Fantasy cheat sheet: Driver rankings for Charlotte


Martin Truex Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Special to Yahoo Sports
By Dan Beaver

Back-to-back races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks means that fantasy players who chose not to change their rosters can still be successful if they had the winning hand at Kansas Speedway in the 400. However, making precise modifications this week can earn even more points. That is what separates the sheep from the goats. Sleepers will not earn the most points this week, but the right one could still help win your league.

1. Martin Truex Jr.: With the Kansas win, Truex should be regarded as one of the favorites in the Coke 600. He won last year’s edition of this race as well, which was his third straight Charlotte top-five.

2. Brad Keselowski: Success on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks should be used to handicap this week’s performance. Keselowski is one of four drivers with a top-10 sweep of them in 2017.

3. Kyle Larson: With a finish of sixth in the 400 at Kansas, Larson snapped a streak of second-place finishes on this track type. He is still one of the favorites to finish in the top five.

4. Kevin HarvickFantasy owners wanted to see if Harvick would rebound effectively from his accident at Talladega. He did and that third-place finish in Kansas is his fourth straight unrestricted top-five.

5. Joey Logano: Kansas got off to a rough start even before Logano shattered a brake rotor and collected Patrick and Almirola. It’s time to dust off and regain focus inside the cockpit of the No. 22.

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6. Jamie McMurray: Four races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks have ended in a narrow band of results of seventh through 10th for McMurray. He won’t earn maximum points in the Coke 600, but he will be a great fantasy value.

7. Ryan Blaney: The worst struggle Blaney had on the “cookie-cutter” tracks ended in an 18th at Atlanta this spring. The remainder of his efforts landed in the top 15 including last week’s fourth at Kansas.

8. Clint Bowyer: Consistency is often more important than raw strength. Bowyer has finished between ninth and 11th in four similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track races this year.

9. Jimmie Johnson: The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 victory at Texas restored players’ faith in Johnson again, but he did not carry that strength with him to Kansas. Questions were immediately raised once more.

10. Matt KensethThe problem with a changing of the guard is that it disrupts predictive patterns. Kenseth had a nine-race, top-10 streak going before he finished 16th at Texas. He was 12th at Kansas.

11. Kyle BuschHe can be great on this track, but Busch is prone to mistakes as well. His sixth in last fall’s Bank of America 500 snapped a three-race streak at Charlotte without a top-10.

12. Trevor Bayne: Teammate Stenhouse got the early season press with his Talladega win, but Bayne has been the better value on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks with a worst result of 13th this year.

13. Chase ElliottThere comes a time in a sophomore season when the exuberance of the sport turns to hardship. How Elliott performs in the coming weeks will say a lot about his entire career will go.

14. Ty Dillon: The younger Dillon brother has regularly beaten expectations this year and he could be the top performing rookie of the Coke 600.

15. Denny Hamlin: Before he blew an engine last fall at Charlotte, Hamlin was riding a four-race, top-10 streak. Now, he has 11 such finishes in his last 13 starts on this track.

16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Winning at Talladega was a dramatic event, but what makes this driver and team so strong is how they have improved in 2017. Stenhouse has three top-15s on “cookie-cutter” tracks.

17. Kurt BuschIn his last five races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, Busch has alternated top-10s with results outside the top 15 and the majority of his efforts have been modest at best.

18. Kasey Kahne: There is little doubt that Kahne can drive and Rick Hendrick has shown confidence by leaving him in this car. Fantasy players have a tough choice handicapping him each week, however.

19. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Nothing would be better than a triumph in one of the biggest races of the year in Earnhardt’s final season. This team has to learn to walk again before they can run, however.

20. Daniel SuarezBy holding off Elliott last week in the All-star Open during the final segment, Suarez showed a different side of his racing personality than most fantasy players have previously seen.

21. Erik Jones: The incredible start to this rookie campaign has lost some of its momentum and that means it is time to handicap Jones by the numbers. His average finish on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks in 2017 is 18.25.

22. Chris Buescher: Each similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track race this year has been better than the one that preceded it for this team. Buescher finished 18th last week at Kansas, so a top-15 could be in the offing. They could just as readily lose momentum, however.

23. Ryan Newman: A win in the bank means a lot for a team that has finished 25th or worse in three of their last five attempts. Last week, Newman was the first driver to hit the showers at Kansas.

24. Michael McDowell: The Bank of America 500 was one of the first in which this team started to show a turnaround last year. McDowell’s 14th-place finish made him one of the best bargains that weekend.

25. Austin Dillon: In 10 races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year, Dillon had only two results outside the top 20; this year three of his four efforts ended 25th or worse.

26. AJ Allmendinger: The first three attempts for Allmendinger on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks ended in the mid- to low-20s. His last effort was a crash-induced 30th at Kansas.

27. Landon Cassill: Nine of the last 10 attempts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks have ended in the 20s for Cassill. That allows fantasy owners to make accurate assumptions about how he’ll run this week.

28. Cole Whitt: His is certainly not the first who comes to mind on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, but Whitt has a 20th at Atlanta and 26th at Kansas that suggests he could be an acceptable “filler” pick.

29. Paul Menard: This team showed some promise at the start of last season, but the tide turned late in 2016. Now, Menard has only one top-20 in his last eight races on this track type.

30. Danica PatrickFrustration can sap the energy out of a driver and team. Patrick believes something bad is just around the next turn and too often she is right.

31. David Ragan: Front Row Motorsports appeared to have their house in order at the start of the season with a balance of veteran and young talent. Ragan has been star-crossed in 2017, however.

32. Matt DiBenedetto: This team was one of the early-season, hidden gems. Their last two efforts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks ended in the 30s, however, and it seems they still have some room to slip.

33. Jeffrey Earnhardt: If one disregards Texas, Earnhardt’s other results on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year have been in the low-30s and that could make him a sneaky bargain if he qualifies poorly and earns place-differential points.

34. Corey LaJoie: Despite crash damage in the 400, Lajoie had his best finish yet on a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track. He was 27th at Kansas.

35. Reed Sorenson: Before finishing 25th in the 400, Sorenson had a five-race streak of 30-something results. That is a much more likely scenario this week.

36. Elliott Sadler: In Tommy Baldwin’s No. 7, Sadler will make his first Charlotte attempt since 2010. That year, he finished in the 20s twice for Richard Petty Motorsports.

37. Gray Gaulding: If one is looking for consistency, Gaulding has provided it over the past three similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track races with 34th-place finishes in each.

38. Derrike Cope: He has been in all four similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track races this year, but Cope has earned minimal points with a best result of only 35th.

39. Timmy Hill: In his first two tries on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, Hill was at the very back of the pack in the high-30s each time the checkers waved. He stayed out of trouble in Kansas and finished 28th.

40. Carl Long: Simply making the Coke 600 will be a measure of success for Long, so don’t expect him to climb into the top 35 unless there is a lot of early-race attrition.

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