The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series enters uncharted waters this weekend as it prepares for the inaugural race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, also known as the Roval. The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course has a slick surface and almost no margin for error because of a lack of gravel traps and run-off zones, and drivers have barely been able to navigate the track cleanly during single-car runs.
All the talk leading up to the race has been how chaotic this race could be, and even if you ignore the fact that Sunday's Bank of America Roval 400 is the first elimination race of the playoffs, I think we could be looking at the type of attrition normally reserved for restrictor-plate events after seeing some of practice and qualifying.
The potential for a crash-filled event has to factor into your strategy when building your season-long lineups this weekend. With the usage allowance no longer in play for Fantasy Live, I'm taking my chances with the top road course racers, but it is not that simple in the Driver Group Game.
I still think your typical road course studs are your best bets, but if you are down to your last couple of starts from guys like Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott, I'm probably playing it safe and going with my alternative options.
I'm also banking on wild race in my lineup construction for Slingshot Fantasy Auto. I targeted the big names who qualified outside the Top 10 or deeper, which allows me to both minimize the damage if they do wreck and potentially pad my score with a lot of place differential bonus points.
If nothing else, the Bank of America Roval 400 is going to be something different, so tune in and cross your fingers that your picks make it to the checkered flag. In the meantime, check out my plays for Fantasy Live, the Driver Group Game and Slingshot Fantasy Auto.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kyle Busch (Playoff)
He qualified a little deeper than I was hoping, but starting 14th isn't a death sentence, especially for a road racing ace like Kyle. His four road course wins are the most among active drivers, and he has finished seventh or better in the last eight road races. Busch should be able to work his way into position for some Stage 1 points and end up at the front when it matters.
Kurt Busch (Playoff)
You can make a strong argument that Kurt has been the safest option at the road courses in recent years. His eight Top 10s in the last 10 road races are tied with Kyle for the most in the series, and Kurt's 7.1 average finish in that span is the best of any driver. Starting on the pole should be a huge advantage at the challenging, super slick Roval, and I like Busch to potentially win Stage 1 and challenge for the win.
This could be a make-or-break play for my lineup, but Allmendinger's already intriguing upside at the road courses became too tough to pass up after he qualified on the front row. Only Martin Truex Jr. has led more laps over the last 10 road course races, and while it won't be a surprise if he crashes out, there is also chance that Allmendinger stays up front all afternoon and piles up a bunch of stage points. I'm willing to take that chance to try to earn a big point total out of a non-playoff driver prior to the first wave of eliminations.
McMurray has been clicking off solid finishes at the road courses since returning to Chip Ganassi Racing, and he has seven Top 15s in the last 10 road races, including four in his last five. With the potential for some serious chaos back in the pack, his top 10 qualifying effort gives him a much better shot at some stage points and another solid run this weekend.
Garage Driver – Martin Truex Jr. (Playoff)
Truex has established himself as one of the premier road racers in the series in recent years, finishing seventh or better in five of the last six events and finishing either first or second in the last three road course races. He has led a series-best 115 laps in the last four road races alone, leading multiple laps in all four events. He probably won't win Stage 1 after qualifying 13th, but Truex should still be able to earn some points, and his history and Top 5 times in both practices say he will be at the front and fighting for the win before the end of the day. I want him available if he is outperforming Kyle Busch or if either of my starters find trouble.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
I was hoping to steal a start from Denny Hamlin this weekend, but he is a lot less appealing now that he is starting 27th after he bounced off the wall in qualifying. My other option was Truex, and while I didn't necessarily want to risk using him at the Roval, he should be able to deliver a strong finish. He has two wins and a second-place finish in the last three road course events and has led more than 20 laps in three of the last four road races. Truex also put down excellent laps in both Saturday practices. It wasn't the plan, but I think I should come out okay.
A.J. Allmendinger (B)
I'm doubling down on Allmendinger this weekend, and I already know this has the potential to be a disaster. It's also my only chance to get a Top 5 out of a driver like Allmendinger, and after qualifying on the front, a great finish became a lot more likely. Honestly, every driver seems like a risky pick at this track, which makes it a little easier to justify rolling the dice on Allmendinger. At least, I'll save starts from the Group B studs.
Chase Elliott (B)
Sitting on four starts for Elliott and just one for Kurt Busch and two more Clint Bowyer, I opted for Chase. It also helps that he qualified fourth and has been a force at the road courses this year. Elliott followed up a fourth-place finish at Sonoma by leading the most laps and winning at Watkins Glen. I wouldn't be shocked to see him contend for the win again Sunday, and he should have a great shot at another Top 5.
Chris Buescher (C)
Buescher has become an underrated road course option since joining A.J. Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing. He has cracked the Top 20 in all four of his road course starts with the organization, finishing 12th or better in two of the last three. Having great track position after a 10th-place effort in qualifying should help him avoid some of the mayhem and further boost his chances for another solid run this weekend.
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Lineup
Kyle Busch ($12,000)
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,900)
Denny Hamlin ($10,800)
Ryan Newman ($9,200)
Michael McDowell ($5,600)
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