After a full week off, the Cup Series is back in action this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is the fourth race of the year at a mile-and-a-half oval and the fifth race at an intermediate oval since NASCAR returned to action following the coronavirus shutdown.
Thanks to an older, abrasive surface that can chews up tires, Atlanta is a bit of its own animal among the 1.5-mile ovals. However, we have a great sample of data to lean on coming into Sunday's race, having just made two trips to another track with aggressive tire wear, Darlington, and two trips to Charlotte, a mile-and-a-half track.
I expect the drivers that have been fast since the season resumed should continue to show plenty of speed this weekend at Atlanta, and as a result, I am being aggressive with all of my Fantasy NASCAR lineups this weekend. I am loading up on big names in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, especially since many of the top options starting near the front because of how owner points affect the draw for starting positions.
Even in Slingshot Fantasy Auto, I am banking on stage points and strong finishes atop my lineup. I will try to scoop up some place differential points with my mid-priced plays, but I am going to live or die with the top drivers this weekend.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
He is the defending winner at Atlanta, and in his last three starts here, Keselowski has two wins and a runner-up effort. He has also finished in the Top 3 in three of the six stages in those races. Throw in the fact that he leads all drivers with a 5.0 average finish at 1.5-mile ovals in 2020 and is one of just two drivers with Top 10 finishes in all three of those races, and he is a safe bet to deliver a big point total Sunday.
Logano has a 6.7 average finish at the mile-and-a-half tracks in 2020, leading at least 26 laps in all three races. Perhaps more importantly, he has scored the most points of any driver in those events, and he has been a monster when it comes to grabbing stage points. Logano has earned points in all seven stages at the 1.5-mile ovals, finishing seventh or better in all of them and winning a pair. Starting third, I expect him to continue his stage point streak at Atlanta.
Blaney has been one of the best in the series at mile-and-a-half ovals in 2020. Not only does he rank second in the series with a 5.7 average finish in the three races, but he has scored the second-most points, finishing fourth or better in five of the seven stages. Blaney led 41 laps and was in the mix for the win at Atlanta last year before having a tire issue, and based on his speed this season and Top 10 starting, another strong run should be on tap Sunday.
He has been rock solid at Atlanta, logging three Top 10s in four starts, but I'm focused on his overall speed in 2020. Elliott could have easily won all three races at mile-and-a-half ovals, and he has earned points in six of the seven stages in those events, finishing in the Top 5 in five of them. After drawing the pole, it could be a clean sweep for Elliott Sunday.
Harvick continues to be one of steadiest options at the mile-and-a-half tracks, and he has finished in the Top 10 in all three races this season. He also happens to be one of the best to ever get behind the wheel at Atlanta. Harvick has finished in the Top 10 in five of his six starts at Atlanta with Stewart-Haas Racing, winning the 2018 race. He has also led at least 45 laps in all six starts here with SHR, leading at least 116 laps five times.
Garage Driver – Alex Bowman
After three races at 1.5-mile tracks, Bowman still doesn't have a Top 10, but no driver has led more laps. He has also earned points in all seven stages in those races, notching three stage wins. He starts in the Top 10, and if Bowman goes out and piles up 15-plus stage points, I’ll have to throw him in my starting lineup and hope he avoids his late-race bad luck.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Chase Elliott (A)
Kevin Harvick has the best numbers at Atlanta, but Elliott is on the pole and his speed has been on another level. He has had a shot at winning almost every race this season, and he should have won all three races at mile-and-a-half tracks. I'm going to back Elliott's raw speed over Harvick's track record.
Alex Bowman (B)
Don't let his 21.0 average finish in the three races at 1.5-mile tracks fool you. Bowman has had one of the cars to beat in all three, leading a series-high 215 laps. He has also earned points in all seven stages across those races, picking up three stage wins. It is only a matter of time before his finishes reflect his speed. He has too much upside for me to pass up. If you want a steadier alternative, Kurt Busch has been a Top 10 machine at Atlanta.
Ryan Blaney (B)
His 5.7 average finish at mile-and-a-half ovals in 2020 ranks second in the series, and Blaney also ranks second in points scored in those races, earning points in six of the seven stages. In fact, Blaney has finished fourth or better in five of those stages. Last year at Atlanta, he led 41 laps and collected 12 stage points before a tire issue ruined his afternoon. Blaney starts seventh and has a legit chance to be the top scorer this weekend. Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are two sleepers if you are looking to save starts.
Tyler Reddick (C)
Reddick has been the top Group C option so far in 2020, and I don't see that changing this weekend. His 13.3 average finish and 79 points scored in the three races at 1.5-mile tracks are both the best among drivers in this tier, and I don't mind using up another one of his starts when he gives me a legitimate shot at a Top 10 finish.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Chase Elliott ($11,700)
I don't often roster the pole sitter in the Slingshot format, but I will make an exception for Elliott. He probably should have won all three races at 1.5-mile tracks this season, and he has five Top 5 finishes in the stages in those races. This is definitely a risky pick, but I think Elliott can dominate this race from start to finish.
Alex Bowman ($11,500)
Bowman hasn't had great finishes at the mile-and-a-half tracks, but ill-timed cautions have been the primary factor. He has led more laps than any other driver in the three races, earning points in all three stages and picking up three stage wins. Bowman doesn't have much place differential upside, but he is more than capable of delivering double-digit stage points and going to victory lane.
Jimmie Johnson ($10,400)
I am putting a lot of my eggs in the Hendrick Motorsports basket, but Johnson has been fast all year, and the 1.5-mile ovals have been no exception. He finished fifth at Las Vegas, second in the Coca-Cola 600 before being disqualified and 11th in the second race at Charlotte after starting dead last. Johnson starts 15th Sunday, giving him the chance to gain some differential points on top of his Top 5 and stage point potential.
Tyler Reddick ($8,400)
Reddick has made an immediate impact as a rookie, and he has been particularly strong at the mile-and-a-half tracks. He has a 13.3 average finish in the three races, finishing 18th or better in all of them. A rough qualifying draw has him starting 24th, but it should allow Reddick to gain double-digit spots and 20-plus place differential points. I think he delivers 80-plus points for a midrange price.
Christopher Bell ($8,000)
I debated between Cole Custer and Bell, but while Custer has a few more differential points available, I feel Bell has the higher ceiling. He been much better since the season resumed, finishing 11th or better in three of the four races leading up to Atlanta. Bell also dominated the XFINITY race here last season. Rolling off 27th, he has the potential to top 100 points by the time differential points are factored in. If you want to go with a more top-heavy approach, you could take chance on Michael McDowell and free up some more cap space.