The Cup Series will head to Nashville Superspeedway this weekend, and if you can't remember the last time you heard Nashville mentioned in NASCAR circles, there is a reason. The 1.333-mile, concrete oval hasn't been a part of the Truck or XFINITY schedules since 2011, and Sunday's Ally 400 will be the first time in history that the track has hosted a Cup Series event.
Needless to say, we are dealing with a limited set of information when it comes to what to expect this weekend at Nashville. In terms of length, the track is similar to Darlington, but the concrete surface causes Dover to also be mentioned among potential comparisons. With no more than 14 degrees of banking, flatter tracks like Phoenix and Richmond have also been thrown about by Cup Series teams.
In addition to the layout of the track itself, it is also important to keep in mind that the 750-horsepower package will be in use this weekend. The tire situation is also interesting. A test at Nashville with the initial compound revealed heavy tire wear. As a result, Goodyear has brought a much more durable tire than originally planned in order to ensure a safe race. It remains to be seen if we still see any sort of aggressive tire falloff, but my guess is that the safer compound will skew things in the other direction.
When building my rankings for the Ally 400, I put a lot of emphasis on the week-to-week speed of each driver, especially the speed they have shown at the intermediate ovals throughout the year. However, I also took a look at how each driver has performed at the other tracks that have used the 750-horsepower package.
In many cases, the same drivers have been successful in both areas, but there are a few who seem to have a little more muscle with the 750-horsepower package. Taking advantage of these drivers could give you an edge on the competition this weekend.
- Kyle Larson: Larson has two wins and three runner-up finishes in the five races leading up to Nashville, and that doesn’t even include last weekend’s win in the All-Star Race. Regardless of the rule package or the type of track, Larson and the No. 5 team seem to have leg up on the competition. He has to be considered the favorite on Sunday.
- Chase Elliott: He has more than found his stride after a bit of an uneven start to the year. Elliott has cracked the top 10 in six straight races, posting a 3.3 average finish and finishing third or better in each of his last four starts. Hendrick Motorsports has been fast overall, and I expect the HMS dominance to continue at Nashville.
- Martin Truex Jr.: Although not the same track by any means, Nashville’s similarities with Darlington could prove beneficial for Truex. He led 248 laps in a dominating win at Darlington, and all three of his wins have come with the 750-horsepower package. Look for Truex to have one of the cars to beat Sunday.
- Denny Hamlin: With 12 top-10s and a 7.7 average finish over the first 16 races, there is no question that Hamlin is one of the safest fantasy plays regardless of the track. As a bonus, he has been among the fastest drivers at 750-horsepower tracks. Hamlin should at least be a top-5 option this weekend, and I think he will have a shot at the win
- William Byron: Few drivers have been running better at the oval tracks this season, and Byron shows no signs of slowing down. He heads into Nashville having finished fourth at Darlington, Dover and Charlotte in recent weeks, and with Hendrick Motorsports firing on all cylinders, Byron should be back in the mix for a top-5 on Sunday.
- Joey Logano: Logano has underachieved at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, but he has been a force at road courses and at tracks that have used the 750-horsepower package. The latter will be in use at Nashville this weekend, which should make Logano a top-5 threat. I love him for Fantasy Live lineups.
- Kyle Busch: While he hasn’t been leading a ton of laps and piling up wins, Busch has been a staple near the front of the field this season. He has 10 top-10s, and many of his best runs have come at the intermediate ovals, including a third-place effort at Darlington a few weeks back. Busch should offer a top-10 floor with top05 upside Sunday.
- Kevin Harvick: The No. 4 team is still searching for race-winning speed, but that hasn’t stopped Harvick from logging 11 top-10s in the first 16 races. More importantly, Harvick has shown some juice at the 750-horsepower tracks, logging sixth-place finishes at Phoenix, Darlington and Dover. He should have a shot at a top-5 this weekend.
- Alex Bowman: While he hasn't been as consistent as his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Bowman still offers similar upside at the intermediate ovals. He led 98 laps in a win at Dover earlier this year, and he logged a top-5 finish at Charlotte a couple of weeks ago. Bowman is worth considering in all fantasy formats.
- Ryan Blaney: He hasn't shown the consistent top-5 upside that I expected this season, but Blaney has provided a reliable floor. Blaney has cracked the top 15 in 12 of the 16 races, logging seven top-10s. Heading to a new s steady, week-to-week speed should make him a solid option for Fantasy Live.
- Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has still flashed a high ceiling at times, but his lack of consistency has been a headache for fantasy owners. He has five top-5s, including a win, but he hasn't cracked the top 10 in any of the other 11 races. Keselowski has become a DFS-only option for me for the time being.
- Austin Dillon: He has been a borderline top-10 performer at the 1.5-mile ovals all year, and Dillon has been a top-15 threat at almost every intermediate oval. He has an 11.5 average finish in the last four oval events, finishing 16th or better in every start. Dillon could be a sneaky Group B sleeper in the DGG this weekend.
- Tyler Reddick: Reddick has been on a tear in general recently, finishing 12th or better in eight of his last 10 starts. He has a 9.0 average finish in the last four races at oval tracks, and he should be viewed as a legitimate top-10 threat on Sunday. Reddick is suddenly an intriguing Group B option in the DGG.
- Chris Buescher: Roush Fenway Racing has been surprisingly competitive at the intermediate ovals this year, and Buescher has a 10.5 average finish in the last four races, picking up top-10s at Kansas, Darlington and Charlotte in that span. Keep him in mind a as a cheaper option at the DFS sites this weekend.
- Christopher Bell: There have been plenty of bright spots for Bell in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing, but he has struggled to find consistency at the bigger ovals. A top-15 effort at Darlington is a positive sign for his chances this weekend, but Bell is a high-risk, high-reward fantasy play at Nashville. I'd limit his usage to GPP contests at the DFS sites.
- Kurt Busch: It has been a wild ride for Busch the last couple of months. Over the last eight races, he has four top-15s to along with four finishes of 27th or worse, including three finishes of 35th or worse. Needless to say, he is a high-risk, high-reward fantasy option heading into Nashville.
- Ross Chastain: A wreck in the Coca-Cola 600 drags down his numbers a bit, but Chastain has three top-15s in the last four oval races, and he has eight finishes of 17th or better in his last nine starts overall. Chastain has emerged as a premier Group C option in the DGG, and I expect the trend to continue at Nashville.
- Mat DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto owns an 18.1 average finish for the year, but he has actually finished 18th or worse in each of the five races leading up to Nashville. A top-15 isn't out of the question, but he will need to have some decent place differential potential before I go after him in fantasy formats this weekend.
- Daniel Suarez: You have to admire what Suarez and Trackhouse Racing have been able to accomplish in the organization's first year, and Suarez has been particularly sporty at the intermediate ovals. He has three top-15s in the last four races, including an 11th-place run at Kansas and ninth-place effort at Dover. Don't hesitate to use him as a Group C option in the Driver Group Game.
- Ryan Newman: He has run hot and cold this season, and Newman heads to Nashville having finished 23rd or worse in each of the last four races. If he starts deep in the field, he could have value as a DFS sleeper, but Newman is too inconsistent for me to trust in the season-long contests.
- Bubba Wallace: Wallace has struggled with consistency all year, but he may be starting to turn a corner at the intermediate ovals. He finished 11th at Dover, and he delivered a 14th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600. Wallace is a little risky to use in season-long contests, but there is a top-15 upside here. He could be an X-factor in GPP lineups at the DFS sites.
- Aric Almirola: I know he has had terrible luck, but at some point, it is hard to overlook the results. Almirola owns a brutal 31.3 average finish in the last four oval races, and he is sandwiched between Anthony Alfredo and Quin Houff in points scored in that span. Even if he qualifies deep in the field, he is a roll-of-the-dice play.
- Erik Jones: Jones has managed a 16th-place finish at Darlington and an 18th-place effort at Charlotte in some recent oval races, but when top-20 results qualify as his better showings, the upside is obviously limited. If he starts around the 25th spot, Jones will have some DFS appeal, but he has to have the place differential category working in his favor.
- Chase Briscoe: He has been taking advantage of his road racing skills in recent weeks, but outside of an 11th-place run at Darlington, he has remained a mid-pack performer at the intermediate ovals. A top-20 isn't out of the question, but Briscoe will be a qualifying-dependent fantasy play this weekend.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: He has been solid at the 1.5-mile ovals overall, but Stenhouse has been struggling lately, finishing outside the top 15 in seven of his last eight starts. During that stretch, he finished 20th at both Darlington and Dover, a pair of tracks that used the 750-horsepower package. Stenhouse looks like a mid-pack option, at best.
- Cole Custer: Custer opened the year with back-to-back top-15 finishes, but he has just two top-15s in the 14 races since then. He has actually finished 20th or worse in five of the last six races heading into Nashville. At best, Custer would be a DFS longshot, but even that depends on his starting spot.
- Michael McDowell: He got off to a solid start at the intermediate ovals this year, but McDowell's numbers have slid a bit recently. He finished 27th at Darlington, 25th at Dover and 20th at Charlotte, and McDowell looks a lot like a fringe top-25 option these days.
- Ryan Preece: Preece's season has been trending in the wrong direction, and he has finished 25th or worse in three of the last four races at oval tracks. He has a 25.3 average finish in that span, ranking 28th in points scored. Unless he happens to qualify outside the top 30, his fantasy value is almost nonexistent.
- Corey LaJoie: After a rough start, LaJoie has quietly posted a 21.9 average finish in the last eight races. He has finished between 18th and 22nd in six of those starts, and while his ceiling is still limited, LaJoie has shown enough to warrant a look as a source of cap relief at the DFS sites.
- Anthony Alfredo: Alfredo has been respectable for a driver who entered the season with little experience in any of NASCAR's top series, but that doesn't change the fact that a top-25 finish is the best-case scenario. He has managed to keep his car in one piece most weeks, but he will need to start outside the top 30 before he even enters the conversation as a DFS punt play.