2013 Preseason NASCAR Rankings
It has only been a couple of months since Brad Keselowski outlasted Jimmie Johnson to claim the first Cup Series title of his young career, but cars are already back on the track at Daytona as the start 2013 season is just a couple of weeks away. Of course, this also means that fantasy NASCAR is set to return, and regardless of the type of league you play in, there is no substitute for being prepared and going into the year with a game plan. After all, it is much easier to win your league by getting off to a fast start than by trying to dig out of an early hole.
Unfortunately, there are always unknowns entering a new season, and that is especially true in 2013 as the Gen-6 car prepares to makes it debut. You also have Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano starting life with new teams and Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. beginning their full-time Cup careers. If you add it all up, there is plenty of uncertainty to go around. Fortunately, fantasy owners do have one sure thing amid all the questions, and it comes in the form of Jimmie Johnson. The guy has delivered the fantasy goods in all 11 years of his career, and he has more than earned the top spot in the rankings for the upcoming year.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He missed out on the title last year, but Johnson is still the safest pick in any fantasy format by a wide margin. Last year he led or tied for the series lead in wins, poles, top-five finishes, top-10s, laps led, driver rating, fastest laps run and laps in the top 15. Plain and simple, the guy is a stud.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Hamlin bounced back from his horrible 2011 season in a big way, having his third strong season in the past four years. He was tied for the series lead with five wins in 2012, he was second with 14 top-five finishes, and he was one of three drivers that led more than 1,000 laps and had a driver rating of more than 100. Expect more of the same in 2013.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
After a horrible start to his Hendrick Motorsports career, Kahne finished 2012 on a hot streak. He piled up 25 top-15s in the final 30 races of the year and has a 9.2 average finish over the final 20 races. A championship-caliber season could be on tap.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Busch salvaged an up-and-down regular season by scoring the second-most points during the Chase and leading all drivers with seven top-five finishes. Owners also need to keep in mind that he finished second in the series in laps led and driver rating in 2012, in what was considered a down year by his standards. Busch can carry a fantasy team for stretches in any format; and in leagues that use various loop data categories in their scoring, he is the next best thing to Jimmie Johnson.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Even if he doesn't repeat as champ, Keselowski could still be a fantasy monster. After all, 2013 will mark just his fourth full season at the Cup level. Last year, he scored a series best 1,259 points, and he also posted a ridiculous 6.7 average finish over the final 20 races. The follow-up campaign should be fun to watch.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
The 2003 champ should hit the ground running with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013. He has averaged three wins, 19.5 top-10s and an 11.7 average finish over the past two seasons, and those numbers stand to improve as part of a stout trio of drivers at JGR. This ranking should be his floor.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
History says that Bowyer is due for a reality check after being the runner-up in 2012. However, he still has plenty of value even if he reverts to the numbers he posted prior to last season. Bowyer has had at least 16 top-10s in six straight seasons, and his worst average finish during that stretch is 15.5.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon gets knocked for his inability to win a fifth title, but he is criminally underrated in fantasy leagues. He has managed at least 11 top-five finishes and at least 17 top-10s in each of the past seven years, and he has won a combined five races in the last two seasons. Gordon is a lock to deliver top-10 production, and he has the potential to be a top-five option.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
After falling victim to the Runner-up Curse for the second time in four years, Edwards should enjoy a nice rebound season in 2013. The last time he dealt with and recovered from the curse, Edwards saw his average finish improve from 15.1 in 2009 to 11.8 in 2010. Don't expect a lot of wins from a guy that has just three in four years, but Edwards should go back to being a consistent top-10 driver.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Take away his magical run in the 2011 Chase, and Stewart's past two seasons have been rather up and down. Things probably won't change in 2013 as he gets Danica Patrick up to speed and prepares for Kevin Harvick's arrival next season. That being said, a down year for Stewart includes multiple wins and 10-plus top-five finishes, so "Smoke" won't exactly be a bust either.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He got back on track in 2012 by tying a career high with 21 top-10s. Biffle also finished second among all drivers with 1,240 points scored. Don't expect him to finish as the series' second-leading scorer again, but another top-10 season is reasonable for a guy that has had at least nine top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in four of the last five seasons.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
With one win in four years, Junior's chances of becoming an elite option are slim. However, he has shown he can be a steady, reliable option in fantasy leagues. Junior has posted a 12.8 average finish over the past two years, including a 10.9 average last year. Expect him to continue to pile up top-15s and top-10s in 2013.