2014 PreSeason Nascar Rankings
2014 Fantasy NASCAR Preseason Rankings -- TEAMS and SPONSORS will be updated soon...
Although it wasn't all that long ago that Jimmie Johnson was reclaiming his place atop the NASCAR world by securing his sixth-career Sprint Cup series title, cars are already back on the track in Daytona for preseason testing and the 2014 season is just a few weeks away from beginning. Despite the short offseason, a lot has happened in the past couple of months. Tony Stewart is not only set to return from a broken leg that has sidelined him since last August, but he is set to return to a newly-formed four-car operation with Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick as teammates. Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. is with a new team, and Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger are back as full-time drivers. Throw in a loaded rookie class headlined by Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson, and there have been plenty of fantasy-relevant changes that fantasy owners need to take into account.
Keep in mind that it is much easier to win your fantasy racing league with a strong start than by trying to dig out of an early hole, and the best way to get off to a fast start is to be informed and prepared. These preseason driver rankings should help the cause, and with a closer look at the top 30 fantasy options for the 2014 season, you should get you back up to speed and set for success in any fantasy format. Good luck in 2014, and stay tuned for weekly rankings and other fantasy advice throughout the year.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He won his sixth title last year, and Johnson remains by far the safest option available to fantasy owners regardless of the format. In addition to scoring more points than any other driver, he led the series in top-5s, top-10s, average finish, laps led and fastest laps run. Johnson also logged the second-most wins and had second-best driver rating and average running position. Expect more elite numbers across the board for Johnson in 2014.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Last season, three drivers led more than 1,000 laps and posted a driver rating of more than 100, and Busch was one of them. In fact, he accomplished the feat for the second year in a row. He also tied for the series lead with 16 top-5s in 2013 and tied for second with 22 top-10s. By the way, Busch also won four races, and he has won three of or more races in five of the last six years. Love him or hate in real life, but you can count on Busch for excellent fantasy production in all formats.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Kenseth's first year with Joe Gibbs Racing was impressive to say they least as he led the series in wins, average running position, driver rating and laps in the top 15. However, the great year simply continued a recent run of excellence for Kenseth, who has now averaged a top-12 finish in each of the past four years and has had at least a dozen top-5s in three straight seasons. Pencil him in for another monster season.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
I'm probably a little higher on Busch than most, but how can you not be impressed with his performance last season. He made the Chase with a single-car Furniture Row Racing operation, and his 11 top-5s were the second most of his career. Busch will move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, and with better equipment and more resources at his disposal, a career year isn't out of the question.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He survived a miserable start to the year to finish with 8 top-5s and 17 top-10s, and the veteran is still one of the safest fantasy options around. He has managed at least 17 top-10s in each of the past eight seasons, and the last time he had fewer than 8 top-5s was way back in 1994. Sure, Gordon is no longer the perennial title contender that he was in his prime, but there is something to be said for his year-to-year consistency.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
After some down years, Junior is finally looking like the title contender he was supposed to be when he joined Hendrick Motorsports. He has posted 10 top-5s in each of the past two seasons, and last year, he had a career-high 22 top-10s. More importantly, Junior showed some legit muscle on the track, ranking fourth in green flag speed and driver rating and fifth in laps in the top 15 in 2013.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
In 2013, Harvick finished third in the final standings for the third time in the last four years, solidifying his status as one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR. His 11.2 average finish was the second best in series, and he also spent the most time on the lead lap, ran the second-most laps in the top 15 and had the fifth-best average running position. Harvick moves to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, but there is no reason he shouldn't remain a sure-fire top-10 fantasy option.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Bowyer has certainly come into his own since joining Michael Waltrip Racing, and while he didn't quite match the numbers from 2012, he was still really good last season. He tied a career high with 10 top-5s, and his 11.9 average finish was the second bets of his career and the third best in the series. Bowyer's 19 top-10s were also the second most of his career, and only Kevin Harvick spent more time on the lead lap in 2013. Granted, Bowyer didn't win a race and has never been the type of driver that leads a ton of laps, but he only had four finishes outside the top 20 last year, and fantasy owners have to love his reliability.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He is coming off a year when a back injury forced him to miss four races completely and took a huge toll on his production when he was behind the wheel. His 4 top-5s and 8 top-10s were both the fewest of his career, and his 21.0 average was the worst of his career. While Hamlin was arguably the biggest fantasy busts of 2013, an offseason to get his back right should be all it takes to bring a return to form. Keep in mind that from 2009 to 2012, Hamlin won a combined 18 races and had at least 14 top-5s three times. At full strength, there is no reason he shouldn't return to his championship-caliber form.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
After winning the title in 2012, Keselowski missed the Chase entirely last year. However, he still managed to post respectable fantasy numbers, finishing with 9 top-5s, 16 top-10s and a 14.9 average finish. He also finished with the seventh-best driver rating while ranking sixth in green flag speed and fastest laps run and fourth in laps led. Looking at the advanced data, Keselowski was easily one of the 10 strongest drivers last year. Don't let his 14th-place finish in the final standings fool you, this guy will deliver for fantasy owners in 2014.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He is coming off a year when he logged 11 top-5s, ranked second in fastest laps, led the fourth-most laps and had the fifth-best driver rating. On the flips side, he struggled to find consistency, compiling a 16.2 average finish and only 14 top-10s. When Kahne is on his game, he is dominant, but tends to run hot and cold. As a result, he is a little more valuable in leagues that allowed weekly driver changes.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Edwards won a couple of races and made the Chase in 2013, but he also ranked outside the top 10 in driver rating, average running position, laps in the top 15 and fastest laps run. He did manage a solid 13.6 average finish, but he also recorded single-digit top-5s for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Edwards has plenty of value because of his ability to consistently string together solid finishes, but his lack of elite production recently puts him a notch below some of the top options.