2016 Fantasy Sprint Cup Projections and Cheatsheets

The 2016 Sprint Cup Series is set to debut this weekend with the racing of the 2016 Daytona 500. I was doing research for the upcoming fantasy NASCAR season recently and noticed few sources offer free cheatsheets. Since I’d taken the time to make my own projections and rankings, I thought I’d post my own 2016 fantasy NASCAR cheat sheet.

Let me explain my methods. In the Top 10, I’ve made my selections based on consistency over talent. Outside of the Top 10, I started to speculate on potential over past results (a bit more).

My Strategy on NASCAR Projections and Rankings

That’s in keeping with my draft strategy, which involves securing one or two drivers you can depend upon, then adding racers who might have a breakthrough year. It’s a fantasy racing strategy which has worked for me in the past.

Stock car racing has a lot of perennial favorites who tend to dominate the top of the standings, year-in and year-out. In hindsight, though, a lot of the breakout stars are predictable. Don’t sleep on the up-and-coming NASCAR racers.

2016 Sprint Cup Predictions

The pole position for the 2016 Daytona 500 is set, with rookie Chase Elliott securing the pole position. With the youngest-ever driver to sit on the pole coming into the inaugural race, the 2016 NASCAR season has a ton of intrigue.

  • Can Kyle Busch repeat?
  • Can Jimmy Johnson finally win his 7th series title?
  • Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally break through to win a title?
  • Can Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski stay out of (NASCAR) trouble long enough to win the Chase?

There are so many great storylines, I can’t wait for Sunday’s race to start. For those having last minute NASCAR fantasy drafts, here are my fantasy draft picks for 2016. These also are solid selections for DFS picks for the upcoming 2016 Daytona 500, though some drivers do better at certain racetracks on any given week.

Funny Fantasy NASCAR Team Names

Before I get to the list, let me direct fantasy owners to my list of 1001 Funny Fantasy Team Names. Okay, it’s not fully at 1,001 names just yet, but it’s close. I direct you to names from #741 to #902, which include country song titles. Not to profile, but those are great team name ideas for any fantasy team. Now, on to my fantasy picks.

NASCAR Fantasy Picks for 2016

1. Kevin Harvick – Stewart-Haas Racing

The last few seasons, Kevin Harvick has been a solid pick to win the Sprint Cup. Second place finishes sometimes carry a stigma, but it’s a lot easier to take the leap from #2 to #1 than anywhere else in the sport. Kevin Harvick has a tough team ready for a long grind; it’s a matter of winning the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The way seems clear for Kevin Harvick to win his 2nd Sprint Cup title.

2. Jimmy Johnson – Hendrick Motorsports

It’s hard to bet against Jimmy Johnson winning his seventh championship. Betting on Jimmy Johnson is a little bit like betting on the New York Yankees (without the hate). Over the past 14 years, JJ seems to always be in the mix. You might not think there’s urgency in winning a 7th title, joining Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. with seven major NASCAR titles apiece. Few drivers have won a title past the age of 40, and Jimmy Johnson (who turns 41 in September 2016) knows he only has a handful of legit chances left.

3. Joey Logano – Team Penske

Joey Logano has all the material elements needed to win a Sprint Cup championship. He’s got the skills, the machine, the team around him, and the experience. What he lacks is the ability to work with the other drivers. He lacks respect for the process, which hurt him in 2015. This could be the season he puts all the pieces together and learns what it takes to get over the top — or his inability to play with others could cost him a title.

4. Brad Keselowski – Team Penske

If he can keep out of official trouble in 2016, the controversial Brad Keselowski is capable of winning a second Sprint Cup championship to his trophy case. He needs to end the persecution complex. After he was penalized for a 2015 restart infraction against Greg Biffle at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he said, “I got the chance to do something again for the first time: the first person to ever be penalized for jumping a restart when I didn’t pass anyone. It’s an entertainment sport, not a fair sport.”

At the time, Brad Keselowski was second in the series, but things went downhill after that. More than that, though, BK needs to win races. He lead many laps and had an elite average finish stat, but he needs to win.

5. Kyle Busch – Joe Gibbs Racing

Kyle Busch is the defending champ, so that’s always a good place to begin a list. Busch signed a long-term contract with Joe Gibbs Racing and with his sponsor, M&Ms, so he is set to make a strong run over the next several years. Kyle Busch feels the moment. He spoke in the offseason of his legacy, and how a second title would cement his legacy in the sport. Of his legacy, Kyle Busch said he did not know what it was quite yet, but “Certainly I think there’s a lot to add to it.”

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Hendrick Motorsports

This is the time for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win a series title. This is a period when some of the older contenders are fading from the sport. Several of the younger drivers are prone to self-destruct. The defending champion is good, but not (yet) an all-time great. This is the time.

To do that, Junior’s team has to cut down on silly mistakes. He has to do better at tracks where he doesn’t do well traditionally. Most of all, Dale Earnhardt Jr. needs the breaks to go his way. Some racers catch a few breaks and others don’t, it seems, but those can change at any time.

7. Matt Kenseth – Joe Gibbs Racing

Matt Kenseth comes off a disappointing 15th place finish in 2016, but he has stable funding this year. That includes a 30 weeks with Dollar General and 6 weeks with DeWalt. Joe Gibbs Racing is at the pinnacle of the sport, so everything is stable from the preparation phase of the operation. Matt Kenseth is ready to be a series frontrunner in 2016, if not a championship contender.

8. Martin Truex Jr. – Furniture Row Racing

Martin Truex Jr. finished 4th in 2015. Like Carl Edwards (below), he is a lot closer than people think. Truex stands ready to cement his legacy either a respectable second-tier competitor, or break through to be a top contender for the next half-decade. Once again, he could fall back into the pack or surge forward with the momentum he built in 2015.

9. Carl Edwards – Joe Gibbs Racing

Carl Edwards has the set-up to compete at the highest level. Like Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards has Joe Gibbs Racing backing him for the long season. At 36, Carl Edwards is still in his prime. With 12 seasons competing full-time on the Sprint Cup Series, he is a veteran who sits in the sweet spot of a career.

And he’s closer than you think. Carl Edwards finished 5th in 2015, so he is on the cusp. Carl Edwards is a solid dark horse to win in 2016.

10. Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin needs a better start to the 2016 season. He’s had impressive finishes in the 3rd round of play (Texas, Phoenix, and Martinsville), but he needs to advance to the final round. If he could, Denny Hamlin would be a favorite in that final stage. If he can avoid trouble, Denny Hamlin could be a dark horse candidate for the Sprint Cup title.

11. Kurt Busch – Stewart Hass Racing

Kurt Busch is hard to predict. Certainly, his inconsistency makes him a player you don’t want to pick for a title win. Still, he was the champion in 2004 and is one of the rare breed of drivers who has won a championship in all three of NASCAR’s top three circuits: the Sprint Cup Series, the Nationwide Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. It would be a nice touch for Kurt Busch to win the year after his younger brother did, but I don’t see it. I see Kurt Busch finishing in the top ten and he’s a solid draft pick in NASCAR fantasy leagues.

12. Jamie McMurray – Chip Ganassi Racing

Jamie McMurray finishes races. He’s finished 103 of the last 108 races and ran the fourth-most laps in the Sprint Cup Series in 2015. That helped him qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Now, Rob Kauffman has come aboard as an investor, so the last piece of the puzzle might finally be in place. Jamie McMurray is now considered a solid competitor. It’s time to take the next step and learn how to be a frontrunner.

13. Kasey Kahne – Hendrick Motorsports

Kasey Kahne finally has everything in place to make a run. He’s got the team around him, the sponsorship, and the cars. With Jeff Gordon retired, Kasey Kahne steps up one spot in the pecking order with Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne has the speed needed to compete, but he needs the consistency. He needs to win races. Kasey Kahne missed the Chase by one spot in 2015, so he realizes he’s on the cusp of something great. The pieces are there, but Kasey Kahne needs to put those pieces into place.

14. Ryan Newman – Richard Childress Racing

This is the NASCAR equivalent of a contract year for Ryan Newman. Some racing media speculates 2016 is an audition to stay with Richard Children Racing in 2017. That could either become a motivation or a distraction, depending on the driver. Newman finished 11th in 2015, but his numbers have been disappointing for two seasons. This is the year when those numbers could be a definite pattern, or Ryan Newman returns to contention. This is a make-or-break year for Ryan Newman and RCR.

15. Kyle Larson – Target Chip Ganassi Racing

Kyle Larson enters his 3rd season needing to restore his reputation. Crew chief Chad Johnston enters the campaign needing to do the same. Target Chip Ganassi Racing knows this is their team’s best asset. Everyone has good motivation for a bounceback year. By all standards, Kyle Larson is a racer with potential. Young racers tend to figure things out in their third full-time season. Fans should not dismiss this young driver; this is the time for Kyle Larson to surge.

16. Greg Biffle – Roush Fenway Racing
17. Austin Dillon – Roush Fenway Racing
18. Chase Elliott – Hendrick Motorsports

Speaking of someone moving up the pecking order, Chase Elliot is now driving the No. 24 car. Jeff Gordon is retired and Chase Elliot, son of 1988 Winston Cup Series Bill Elliott. Alan Gustafson is his crew chief. Chase Elliot signed a three-year development deal with Hendrick Motorsports in 2011. He finished 2nd in the Xfinity Series in 2014. He has talent.

At the age of 18, the kid won 2 of his first 7 starts. Hendrick brought Chase Elliot along last year with 5 Sprint Cup starts last year. No one will have a better ride, or a better team around him. Elliott was announced at the time he would be the replacement for Jeff Gordon. What shoes to fill.

Is it too much to place Chase Elliott at the #18 spot? Maybe, but he won the pole position in his first Daytona 500 with a speed of 196.314 miles. At 20 years old, he is the youngest-ever driver to sit on the pole at the Brickyard. This moment might be too big for such a young racer. A twenty-year old is going to have his growing pains, but you cannot be in a better situation than Chase Elliott is.

19. Paul Menard – Richard Childress Racing
20. Clint Bowyer – H Scott Motorsports
21. Tony Stewart – Stewart Haas Racing
22. Aric Almirola – Richard Petty Motorsports
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Roush Fenway Racing
24. Ryan Blaney – Wood Brothers Racing
25. AJ Allmendinger – JTG Daughterty Racing
26. Trevor Bayne – Roush Fenway Racing
27. Danica Patrick – Stewart Haas Racing
28. Casey Mears – Germain Racing
29. Christ Buescher – Front Row Motorsports
30. Brian Scott – Richard Petty Motorsports
31. Landon Cassill – Hillman Racing
32. Michael Annett – H. Scott Motorsports
33. Matt DiBenedetto – BK Racing
34. Ty Dillon – Circle Sport Racing
35. Alex Bowman – Tommy Baldwin Racing

NASCAR 2015 Driver Results

Below is a list of the other drivers in the 2015 Sprint Cup Series. These racers may or may not be involved in the 2016 Sprint Cup Series. In most cases, like in the case of Bobby Labonte or Michael Waltrip, they might race a few races, but that is it.

I add these players to the list so NASCAR fantasy sports competitors will remember to research a few of the younger drivers. I’ve included racing teams when those teams are settled.

36. Sam Hornish Jr. – Richard Petty Motorsports
37. David Ragan – Michael Waltrip Racing
38. Justin Allgaier
39. Cole Whitt – Front Row Motorsports
40. David Gilliland – Front Row Motorsports
41. Brett Moffitt – Front Row Motorsports
42. Josh Wise – Go Green Racing
42. Jeb Burton – BK Racing
43. Michael McDowell – Leavine Family Racing
44. Alex Kennedy – Circle Sport
45. Reed Sorenson
46. Bobby Labonte – Go Green Racing
47. Michael Waltrip – Michael Waltrip Racing
48. Ryan Preece
49. Brian Vickers – Michael Waltrip Racing
50. Will Kimmel III
51. Mike Wallace – Premium Motorsports
52. T.J. Bell
53. Eddie MacDonald
54. Kyle Fowler
55. Ron Hornaday Jr.
56. Brian Scott – Richard Petty Motorsports
57. Erik Jones – Joe Gibbs Racing
58. J.J. Yeley – BK Racing
59. Regan Smith
60. Matt Crafton
61. Johnny Sauter
62. Chris Buescher – Front Row Motorsports
63. Boris Said
64. Brendan Gaughan
65. Justin Marks
66. Mike Bliss
67. Travis Kvapil
68. Joe Nemechek
69. B.J. McLeod
70. Jeffrey Earnhardt – Go Green Racing
71. Timmy Hill
72. Joey Gase
73. Derek White
74. Jeff Green
75. Ryan Ellis
76. Tanner Berryhill

Jeffrey Earnhardt

There’s one other racer to note. Jeffrey Earnhardt, son of Kerry Earnhardt and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., is one of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates as he drives the No.32 Ford car. Jeffrey made six XFINITY series starts in 2015.

NASCAR Drivers’ Average Finish since 2008

To help with research, here is a list of the finish stats since 2008. That’s an arbitrary number, but it also gives a good indication of the top drivers over the past 7 seasons. In several cases, it’s also justification for daily fantasy sports gamers to make weekly decisions on the middle-tier drivers.

  • Jimmie Johnson (11.5)
  • Carl Edwards (12.6)
  • Kevin Harvick (12.7)
  • Matt Kenseth (13.2)
  • Kyle Busch (13.3)
  • Jeff Gordon (13.4)
  • Tony Stewart (13.9)
  • Greg Biffle (14.0)
  • Clint Bowyer (14.0)
  • Denny Hamlin (15.1)
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (15.4)
  • Ryan Newman (15.9)
  • Brad Keselowski (16.0)
  • Mark Martin (16.1)
  • Kasey Kahne (16.3)
  • Jeff Burton (17.1)
  • Kurt Busch (17.3)
  • Joey Logano (17.4)
  • Martin Truex, Jr. (17.5)
  • Brian Vickers (18.7)
  • Juan Montoya (19.2)
  • Jamie McMurray (19.5)
  • Marcos Ambrose (19.9)
  • J. Allmendinger (20.1)
  • Paul Menard (20.3)
  • Aric Almirola (21.5)
  • David Ragan (22.7)
  • David Reutimann (23.2)
  • Regan Smith (24.1)
  • Elliott Sadler (24.2)
  • Casey Mears (24.7)
  • Sam Hornish, Jr. (25.3)
  • Bobby Labonte (25.7)
  • Danica Patrick (26.0)
  • Kyle Larson (26.2)
  • Bill Elliott (26.9)
  • Michael Waltrip (27.0)
  • David Gilliland (28.3)
  • Travis Kvapil (28.5)
  • Terry Labonte (29.2)
  • Reed Sorenson (29.9)
  • Robby Gordon (30.1)
  • John Andretti (30.2)
  • Patrick Carpentier (30.4)
  • Landon Cassill (30.6)
  • Scott Speed (30.8)
  • Andy Lally (31.1)
  • Ken Schrader (31.2)
  • David Stremme (31.5)
  • Dave Blaney (32.6)
  • Scott Riggs (33.7)
  • Kevin Conway (33.9)
  • Max Papis (33.9)
  • J. Yeley (34.7)
  • Tony Raines (35.2)
  • Josh Wise (36.1)
  • Mike Bliss (36.2)
  • Michael McDowell (37.6)
  • Mike Skinner (37.9)
  • Joe Nemechek (38.1)

Daytona 500 Starting Positions in 2016

Finally, here is the updating starting positions list for the Daytona 500 in 2016. To keep things simpler, I’ve listed the drivers on the inside in red and the drivers on the outside in blue.

Can-Am Duel No. 1Can-Am Duel No. 2

  • Chase Elliott Matt Kenseth
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.Kyle Busch
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Jimmie Johnson
  • Ryan BlaneyCarl Edwards
  • Austin DillonKurt Busch
  • Denny Hamlin Casey Mears
  • Joey LoganoRyan Newman
  • Kasey KahneTy Dillon
  • Paul MenardAric Almirola
  • Brad KeselowskiJamie McMurray
  • Greg BiffleKyle Larson
  • Brian ScottMatt DiBenedetto
  • Michael McDowellMichael Waltrip
  • Regan SmithDanica Patrick
  • Chris BuescherAJ Allmendinger
  • Bobby LabonteMichael Annett
  • Trevor BayneLandon Cassill
  • Clint BowyerRobert Richardson Jr.
  • Cole Whitt David Gilliland
  • David RaganReed Sorenson

How to Play Fantasy NASCAR

To win at fantasy NASCAR, you have to nail your 1st and 2nd round picks, then outwork your opponents from the 3rd round and beyond. Yes, a certain amount of luck is involved, but when you start looking into the pack, you’ll find drivers with the right pit crew, the right funding, and a better ride.

In these later rounds, look at the driver’s past results, but analyze if everything is in place for 2016 and what their potential top finish in the standings is this year.

The 2016 Sprint Cup Series should be a great year with plenty of intrigue. Older races are retiring or fading from the spotlight. Veteran races are trying to hold on to their top spots, or seeking to break through for the first time. And a few young drivers are well-situated to make an impact for the first time. Hopefully, this page helps you with your NASCAR fantasy drafts in your local league, or provides research material for your DFS NASCAR contests.