This is a new feature discussing the best drivers put on your fantasy team for this weekend’s race. Drivers are broken down by A, B, and C List categories and based off of Yahoo’s listings.
Don’t blame me if you pick these drivers and have a bad week. Chances are I took the same drivers as well and I’m in the same boat you’re in.
For each category I’m going to give the drivers you should put on your team, plus a “wild-card” driver as a maybe, and a driver or two to avoid for this week’s race.
This week the traveling circus that is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the First State, Delaware. The stars of the Cup Series will take on the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway. Just like New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the track is one mile in length. But that’s their only similarity. NHMS is flat with narrow corners. Dover has 24 degrees of banking and long, sweeping corners. NHMS is pretty slow. Dover is insanely fast for a one-mile oval.
Dover has similarities to Charlotte, and some with Bristol as well. Drivers who are good at those two tracks are typically good at Dover.
A-List Drivers to Have:
Jimmie Johnson: At Dover, there’s one guy that you definitely need to have on your team. Johnson is that man. He has seven wins at Dover. That has him tied with two other guys for most wins at Dover. Who are those two drivers? Bobby Allison, and seven-time champion Richard Petty. Johnson also has seven top-fives and 15 top-10s with an average finish of 8.9. He’s a beast here. He needs to be on your team.
Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is another driver who is great at Dover. Though he’s not as great as Johnson is here (No one is. Johnson’s in another league). Kenseth has two wins at Dover, the most recent coming in the spring 2011 race. Kenseth also has 13 top-fives, and 18 top-10s with an 11.8 average finish. Kenseth also made his Sprint Cup debut at Dover in 1998. He finished sixth.
A-List “Wild-Card” Drivers:
Jeff Gordon: Gordon isn’t usually a wild-card driver by definition here at Dover. I mean, he has four wins at the Monster Mile, and an average finish of 12.3. He’s great here. But 2012 hasn’t been too kind to Gordon. We all saw the bad luck he had throughout most of the season. But overcame it and made the Chase. And then had bad luck in the first Chase race at Chicagoland. Gordon was fast here back in the spring. He actually passed Johnson under green, which usually doesn’t happen here. But an unscheduled pit stop put him back in the pack. Gordon may be worth taking if you don’t want to take Kenseth.
Kyle Busch: Kyle Busch is a true wild-card driver at Dover. Some races he’s very good here, and others he finishes terribly. Just take a look at his last nine finishes at Dover: 1st, 43rd, 23rd, 31st, 1st, 6th, 4th, 6th, and 29th. All over the board. And this year with the engine issues that he’s been plagued with, that may be another reason to be cautious towards picking him.
A-List Drivers to Avoid:
Carl Edwards: Let’s take a look at Edwards’ stats at the Monster Mile. One win, seven top-fives, 11 top-10s and an average finish of 8.5. He’s pretty good here. So why is he a driver to avoid? His last five races he’s finished 22nd, 36th, 17th, 19th, and 19th. 2012 has been terrible to Carl Edwards. Stay away from him.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin’s been on a tear as of late. He’s won three of the last five races. He completely dominated at New Hampshire last weekend. But even Hamlin will tell you that Dover is terrible for him. Hamlin only has two career top-fives at Dover and only four top-10s. He has an average finish of 20.5. To make matters worse, his new crew chief for 2012, Darian Grubb, is also not good at Dover. Grubb’s last top-ten at Dover goes all the way back to the spring race in 2010 with Tony Stewart. They finished ninth. Hamlin and Grubb finished 18th here in the spring.
B-List Drivers to Have:
Mark Martin: Mark Martin loves this place. He has four wins at Dover. He has 23 top-fives and 31 top-10s. Though he only finished 14th here back in June, he’s almost always very good here and always very smart to have as a part of your eight-driver roster at least.
Greg Biffle: Biffle is also very good at Dover, just like his two Roush-Fenway teammates. He has two wins, six top-fives, and 10 top-10s with an average finish of 12.2. Biffle finished 11th at the Monster Mile in June.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt has had a love/hate relationship with Miles the Monster. Early in his career he ran very well here. He got a win at Dover in September 2001 (his only win at Dover). Junior has five top-fives and eight top-10s for an average finish of 17.5. He started to dislike Dover mid-way through his career, but he’s come to like the place again. Earnhardt finished fourth here back in June.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne’s stats at Dover are typical for a B-List driver. He has one top-five and five top-10s for an average finish of 21.8. Though Kahne did come close to getting a win here in 2004, his first race at the Monster Mile, that bid for the win was foiled with about 35 laps remaining when he spun out in oil in turn four and crashed hard. Kahne finished ninth here in June.
B-List “Wild-Card” Drivers:
Joey Logano: When someone thinks of Dover and Joey Logano, they think of him barrel-rolling down the banking in his second race at the Monster Mile in 2009. But Logano says that Dover is actually one of his favorite tracks on the schedule. Logano has one top-five and three top-10s for a 19.1 average finish. He finished eighth here in June.
Marcos Ambrose: When one thinks of Marcos Ambrose, they think of twisting road courses. Not high speed, high-banked ovals. But Dover is actually one of Ambrose’s strongest tracks. In his short Sprint Cup career Ambrose has one top-five and three top-10s for an 18.1 average finish. Ambrose finished ninth here in June, and tenth last fall.
B-List Drivers to Avoid:
Ryan Newman: The Rocket-Man used to own the Monster Mile when he was still with Penske Racing. But Newman hasn’t posted a top-10 finish in Dover in three races. As a matter of fact, Stewart-Haas Racing in general just is not good at Dover. Tony Stewart hasn’t been good at Dover in the last couple of years as well. Best avoid Newman.
The C-List is largely a toss-up. The main drivers worth taking are Sam Hornish Jr, Bobby Labonte, Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill and Casey Mears. This week you can add in Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
There are two guys this weekend that I’d definitely want to have on my eight-driver roster this weekend. Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Aric Almirola: Almirola has only raced once at the Monster Mile. That race was this past June’s race. He started 12th and finished sixth. That’s one heck of a debut. Plus, the 43 car has always run well at Dover. Richard Petty has seven wins at Dover. And recently, AJ Allmendinger was very good at Dover when he was in the 43 car. Maybe there’s something to that.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Don’t check Stenhouse’s Dover stats. Why? Because there are none. Stenhouse hasn’t made a start at Dover in the Cup Series. Now you’re probably saying “Why should I take him then?” The answer to that is simple. Because Stenhouse is an excellent driver. He won last year’s Nationwide Series championship and has a great shot to repeat that feat this year. And as I said earlier, Dover is similar to Charlotte in many ways. Stenhouse has raced at Charlotte in the Cup Series once before and he finished 11th. He’ll be fine this weekend. The only reason he’s a bit of a risk is because he has to make the race from qualifying. Should he fail to do so, you’ve got Almirola on your team locked into the race so you’ll be fine.