NASCAR Fantasy: Who's Hot, and Who's Not (Las Vegas)

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IFebruary 25, 2009

Week Three is officially here NASCAR fans and the boys remain out west for a trip to Sin City. The progressive banking added to this track has made it a much more exciting race to watch and I've heard the NEON garage is pretty sweet as well.

Events kick off Saturday with the NASCAR Nationwide Series' Sam's Town 300 at 4:30 PM.

Here are the drivers that are "Hot" and "Not" for Saturday's race:


Who's Hot

busch.jpg1. Kyle Busch: It's no surprise that "Rowdy" Busch is a top the "Who's Hot, and Who's Not" list for the Nationwide Series. Let's face it, this guy will probably be here most (if not all) of the season.

He completely dominated the Nationwide race at Auto Club Speedway this past weekend and is always a favorite on his home track in glamorous Sin City.

Thus far, Busch has finished fourth (Daytona) and first (California). He also currently leads the Nationwide Series point standings. Busch has never won at Las Vegas in NASCAR's minor league and has an average finish of 15.6 in five races—his worst being a 31st in this race last year.

While the stats may not point towards a strong finish for Busch, it's hard not to keep him at the top of the charts until he proves he doesn't belong there.


edwards.jpg2. Carl Edwards: I have a feeling my top-two in the Who's Hot, and Who's Not for the Nationwide Series won't change much throughout the year. Edwards is looking to flip with joy on the start-finish line of Las Vegas this weekend and take over the points lead.

He's been just about unbeatable in the Nationwide Series in recent years and barely missed winning his second series title in 2008. Edwards has finished second (Daytona) and fourth (California). He currently sits a minor 20 points behind Busch for the championship.

Edwards is another driver that has yet to bring home a trophy from Las Vegas, but averages a finish of eighth in four starts at the track.


kevin-harvick.jpg3.  Kevin Harvick: As owner/driver of the No. 33 Chevy, Harvick continues the search for his first win in his own car. He came close at Auto Club Speedway last week (finishing second), but Las Vegas could be the place Happy finally completes the task.

In eight career starts in the Nationwide Series at the Vegas track, Harvick has recorded one win (2004), four top-four finishes, a seventh, 12th and 13th (with the latter two being his first two starts). In fact, he hasn't finished worse than seventh since 2001.

Harvick would be "Happy" to end his quest for a win in his own car.


keselowski.jpgNationwide Dark Horse: Brad Keselowski. Keselowski probably remembers Las Vegas a year ago like it was yesterday. After challenging Carl Edwards for his first career victory with four laps to go, Mark Martin—on fresh tires—tapped Edwards, who then collected Keselowski.

Both spun out of contention with Martin took the checkered flag.

Saturday night's race has both good news and bad. The good: Martin won't be in the race. The bad: Owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be, in the same No. 5 that won last year.


Who's Not

229.jpg1. Jason Leffler: Las Vegas is definitely a track that Leffler is probably not excited about visiting this weekend. In five career Nationwide Series starts in Sin City, Leffler has finished better than 22nd only once—and that was an 11th place finish in 2006.

His other finishes at the track: 39th (2008), 37th (2006), 22nd (2004) and 28th (2000).

Though his success at Las Vegas has been less than stellar, Leffler currently sits 14th in the points (and would be higher if not for a five-lap penalty for rough driving in the opening race of the season.)

Now onto the big boys of the Cup Series. Here are a few drivers you may want to consider picking for your Fantasy Racing League this weekend.

Who's Hot

matt-kenseth.jpg1. Matt Kenseth: Surprise! Kenseth is atop the Who's Hot standings! The No. 17 team has been dead on this season and currently sit undefeated after two races—sure the first was due to rain, but a win is a win.

Heading into Las Vegas, it's hard not to want Kenseth on your Fantasy Roster. On the other hand, many are thinking, "surely his luck will run out soon...right?" Las Vegas may not be the place to count on the "Killer Bees'" luck to run out.

At the 1.5-mile track, Kenseth has two wins, four top-fives and five top-10 finishes. He averages a finish of 9.0 and averages a running position of 10.8 (fifth-best).

Kenseth's driver rating of 107.8 is fourth-best and he is second on the list of drivers with 90 of the fastest laps run. While it's a slim chance that Kenseth will go 3-for-3 this weekend...didn't we say that last week?


gordon.jpg2. Jeff Gordon: The No. 24 DuPon Chevrolet team finally appears to be back on track towards ending Gordon's ridiculous losing streak (and oh how glad I'll be when he does, so we don't have to hear about it anymore)!

In all reality, Gordon should have been getting doused with Gatorade at Auto Club Speedway last weekend. He had the fastest car and had it not been for a few milliseconds in the final pit stop—he would have won. Meanwhile, Las Vegas has been a decent track for Gordon.

In 11 career Cup starts at the track, Gordon has one win and five top-fives. His average finish is 14.9—which was hurt by last years 35th place finish. Prior to that he finished second (2007), fifth (2006) and fourth (2005).

Gordon is second-best among drivers with an average running position of 7.4 and driver rating of 111.4. He has run 81 of the fastest laps (third-most), recorded 252 green flag passes (tied for fourth-most) and has a series-fastest average green speed of 165.015 mph.

Gordon also has a series-high 1,001 laps in the top-15 (93.5 percent) and 186 quality passes (also a series-high).


busch.jpg3. Kyle Busch: Again, no surprise to see Busch near the top of any list involving the hottest drivers in any of NASCAR's top-three series...right? Busch returns to his home track still looking for that win that has eluded him in five starts.

Hist stats are by no means bad, however. Busch has two top-fives, three top-10 finishes and one pole (2008). His average finish of 13.2 is a bit skewed by a 41st place showing in his first start at the track in 2004. Since that race, Busch has averaged a finish of 6.25.

He has a series-best average running position of 6.8 and is third-best among drivers with a driver rating of 109.8. Busch has run 64 fastest laps (fifth-most) and ranks second in average green flag speed at 164.674 mph.

He also ranks second in both laps in the top-15 at 997 (93.1 percent) and quality passes with 174.


mark-martin.jpgDark Horse: Mark Martin. As I said above, a win is a win (even if it came in 1998, the first race at Las Vegas). That is exactly when Martin last visited Victory Lane in the Sin City. In 10 starts since then, Martin has only finished outside the top-10 twice (2003 and 2005).

In his 12 Cup starts, Martin has one win, five top-fives and nine top-10 finishes. He averages a finish of 11.1 and averages a running position of 12.2 (seventh-best).

Martin has a driver rating of 96.8 at the 1.5-mile track (sixth-best) and has run 36 of the fastest laps (eighth-most). His 780 laps in the top-15 (72.8 percent) ranks fifth.

Oh by the way—Martin visited Victory lane in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevy in last year's Nationwide Series event.


On the other hand, if you have either of the drivers listed below, you may want to consider dropping them from your team before Sunday's race.

Who's Not

earnhardt.jpg1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: I know it's early in the season, but Junior Nation needs not to worry about making the Chase, but instead on whether Earnhardt will keep himself in the top-35 in points (he sits 35th two races in). OK, before you say it Junior fans, I have no doubt he will rebound and maintain a top-35 points position—he just better not ASSUME it will happen.

Anyway, two races into the season and Earnhardt has finished no better than 27th. Daytona was his own fault. Pit road mistakes led to a poor position when the rain fell.

California, on the other hand, was not his fault. A bad part soured the No. 88 engine and ended any hopes of a decent finish for Earnhardt at a track he has always struggled on.

Heading into Las Vegas, Earnhardt has shown promise at the track, finishing second last year. But more often than not, he has finished outside the top-10 (six times in nine starts). Either way, Earnhardt is looking to continue the solid run he had last year and prove the No. 88 team can compete on the 1.5-mile tracks.


784.jpg2. Scott Speed: It's no surprise to see "Speed Demon" not quite up to par in a stock car and on the oval tracks just yet. The transition from Formula One has been tough for Speed and he has yet to show his true potential.

Heading into Las Vegas, Speed's No. 82 team sits 41st in points (35 out of Earnhardt Jr. in 35th). To date, Speed has finishes of 35th (Daytona) and 41st (California). If this team wants to guarantee themselves a spot after the first five races, they better be stepping it up.


There are a lot of quality teams in front of them, and the points won't come easy. Speed has only one start at Las Vegas. He finished 21st in the Camping World Truck Series event there last year.

4319.jpg3. Joey Logano: Here is another driver in top-notch equipment that is currently outside the golden top-35 rule. Sure, we all figured Logano would struggle, but being outside the guaranteed spot is un called for—for anyone in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment.

Logano doesn't have as much to worry about, being 37th and only 14 points behind 35th place, as say Speed, but he does need to make sure he puts together a couple decent finishes in the next three weeks to ensure he has a starting place come Martinsville in March.

Las Vegas in another track that Logano has yet to race on, and without running the Nationwide Series event on Saturday, it should be interesting to see how the 18-year-old does.

There's a look at the top (and bottom) drivers for your Fantasy Racing League this weekend—now don't use this against me to beat me in our Fantasy League!

Sin City...Here we come!


Editor's note: Come join the newest NASCAR Community on Bleacher Report — The Nationwide Series Community, a place where we talk about everything Nationwide. The good, the bad and everything in between. Any comments or questions about the Series? Feel free to let me know.


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