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Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: KOBALT 400
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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