To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s 9-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Next up: Irwin Tools Night Race (Bristol Motor Speedway)
Race: 500 laps, 266.5 miles (Track: .533-mile oval)
March 2013 winner: Kasey Kahne
A-List(pick two, start one)
It's been 23 races since Brad Keselowski started the defense of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, though it’s a defense that has been seemingly futile. Don't be surprised if that changes Saturday night.
Keselowski has become quite good at Bristol Motor Speedway — good enough that he might break a drought of winning that's closing in on nearly a year in duration. In eight Bristol starts, Keselowski has a pair of wins and three top-5 finishes, all of which have come in his last four races at the half-mile track. The outlier in the four-race span for Keselowski came a year ago when he was caught in a wreck while running in the top 10. Keselowski led 62 laps in the spring Bristol race for his highest total of the year. Starting him could be worth your while.
Kasey KahneThe hiccups and headaches Kasey Kahne has faced intermittently in 2013 have gone down much smoother thanks to his win at Bristol in March. Now, Kahne is in position to tackle Bristol again without a deep fear of missing the Chase. That lack of caution could be a nice advantage in a 500-lap night around the east Tennessee bullring.
The March win was really something that's been a long time coming for Kahne at Bristol. Aside from the spring race in 2012 when he was taken out in an early crash, Kahne has finished 11th or better at Bristol since August 2010. A year ago, he led 42 laps before finishing ninth. Kahne might not be the highest-scoring A-Lister on Saturday night, but he's certainly not a poor choice to bring in consistent points.
Also consider: Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth
B-List(pick four, start two)
If you're looking for maximum points in the B-List, it's tough to shy away from Kyle Busch at Bristol for two reasons: First, he's really, really good at there and second, he's got his mind set on bouncing back from a poor Michigan outing.
Busch owns five career Cup wins at Bristol and was a spot away from making it six in March. That runner-up finish means Busch now has a four-race drought at the half-mile track since he went four for five in Sprint Cup races from 2009-11. In the last 17 races, Busch's average running position at Bristol is sixth-best in the series.
Martin Truex Jr.
The steady flow of wins that Martin Truex Jr. promised us all after finally breaking through again at Sonoma Raceway in June hasn't happened yet. Worse, the steady finishes he's accumulated haven't even been that impressive. Now he's in peril of falling out of a Chase position.
Truex will be one of about nine drivers scrambling Saturday night for maximum points to make his championship dreams happen. Bristol will be a good spot for it, as Truex has two top-3 finishes in his last four Bristol races. All four of those events saw Truex wind up in the top 12 — not bad for teams in search of a quality, underused B-List driver.
Consider this another pick in the name of finding an alternative in the B-List as the season wears on. Jamie McMurray's Bristol success has been masked mainly by the fact that he's never won at the track, and that he's only led 21 laps in his 21-start career. But even though McMurray hasn't taken the track by storm, he's racked up five top-10 finishes in his last seven Bristol starts. The No. 1 car finished 10th in this season's first Bristol race in March.
Kurt BuschThis week, we'll avoid discussing the possibility of Kurt Busch finally breaking through to Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series with Furniture Row Racing. However, we will not avoid some very key statistics as to why Kurt is a worthy start Saturday night. First, Busch owns the seventh-best average running position in the last 17 Bristol races among all drivers. Busch also owns five career wins at the track, including a spell in 2003 and ’04 where he won three in a row. Finally, don't forget that Busch finished fourth in the Bristol spring race — earning his seventh Bristol top-5 finish along the way.
Also consider: Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers
C-List(pick two, start one)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse has a single Bristol Sprint Cup start to his name, and the 16th-place finish was plenty respectable. It's reasonable to think that the rookie, with even more experience in the Cup Series from that first Bristol start in March, could match or better that result Saturday. After all, the track hasn't vexed Stenhouse in the Nationwide Series. Last season, he was sixth and second in two Nationwide events and led 101 laps. Of course, Stenhouse remains attractive in the C-List because of the overall dearth of great talent. Perhaps Bristol could give Stenhouse his first career Cup Series top 10? We'll see.
In case you've used a bunch of starts on Stenhouse, looking toward Casey Mears' No. 13 Ford for a Bristol start might be a worthy consideration. It was just last year that Mears remarkably won the pole for the Bristol Night Race. Better yet, he finished 15th in the spring Bristol event to continue a four-race streak where he's finished better than 25th at the track. That's largely due to Bristol being really a perfect event — aside from the restrictor plate tracks, of course — for a team like Germain Racing with limited technical resources to score an unexpectedly strong result. They just simply don't need the aerodynamic package or other "go-fast" elements held by the deep-pocketed teams. If Mears just keeps it straight and maintains track position, things may well work out.
Also consider: David Ragan, David Stremme