Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: Bojangles' Southern 500

by Brian Polking on April 11, 2014 @ 20:49:42 PDT

 


Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR
Surprise: JJ is good here

The practice sessions are in the books and the field is set for Saturday's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Kevin Harvick is on the pole, giving Stewart-Haas Racing its second pole-winner in as many weeks, but Team Penske also flashed some serious muscle in qualifying yet again as Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski both scored top-five starting spots. Meanwhile, Richard Petty Motorsports has been the early surprise of the weekend with Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose qualifying on the second row. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne are among the big names starting outside the top 20.

Following the on track action, the final driver rankings for Saturday's race have shuffled a bit. In particular, several second-tier drivers have been impressive so far this weekend, boosting their value to the point where I have enough confidence to start them in most formats. With that in mind, I'm definitely going to sprinkle in a few sleepers to my final lineups, and overall, I feel there are plenty of value picks to choose from this weekend.

The top 3

1) Denny Hamlin

Hamlin hangs on to the top spot in the rankings heading into Saturday's race, and while he hasn't been dominant so far, he has been solid enough given his career numbers at Darlington. He ranked in the top 15 in opening practice Friday, and delivered a top-10 effort in qualifying. More importantly, his 5.4 average at Darlington is the best in the series, and he has three top-two finishes in his last four starts at the track.

2) Jeff Gordon

He jumps up a spot in the final rankings, and another strong performance at Darlington appears to be on tap for Gordon. He cracked the top five in both practices Friday and qualified in the top 10. The seven-time Darlington winner has a series-leading eight top-five finishes in the last 10 races at the track, and he is looking like a legit contender for the win this weekend.

3) Kyle Busch

Busch vaults into the No. 3 spot heading into Saturday's, and he has shown plenty of speed so far. He turned the fourth-fastest lap in Happy Hour and followed it up with a top-10 run in qualifying. Busch is also a former winner at Darlington, and in the last four races at the track, he has scored the second-most points in the series. During the stretch, Busch's 416 laps led are 256 more than any other driver.

Value picks

11) Ryan Newman

He has been solid at Darlington throughout his career, and he has been living up to his reputation this weekend. Newman ranked in the top 10 in both practices Friday, and he actually paced the field in Happy Hour. He also qualified in the top 10. Newman has 10 top-10s and seven top-five finishes in 15 starts at Darlington, and he looks like a rock solid addition to rosters in all formats this weekend.

14) Jamie McMurray

McMurray has been on a nice little roll at Darlington, and it looks like it could continue in a big way this weekend. He turned the eighth-fastest lap in Happy Hour Friday, and he will roll off sixth after a strong effort in qualifying. McMurray has five finishes of 16th or better in his last seven starts at Darlington, including three in his last four starts. In fact, he has two top-10s in his last four starts at the track, and he appears to have top-10 upside this weekend.

16) Marcos Ambrose

Although he has been boom or bust at Darlington, taking a chance on Ambrose this weekend could pay off. After ranking 11th in the opening practice Friday, he jumped to second on the charts in Happy Hour. Ambrose then backed up his practice times with a fourth-place run in qualifying. He enters this weekend's race with two top-15s in his last three starts at Darlington, including a career-best ninth-place finish in 2012. Ambrose could end up being a sneaky top-10 pick Saturday.

Sleeper special

17) Aric Almirola

Almirola has finished 19th and 20th in two starts at Darlington, but he could be on his way to a career-best performance at the track this weekend. After all, he ranked sixth on the charts in final practice Friday, and he qualified an impressive third. It's also worth noting that Almirola heads into the Bojangles' Southern 500 with three top-12s in the last four races. Another solid run could be on tap Saturday, and he is definitely worth a flier, especially in deeper formats.

Big names outside the top 10

18) Greg Biffle

He is actually a two-time winner at Darlington, and he is even riding a streak of three-straight top-15s at the track. However, Biffle ranked outside the top 20 in both practices Friday, and his 19th-place effort in qualifying wasn't much better. It looks like Biffle could be playing damage control this weekend, and based on the below average speed he has shown thus far, a top-15 is probably the best-case scenario.

21) Tony Stewart

Darlington is one of the few tracks where Stewart has never won, and while he still delivered solid finishes for the most part, it appears that could even be tough for "Smoke" to achieve this weekend. He ranked well outside the top 20 in both practices, and he also qualified outside the top 20. Stewart is talented enough to turn things around on race day, but he is a risky pick to say the least.

Overall rankings

Rk
Driver
Car
Make Sponsor Team
Start
1
Denny Hamlin
11
Toyota FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing
10
2
Jeff Gordon
24
Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger Hendrick Motorsports
9
3
Kyle Busch
18
Toyota M&M's Joe Gibbs Racing
8
4
Jimmie Johnson
48
Chevrolet Lowe's Home Improvement Hendrick Motorsports
26
5
Brad Keselowski
2
Ford Miller Lite Team Penske
5
6
Matt Kenseth
20
Toyota Dollar General Joe Gibbs Racing
25
7
Joey Logano
22
Ford Shell/Pennzoil Team Penske
2
8
Kevin Harvick
4
Chevrolet Budweiser Stewart-Haas Racing
1
9
Carl Edwards
99
Ford Fastenal Roush Fenway Racing
21
10
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
88
Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew Hendrick Motorsports
15
11
Ryan Newman
31
Chevrolet Caterpillar Richard Childress Racing
7
12
Kurt Busch
41
Chevrolet Haas Automation Stewart-Haas Racing
13
13
Clint Bowyer
15
Toyota 5 Hour Energy Michael Waltrip Racing
16
14
Jamie McMurray
1
Chevrolet McDonald's Chip Ganassi Racing
6
15
Kasey Kahne
5
Chevrolet Farmers Insurance Hendrick Motorsports
22
16
Marcos Ambrose
9
Ford Stanley Black & Decker Richard Petty Motorsports
4
17
Aric Almirola
43
Ford Smithfield Richard Petty Motorsports
3
18
Greg Biffle
16
Ford 3M Roush Fenway Racing
19
19
Kyle Larson
42
Chevrolet Target Chip Ganassi Racing
17
20
Martin Truex Jr.
78
Chevrolet Furniture Row Furniture Row Racing
12
21
Tony Stewart
14
Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops Stewart-Haas Racing
23
22
Paul Menard
27
Chevrolet Menard's Richard Childress Racing
11
23
Austin Dillon
3
Chevrolet Dow Energy Richard Childress Racing
20
24
Brian Vickers
55
Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine Michael Waltrip Racing
14
25
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17
Ford Best Buy Roush Fenway Racing
28
26
A.J. Allmendinger
47
Toyota Clorox JTG Daugherty Racing
18
27
Justin Allgaier
51
Chevrolet Brandt HScott Motorsports
24
28
Danica Patrick
10
Chevrolet GoDaddy.com Stewart-Haas Racing
32
29
Reed Sorenson
36
Chevrolet Golden Corral Tommy Baldwin Racing
40
30
David Gilliland
38
Ford Love's Travel Stops Front Row Motorsports
27
31
Casey Mears
13
Ford GEICO Germain Racing
31
32
David Ragan
34
Ford Taco Bell Front Row Motorsports
32
33
Parker Kligerman
30
Toyota Swan Racing Swan Racing
38
34
Michael Annett
7
Chevrolet Pilot Flying J Tommy Baldwin Racing
30
35
Ryan Truex
83
Toyota Borla Exhaust BK Racing
39
36
Travis Kvapil
32
Ford C&J Energy Go FAS Racing
41
37
Landon Cassill
40
Chevrolet CRC Brakleen Hillman Racing
34
38
Alex Bowman
23
Toyota Burger King BK Racing
33
39
Cole Whitt
26
Toyota Speed Stick Gear Swan Racing
42
40
David Stremme
33
Chevrolet Little Joe's Auto Circle Sport
37
41
Josh Wise
98
Chevrolet Phil Parsons Racing Phil Parsons Racing
29
42
Dave Blaney
77
Ford Unsponsored Randy Humphrey Racing
36
43
Joe Nemechek
66
Toyota Motorcraft Jay Robinson Racing Team
43

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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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