Last week I fell asleep on my very own sleeper picks, but I hope no one else did. I activated Austin Dillon on my team, and he spent many laps in the top 5 before settling for a 14th place finish. Casey Mears is where I got scared off from; he started in 41st and didn’t show that much speed throughout Speedweeks. His 6th-place finish in the Daytona 500 was what I was expecting when I wrote the sleeper article last week, but I just couldn’t start him. Shame on me. This week I expect both of my selections to score at least a top 10 finish and help all teams climb up their respective fantasy standings–or keep them there if already are.
Sleeper Fantasy Picks for Atlanta
Kyle Larson – #42 Chevrolet
Kyle Larson may be more a forgotten man after his poor Speedweeks and 34th-place finish in the 500. Repeat after me: “I will not forget Kyle Larson this week.” Good. In the aforementioned intermediate track type, Larson had the 8th best average finish in 2014, his rookie campaign. The tracks that are included in this type are: Atlanta, Auto Club (California), Charlotte, Chicagoland, Darlington, Dover, Homestead, Kansas, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Michigan, and Texas. These tracks make up one-third of the NASCAR schedule. This is also why I wrote about him being a sleeper for the Sprint Cup title in 2015. The #42 Target Chevrolet started 3rd and finished in 8th at Atlanta last year as well. I look for Kyle Larson–with more experience and a year more of maturity–to better than that 8th-place finish and score a top 5 or better when the checkered flag waves on Sunday afternoon.
Martin Truex, Jr. – #78 Chevrolet
I really like the consistency and momentum that Martin Truex, Jr. created during Speedweeks. He started off by showing a lot of speed in the Sprint Unlimited, where he finished 2nd and led the most laps (29). He followed that up by ending up 5th in the second Duel race, and finished off his great week by bringing the Front Row Furniture Chevrolet home in 8th place in the 500. When we take a look at Truex’s recent finishes at Atlanta, there’s a lot to like as well. Before his result of 23rd last year, his prior four finishes were: 12th, 14th, 4th, and 3rd. Some may say this may have more to do with the equipment he was in since those races were ran in the Michael Waltrip Racing’s #56 Napa Toyota. However, in the two races previous to Truex taking over the #78, the same car finished 14th (with Regan Smith at the wheel), and in 2013 it wound up 4th while being driven by Kurt Busch. The point is, this one-car team owned by Barney Visser puts a ton of money into this car and gets strong engines from Richard Childress Racing. I believe that from the recent momentum, track record, and resources, Martin Truex, Jr. will have a great shot for a top 10 Sunday at Atlanta. Keep him on your radar.
Bust Fantasy Picks for Atlanta
Clint Bowyer – #15 Toyota
I did select Clint Bowyer as a true sleeper to make noise heading into the 2015 NASCAR season. This week may be a different story, however. After wrecking in the Sprint Unlimited and at qualifying, Bowyer turned it around and finished 5th in his Duel and salvaged his weekend by avoiding the wrecks and finishing 7th in the Daytona 500. Just the early season momentum Bowyer spoke about he needed for right? Cue Homer Simpson… DOH! Atlanta’s not the track he wanted to see next to continue that precious momentum. In 14 career starts, he has zero top 5’s (none, nada, goose egg, zilch also applies) and only 5 top 10s. To make matters even worse, the #15 Toyota has finished 39th and 38th in back-to-back years. I had enough of mid 30s finishes on my team last week so he won’t come anywhere near any of my teams this week. I applaud anyone with the courage to do so.
Joey Logano – #22 Ford
Yes, the 2015 Daytona 500 winner. I may be standing in front of the momentum train here but I’m willing to take my chances. Besides Logano’s 2nd-place finish in 2013, he has zero top 10 finishes in seven starts at Atlanta. This makes his career average finish near his car number of 22. Another concern for me is the engine trouble his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski had last week at Daytona. Isolated issue? Sure the team will tell you that, but this track is very hard on engines also. My prediction for Joey Logano this week is: He qualifies in the top 10 or better because they have this qualifying format figured out, and then falls back to a mediocre finish in the mid teens or worse if there’s any mechanical failures. This will not get it done for anyone’s fantasy team this week no matter what format you play. My advice to everyone is to keep the #22 on the bench this Sunday.
There you have it, my likes and dislikes for our 2nd race race of the Sprint Cup season at Atlanta. Once again feel free to comment or ask questions. And also still remember: if you choose to use any of my advice and it works out for you, you’re welcome. That is what I’m here for after all. If sticking my neck out on these picks backfire, you hit the submit button on your team, I did not. Good luck to everyone, enjoy the race and LET’S GET IT!
Scott Boyle is a guest blogger at Fantasy Racing Online and an avid player in the fantasy NASCAR community.