It’s been a bit of a boom-or-bust season so far for Matt Kenseth. With an average finish of 21.43 (a career-worst) and already three finishes outside the top 35, some may begin to question if the Joe Gibbs Racing driver could be the next “big name” driver to call it quits. But he also has three top-10’s to his name this season, so all may not be lost. Kenseth may just be experiencing a heavy dose of bad luck early in the season, and perhaps this is the time to get that out of the way.
Speaking of drivers that some are calling on to retire, there’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. Prior to his fifth-place finish at Texas, he had not cracked the top 14 yet this season. Teammate Jimmie Johnson had experienced a similar lack of success on the year prior to his victory at Texas, so maybe they both use this as a jolt for the rest of the season. You just hope that last year’s concussion issues haven’t resulted in an ultimate decline in performance.
Denny Hamlin is also struggling so far, with just two top-10 finishes and an average driver rating (73.4) that barely cracks the top 20 in the Cup series. He has been one of the most inconsistent drivers (fantasy-wise) for a couple years now. And since most fantasy games have him priced similarly to the elite drivers in the sport, he simply poses way too much of a risk. If there’s any track you can justify taking a shot on him, it’s probably Daytona, Richmond, or Darlington.
Kurt Busch followed up his season-opening Daytona 500 victory with a seventh-place finish at Atlanta, but the next four races were dreadful (to say the least), with finishes of 30th, 25th, 24th, and 27th. A top-10 finish at Texas keeps Kurt in the top 15 in the points standings, but there are plenty of other drivers you can trust over him for the time being.
Statistically, Danica Patrick is on pace to post her worst season since 2013, which was her first full year in NASCAR’s premier series. As rumors continue to swirl about a possible lack of sponsorship (due to lack of results), she has posted just one top-20 finish on the season so far. This is particularly troubling considering she is coming off of what some could call her best year (in 2016). She’ll continue to have some value considering her tier, but it’s very difficult to find reasons to select her over other drivers right now.
Other drivers to keep an eye on:
Look. Kevin Harvick has had a good season. He’s currently 10th in the points–his 419 laps led leads the Cup series, and he’s captured two poles already. But we expect more than a mediocre three top-10 finishes at this point for a guy who registered 12 wins, 54 top-fives, and a Cup championship in three seasons since joining Stewart-Haas Racing.
After a hot start, Kasey Kahne has come back to Earth recently, with the latest setback resulting in a 38th-place finish at Texas. He should continue to hold value at intermediate tracks, but this kind of inconsistency has plagued Kahne for most of his career at Hendrick Motorsports.
Some people may have thought that this was the year Austin Dillon could possibly put the No. 3 Cup car back in victory lane, but that isn’t happening anytime soon based on recent trends. A combination of mechanical issues and just a pure lack of speed in general has this team in a bind right now.