Fantasy Talk is back and just in time for the first short track race of the season. It’s Bristol, baby and it’s time to have some fun. I wasn’t able to get this column posted the last two weeks due to computer and personal issues, but here it is again and it’s here to stay so let’s jump right in.
A-List Must Haves:
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin only has one win at Bristol but that win came in the last race there. He led 70 laps en route to the win. It is tough to predict who will be competing for the win because many of the drivers who were excellent at Bristol before the track was slightly changed last summer didn’t run too well in August. But Hamlin is a short track guy. He has four top-five finishes and seven top-10s. He’ll be a good pick for Sunday.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne was really strong back in August before he slipped in some oil and got in the wall. He led 42 laps but finished ninth after battling back from hitting the wall. He doesn’t have a win at Bristol but he’s come close before. Expect him to be up front on Sunday.
A-List Wild Card Driver:
Brad Keselowski: The 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion is in the wild-card category solely do to his performance back in August. Keselowski won the previous two races at Bristol before last August’s night race, but ran terribly most of the race before crashing. He finished 34th. If Keselowski can figure out the new Bristol and run the way he did before the top groove was restructured he’ll be a good pick. But if he runs the way he did this past August he’ll be a really bad choice.
A-List Driver to Avoid:
Tony Stewart: It’s not often that you’ll see Stewart listed in this category, but when it comes to Bristol Stewart definitely is a driver you want to avoid. Since leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the start of the 2009 season Stewart only has one top-10 finish at Bristol. He finished second in the 2010 Food City 500, but his next best finish in that time period was 14th in last year’s Food City 500.
B-List Must Haves:
Kyle Busch: The younger Busch brother has five wins at the World’s Fastest Half Mile to go along with his seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. He has a series best driver rating at Bristol with a 102.3. He didn’t lead any laps last August on the new-new Bristol where everyone started running the outside lane and used “slide-jobs” to pass, but he still finished sixth. Rowdy will get it figured out and be up front at the end of 500 laps on Sunday afternoon.
Joey Logano: Logano hasn’t had an easy go of it to start off 2013 with his new team, but Logano runs very strongly at Bristol. He led the most laps last August with 139. But differing pit strategies got Logano behind the eight ball so he had to settle for an eighth place finish. Logano needs to get things going in the right direction and Bristol is the right place for him to do it.
Kurt Busch: The older Busch brother has five wins just like his younger brother. He also has six top-fives, 13 top-10s and one pole at Bristol. Busch didn’t run well at all with Phoenix Racing in 2012, but he’s now with Front Row Racing and running stronger even though the finishes haven’t been there just yet.
Brian Vickers: Vickers is back in a Cup car filling in for Mark Martin just like last year. He’s hoping that he can put up good numbers just like last year too. Vickers was never that great at Bristol before last March, but he finished fifth and fourth in the two Bristol races last season leading a total of 126 laps.
B-List Wild Card:
Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose is obviously known as a road course specialist, but for some reason he runs surprisingly well at Bristol. He has a couple top-10s to his credit and he finished fifth this past August.
B-List Driver to Avoid:
Greg Biffle: The Biff is winless at Bristol and the rest of his stats here are just mediocre. He only has six top-fives here and he finished 19th back in August.
Just like last season the C-List is basically a toss-up. There’s one or two drivers that will run well and a couple others that may be decent if you want to save some starts for the better guys. This year there is quite a few drivers running a partial schedule that can get you good finishes, so make sure you check the entry list every Monday to see who is entered in the race.
The two drivers I’m going with this week are Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and AJ Allmendinger. Stenhouse will be the best choice among C-List drivers all season long. But guys like Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, and occasionally Sam Hornish Jr. will be good picks as well when they race.
Another driver that could be a good pick for this weekend is David Reutimann. He finished second to Kyle Busch in the 2010 Night Race. Last season he raced part time in an underfunded second Tommy Baldwin Racing car. This year he’s in a BK Racing car that was competing for top-25 finishes in the second half of last season with Landon Cassill. If Reutimann is to get you a good finish anywhere, it would be Bristol.