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 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Atlanta is another 1.5 mile race track and is shaped similarly to Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways.
A List Drivers to Have:
Tony Stewart: Stewart should be a must-have driver at Atlanta. He has three wins, the most recent coming in this race in 2010, 10 top-5s, 15 top-10s, and a 11.2 average finish which ranks as the second best average finish behind Jimmie Johnson’s 9.9. Stewart finished third in this race last year.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson should be another must-have driver for anyone who is serious about their fantasy racing. Johnson’s 9.9 average finish not only ranks as the best of the A List drivers, but also is the best average finish for any driver at Atlanta. Johnson also has three wins at AMS, 11 top-5s, and 13 top-10s. Johnson finished second to Jeff Gordon in that epic finish of last year’s race.
A List “Wild-Cards”:
Jeff Gordon: Gordon has a very impressive AMS stat sheet. He has five wins, 15 top-5s, and 24 top-10s since his first AMS race in 1992. His average finish at AMS is a 12.2. Gordon won this race last year. The reason Gordon is a wild-card and not a definite is because of how his 2012 season has gone. It seems like every race he has a car capable of winning, but something happens to him to prevent that. A blown engine at Michigan and Daytona, crashes, cut tires, running out of gas, you name it and it’s happened to Gordon in 2012. Though Gordon obviously is very good at AMS, he’s still a risk just because of how this season has gone for him.
Carl Edwards: Atlanta is one of Edwards’ best race tracks. He has three wins, 8 top-5s, and 10 top-10s. He also boasts a 13.6 average finish at AMS. He also has nine top-10 finishes in the last 10 races on 1.5-mile race tracks. But Edwards hasn’t won a race since Las Vegas in March. Of 2011. Coming off a season in which Edwards lost the championship to Tony Stewart by a tie-breaker, he currently finds himself outside the top-10 in points, and in need of a win to hopefully take one of the two wild-card spots to get into the Chase. It could come this weekend at AMS, but Edwards’ season has been very similar to Gordon’s. In many races he’s had the speed, but not the finishes. In other races he just didn’t have the speed.
A List Drivers to Avoid:
Kevin Harvick: Though Harvick does have a win at AMS, that win came all the way back in 2001. He does have four top-5s and seven top-10s here, but that’s only good enough for a 19.9 average finish. He finished seventh in this race last season, but his last top-5s at AMS came back in 2009 when he scored a second and a fourth when AMS still had two races. The problem with taking Harvick is this season things have just not gone well for him and the whole RCR program. He may be in a Chase spot, but he hasn’t contended for a win since Dover back in June. The whole RCR program hasn’t had the speed required to win a race. Lately they haven’t been able to finish races strong either. The 29 will get up to the top-10 by about the halfway mark, and then fade at the finish. He also just changed crew chiefs. Though normally a championship contender, Harvick is definitely a driver to avoid at AMS.
B List Drivers to Have:
Since Yahoo lets you take four drivers in the B List, we’ll discuss the four drivers you must have on your team.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt has by the far the best average finish of all B List drivers at AMS with a 12.8 average finish. He also has a win, eight top-5s and 10 top-10s here. And he’s also sitting third in points and is definitely going to make the Chase.
Kasey Kahne: Kahne is very strong at AMS. He has two wins, six top-5s and eight top-10s with an 18.3 average finish. Kahne won here in 2009, but his last two finishes at AMS have been 30th or worse. Even if you choose not to start Kahne on Sunday, he’s always good to have on your list for qualifying points because he’s such a good qualifier.
Greg Biffle: Biffle may not have a win at AMS, but he’s still strong here, especially by B List standards. He has a 16.1 average finish, three top-5s and nine top-10s. Biffle is another driver that is good to have on your list just for the possibility of qualifying points even if you don’t start him.
Mark Martin: Martin has been fast all season long on the bigger race tracks and that should continue this weekend. AMS has been a pretty good track for Martin throughout the years. He has two wins here, 14 top-5s, and 23 top-10s with a 17.3 average finish.
B List “Wild Cards”:
Jeff Burton: Burton doesn’t have a win at Atlanta, but he does have eight top-5s and 14 top-10s throughout the years here. He has a 16.6 average finish at AMS, but the issue with Burton is the same with Kevin Harvick, but worse. Just like Harvick and the rest of RCR, Burton hasn’t had the speed to contend for wins, or even top-10s lately. The last two years have been absolutely terrible for Burton. He either doesn’t have a good car or does and then something happens. He may be worth taking in the hopes that he gets a good finish, but is also a big risk.
Juan Pablo Montoya: AMS might be Montoya’s best oval track. Obviously he doesn’t have a win here, but he does have three top-5s and four top-10s. He also has a 16.9 average finish here. The problem with taking JPM is that trouble seems to find him. If there’s an accident on the race track it seems that it involves the 42. He’s been hit-and-miss lately, but might be worth the risk.
B List Driver to Avoid:
Joey Logano: The driver they call “Sliced Bread” has been stale at AMS throughout his short career. Logano has no wins, no top-5s, no top-10s and a 27.6 average finish.
The C List is largely a toss-up. The main drivers worth taking are Sam Hornish Jr, Bobby Labonte, Aric Almirola, and Casey Mears. Trevor Bayne is usually a quality start when that team attempts to qualify.
I have Hornish and Bayne as my two C List drivers this weekend. Bayne and his equipment can make just about every race they attempt even though they’re outside the top-35 in owner’s points. That team is fast enough you almost never have to worry about him missing the race. And if Trevor stays out of trouble, you’re almost guaranteed a top-25 finish in the race.
As for Hornish, he’s trying to prove himself as a Cup driver again. In the aftermath of the AJ Allmendinger situation, Hornish has been thrust into the 22 as an interim driver with a chance of making it permanent. While Hornish ran horribly in almost every race he ran his first couple of seasons in Cup, he’s ran much better this season since his first race in the car at Daytona in July. While his career Cup stats would say don’t pick him, you should do so anyway.