The Cup Series is right back at Charlotte Motor Speedway Wednesday night for the second leg of a doubleheader at the 1.5-mile oval. While we are dealing with the same track, it is important to keep in mind that Wednesday's Alsco 500 is just 208 laps, barely half the distance of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600.
Yes, I do expect many of the top drivers from over the weekend to have strong cars once again, but when building my Fantasy NASCAR lineups for Fantasy Live and Driver Group, I am putting a decent amount of emphasis on track position. Wednesday's race isn’t just short compared to the Coca-Cola 600. It is short compared to a typical Cup race at a mile-and-a-half oval.
Drivers that showed some speed Sunday who also happen to be starting near the front Wednesday night are going to have a much easier path to stage points and strong finishes. The front of William Byron and Alex Bowman looks particularly intriguing for both Fantasy Live and the DGG, and I think there are several good Group C options for the DGG for those who may want to save a start from Tyler Reddick.
Setting my lineup for Slingshot Fantasy Auto was once again difficult because of the procedure NASCAR is using to set the starting lineup. Any big name who had trouble Sunday is starting deep in the field, and you have Jimmie Johnson starting dead last after a penalty wiped out his second-place finish. You also have the drivers who finished up front starting in the middle of the pack because the Top 20 finishers being inverted.
In the end, I did take advantage of some of the drivers starting at the tail end of the field. However, I also rostered a couple of Sunday's top contenders who roll off just inside the Top 20. Even in a shorter race, I think a couple of these drivers are still going to be factors for the win and capable of providing stage points to go with their place differential points.
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Martin Truex Jr.
Truex was a force from start to finish Sunday night, finishing second in each of the first two stages and leading 87 laps in a sixth-place effort. Nobody has been better at Charlotte in recent years, and based on what I saw over the weekend, that hasn't changed. I'm expecting a Top 5 finish and plenty of stage points.
He quietly had one of the better cars in the first race at Charlotte, finishing sixth in Stage 2 and flirting with a Top 5 before ending up 11th. Jones also posted the sixth-best green flag speed in the Coca-Cola 600. Starting inside the Top 10 Wednesday night, I don't think double-digit stage points are out of the question.
His near win in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday continued Elliott's strong start to 2020. While he didn't take the checkered flag, he still turned in 14 stage points and a second-place finish. Yes, Elliott has to start 19th, but the No. 9 Chevy went from the middle of the pack to the lead in 55 laps over the final stage this weekend, and I expect a repeat performance Wednesday. I'll be picking Elliott to win.
He flexed some serious muscle Sunday night, sweeping the first two stages of the Coca-Cola 600 and leading a race-high 164 laps. Pit strategy ended up costing him a Top 5 finish, but it will also put him on the front row for Race No. 2. Bowman is my pick to win Stage 1, and he could potentially make it a clean sweep of the night.
Byron's bad habit of turning impressive runs into lackluster finishes is not exactly comforting, but he has too much upside for me to pass up. He finished eighth and fourth in the first two stages Sunday night, and he gets to roll off from the pole Wednesday. I think Byron can finish in the Top 5 in both stages and the race.
Garage Driver – Joey Logano
While Logano wasn't dominant Sunday, he did hang around the front all night, finishing fifth in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2. The invert has him starting eighth Wednesday, and I expect him to hang in the Top 10 throughout the race. Logano is a high-floor option to have available in case one of my starters have issues.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Chase Elliott (A)
Elliott appeared to be cruising to a win in the Coca-Cola 600 before the late caution, but despite losing out on a big win, he still ended up with a runner-up finish and 14 stage points. Nobody has had better week-to-week speed, and while he starts 19th, we saw in the final stage Sunday night that he can get back to the front in a hurry.
Alex Bowman (B)
He had one of the cars to beat in the Coca-Cola 600, sweeping the first two stages and leading a race-high 164 laps. Just like at Las Vegas, he didn't get the finish he deserved because of a late caution, but Bowman now gets to start on the front row Wednesday and could easily sweep both stages again and win the race.
William Byron (B)
Byron has had a nasty habit of turning fast cars into mediocre finishes this season, but I think the reward is going to be worth the risk. He earned 10 stage points and had a Top 5-caliber car in Sunday’s race, and thanks to a tire issue with two laps to go, he will start on the pole Wednesday. I think he can deliver a Top 5 finish and even more stage points than he did over the weekend.
Christopher Bell (C)
After a terrible start to his rookie year, Bell has righted the ship. He finished 11th at Darlington last week, and he notched his first Top 10 over the weekend in the Coca-Cola 600. Tyler Reddick is still a better option, but I’ve used several starts from him already, and he looks like a Top 10 threat at almost any track. I want to try to grab a solid finish out of Bell while he is trending in the right direction.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Chase Elliott ($12,600)
A questionable call by his crew chief likely cost him a win in the Coca-Cola 600, but Elliott still managed a third-place finish to go along with 14 stage points. He drove from the middle of the pack to the lead over the final 100 laps Sunday, so I don’t think that starting 19th will hurt him too much in the stage point department. Meanwhile, I expect Elliott to be a major player for the win and to provide 30-plus place differential points.
Martin Truex Jr. ($12,400)
Truex backed up his impressive numbers at Charlotte on Sunday when he led 87 laps, collected 18 stage points and came away with a sixth-place finish. Starting 15th Wednesday night, Truex gives me a shot at the win and a will likely deliver 20-plus differential points and double-digit stage points. I don’t think you can go wrong with Denny Hamlin in this spot either.
Jimmie Johnson ($11,000)
Johnson had one of the best cars in the Coca-Cola 600, but his runner-up effort was wiped out by a post-race penalty. He will start dead last Wednesday as a result, and while his chances for a bunch of stage points may be slim, a Top 10 finish and 60-plus differential points are a real possibility. Johnson will be a chalk play, but I think he is a must-own. Clint Bowyer is cheaper and also starting in the back, but Johnson should have the much stronger car.
Bubba Wallace ($7,400)
After I locked in my first three picks, the remaining salary left me with two avenues for filling out my roster. I could have put all my eggs in the Ryan Newman basket and essentially forfeited my final spot by using B.J. McLeod. Instead, I went with a more balanced approach. Wallace starts back in 38th after a wheel issue Sunday, but he has finished 21st or better in five of the seven races this year. He has nothing but upside in the place differential department, and I think he can crack the Top 25.
Ryan Preece ($6,500)
A pair of engine issues and a crash at Daytona are dragging down his overall numbers, but Preece has shown Top 20 upside in his second Cup season. He has finished 22nd or Sunday, and while I am not expecting him to gain a ton of spots, I do think he can deliver a mid-pack finish and at least break even in the differential category.