The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its first trip to Atlanta for the AdvoCare 500.
Atlanta is one of the fastest racetracks on the circuit. It is scary to think what the qualifying speed for Sunday night’s race may be in the new Gen-6 car. The multiple grooves on the racetrack make the race at Atlanta so fun to watch. Teams can set up their cars to run the bottom, the middle or the top.
The two drivers who have had the most success at Atlanta in the past three years are Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. Gordon has the series-high 129.6 driver rating, and Hamlin is second with a 127.2 rating. Both drivers are having a poor season, and the fantasy NASCAR players will have to decide if they want to gamble with them.
The Chase is only two weeks away. Some drivers will put everything on the line to get a win to help secure their spot. Others will not take a chance and only hope for a good point’s day.
It will be risky to put your fantasy team in the hands of a driver who will risk a poor finish in the hopes of going to Victory Lane. Use the drivers who already have a spot secured in the Chase on your team this week.
Here is my top 25 and stats from the NASCAR Media Center based upon the driver’s career statistics at the Atlanta.
Racing for the Win
1. Kurt Busch has been the best driver to not win a race this season. That will change Sunday night. Busch has finished seven of the last nine races at Atlanta in the top six. He knows his way around the racetrack. He will win his first race of the season this week.
2. Jimmie Johnson does not have a lot to race for this week. He already has his spot in the Chase wrapped up. The No. 48 team may experiment on setups in preparation for the Chase. This does not mean Johnson will not finish up front. In fantasy games that restrict the amount of uses for each driver, I would hold off on using Johnson until next week at Richmond.
3. Kevin Harvick is a driver to watch this week. He finished this race last year in the top five and has momentum entering Sunday night’s race. Do not be surprised to see Harvick win his third race of the season this week.
Who will win the race Sunday night at Atlanta?
4. Kyle Busch is always fast at Atlanta. He has one win, three top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes at the racetrack. Busch has the fifth-best driver rating of 105.5. He is my pick to win the pole this week.
5. Matt Kenseth is another Joe Gibbs Racing driver who will be good this week. He has back-to-back top-10 finishes at Atlanta and the fifth-best driver’s rating of 107.8. He has momentum coming off his win last week. Kenseth will add another top five to his 2013 resume Sunday night.
6. Brad Keselowski is starting to show why he was the Sprint Cup Champion last year. After a horrible start to the season, Keselowski has consistently run up front. His 105.1 driver’s rating at Atlanta is the sixth best. He will finish with another top 10 this week.
7. Martin Truex Jr. has finished in the top 10 at each of the races this season on tri-oval racetracks (Texas, Kansas, Charlotte and Kentucky). Last year he finished fourth in this race. He will run up front again this week.
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs a good race to wrap up a spot in the Chase. Hendrick Motorsports will want to ensure Earnhardt has its best car for the race this week. That should easily allow him to finish in the top 10.
9. Carl Edwards has been very good when his car holds up at Atlanta. He has three wins, eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10 finishes in his 17 career starts at the racetrack. Edwards also has three DNFs at Atlanta. His car will be fine this week, and he will finish with another top 10.
10. Jeff Gordon should be much higher on this list than No. 10. He has five wins, 16 top-five finishes and 25 top-10 finishes at Atlanta. He also has a series-high 129.6 driver’s rating over the past two seasons. Despite his troubles this season, Gordon will still be able to finish in the top 10 Sunday night.
11. Kasey Kahne has been good on the tri-oval racetracks this season. He has finished three of the five races in second place. He has struggled at Atlanta in the past three races. His best finish since 2010 has been No. 23. He will finish right outside the top 10 this week.
12. Denny Hamlin is another driver who should be higher on this list. Atlanta is one of Hamlin’s best racetracks. He won this race last season and has the second-best driver’s rating of 127.2 over the past two seasons. In any other year Hamlin would be a “must own” driver for all fantasy formats. That is not the case in 2013.
13. Mark Martin is back in the No. 14 car for Tony Stewart this week. He was not that good in the No. 55 car at Atlanta, but he will be much better with the No. 14 crew behind him. Expect a top-15 finish from Martin this week.
14. Brian Vickers will be back in the No. 55 car for Michael Waltrip Racing as a full-time driver. He missed last year’s race at Atlanta, but he has a streak of four consecutive top-11 finishes at the racetrack from 2011-2009. Vickers will finish in the top 15 Sunday night.
15. Clint Bowyer is high enough in the point standings where he could take some chances Sunday night. He could easily finish in the top five or could try to score a win by saving fuel and have it backfire on him. Bowyer has finished one of the last five races at Atlanta in the top 20. There are safer picks this week.
16. Greg Biffle loves fast racetracks, and Atlanta is one of the fastest. He has not scored a top-10 finish at Atlanta since 2010. Biffle has an average finishing position of No. 16. That is where he will finish this week.
17. Paul Menard is an interesting pick this week. Earlier in the season he was very good on the tri-oval racetracks. Last season he started No. 18 and finished eighth. Menard would be a good sleeper for the race Sunday night.
18. Jamie McMurray has been good on the tri-oval racetracks this season. He finished seventh at Kansas, eighth at Charlotte and second in Kentucky. McMurray is worth taking a chance on this week.
19. Ryan Newman needs to finish up front securing his place in the Chase. He has a history of starting up front at Atlanta, but not finishing up front. Newman has seven poles and an average finishing position of 18.4. These are not the type of numbers you want for your fantasy team.
20. Joey Logano is one of the drivers who are on the bubble to make the Chase. He needs a top-10 finish or a win to secure his spot. History is not on Logano’s side this week. In his six career races at Atlanta, his best finish is No. 18. There are better choices for your fantasy team.
Trying to Stay on Lead Lap
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has never raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta. In the Nationwide Series he has one win, two top-five finishes and three top-10 finishes in his three career starts. Stenhouse is the best value pick in the field this week.
22. Jeff Burton has a lot of experience at Atlanta, but not a lot of success. In his 38 career races he has never won. His average starting position is 25.3, and his average finishing position is 16.5. Use another driver for your team this week.
23. Juan Pablo Montoya may be racing his final races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For this reason he will try to win at all costs. The problem with Montoya is his career is that he often overdrives the car. That will be the case again Sunday night.
24. Aric Almirola started off the season with three straight top-10 finishes at the tri-oval racetracks. Since then he has finished No. 33 at Charlotte and No. 15 at Kentucky. He will finish just inside the top-25 this week.
25. Marcos Ambrose has seven career starts at Atlanta and only one top-10 finish. His average finishing position is 21.3. He will struggle to finish that high this week. Pick another driver this week.
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth
Group B: Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Group C: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Casey Mears
Fantasy Live Picks
Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, Josh Wise
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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