Fantasy NASCAR: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Quick Picks
The Cup Series returns to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and the second trip to the high-banked, half-mile oval will also be the third and final race in the opening round of the playoffs and the second race in a row at a short track.
While short tracks do provide an opportunity to get a little creative with some of your Fantasy NASCAR picks, Bristol tends to be a little more volatile than last weekend's venue, Richmond Raceway. You only need to look back at the May race here for proof. In addition to several big names crashing out, we saw Denny Hamlin spin from the lead and Chase Elliott and Joey Logano take each other out while battling for the lead all within the final 20 laps.
Throw in the pressure of the playoffs, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race also features some high attrition. Personally, I am sticking to mainly big names in Fantasy Live, but if you do want to try to fade the chalkier plays and gain some ground, Bristol is the track where you will want to roll the dice on some high-risk, high-reward types.
For the Driver Group Game, this race is another great opportunity to mix up your Group B and C picks and save a start from the top plays in this tier. We have a stretch of mile-and-a-half tracks coming up, and you will want to have the top drivers available for those races.
In Slingshot Fantasy Auto, I ended up going with more of a balanced approach. Yes, I do have a few boom-or-bust-type picks, but I made sure that all my drivers have a significant amount of place differential upside available. The Team Penske front row also makes an intriguing lineup core, but I am going to bank on some chaos and lean into the differential category.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Keselowski is starting from the pole as he goes for a season sweep at Bristol. He led 115 laps in a win here back in May, and he is also going for his fourth win of 2020 with the 750-horsepower package. No other driver has more than one win with the package. Keselowski should be one of the frontrunners for the win, and he's one of the best picks to win the bonus categories.
Contact with Chase Elliott in the closing laps probably cost him a win at Bristol in May, but even with that wreck, Logano still leads all drivers in points scored over the last 10 races here. He finished in the Top 5 in both stages in May, and rolling off from the front row, a repeat performance should be on tap. I expect him to be a Top 3 scorer in this format.
The battle between Joey Logano and Chase Elliott was the highlight of the May race here, but it was Hamlin who led the most laps and was cruising towards the win before spinning from the lead. He also ranked second in average running position in May, and his five Top 5s in the last 10 Bristol races are tied for the most of any driver. Don't be surprised if he finishes what he started and picks up the win this weekend.
He was battling for the win in the closing laps in the May race before making contact with Joey Logano and finishing outside the Top 20, but Elliott had a strong showing overall. He led 88 laps, won both stages and had the best average running position, and he has led 30-plus laps in each of the last four Bristol races. Starting sixth, Elliott should once again be in the mix for stage wins and the race win.
While Busch has been far from his dominant self in 2020, one of his best runs of the year came at Bristol in May when he led 100 laps and finished fourth. He has five Top 5s, including three wins, in the last six races here, and he has led more than 70 laps four times in that span. Busch starts in the Top 10, and I expect him to run in and around the Top 5 all night long.
Garage Driver – Ryan Blaney
Blaney enters Bristol in win-or-go-home mode, and fighting for his playoff life is only going to make him more of a boom-or-bust play. Still, we are talking about a driver who has led at least 100 laps in three of the last five Bristol races, and he led 60 laps and finished second in Stage 1 here in May before crashing. Blaney is more than capable of winning and piling up stage points Saturday night.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Brad Keselowski (A)
Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano are two other strong options worth considering, but Keselowski has been the best with the 750-horsepower package this season. He has three wins with the package, including a victory in the May race when he led 115 laps. Starting from the pole, I think he will challenge for the win while earning 15-plus stage points.
Clint Bowyer (B)
I love taking advantage of Bowyer's short track prowess, and Bristol might just be his best track. He has a series-leading eight Top 10s in the last 10 races here, including five straight, and he was the runner-up here in May. He offers Top 5 upside with the potential for double-digit stage points.
Jimmie Johnson (B)
If Johnson is going to make one last run at a win before he retires from NASCAR, it is probably going to happen this weekend. Not only does he have the best average finish over the last 10 Bristol races, but he finished third here in May while posting the second-best green flag speed. Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones are two additional high-upside plays, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon are some contrarian options.
Christopher Bell (C)
Bell has been hit and miss throughout his rookie year, but he was a short track stud at the XFINITY level, and he picked up a Top 10 in his Bristol debut back in May. He had the 15th-best green flag speed and 16th-best average running position in that race. Bell should at least be able to crack the Top 20 Saturday night.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kyle Busch ($12,000)
I have no issues with Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano in this spot, but I think all three are strong bets for a Top 5, and Busch has a little added place differential upside. He also has five Top 5s in the last six Bristol races, including three wins, and he had the best green flag speed here in May.
Ryan Blaney ($11,000)
Blaney heads to a track where he always has a ton of speed in a must-win situation. He has led at least 100 laps in three of the last five Bristol races, and back in May, he led 60 laps and finished second in Stage 1 before getting caught up in a wreck. There is a risk that Blaney will push it too hard given his situation in the playoffs, but starting 14th, he is on the short list of drivers who can realistically contend for the win and deliver double-digit stage points and place differential points.
Erik Jones ($10,800)
Jones is another checkers-or-wreckers play, but with a mid-pack starting spot, I can't pass up his upside. He has three Top 5s in seven Bristol starts, including a fifth-place run in May. Jones is a 100-plus fantasy points waiting to happen.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,400)
Over the last 10 races at Bristol, Johnson is tied for the series lead with a 9.0 average finish, and he ranks second with seven Top 10s. Back in May, he started 24th but drive to a third-place finish, and Johnson happens to be starting 24th again this weekend. He should at least challenge for a Top 10 and 100 fantasy points. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Christopher Bell are a couple of alternatives to consider.
John Hunter Nemechek ($6,800)
Nemechek held his own in his Bristol debut, notching a 13th-place finish. He also logged the 15th-best average running position, suggesting the solid result wasn't a fluke. He's proven to be a crash risk, but starting outside the Top 30, I'll take my chances. If Nemechek sneaks into the Top 20, he's looking at 80-plus fantasy points. Bubba Wallace is another cheaper option worth a look.