The Fantasy World Speaks: Jimmie Johnson Favored Again

With last weekend's kickoff of perhaps the last NFL season before a possible strike cancels the 2011 games (and wouldn't NASCAR love that) thousands upon thousands of fantasy football players resumed their annual addiction.  

At the same time 2010 fantasy racing leagues are coming to an end as this weekend's round one of the Chase marks the countdown from 10 'til the end of the NASCAR season.

And who better than fantasy racing fans to pundit which Sprint Cup drivers are the most likely to win or finish high on the leaderboard in this Sunday's Sylvania 300.

I happen to run a multi-series pick 'em game so the following information is anything but scientific; players also had to pick IndyCar and truck series drivers this weekend, too.  But everyone had to pick at least one Cup driver.

So regardless of the how or why, here's what roughly 3000 fantasy racing fiends are saying about which drivers, specifically the Chase contenders, are the ones to watch in this weekend's race at Loudon.

To no one's surprise, Jimmie Johnson was the top pick with 24 percent of all participating fantasy league players adding the four-in-a-row Champion to their weekly driver roster.  JJ's apparently still considered Superman and the Chad Knaus-led No. 48 Chevy is the clear equipment favorite despite a few rare hiccups this summer.

Denny Hamlin (18%), Tony Stewart (14%) and Kyle Busch (12%) were the next most popular picks, the only others in double-digits.  Hamlin starts the Chase with the most victories this season but the No. 11's reliability raises a question mark.  Smoke ahead of Shrub is kind of a surprise, possibly a result of the love/hate relationship NASCAR fans have with those two.  Tony's a two-time NASCAR Champion and former IndyCar champion who has a large, enthusiastic following.  Kyle is a talent-rich, still-young-and-crazy loose canon who often gets more boos than cheers. 

But Kyle drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team Stewart drove for when he won those two Cup championships.  Stewart is in just his second year of being an owner/driver and he's using Hendrick equipment -- which for Mark Martin, Dale Jr. and sometimes Jeff Gordon hasn't been all that competitive this year. 

Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon were picked by roughly 7% of the teams, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch by 3% and Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle showed up on around 1% of all rosters. Matt Kenseth, the last of the Chase drivers, was picked by half a percent.

Of the non-Chase drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya was right behind Kurt Busch as the eigth most popular pick while Kasey Kahn, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin got more starts than Kenseth.  Seven other drivers, like Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and even Marcos Ambrose were also selected by a handful of players. 

Ya gotta love those gamblers and their longshots.

So the takeway from my fantasy league starter stats is this:

  • A Chevy or Toyota will be in the New Hampshire Speedway winner's circle Sunday afternoon, most likely JJ on his way to a fifth Cup title or Denny-is-due Hamlin. 
  • Kurt Busch could be a spoiler in the lone Dodge in the Chase because you can never count Penske Racing out. 
  • Harvick feels pretty good but the other two RCR drivers don't; too many people still believe that either Jeff Gordon has lost something or his Crew Chief Steve Letarte never had it and the only way a Jack Roush Ford will win is by The Cat in the Hat trading in one of his nine lives -- two of which have already been used surviving plane crashes -- for a Carl, Greg or Matt victory.

We'll see how smart this particular group of fantasy racing fanatics is Sunday afternoon.

And yes, I picked Johnson too.

-Bill Tybur

Read more of Bill Tybur's thoughts on fantasy racing at FMFL


Photo Credit: Kahne4Cup