The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season is almost here, and while the drivers and teams prepare to hit the track at Daytona for Speedweeks, fantasy owners need to start preparing for their leagues, as well. I’ve already revealed the bottom half of my Top 30 Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings, and now it is time to take a closer look at the cream of the crop.
The drivers at the top of this group are your fantasy studs. These are the guys that you will want to build around in your season-long leagues. Whether you play in a salary cap format or use a tiered setup, there is no substitute for a driver who gives you a chance to win almost every week and finishes in the Top 10 25-plus times. Picking a reliable anchor is just as important as identifying sleepers.
These high-end drivers are equally as important when building NASCAR DFS lineups. With points being awarded for laps led and fastest laps run at DraftKings and laps led at Fanduel, rostering a driver who can dominate long stretches of a race is a must if you plan on making money.
Without further ado, let’s check out the Top 15 drivers in my Fantasy NASCAR Driver Rankings heading into the 2020 season.
1. Kyle Busch
He was No. 1 in my rankings last year, and Busch went on to win the title while piling up some impressive overall numbers in the process. His 27 Top 10s, 12 stage wins, and 8.9 average finish were tops in the series, and he led all drivers in both laps led and fastest laps run. Busch also posted the best average running position and driver rating, and he ranked first in quality passes. He’s the safest bet to build around in season-long formats, and he will be a DFS force on a weekly basis.
2. Martin Truex Jr.
The loss of crew chief Cole Pearn was unexpected, but I don’t think it slows down Truex in 2020. He’s piled up 23 wins over the last four seasons, leading more than 1,000 laps all four years and delivering at least 15 Top 5s and 20-plus Top 10s in each of the last three. Truex won a series-high seven races last year in his debut season for Joe Gibbs Racing, and he also ranked second in both laps led and fastest laps run while posting the best green flag speed and third-best driver rating.
3. Kevin Harvick
Compared to his incredible 2018 season, Harvick slipped a bit last year. Of course, a “down year” for Harvick included four wins, 15 Top 5s, 26 Top 10s, the second-most stage points and a 10.0 average finish. He also ranked in the Top 5 in every important scoring loop category, including laps led and fastest laps run. Harvick should have one of the highest floors again in 2020, making him an ideal building block for season-long contests.
4. Denny Hamlin
How do you respond from a winless 2018 season? If you are Hamlin, you go out and make 2019 the best season of your career. He won six times, and his 19 Top 5s, 24 Top 10s and 9.5 average finish were all the best marks of his career. In fact, Hamlin led the series in Top 5 finishes. He also ranked in the Top 5 in driver rating, average running position, laps led and fastest laps run. With Joe Gibbs Racing firing on all cylinders, Hamlin should be in line for another excellent all-around season in 2020.
5. Joey Logano
While he did slow down after a hot start last year, Logano remained one of the more reliable fantasy options. He ranked in the Top 5 in both average finish and Top 10s, and he led the sixth-most laps. Logano also scored a series-best 358 stage points, and his 11 stage wins ranked second. At worst, he should a be a high-floor option for season-long contests and a great cash play at the DFS sites.
6. Chase Elliott
Elliott saw his consistency slip a bit in 2019, and his 15 Top 10s and 15.1 average finish were both the lowest marks of his career. On the flip side, he won three races for the second year in a row, leading a career-high 601 laps and ranking fifth in fastest laps run. At just 24 years old, there’s a good chance that his consistency improves while the high-end speed sticks around. I like Elliott’s chances of having a breakout 2020 campaign.
7. Brad Keselowski
Don’t let his early playoff exit in 2019 fool you. Keselowski remains an all-around fantasy force. He won at least three races for the fourth year in a row, and he was one of just three drivers to lead more than 1,000 laps. Keselowski doesn’t have any track type where he struggles, and he’s basically a lock four multiple wins, double-digit Top 5s and 20-plus Top 10s.
8. Ryan Blaney
I’m not sure any driver lost more spots because of poor strategy and bad luck last year than Blaney. Despite that, he still set new career highs with 11 Top 5s, 18 Top 10s and a 13.7 average finish. He also ranked sixth in green flag speed, seventh in driver rating and second in quality passes. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blaney makes a monster leap in 2020, and I recommend jumping on the Blaney bandwagon in season-long leagues.
9. Kyle Larson
His eight Top 5s and 15.1 average finish last year were his worst totals since 2015, but after a horrible start, Larson’s performance did pick up down the stretch. He’s certainly capable of dominating races and even having extended hot stretches, but Chip Ganassi Racing has yet to show it can compete with the top organizations in NASCAR week in and week out. I like Larson better as a track-specific DFS option than as an anchor in season-long contests.
10. Erik Jones
Jones won a race for the second season in a row in 2019, and his 10 Top 5s were a new career high. On the flip side, his average finish slipped from 14.0 in 2018 to 16.2, and while bad luck played a role, Jones has to improve his consistency if he wants to stick with Joe Gibbs Racing beyond 2020. The good news for Jones is that he has already shown Top 5 potential at almost every track type, and at just 23 years old, his best is likely still to come. He is a potential breakout candidate, and at worst, he should be a great mid-priced GPP option at the DFS sites throughout the year.
11. William Byron
With a year of experience and the addition of crew chief Chad Knaus, Byron was expected to improve in 2019. However, I’m not sure even the most optimistic supporters would have predicted such a sizeable jump in production. After finishing with no Top 5s, four Top 10s and a 22.1 average finish as a rookie, Byron posted five Top 5s, 13 Top 10s and a 14.9 average finish, making the playoffs in the process. He also won five poles, led 233 laps and ranked in the Top 10 in stage points earned. Don’t forget that Byron is only 22 years old, and his long-term potential is sky high. Heck, he could make the jump to weekly Top 10 fantasy option as soon as this season.
12. Clint Bowyer
After winning two races in 2018, Bowyer’s winless campaign last year was definitely viewed as a disappointment. Yes, he underachieved, but his 18 Top 10s were actually his most season 2013 and his most since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. Of course, he also had seven DNFs in 2019, but Bowyer’s Top 10 upside gives him plenty of fantasy appeal, especially as a GPP option at the DFS sites.
13. Kurt Busch
Busch’s ceiling is somewhat limited by his age and the equipment at Chip Ganassi Racing, but the veteran is a wheelman, and he’s going to give you a decent stat line. In addition to being a weekly Top 15 threat, you can pencil him in for a handful of Top 5s and close to 20 Top 10s. I like him as a value pick in season-long leagues, and if you want to maximize his value, Busch is typically at his best at short tracks, flat tracks and road courses.
14. Alex Bowman
He picked up his first Cup win in 2019, showing modest improvement across the board in his second full season with Hendrick Motorsports. Although his 12 Top 10s were just one more than in 2018, his average finish moved from 17.0 to 14.4, and he went from three Top 5s to seven. Perhaps most importantly, he emerged as one of the best in the series at the mile-and-a-half tracks. If he can duplicate his success at the 1.5-mile ovals, Bowman will have plenty of value as a spot starter, but I don’t see him making the jump to all-around fantasy star in 2020.
15. Jimmie Johnson
The seven-time champ will be entering his final full season in the Cup Series, and while it would be nice to see him end his legendary career on a high not, it is hard to be optimistic. The last three seasons have been by far the worst of his career, managing just a combined nine Top 5s. In fact, his 17.4 average finish in 2019 was the worst of his career. Johnson did show some improvement in the second half of the year, especially at the 1.5-mile tracks, but he was still more of a Top 15 driver than a routine Top 10 threat. I expect him to battle in and around the Top 15 again in 2020, making him mainly a track-dependent option in season-long formats and a qualifying-dependent play at the DFS sites.