Fresh off a surprisingly entertaining race at Michigan International Speedway Saturday evening, the Cup Series is right back at the two-mile, D-shaped oval for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400.
As a race fan, I certainly won’t complain if we see similar action on the track in the second leg of the doubleheader, and if you play Fantasy NASCAR, Sunday’s race is a golden opportunity to post some big points totals. We’ve been dealing with a lack of practice data since NASCAR returned to action, but you can’t really ask for a better predictor of what to expect than having two races at the same track on the same weekend.
For Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, you can use the results from Saturday’s race to identify some second-tier options who are primed for top-tier performances. Maximizing results while saving starts from the big names is a must in both of these contests, and these doubleheader weekends make that task a lot easier.
Sunday’s race could also be a chance to make a major move in Slingshot Fantasy Auto. With the fields being set largely by owner points, easy place differential points have been tough to come by. For doubleheaders, the Top 20 finishes from the first race are inverted to start the second race while the rest of the drivers start wherever they finished in Race No. 1.
As a result, we actually have drivers with legitimate Top 5 potential who are starting in the middle of the pack or worse. I plan to be aggressive in targeting these potential studs, even it in means using a punt play or two in order to make the cap dollars work out.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
His success at Michigan continued in a big way Saturday when he swept both stages, led the most laps and won for the third time in the last four races here. Looking at the scoring loop data, Harvick also had the best green flag speed in the first race. Even though he has to start 20th Sunday because of the invert, I am going to run it back with Harvick in the second leg of the doubleheader.
I went with his teammate, Joey Logano, in Saturday’s race, but it was Keselowski who showed elite speed. Not only was he the runner-up, but he also finished in the Top 5 in both stages. He has now finished sixth or better in four of his last five starts at Michigan. Yes, Keselowski has to start 19th Sunday, but I think he will have the speed to get to the front.
Martin Truex Jr.
He spent much of the race trapped a lap down, but Truex eventually got back on the lead lap and rallied to finish third. He has been one of the best at two-mile ovals the last few seasons, and he finished fourth or better in the last three races at Michigan. I think another Top 5 and plenty of stage points are on tap for Truex Sunday.
Blaney had one of the fastest cars at Auto Club back in March, and after watching Saturday’s race, it appears his speed has carried over to the other two-mile track on the schedule. He finished third and second in the two stages Saturday before coming home with a fourth-place finish. The invert will put him deeper in the field to start, but I still expect him to be in and around the Top 5 all afternoon
Busch delivered exactly the type of performance I was hoping for on Saturday, logging a Top 10 while finishing fourth and seventh in the two stages. He has now finished 12th or better in eight of the last nine races at MIS, finishing sixth or better in three of his last five starts. He will start 11th Sunday, and I am going to double down on the veteran.
Garage Driver – Erik Jones
The same week he found out he won’t return to Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones had one of his best runs of 2020. He finished a respectable 11th, and he should have finished even better if not for all the cautions and restarts in the closing laps. Jones finished sixth and fourth in the two stages Saturday, and he ranked in the Top 5 in green flag speed. If he grabs a bunch of stage points again Sunday, I’ll swap him in for whichever big name in my lineup isn’t delivering optimal results.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kevin Harvick (A)
Joey Logano certainly didn’t live up to expectations for me in the first race of the weekend, so this time around, I am going with the guy who had the car to beat in Saturday’s event. Harvick led the most laps, won both stages and won the race, giving him three wins in the last four races at MIS and a 2.4 average finish in the last five races at the track. Yes, he starts 20th, but the other top plays are also starting deeper in the field because of the invert.
Kurt Busch (B)
I went with Alex Bowman in Saturday’s race, and in Bowman fashion, he earned points in Stage 1 and Stage 2 before fading to a forgettable finish. As a result, I am going with more of a high-floor play in Race No. 2. Busch finished 10th yesterday and also chipped in 11 stage points, and he has just one finish outside the Top 12 in his last nine Michigan starts. Ryan Blaney is another stud to back if you have the starts to spare.
Erik Jones (B)
He ended up 11th after all the late restarts, but Jones flexed plenty of muscle Saturday. He finished sixth and fourth in the two stages while ranking in the Top 5 in green flag speed. Starting 13 spots higher in Sunday's race, I think his ceiling only climbs higher. I also like both Jimmie Johnson and William Byron as potential sleepers in this tier.
Christopher Bell (C)
My Cole Custer pick blew up in my face when he wrecked late in Saturday's race, so I am going with a different rookie in the second leg of the doubleheader. Despite starting 29th, Bell ran in and around the Top 10 for much of Saturday's race, eventually finishing 13th. He will get to start in the Top 10 Sunday after the invert, and at the very least, I think Bell comes away with another Top 15.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kevin Harvick ($13,000)
Harvick delivered a clean sweep at Michigan on Saturday while leading a race-high 92 laps, and he will try for a weekend sweep Sunday. The inversion now puts him back in 20th for the second race, adding a bunch of differential upside to the mix for a driver who has won three of the last four races at MIS. I'll gladly pay the price.
Martin Truex Jr. ($12,200)
He got trapped a lap down Saturday, but he dug himself out of the early hole and rallied to finish third. Truex will start 18th Sunday, and after what he had to do in the first race, getting to the front from the middle of the pack should be a breeze. I think Truex can deliver a Top 5 finish, around 30 differential points and double-digit stage points.
Ryan Blaney ($11,200)
Blaney's strong season continued on Saturday when he finished third and second in the two stages and fourth in the race. The Top 5 effort will have him starting 17th Sunday, so I think you can expect a similar point total with 20-plus place differential points added to the equation.
Michael McDowell ($6,800)
He didn’t have a great showing yesterday, but I think there are some low hanging differential points I can grab with McDowell. He will start 29th Sunday, but he has a 19.7 average finish for the year and has eight Top 20s in the last 11 races. A mid-pack finish and around 20 differential points aren’t a reach.
John Hunter Nemechek ($6,700)
Nemechek crashed out of Saturday's race, but he has shown a Top 25 floor with Top 20 upside throughout the year. The wreck will force him to start 36th Sunday, so he should be able to walk into at least 20 differential points.