Fantasy Nascar: Bristol Value Start Rankings


Bristol Value Start Rankings

By Bill Hnat


After staying in the north for the past few weeks, NASCAR returns south for a Bristol night race. The short track is one of the more entertaining races of the season. When the checkered flag flies, odds are that several cars will transfer paint in an attempt at an elusive Sprint Cup victory. With a few races until the playoffs and several teams desperate for a win, we are set for excitement. From a fantasy racing perspective, there are several options in the top tiers. Your choice will be determined by how many starts you have left and your position in the league rankings.

For the “A” tier, there are four drivers who have the best chance for success this week. I would not start Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, or Kevin Harvick due to safer available options. My favorite driver at Bristol is Jeff Gordon. Gordon has been a consistent driver just about everywhere he drives in 2014, and this is one of his best races. Running in the top 15 for 81% of his laps since 2005, Gordon has shown his consistency and maintains a top five average over the last three Bristol night races. With an average running position of 9.8, he has the top average running position in the tier since 2005. Gordon is only sixth in the tier in laps led over the same time span and fifth in fast laps. In spite of this, Gordon has a high probability for success.

If you are low on Gordon starts or want to exercise another option, Kyle Busch is a consistent driver at Bristol as well. Busch has disappointed me a couple times this year and is coming off some bad starts, but carries a high upside here. With 1503 laps led since 2005, Busch has led the most laps in the series. He is also the leader in fast laps in the series and has the third-best average finish position. All of the data points to a successful endeavor from the 18 Car.

A third option out of the “A” tier is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior has the best average finish position in the tier since 2005. He also has one of the best teams this season and is a championship contender. My biggest concern is that he has only led a total of 83 laps since 2005 and is seventh in the tier in average running position. Matt Kenseth is second in laps led since 2005 behind Kyle Busch and ties Gordon with 81% of his laps in the top 15. Any of these four drivers should provide a high probability for success. Jimmie Johnson has success at Bristol as well, but I do not trust this team when more consistent teams in 2014. Johnson has high-risk high-reward potential. I will trust him better once the playoffs begin and there are less experiments with their race setup.

Like most weeks, the “B” tier is the most challenging to choose. Most of us are struggling to dig up enough starts from the top drivers. No driver from this tier has statistics that stand out. The end result is you can either pick drivers who have displayed consistency in 2014 for a safe pick or choose some dark horse candidates in order to save your top starters. I am recommending starting the top drivers in the tier this week even though the other strategy is workable. Short tracks are generally more predictable than the speedways and I have enough starts left to pick the favorites.

Brad Keselowski has the best data in Bristol on a lap-to-lap basis for the “B” Tier. His loop data score and average running position of 12.6 are the best in the tier since 2005. Keselowski has led the second-most laps during the same time period. While only running in the top 15 for 62% of his laps, this figure is third in the tier. This is not one of Keselowski’s best tracks, but he is a decent option in relation to the other drivers in the tier.

Another driver who I like this week is Greg Biffle. Biffle has only been average in 2014, and somehow I am low on starts remaining for him. Due to his loop data and average running position, Biffle has a high probability for success. He is seventh in tier “B” for 2014 so I am not worried about running out of starts. Biffle is second in the tier with an average running position of 13.2 since 2005. 70% of his laps have been run in the top 15, which is the best for tier “B”. Also, he has the best average finish position since 2005. Joey Logano has the best average start position in the series at Bristol and should be on your bench for qualifying points. Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, and Ryan Newman have respectable numbers her and should not disappoint you if you choose to start them.

For dark-horse candidates, consider Marcus Ambrose, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse has a 12th place average finish position with a limited resume. Marcus Ambrose has a ninth-place average for the Bristol night races over the last five years. Vickers, McMurray, and Menard average a finish in the teens and all have led some laps at the track. These drivers can provide value if you are desperate to save starts.

The “C” tier is an easy call. Start Kyle Larson. Although he only has one start at Bristol, his data is significantly better than all other drivers in the tier. During the race earlier this year, Larson finished tenth and ran in the top 15 for 97% of his laps. While Austin Dillon finished 11th and Justin Allgaier finished 17th earlier this season, neither driver has an impressive performance on a lap-to-lap basis. Landon Cassill has a 21st place average finish for the night race . Do not over-analyze this start and go with Larson.

The Fantasy NASCAR value start rankings basically determine the best tracks to start your top drivers in each tier. It compares a driver’s performance for this week’s Bristol race in relation to all 36 races in the season. The formula also takes into account a driver’s performance in relation to the other drivers in the tier. For additional information on the value start principle, please visit


Tier A

Best choice: Kyle Busch

Solid options: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, and Kurt Busch

Below Average: None

Stay Away From: Kevin Harvick


Kyle Busch 41.90

Jeff Gordon 41.34

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 29.77

Matt Kenseth 27.28

Kasey Kahne 27.27

Clint Bowyer 1.48

Jimmie Johnson (-19.07)

Kurt Busch (-19.76)

Kevin Harvick (-43,75)


Tier B

Best choices: Marcus Ambrose and Jamie McMurray

Solid options: Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Casey Mears, David Ragan, and David Gilliland

Below Average :AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Casey Mears, and Brad Keselowski

Stay away from: Tony Stewart


Marcus Ambrose 55.32

Jamie McMurray 33.32

Brian Vickers 28.32

Joey Logano 24.12

Paul Menard 8.42

Denny Hamlin 4.47

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3.66

Greg Biffle 3.32

Martin Truex Jr. (-3.10)

Ryan Newman (-3.21)

David Ragan (-7.47)

David Gilliland (-14.8)

AJ Allmendinger (-27.52)

Aric Almirola (-28.34)

Casey Mears (-28.22)

Brad Keselowski (-28.87)

Tony Stewart (-61.57)


Tier C

Best choice: Kyle Larson

Solid option: Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Landon Cassill, Travis Kvapil, and Jeff Burton

Below Average: Danica Patrick

Stay away from: Joe Nemecheck


Landon Cassill 4.05

Travis Kvapil (-0.24)

Jeff Burton (-8.53)

Danica Patrick (-28.5)

Joe Nemecheck (-55.54)




Fantasy Nascar: Michigan Value Start Rankings

Michigan Value Start Rankings

By Bill Hnat


After an exciting finish to a Watkins Glen race filled with red flags, NASCAR stays north of the Mason-Dixon line for a second installment at Michigan. There are only a few races left until the Chase. While last week was a predictable track by nature, this week at Michigan opens up for multiple fantasy strategies. There are opportunities to gain and lose points at every tier and strategy will come into play. In this article, I will mention loop data. Loop data is simply how a driver performs on a lap-to-lap basis at a track. With many options at every tier, this week will have an impact in your fantasy league.

The “A” tier is wide open this week, and an argument can be made to start any driver in the tier. Since there are multiple drivers to pick, my suggestion would be to bench Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. if you are low on starts for these drivers. You will need their starts later in the season. Jimmie Johnson has the most laps led and fast laps since 2005 of any driver. Johnson won back in June and you can certainly justify starting him, but saving his starts for flat tracks later in the year is suggested.

Matt Kenseth is a consistent driver at Michigan, and you probably have enough starts remaining to use him. Kenseth has an eighth-place average for August Michigan races over the last ten years. Kenseth has ran in the top 15 for 79% of his Michigan laps since 2005 and has the best loop data and average finish position in the tier.

Kasey Kahne could be a dark-horse candidate with the best average finish over the last three August races. Clint Bowyer has an eighth-place average over the past five August races, but he has a low loop data score. Kevin Harvick has the second-best average finish position in the “A” tier since 2005. Gordon and the Busch brothers show decent statistical data, but do not stand out. All three drivers could easily perform well at Michigan. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has the second-most fast laps in the tier and the third-best loop data score. With his success in 2014, I like his chances here. There are many directions to go in the “A” tier so be mindful of your starts remaining and your opponent’s picks.

The “B” tier also offers opportunities to gain points on your league. Even with his mediocre 2014 campaign, Greg Biffle is a great choice. Unfortunately, we cannot start the Penske cars every week and have to choose alternative options for some races. Due to his success at the track, Biffle offers some upside. Since 2005, Biffle has run in the top 15 drivers for 83% of his laps and has a series-best average running position of 8.9. He also has the second-most fast laps and laps led of any driver since 2005. Based on his race in June, I do not expect Biffle to win this week. A top fifteen finish would be enough to be a successful start.

The second spot is not as clear and depends on how many starts you have available. I had an extra start for Joey Logano, and he has run exceptionally well since joining the Penske team. The statistics are not the best, but he led 51 laps last year and has been a top car all year.

Carl Edwards is the second-best driver in the tier historically. Choosing between Edwards and Logano was difficult, and I chose to bench Edwards in order to use his starts later this year. Since 2005, Edwards runs in the top 15 for 78% of his laps and has an average finish position of ninth place. His average running position, loop data, laps led, and fast laps since 2005 is second in the tier behind Biffle. Edwards was not impressive at the June race, and this is one of the reasons I am having a hard time picking him this week.

There is a driver with an eighth place average in August races since 2009 that you have not used often this year. Brian Vickers is a great option even though his loop data score is the seventh in the tier since 2005. You should at least roster Vickers because he has one of the best starting positions in the tier. If you are low with Logano and Edwards or want to take a risk, consider Brian Vickers this week.

Even the “C” tier requires strategy this week. With an eighth-place finish in the June race, Kyle Larson is clearly the best option. Most of us are low on Larson starts, and other drivers in the tier have seen success here. Justin Allgaier finished 16th in June with 71% of his laps in the top 15. Austin Dillon finished 14th last August, and Danica Patrick has an average finish position of 17.7. Keep an eye on the status of the 14 Car, as Regan Smith has a 21st place average at Michigan. Even Michael Annett could provide value this week. With more drivers than usual finding success at Michigan, I would hold off on Larson and start Allgaier or Patrick this week.

The Fantasy NASCAR value start formula basically compares a driver’s performance at Michigan in relation to all 36 races. The formula also compares a driver’s performance in relation to the other drivers in the tier. The goal is to identify when to use the top driver in each tier and when valuable dark-horse drivers emerge. For additional information of the value start principle, please visit


Tier A

Best Value Pick: Kasey Kahne

Solid Options: Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth

Below Average: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Busch

Stay Away From: Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson


Kasey Kahne 16.89

Clint Bowyer 11.02

Kevin Harvick (-0.27)

Matt Kenseth (-0.28)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-22.39)

Jeff Gordon (-25.7)

Kyle Busch (-34.84)

Kurt Busch (-70.26)

Jimmie Johnson (-72.67)


Tier B

Best Value Picks: Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers

Solid Options: Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski, AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Marcus Ambrose, Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Aric Almirola

Below Average: Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin

Stay Away From: Tony Stewart, Casey Mears, and David Gilliland


Greg Biffle 21.30

Brian Vickers 18.70

Ryan Newman 14.43

Brad Keselowski 5.49

AJ Allmendinger 0.12

David Ragan (-2.31)

Joey Logano (-2.44)

Martin Truex Jr. (-3.6)

Carl Edwards (-4.66)

Marcus Ambrose (-11.7)

Paul Menard (-13.85)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-15.3)

Aric Almirola (-15.8)

Tony Stewart (-20.79)

Jamie McMurray (-25.96)

Denny Hamlin (-32.69)

Casey Mears (-45.02)

David Gilliland (-60.62)


Tier C

Best Value Pick: Austin Dillon

Solid Options: Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Regan Smith, Danica Patrick, and Trevor Bayne

Below Average: Landon Cassill


Austin Dillon 28.17

Regan Smith (-10.5)

Danica Patrick (-11.33)

Trevor Bayne (-12.33)

Landon Cassill (-39.66)


Fantasy Nascar: Watkings Glen Value Start Rankings

Watkins Glen Value Start Rankings

By Bill Hnat


Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has swept Pocono for 2014, NASCAR heads north to Watkins Glen for the 22nd race of the season. After the multi-car wreck took out many of the favorites, last week left a stale taste for many fantasy players. Watkins Glen is a relatively predictable track with drivers who are consistently successful. Although fantasy racing is always unpredictable, you likely will not gain or lose too many points on your opponents. This is the time of year where fantasy players who saved their racers are able to gain points on the competition that may have used the best drivers already.

The “A” tier has a noticeable frontrunner who has significantly better results than the rest of the tier. Kyle Bush, with 137 laps led, has led the most laps of any driver since 2009 and is the only driver to lead more than ten laps in four of the last five races. Since 2005, he has an average finish position of 4.6 and the best average running position of 5.4. Over the same time period, Busch has run for 92% of the laps at Watkins Glen. Kyle Busch is the safest choice out of this tier.

Sometimes the only way to gain on the competition is to pick against the obvious and hope for luck to be on your side. Juan Pablo Montoya was a perfect example of this principle last year when he ran out of fuel on the last lap of the race when all the data pointed to a successful week. There is a significant drop from Busch to the rest of the tier. The next drivers in this tier would be Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, and Kurt Busch. With that being said, you should start Kyle Busch and take your risk somewhere else in the season.

The choices in the “B” tier are not as obvious. Marcus Ambrose is the only driver in the series to lead a lap in the last five races and has led the second-most laps in the last five years. He has the third-best average finish since 2005, the second-best running position with 6.6, and runs in the top fifteen 85 percent of the time. In the tier that is the most challenging to manage your starters, Ambrose is a great value.

The second pick to choose from in the “B” tier is not as clear-cut as Ambrose. Who you choose depends on how many starts you have remaining. The best options include Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, AJ Allmendinger, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex Jr. Martin Truex Jr. has an average running position of 12th and was in the top 15 for 76% of the laps at Watkins Glen since 2005. Martin Truex Jr. is currently the 15th best “B” tier driver in 2014, so I am not choosing him on any track. Carl Edwards has an average running position of 11.4 and stays in the top 15 for 71% of his laps. Edwards has a chance to win, but I am saving his starts for later in the season.

With an average finish position of 6.5 since 200, Brad Keselowski has the second-best average finish position. I was surprised that his average running position was worse than expected only running in the top 15 for 69% of his laps. This is not enough to dissuade you from starting him. Most of us are getting low on Keselowski starts, and your total number of starts remaining should be three or four for the top drivers. Watkins Glen is Keselowski’s best loop data score for the rest of the season. There are a few races on the horizon where there are not many quality “B” tier options (see Bristol, Chicago, and Dover). With other options still available in this tier, I am going to save Keselowski for these later tracks.

Tony Stewart has the same situation as Keselowski: a good option if you have the starts. Stewart runs in the top 15 for 91% of his laps and has the third-best loop data score since 2005. With an average running position of 7.8, odds are Stewart will finish near the top. His average finish position of 13.3 is worse than expected, but Stewart is a solid pick. Like Keselowski, Stewart will be needed for starts later in the season, and Stewart has high marks in Atlanta, Chicago, and Kansas. Start Stewart if you can, but the best strategy might be to hold off starting him at Watkins Glen.

Due to a full season strategy, my second pick this week in the “B” tier is AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger has a couple of tracks remaining where he is serviceable, but Watkins Glen is realistically the last track you should use him. With an average running position of 11.5 and 70% of his laps in the top 15, Allmendinger is consistent at Watkins Glen. His average finish position of 8.8 is the fifth-best of any driver. Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray are possibilities this week, but I would not start them due to the great options that are available.

The “C” tier is the most challenging this week because there is not a driver with successful historical data. I started Kyle Larson at Sonoma after he qualified significantly better than the rest of the tier. After a 30th place finish, I am regretting this decision and do not want to repeat it at Watkins Glen. I will be saving starts for Larson and Dillon this week. Danica Patrick will not win a lot of points, but she will not lose points either. With an average finish of 20th at Watkins Glen, Patrick should be the safest pick. None of the road course specialists impressed at Sonoma, so I am steering away from them. My plan is to put one in as a backup and make a final decision after qualifying. Michael McDowell is a high-risk option at the track and has outperformed his usual production on road coarses. I double-checked the loop data on the rookies at Sonoma, and the rookies finished in the following order (Larson, Dillon, Whitt, Bowman, Annett, and Allgaier). No rookie is a must start. The only good news is that everybody in our leagues is in the same boat with the “C” tier.

The Fantasy NASCAR Value Start Principle compares a driver’s historical data at Watkins Glen in relation to all 36 tracks in the NASCAR season. The formula also takes into account the driver’s Watkins Glen performance in relation to the other drivers in the tier. The end result is that we are attempting to determine the best tracks for the top drivers in each tier and identifying potential dark-horse candidates in the tier. For additional details on the value start principle, please visit


Tier A

Best Option: Kyle Busch

Solid Choices: Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick

Below Average: Matt Kenseth

Stay Away From: Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.


Kyle Busch 36.29

Clint Bowyer (-0.21)

Jimmie Johnson (-7.84)

Kevin Harvick (-11.94)

Matt Kenseth (-20.25)

Kurt Busch (-44.97)

Kasey Kahne (-58.68)

Jeff Gordon (-70.33)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-82.82)


Tier B

Best Option: Brad Keselowski and Marcus Ambrose

Solid Choices: AJ Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Casey Mears, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tony Stewart, and Joey Logano

Below Average: Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, David Ragan, and David Gilliland

Stay Away From: Brian Vickers, Denny Hamlin, and Aric Almirola


Brad Keselowski 48.63

Marcus Ambrose 43.44

AJ Allmendinger 42.36

Martin Truex Jr. 28.21

Carl Edwards 23.24

Casey Mears 17.32

Ryan Newman (-6.77)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-9.5)

Tony Stewart (-9.66)

Joey Logano (-13.04)

Paul Menard (-23.54)

Jamie McMurray (-27.76)

Greg Biffle (-30.04)

David Ragan (35.31)

David Gilliland (-35.70)

Brian Vickers (-49.58)

Denny Hamlin (-73.17)

Aric Almirola (-75)



Tier C

Best Option: Boris Said

Solid Choices: Ron Fellows, Danica Patrick, and Landon Cassill

Below Average: none

Stay Away From: Michael McDowell


Boris Said 32.9

Ron Fellows 14.31

Danica Patrick 6.47

Landon Cassill (-8.48)

Michael McDowell (-54.55)