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 nine-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.
It's back to the status quo this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. The third-year Saturday night 400-miler is the newest addition to NASCAR's top circuit schedule, though the racing is rarely much different than we'll expect at any other 1.5-mile venue. Kyle Busch won the inaugural race in 2011, and Brad Keselowski took race No. 2 last season.
A-List (pick two, start one)
Last year's winner at Kentucky, Keselowski led 68 laps in the race that really set the stage for his surge to the Sprint Cup title. Coming in to the 2012 race, he had four consecutive finishes of 12th or worse. After the win, he reeled off six straight top 10s. Keselowski is on a current streak of three finishes of 12th or worse; will Kentucky mark his fourth top 10 on 1.5-mile tracks this year?
The most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner on a 1.5-mile track (Harvick beat Kasey Kahne late to win the Coca-Cola 600), Harvick also holds the interesting distinction of finishing every non-restrictor plate race 14th or better this year. Harvick doesn't yet have a Kentucky top 10, but he did test there with Richard Childress Racing after the 600 win.
Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon
B-List (pick four, start two)
There are just four Sprint Cup drivers who have scored top-10 finishes in the first two races at Kentucky for the series, and Kyle Busch is the only one in the B-list. Busch has led nearly half of all the laps contested at Kentucky (243 of 534) and has a sterling average running position there of 3.6.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt isn't a Kentucky pick because of how well he's run there in the past (the No. 88 has the 11th-best average running position in the two Cup races), but more because of how good that team's intermediate program has been despite some poor finishes. Earnhardt had a top-5 car at Texas before a battery issue, seemed to have righted the ship in the Coca-Cola 600 before his engine failed and then had a dominant car at Michigan before the engine again cracked. That's three poor finishes, but three races where a team didn't tear up the car.
Logano is another driver without terrific success in the two Sprint Cup races at Kentucky, but he's been riding a very hot streak since a poor outing at Darlington. For context on how good Logano has been, his 11th-place finish at Sonoma was his worst in five races. In Kentucky, he'll have access to Keselowski's notes from last year, and the confidence of three Nationwide Series wins at the track.
Martin Truex Jr.
I'm not sold on Truex's line of thinking that a single race win will suddenly change his ability to win races, but I do think that No. 56 is in for another good run at Kentucky thanks to its strength on similar tracks this year. Truex has a top 10 in every race at a 1.5-mile track this year, and should have won at Texas until a shock broke on the car late in the going.
Also consider: Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers
C-List (pick two, start one)
Allmendinger returns to JTG-Daughtery Racing's No. 47 Saturday night for his second start of the season for that team in place of Bobby Labonte. His part-time C-List status makes him a good choice, especially if he can duplicate the top-20 run he had in the No. 47 at Michigan.
Mears, if nothing else, has been remarkably consistent of late in the No. 13. Since a crash at Darlington, he's finished between 16th and 23rd in all five races. Charlotte and Michigan are the most comparable tracks of those five races to Kentucky, and he took 23rd and 21st, respectively. Expect another top 25 from Mears — a better day than most in the C-List world.
Also consider: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Ragan, Travis Kvapil
by Geoffrey Miller
Follow Geoffrey on Twitter:@GeoffreyMiller