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Fantasy recap: Kahne gains, but will it last?

August 05, 2013, George Winkler, NASCAR.com

No. 5 driver posts monster fantasy score; plus analyzing the best values

Related: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live

Rarely do you hear a fantasy owner say they are excited to have Kasey Kahne in their starting lineup. Don’t know why that is, but after this week’s win at Pocono when the No. 5 scored a whopping 151.8 points in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game, perhaps opinions will start to change.

While fantasy owners flocked to Ryan Newman after his victory at Indianapolis (his ownership increased 24.8 percent entering the weekend), they were abandoning Kahne at a rate of 2.61 percent. It wasn’t quite the talk-to-the-hand treatment that Juan Pablo Montoya (minus-17.61 percent) got after Indy, but it was still interesting to see a driver of Kahne’s caliber treated this way.

As fantasy owners we seem to be drawn to Jimmie Johnson for sure, and to drivers like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart, who have their devoted followings. But this leaves Kahne, a talented driver in his own right, as a potential option for owners trying to make up ground on their opponents. The mantra: If you have Kahne, then maybe you can gain!

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NASCAR FANTASY LIVE TOP 15
*Fantasy Finish=FF
*Race Finish=RF

FF Driver Points RF
1. Kasey Kahne
151.1 1st
2. Jeff Gordon
101 2nd
3. Brad Keselowski
85 6th
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 81.5 5th
5. Kurt Busch
76.5 3rd
6. Tony Stewart
75.5 9th
7. Ryan Newman
67.0 4th
8. Jimmie Johnson
63.5 13th
9. Clint Bowyer
62.0 14th
10. Joey Logano 61.0 7th
11. Greg Biffle
57.0 10th
12. Martin Truex Jr.
56.0 15th
13. Kyle Busch
52.0 8th
14. Mark Martin
50.0 18th
15. Bobby Labonte
48.5 19th

However, should owners take advantage by jumping on the Kahne train?

Well, maybe not so fast. Now that Kahne has two victories and is more comfortable with his position in the Wild Card race (should it come to that for him to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup), it’s interesting to hear his crew chief, Kenny Francis, say they can afford to take more risks.

Risk is something fantasy owners like to keep at a minimum, so to know that Kahne could be a little looser with his approach going forward isn’t comforting for those trying to make up some last-minute ground before the Chase. Plus, Kahne has no top-10s in nine Cup races at Watkins Glen, this week’s venue.

But two weeks after Watkins Glen, the Cup series returns to Bristol, where Kahne earned his other victory this season. And if the ownership keeps trending downward by then, that’s when it might pay off to use the No. 5 as your lottery ticket.

Key Fantasy Moment: It was Lap 76 when Jimmie Johnson cut a tire, hit the wall and had to come to pit road for repairs. Johnson had led 43 laps to that point but was in 28th place on the restart. Johnson battled back to 13th place and actually finished with the eighth-best score (63.5 points) in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. It could have been much worse, but it was still about 40 points fewer than he usually scores, making it imperative for his owners to have picked a top-scoring second option on their teams in order to do well this week.

Best Value: Kurt Busch has been either really good for fantasy owners or really disappointing this season. Sunday was a really good day. Busch had the fifth-highest score at 76.5 points, racking up 28 of those points on quality passes. His total was 14 points better than his season average; plus, he’s had a hot hand lately with an average of 91.33 points in the past three weeks. Expect Busch’s salary of $21.50 to increase this week, but it’s still a manageable number for fantasy owners.

Biggest Bust: It could easily have been Kurt’s brother Kyle Busch, who finished with 52 fantasy points, the 13th-best total this week, at a price of $27.50. But let’s go with Denny Hamlin instead. For owners who are big fans of NASCAR Statistical Service’s Loop Data, Hamlin had sleeper potential because he entered Pocono with the best driver rating there in the past eight years (113.8). But someone can’t take a number like that and evaluate it in a vacuum. One must also consider the tough season Hamlin is having, which continued when he crashed out of the race in Lap 15. That led to a putrid fantasy score of minus-30.5 for a driver who cost $24.25.

Tip to take forward: A little bit of your own research can be fairly painless and go a long way. The drivers stats page in NASCAR Fantasy Live is particularly useful. Look at the far-right column, which is points/$, and scroll down to Casey Mears, who ranks better than Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick in this category. While it’s sexier to go with Stenhouse or Patrick when you’re filling out the back-end of your roster, Mears has been on average a better bargain this season. And that was the case again on Sunday when Mears ($11) posted the 23rd-highest score, Patrick ($11.25) was 31st and Stenhouse ($15) was 41st after crashing on Lap 1.

MORE:

WATCH: Final Laps:
Kahne edges Gordon

WATCH: Victory Lane:
Kahne celebrates

WATCH: Johnson hits
wall at Pocono

WATCH: Danica involved in
four-car wreck

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