The 2018 NASCAR season is quickly approaching. This should be one of the most exciting seasons in NASCAR history. There were a lot of changes that took place over the off-season. Veteran drivers were replaced by young drivers, a new chassis will be run by the Chevy teams and rule changes to the way teams pit their cars will all have a major affect on Fantasy NASCAR in 2018.
FantasyRacingTips has been releasing our Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings for the past four weeks. Now that the rankings have been revealed, it is time to go over our thoughts on the 2018 Fantasy NASCAR season.
TOP FIVE DRIVERS
The top five drivers in our rankings were: 1) Martin Truex Jr., 2) Kyle Larson, 3) Kyle Busch, 4) Chase Elliott and 5) Kevin Harvick
These five drivers are the elite drivers in the sport. They can win races at any type of track this season. They will likely be the most expensive drivers in salary cap games and the most valuable drivers in allocation games. It will be important to build your fantasy lineup around as many of these drivers as possible.
Martin Truex Jr. is still the No. 1 driver in the sport. The No. 78 team is so good on the Intermediate tracks (1.5-mile and 2-mile ovals) that Truex would have to be the No. 1 pick in a fantasy draft.
Kyle Larson is knocking on the door of the No. 1 spot. It would not surprise us if Larson led the series in wins this season. He had four wins and eight second-place finishes in 2017. Larson said he learned what it takes to turn those runner-up finishes into wins. If this is true he could be the driver who visits Victory Lane the most in 2018. Larson would be our 2nd pick in a fantasy draft.
Kyle Busch could easily be the No. 1 Fantasy NASCAR Driver in 2018. He has as much, if not more, talent than any driver in the sport. I trust Cole Pearn (Crew Chief of the No. 78 car) over Adam Stevens (Crew Chief for Kyle Busch) at the end of the race. We would not fault anyone for making Kyle Busch their No. 1 pick in their fantasy draft this season.
Chase Elliott has never won a race in the top level of NASCAR. So how can he be the No. 4 driver in our rankings? Elliott will have one of the fastest cars and he has enough talent to win multiple races this season. Elliott said he learned to be more aggressive after the incident with Denny Hamlin last year. We expect Elliott to break out in his third year in the MENCS, the same way Larson did last year.
Kevin Harvick would be in the top three of our rankings if he did not drive a Ford. It is no secret that Toyota had an aerodynamics advantage last year. The new Chevy Camaro ZL1 car should have a similar advantage in 2018. This will put the Ford teams behind the completion. Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers will find the speed to compete with the Toyotas and Chevys. We just think they will rack up a lot of top-five finishes and not enough wins to place Harvick in the top four of our fantasy rankings.
The drivers who ranked No. 6 – No. 10 in our Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings were: 6) Brad Keselowski, 7) Denny Hamlin, 8) Jimmie Johnson, 9) Joey Logano and 10) Erik Jones.
The drivers who ranked No. 6 – No. 10 in our Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings are all elite drivers who could win the championship in 2018. Each of these drivers should win a race this season but we do not think they will be consistent enough to finish in the top 10 of our fantasy rankings.
Brad Keselowski could easily be switched with Chase Elliott or Kevin Harvick in the rankings. The No. 2 team will face the same hurdles as Kevin Harvick since they both drive a Ford. Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe are very good at getting the most out of their cars. Keselowski will win multiple races and should be taken near the top five in your fantasy draft.
Denny Hamlin will be very good in 2018. We expect Joe Gibbs Racing to be the top team in the sport. Hamlin should also benefit from the rule changes to the pit crews (Teams can only have five people over the wall to pit the car instead of six). Joe Gibbs Racing always has the best pit crews and the No. 11 car is their best team in the pits. Hamlin will win a race or two because of his pit crew and this will make him a good pick for your fantasy team.
Jimmie Johnson is the hardest driver to predict. The No. 48 team could easily win their eighth championship this year or they could be a complete flop. We think Johnson will win some races at his best tracks (Dover and Martinsville), but he will not be consistent enough to be a top five fantasy driver. Let someone else spend their top-five pick on Johnson this season.
Joey Logano is one of the best young drivers in the sport (yes, he is only 27 years old). If Logano was in a Toyota or Chevy, he would be a couple of spots higher in our rankings. Logano will be a very good pick at the end of the top 10 in fantasy drafts.
Erik Jones is our breakout driver of the year in 2018. He is one of the best young drivers in the sport and the move to Joe Gibbs Racing should make him even better. Jones has not won a race yet in the MENCS but that will change in 2018. We expect Jones to win a race in 2018 (Bristol) and rack up a lot of top-five finishes. He is a great driver for your fantasy team in 2018.
The drivers who ranked No. 11 – No. 15 in our Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings were: 11) Ryan Blaney, 12) Daniel Suarez, 13) Jamie McMurray, 14) Kurt Busch and 15) William Byron
There is a good list of drivers ranked outside the top 10. Any of these drivers are capable of winning a race in 2018. What separates them from the top-10 drivers in that they will most likely finish consistently in the top 10 but not have too many top-five finishes.
Ryan Blaney will now drive for Team Penske Racing. He was essentially a Penske driver last year, but now his cars will be completely built and set-up by Team Penske Racing. Blaney was really good last year and it would not surprise us if he is a top-10 driver in 2018.
Daniel Suarez improved each time the series visited a track for the second time. Now that he has a year of experience in the MENCS, he should be even better in 2018. We expect him to win a race and be a consistent driver for your fantasy team.
Jamie McMurray had a career season in 2017. Can he back it up in 2018? We think McMurray will fail to visit Victory Lane again in 2018, but he will score enough top-10 finishes to make him a top-13 pick for your fantasy team.
Kurt Busch is a driver who is on the downside of his career, but he will still score enough top-10 finishes to make him a good pick for your fantasy team. Busch is one of the streakiest drivers in the sport. If he scores a couple of top-five finishes, make sure you use him until he cools off.
William Byron will be one of the biggest surprises in the sport. There are still some fantasy players who do not know Byron. They will learn about him quickly. Byron has a lot of talent and will have fast racecars. He will go through some growing pains, but we expect him to be consistent enough to be a top-15 driver for your fantasy team.
The drivers who ranked No. 11 – No. 15 in our Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings were: 16) Clint Bowyer, 17) Alex Bowman, 18) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 19) Aric Almirola and 20) Austin Dillon
Clint Bowyer is one of my breakout drivers for the 2018 season. I do not think he will be consistent enough to be a top-10 driver but he should win his first race since 2012 (We think it will be at Sonoma). Bowyer would be a good second driver for your fantasy team.
Alex Bowman is in the top 20 because of the team he drives for more than his skills behind the wheel. Hendrick Motorsports will provide Bowman a lot of fast cars. He should have a handful of top-10 finishes but we would be surprised if he won any races in 2018.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is now the best choice on the Superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega). He could easily win a race at one of those tracks in 2018. His Roush Fenway Racing Ford will not be fast enough at the Intermediate tracks (1.5-mile and 2-mile ovals) to make Stenhouse a top-15 pick. Also, make sure Stenhouse is on your team at Bristol. He is a top-five pick in Thunder Valley.
Aric Almirola is a hard driver to predict for the 2018 season. His car should be fast enough to run inside the top 10 each week but does he have the talent to get the job done? His best finish in the MENCS standings was 16th in 2014. He will have a handful of top-10 finishes, but not enough to make him a great fantasy pick for your team.
Austin Dillon is a good young driver. The problem is that his cars do not match his talent. We think if Dillon drove for Joe Gibbs Racing, he would be a top-10 driver. Richard Childress Racing should benefit from the switch to the new Camaro ZL1 chassis, but we expect a slow start for Dillon in 2018.
The drivers who ranked No. 11 – No. 15 in our Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings were: 21) Ryan Newman, 22) Paul Menard, 23) Kasey Kahne, 24) Bubba Wallace Jr. and 25) Trevor Bayne
The drivers in positions No. 21 – No. 25 are made up of three veteran drivers who are on the downside of their careers and two young drivers who do not have fast enough cars to compete at an elite level.
Ryan Newman won a race last year but we doubt he will do it again in 2018. Newman will finish a lot of races in the top 20. The only reason he is not ranked higher is because the competition is so tough this season. Newman is still a good 3rd or 4th driver for your team.
Paul Menard will drive the No. 21 car for the Wood Brothers this season. The car will be fast but can Menard get it to the front? We doubt it. Menard will be a great pick at the Superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega). He will need to really improve on the Intermediate tracks in order to have top-20 fantasy value.
Kasey Kahne was released from Hendrick Motorsports and found a seat in the car at Leavine Family Racing. We expect Kahne to perform slightly better than Michael McDowell did in the No. 95 car last year. A closer alliance with Richard Childress Racing should make this team better. Kahne will be a good sleeper pick at a handful of tracks this season.
Bubba Wallace Jr. will take over the seat in the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports. Wallace performed well in this car last year. Expect Wallace to finish most of the races in the top 25.
Trevor Bayne is a hard driver to get excited about this season. He has underperformed since he joined Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne is still good at the Superspeedways but it is hard to justify using him at any of the Intermediate tracks.
The drivers who ranked No. 11 – No. 15 in our Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings were: 26) Ty Dillon, 27) AJ Allmendinger, 28) Chris Buescher, 29) Michael McDowell and 30) David Ragan
The drivers who rank No. 26 – No. 30 in our Fantasy NASCAR Driver rankings are nothing to get excited about. Ty Dillon should be slightly better than he was last year. AJ Allmendinger will be good at the Road Courses, Superspeedways and at Martinsville. Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell and David Ragan will only be good in salary cap games when their price is low.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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