11. Joey Logano – Starts 11th – Yahoo! B Driver
One driver that I’ve had my eye on since earlier this week was Joey Logano. We all know how this team has emerged as one of the better intermediate teams on the circuit in 2012, and when you add in the fact that Joey has won here three times in the Nationwide Series, you have what looks to be a solid fantasy pick for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400. Logano finished a decent 14th in the inaugural race here at Kentucky, but when you look at his stats in the intermediate night races this season, it should give you a little more reassurance: the #22 Ford was 5th at both Charlotte and Texas. Additionally, Logano is one of the hottest drivers on the circuit right now, with only Kevin Harvick scoring more points than him over the last five Sprint Cup races.
12. Kurt Busch – Starts 27th – Yahoo! A Driver
Just when Kurt Busch disappoints fantasy owners at Michigan, he bounces back with a solid top 5 at Sonoma. Of course. The fact of the matter is that this #78 team is putting out fast cars week in and week out, and if there are no mistakes made–whether it be by the driver or the team–they are a threat for a top 5 finish. In my opinion, there are many things to like about Kurt Busch this weekend, even aside from the fast car. First, he finished 3rd back at Charlotte, had an awesome (potentially race-winning car) at Darlington, and was running inside the top 10 for much of the Texas race–all night events. Additionally, he qualified 3rd and finished 9th in the inaugural race here (while driving for Penske), and wheeled the #51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing to a 19th place finish in this event last season (we all know about their reliability issues). Also, Regan Smith finished 17th in this #78 car in 2011, and not only has Furniture Row improved since then, but Kurt has a lot more talent than Regan as well. You know the saying in fantasy NASCAR: run ’em while they’re hot, and Kurt Busch has scored the 7th-most points in the series over the last six races.
13. Ryan Newman – Starts 7th – Yahoo! B Driver
I feel like The Rocketman is one of the drivers that have slipped under the radar here this weekend. First let’s talk about the #39 team and their performance overall on intermediates this year. At Las Vegas, Newman ended up 38th due to a blown engine. He was running around 15th all day before that. Fontana: 10th, Texas: 10th, Kansas: 14th, Darlington: 10th, Charlotte: 6th, Michigan: 18th. In each of the three night races (Texas, Darlington, Charlotte), Newman ended up in the top 10. As far as Kentucky Speedway specifically, he was 4th in the inaugural event here in 2011 and 34th last season. During the latter race, however, Newman qualified 5th and was inside the top 12 or so for much of the race before he had engine problems. I’m more trusting of the Stewart-Haas cars right now and I think the #39 has a shot at a top 10 on Saturday night in the Quaker State 400.
14. Brian Vickers – Starts 9th – Yahoo! B Driver
Old man Martin is out of the #55 this weekend and Brian Vickers is taking over, but this team has regressed so much from last season that it’s hard for me to even get a really accurate read on them. I absolutely refuse to use the #55 on intermediate tracks when Mark Martin is in the car, but with Vickers I keep my eye on them a little bit more. He raced in the Texas night race (although in the #11 car for Denny Hamlin) and finished 8th, which I like, and Brian does tend to bump this team up a notch when he gets behind the wheel. It’s a feast or famine pick, and this weekend I’m feeling pretty conservative (hey, we’re in Kentucky) so I’m not going to fully recommend Brian Vickers to you fantasy racers.
15. Juan Montoya – Starts 10th – Yahoo! B Driver
He’s one of the riskiest picks in fantasy NASCAR, but Montoya could surprise some people this weekend (after disappointing many last weekend). JPM actually hasn’t been too bad at Kentucky Speedway since the series first came here in 2011. In that inaugural race, he qualified on the outside pole and ended up finishing 15th. Last year, he qualified 31st and finished 14th. But that’s not the only positive thing Montoya has going for him in my mind this week: he had a real strong car in Darlington, finishing 8th, and I like to look at previous night races (in case you haven’t been able to tell thus far throughout this article.. hah). I personally think taking the #42 is entirely too risky, but if you’re in a really deep league it might be worth a shot. As I’ve said many times before, the Earnhardt-Ganassi cars are really improved this year now that they switched to Hendrick engines.
Bonus Content On Notable Drivers:
Clint Bowyer – Starts 15th -Yahoo! B Driver
He has somewhat of a rocky history at Kentucky Speedway (35th in 2011, 16th in 2012), but to be fair Bowyer has never had a “clean” race at this track. This team is coming off of a good top 5 run in Sonoma last weekend, and believe it or not, Clint has scored the second-most points over the last six Sprint Cup races. I guess that’s why he’s sitting 3rd in points, huh? He’s not a “go-to” guy on many of these intermediate tracks, and I think there are better picks than Bowyer for the Quaker State 400 this weekend–although I do think he’ll leave there Saturday night with a solid top 15 finish, with maybe a chance at a top 10.
Jeff Gordon – Starts 12th – Yahoo! A Driver
Jeff Gordon has been somewhat feast or famine as of late, and it should be noted that this team hasn’t been every good on the intermediate tracks this season. The #24 Chevrolet has been fast in some races, but the bad luck bug has followed this team around. What I like about Gordon this weekend, however, is that he has posted top 10 finishes in both starts at Kentucky Speedway. I also like that he finished 3rd at Darlington earlier this season, another intermediate track night race. To put that into perspective, though, that’s the only top 10 this team has on any of the intermediate tracks all season long. Gordon’s average finish on them this season is 23.4. His history at this track is pretty good thus far, but is it worth the risk in taking the #24 this weekend?
Greg Biffle – Starts 20th – Yahoo! B Driver
It’s still a little difficult for me to trust The Biff right now, but I’m getting there. This team has finished 15th or better in each of the last four Sprint Cup races and that includes their win at Michigan a couple of weeks ago. As far as other night races have went this season, Biffle has his 4th-place finish at Texas to his credit along with the 13th-place effort at Darlington. His record at Kentucky Speedway isn’t spectacular, though, and that’s what worries me the most. In the two Sprint Cup races here, The Biff has finished 21st in each of them and had a mediocre driver rating to go along with it. He really excels on this track type, though, so you have to believe he’ll get a good finish here soon enough. Will it be this weekend? I guess we’ll find out.
Tony Stewart – Starts 25th – Yahoo! A Driver
Right now it’s kind of an enigma as to what to think about Tony Stewart. Overall this season he’s been mediocre at best on the intermediate tracks. In the night races, he finished 7th at Charlotte, 15th at Darlington, and 21st at Texas. Then again, this team has been putting really fast race cars out there for a little over a month now, as evidenced by Smoke’s four finishes of 7th or better in the last five Sprint Cup races. To sum it all up, there’s a cause for concern in picking the #14 this weekend, but at the same time there are reasons to be hopeful. Stewart finished 12th in the inaugural Kentucky race and ended up 32nd here last season after ignition problems. This track hasn’t been overly kind to the Stewart-Haas Chevys thus far, but that could change on Saturday night.
Paul Menard – Starts 24th – Yahoo! B Driver
Menard is one of those drivers that can be counted on for a solid top 15, top 20 finish but leaves you wanting more. In most fantasy games he’s a solid pick but there are generally other options that look like the better choice. That’s the situation this weekend. In the two races here at Kentucky, Menard has finished 24th (in 2011) and 12th (2012). He’s had mediocre driver ratings in both events and I’m not expecting anything special out of the #27 on Saturday night. When it comes to the intermediate night races in 2013, Paul has finished in the teens in all three events with his best finish coming back at Charlotte (13th). Menard could surprise with a top 10 in the Quaker State 400 but a teens finish, once again, is more likely out of this RCR driver.