Hamlin ranks second only to Jimmie Johnson in terms of average finish. Meanwhile, 13 of his 23 Cup wins have come at flat tracks, including his victory at PIR in 2012.

Value picks

13) Joey Logano

Logano has been on a rollercoaster ride at Phoenix, and in 10 starts at the track, he has five finishes of 11th or better and five finishes outside the top 20. The lack of reliability hurts his fantasy value, but after a second-place run in qualifying, it is a lot easier to justify taking a chance on him this weekend. If you are willing to take a bit of a gamble, Logano is more than capable of delivering a top-10.

14) Greg Biffle

Although he hasn't been spectacular at Phoenix, Biffle has posted five finishes of 13th or better in his last seven starts at the track. During the stretch, he hasn't finished outside the top 20, and he has picked up two top-five finishes. Given his consistency, Biffle is somewhat of a low-risk option anyway, and after qualifying sixth, one of his better runs at PIR could be on tap.

17) Aric Almirola

He has quietly been enjoying some moderate success at Phoenix, and Almirola seems poised to continue his run this weekend after a top-10 effort in qualifying and a solid showing in practice. He has finished in the top 20 in four straight starts at PIR and has finished in the top 15 in the last two March races at the track.

20) Kyle Larson

The rookie has been enjoying his Cup debut at Phoenix so far, qualifying eighth and posting great practice times. It is also worth noting that he is driving for a No. 42 team that has nine straight top-20s at PIR, including five straight top-15s. Granted, there is no guarantee that the setups that have worked for Juan Pablo Montoya will work for Larson, but you at least have to be intrigued by his potential now that he is starting in the top 10.

Sleeper special

26) Casey Mears

Taking a driver from a smaller team like Mears is always risky, but if you need a serious sleeper, it is tough to find one with more upside. He qualified a respectable 18th, which should help him avoid falling way out of contention if the race happens to start with a long green flag run. Meanwhile, he has finished 18th or better twice in the last three March races at Phoenix, including a 14th-place run in this race last year.

Big names outside the Top 10

14) Matt Kenseth

His 19th-place effort in qualifying and poor showing in practice Saturday did nothing to alleviate the concerns I already had about Kenseth. While he hasn't been awful at Phoenix, he has gone 12 starts without logging a top-five at the track. Meanwhile, he has just one top-10 in his last six starts at PIR.

17) Clint Bowyer

Phoenix has been tough on Bowyer, and in addition to his mediocre 17.1 average finish at the track, he has finished 20th or worse five times in his last seven starts. He actually had a decent qualifying effort, but average practice times suggest that another unimpressive performance could be on tap for Bowyer Sunday at PIR.

Overall rankings

Rk
Driver
Car No.
Make Sponsor Team
Starting Pos
1
Jimmie Johnson
48
Chevrolet Lowe's Home Improvement Hendrick Motorsports
4
2
Kevin Harvick
4
Chevrolet Budweiser Stewart-Haas Racing
13
3
Denny Hamlin
11
Toyota FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing
12
4
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
88
Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew Hendrick Motorsports
5
5
Kyle Busch
18
Toyota M&M's Joe Gibbs Racing
7
6
Brad Keselowski
2
Ford Miller Lite Team Penske
1
7
Kasey Kahne
5
Chevrolet Farmers Insurance Hendrick Motorsports
11
8
Jeff Gordon
24
Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger Hendrick Motorsports
17
9
Kurt Busch
41
Chevrolet Haas Automation Stewart-Haas Racing
10
10
Carl Edwards
99
Ford Fastenal Roush Fenway Racing
23
11
Tony Stewart
14
Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops Stewart-Haas Racing
20
12
Joey Logano
22
Ford Shell/Pennzoil Team Penske
2
13
Greg Biffle
16
Ford 3M Roush Fenway Racing
6
14
Matt Kenseth
20
Toyota Dollar General Joe Gibbs Racing
19
15
Aric Almirola
43
Ford Smithfield Richard Petty Motorsports
9
16
Ryan Newman
31
Chevrolet Caterpillar Richard Childress Racing
15
17
Clint Bowyer
15
Toyota 5 Hour Energy Michael Waltrip Racing
14
18
Kyle Larson
42
Chevrolet Target Chip Ganassi Racing
8
19
Jamie McMurray
1
Chevrolet McDonald's Chip Ganassi Racing
3
20
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17
Ford Best Buy Roush Fenway Racing
21
21
Brian Vickers
55
Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine Michael Waltrip Racing
16
22
Paul Menard
27
Chevrolet Menard's Richard Childress Racing
22
23
A.J. Allmendinger
47
Toyota Clorox JTG Daugherty Racing
25
24
Austin Dillon
3
Chevrolet Dow Energy Richard Childress Racing
24
25
Martin Truex Jr.
78
Chevrolet Furniture Row Furniture Row Racing
27
26
Casey Mears
13
Ford GEICO Germain Racing
18
27
Danica Patrick
10
Chevrolet GoDaddy.com Stewart-Haas Racing
33
28
Marcos Ambrose
9
Ford Stanley Black & Decker Richard Petty Motorsports
29
29
Justin Allgaier
51
Chevrolet Brandt HScott Motorsports
43
30
Parker Kligerman
30
Toyota Swan Racing Swan Racing
36
31
David Ragan
34
Ford Taco Bell Front Row Motorsports
30
32
David Gilliland
38
Ford Love's Travel Stops Front Row Motorsports
28
33
Brian Scott
33
Chevrolet Whitetail Circle Sport Racing
32
34
Joe Nemechek
66
Toyota LandCastle Title Michael Waltrip Racing
38
35
Cole Whitt
26
Toyota Speed Stick Gear Swan Racing
31
36
Michael Annett
7
Chevrolet Pilot Flying J Tommy Baldwin Racing
41
37
Reed Sorenson
36
Chevrolet Golden Corral Tommy Baldwin Racing
39
38
Ryan Truex
83
Toyota Borla Exhaust BK Racing
34
39
Alex Bowman
23
Toyota Burger King BK Racing
35
40
Travis Kvapil
32
Ford C&J Energy Go FAS Racing
40
41
Blake Koch
35
Ford MDS Transport Front Row Motorsports
37
42
Michael McDowell
95
Ford LFR Leavine Family Racing
26
43
Morgan Shepherd
87
Toyota Morris-Hardwick-Schneider Identity Ventures Racing
42

 

 

 

 

 

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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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