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Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: KOBALT 400

By Brian Polking

Although the jury is still out on the new group qualifying format, it is pretty clear that Team Penske likes the setup. One week after sweeping the front at Phoenix International Raceway, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano grabbed the top two spots for Sunday's Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Logano taking his turn on the pole. Of course last week, both drivers backed up their qualifying runs with top-five finishes, and as a result, Keselowski and Logano were among the drivers moving up in the final rankings.

While the Team Penske drivers have seen their value increase over the course of the weekend, several big names headed in the other direction. Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart are just a few of the names that have struggled to find speed all weekend. As a result, fantasy owners may want to adjust their lineups a bit heading into Sunday's race and take advantage of a few sleeper options.

Sure, there is still a chance that Kenseth and others could right the ship and perform well, but this early in the season, there will be plenty of other opportunities to use the heavy hitters when their qualifying and practice speeds are a little more encouraging. On that note, let's take a look at the final rankings for Sunday's race at Las Vegas.

The top 3

1) Jimmie Johnson

He was in the No. 2 spot to open the week, and Johnson moves up to the top spot in the final rankings following a fourth-place effort in qualifying and top-10 speeds during practice Saturday. For a driver that already leads the series with four wins and a 9.5 average finish at Las Vegas, starting near the front with a fast car makes him a must-have option for fantasy owners.

2) Brad Keselowski

Keselowski has been fast since he unloaded at Las Vegas, and he surges all the way to the No. 2 spot in the final rankings. After qualifying second Friday, he ranked third in the first practice Saturday and fourth in Happy Hour. Granted, his 25.0 average finish at Vegas isn't great, but he did finish a career-best third at the track last year. A similar run appears likely Sunday, especially given his hot start to the season.

3) Carl Edwards

He has always been consistent at Las Vegas, and Edwards hasn't disappointed this weekend. He qualified 11th, and cracked the top 10 in the opening session Saturday. Meanwhile, his 9.7 average finish at the track is the second best in the series, and he has finished in the top five in his last three starts. On a weekend when many of the pre-race favorites have been shaky, Edwards' consistency could be even more valuable.

Value picks

10) Brian Vickers

His last start at Las Vegas came in 2011, but Vickers hasn't missed a beat this weekend. He qualified in the top 10 Friday, and he topped the charts in the opening practice session Saturday. Vickers also finished in the top 10 in two of his last three starts at Vegas, and despite the layoff, he appears ready to pick up where he left off.

13) Jamie McMurray

McMurray has been fast all weekend. He qualified seventh Friday, and he cracked the top five in both practices Saturday. He has also been running well at Las Vegas recently, logging three top-15s in his last five starts at the track, including two straight. He doesn't have a ton of upside, but a top-15 finish could be on tap for McMurray.

14) Paul Menard

He has been putting up respectable numbers at Vegas for the last few years, and Menard validated his sleeper potential by cracking the top 15 in the early practice Saturday. Keep in mind that he has four straight top 20s, three straight top-12s and back-to-back top-10s at Las Vegas. Menard has been one of the safer value picks at Vegas lately, and he should at least challenge for a top-15 this weekend.

Sleeper special

27) Danica Patrick

She finished a dismal 33rd in her Las Vegas debut last year, but Patrick was dialed in during practice Saturday. She turned in the sixth-fastest lap in the opening session and the best 10-lap average speed. She is an obvious risk given her tendency to find trouble, but Patrick has a fast car this weekend. If you are willing to take the risk, a top-20 finish isn't out of the question.

Big names outside the top 10

11) Matt Kenseth

Kenseth actually topped the rankings to open the week. After all, he is a three-time winner at Las Vegas and the defending winner of this weekend's race. However, he qualified a dismal 29th, and he ranked outside the top 15 in practice Saturday. While it's hard to overlook his success at Vegas and at 1.5-mile tracks in general, Kenseth's speeds are far from encouraging.

18) Tony Stewart

He has been excellent at Vegas lately and has even led the most laps in two of the last three races at the track. However, he qualified 24th for Sunday's race, and while a poor qualifying run isn't that uncommon for Stewart, the fact that he ranked 31st on the practice charts Saturday afternoon is definitely a cause for concern. It looks like "Smoke" will be doing damage control this weekend, and fantasy owners may want to look elsewhere when building their rosters.

Overall rankings

Rk
Driver
Car
No
Make Sponsor Team
Starting
Pos
1
Jimmie Johnson
48
Chevrolet Lowe's Home Improvement Hendrick Motorsports
5
2
Brad Keselowski
2
Ford Miller Lite Team Penske
2
3
Carl Edwards
99
Ford Fastenal Roush Fenway Racing
11
4
Kasey Kahne
5
Chevrolet Farmers Insurance Hendrick Motorsports
13
5
Kyle Busch
18
Toyota M&M's Joe Gibbs Racing
20
6
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
88
Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew Hendrick Motorsports
14
7
Kevin Harvick
4
Chevrolet Budweiser Stewart-Haas Racing
16
8
Clint Bowyer
15
Toyota 5 Hour Energy Michael Waltrip Racing
3
9
Joey Logano
22
Ford Shell/Pennzoil Team Penske
1
10
Brian Vickers
55
Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine Michael Waltrip Racing
9
11
Matt Kenseth
20
Toyota Dollar General Joe Gibbs Racing
29
12
Jeff Gordon
24
Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger Hendrick Motorsports
15
13
Jamie McMurray
1
Chevrolet McDonald's Chip Ganassi Racing
7
14
Paul Menard
27
Chevrolet Menard's Richard Childress Racing
21
15
Ryan Newman
31
Chevrolet Caterpillar Richard Childress Racing
10
16
Denny Hamlin
11
Toyota FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing
27
17
Greg Biffle
16
Ford 3M Roush Fenway Racing
25
18
Tony Stewart
14
Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops Stewart-Haas Racing
24
19
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17
Ford Best Buy Roush Fenway Racing
6
20
Kurt Busch
41
Chevrolet Haas Automation Stewart-Haas Racing
23
21
Martin Truex Jr.
78
Chevrolet Furniture Row Furniture Row Racing
12
22
Austin Dillon
3
Chevrolet Dow Energy Richard Childress Racing
4
23
Marcos Ambrose
9
Ford Stanley Black & Decker Richard Petty Motorsports
43
24
Kyle Larson
42
Chevrolet Target Chip Ganassi Racing
17
25
Aric Almirola
43
Ford Smithfield Richard Petty Motorsports
8
26
Jeff Burton
66
Toyota Let's Go Places Michael Waltrip Racing
19
27
Danica Patrick
10
Chevrolet GoDaddy.com Stewart-Haas Racing
22
28
Trevor Bayne
21
Ford Motorcraft Wood Brothers Racing
34
29
A.J. Allmendinger
47
Toyota Clorox JTG Daugherty Racing
18
30
David Ragan
34
Ford Taco Bell Front Row Motorsports
26
31
Parker Kligerman
30
Toyota Swan Racing Swan Racing
32
32
Casey Mears
13
Ford GEICO Germain Racing
30
33
Justin Allgaier
51
Chevrolet Brandt HScott Motorsports
37
34
David Gilliland
38
Ford Love's Travel Stops Front Row Motorsports
33
35
Michael McDowell
95
Ford LFR Leavine Family Racing
35
36
Cole Whitt
26
Toyota Speed Stick Gear Swan Racing
28
37
Timmy Hill
33
Chevrolet Whitetail Circle Sport Racing
41
38
Reed Sorenson
36
Chevrolet Golden Corral Tommy Baldwin Racing
40
39
Michael Annett
7
Chevrolet Pilot Flying J Tommy Baldwin Racing
38
40
Alex Bowman
23
Toyota Burger King BK Racing
36
41
Ryan Truex
83
Toyota Borla Exhaust BK Racing
39
42
Travis Kvapil
32
Ford C&J Energy Go FAS Racing
42
43
Josh Wise
98
Ford Ambient Edge HVAC Phil Parsons Racing
31

 



 


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