Fantasy NASCAR: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway Driver Rankings

Brian Polking

The first round of the 2020 Cup Series playoffs will come to a close this weekend, ending in dramatic fashion. Bristol Motor Speedway, the high-banked, half-mile short track known for its bumping and banging, will host Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

While I don't expect the finish to be as wild as what we saw in the regular-season finale at Daytona, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a playoff driver who is currently outside of the cut line try a Hail Mary to steal a stage win or race win to advance to the Round of 12.

The playoff element definitely adds a wrinkle we need to consider when building Fantasy NASCAR lineups. Still, in general, a short track like Bristol will feature more attrition, which means more opportunities to go against the grain with some of our picks.

Whether you are looking to save starts from the top options in the Driver Group Game or trying to gain ground on your competition in your season-long leagues, Saturday night's race is a golden opportunity. Not only do certain mid-tier drivers excel at short tracks, particularly Bristol, but you can almost bank on a couple of sleeper drivers picking up solid finishes.

  1. Brad Keselowski: He continued his dominance with the 750-horsepower package with his win at Richmond last weekend. It was his third win of the year with the package, and another one of those victories came at Bristol in May. Keselowski led 115 laps in the win, and he has led at least 40 laps in four of his last five starts here. Starting from the pole, I think he is the man to beat this weekend.
  2. Joey Logano: Logano finished 21st at Bristol earlier this year, but he finished in the Top 5 in both stages and was battling for the lead in the final laps when he got together with Chase Elliott. Even with the wreck, he still ranks first in points scored over the past 10 Bristol races, notching seven Top 10s and leading more than 500 laps. Logano should be a stud when he rolls off from the front row.
  3. Denny Hamlin: He was cruising to a win at Bristol in May when he spun while leading in the final laps. The crash denied him back-to-back wins at the track, but Hamlin still managed to lead a race-high 131 laps, and his five Top 5s in the last 10 races here are tied for the most in the series.
  4. Chase Elliott: He ended up 22nd at Bristol in May after he crashed while battling for the lead with 10 to go, but Elliott also led 88 laps and swept both stages in the race. He has now led 30-plus laps in each of the last four races here, notching a couple of Top 5s in that stretch.
  5. Kyle Busch: Busch has always been a threat at Bristol, and he has been particularly locked in the last couple of years. He has three wins and five Top 5s in the last six races here, including a fourth-place run earlier this year. Busch also led 100 laps in the May race, and he has led at least 70-plus laps in four of his last six starts here. At the very least, he should be a strong option for Fantasy Live.
  6. Kevin Harvick: Bristol hasn't been his best track, but Harvick is tied for the series lead with seven Top 10s in the last 10 races here, and his only finish outside the Top 15 in that span was the result of a mechanical failure. He isn't my preferred choice as a Group A option in the Driver Group Game, but Harvick is a safe bet for a solid finish.
  7. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is at his best at the short tracks, and he has flat out been getting the job done at Bristol. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, he has six finishes of eighth or better in seven starts here, including five straight. Bowyer was the runner-up in the May Bristol race, gaining 21 spots in the process. I love him as a Group B option in the DGG, and I'd even consider him in Fantasy Live.
  8. Ryan Blaney: Speed certainly hasn't been an issue at Bristol for Blaney, but finishing off races has been a different story. He has led at least 60 laps in four of the last five races here, leading at least 100 laps three times, but he has managed just one Top 5 in that same stretch. The May race was a microcosm of his Bristol career as Blaney finished second in Stage 1 before crashing and finishing dead last. Blaney is the ultimate boom-or-bust pick this weekend, but he could carry a fantasy lineup.
  9. Kurt Busch: Like his younger brother, Kyle, Kurt has enjoyed his share of success at Bristol over the years. He isn't slowing down either, and he enters Saturday's race on a streak of four straight Top 10s at the track. Busch finished seventh at Bristol in May, and I expect a similar run this weekend. He should be a solid play in all season-long contests.
  10. Erik Jones: Tire issues have cost him some strong finishes at Bristol, but Jones has either cracked the Top 5 or led double-digit laps in five of his seven starts here. He picked up a fifth-place finish here back in May, and he will offer a similar upside this weekend. Don't hesitate to use him in the DGG, and Jones should have serious value in cash lineups and Slingshot Fantasy Auto thanks to his mid-pack starting spot.
  11. Jimmie Johnson: He is coming off a miserable race at Richmond, but a trip to Bristol could be just what the doctor ordered. Johnson finished third in the May race earlier this year, and over the last 10 races here, he is tied for the series lead with seven Top 10s and a 9.0 average finish. He should have plenty of value as a high-floor Group B option in the DGG, and he could be a monster in Slingshot Auto thanks to his poor starting spot.
  12. Austin Dillon: Dillon has come out of nowhere to open the playoffs with back-to-back Top 5s, and he could keep the momentum going this weekend. He finished sixth at Bristol in May, and he has four Top 15s in the last five races here. You may want to play the hot hand and give Dillon a try as a Group B option in the DGG.
  13. Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto was involved in a massive, multi-car wreck midway through the May race here, but he enjoyed a solid run before the accident, finishing seventh in Stage 1. Last year, he finished 12th and second in the two races at Bristol, leading 93 laps in the night race. DiBenedetto should be on your shortlist of Group B options for the DGG.
  14. Martin Truex Jr.: He can deliver a win at just about any track on any given week, but Truex has had a rough time at Bristol. He finished 20th in the May race, and he only has three Top 10s in 29 career starts here to go with a 20.6 average finish. I won't be using him in season-long contests, but I may throw him in one GPP lineup as a contrarian dominator.
  15. Ryan Newman: Newman knows how to muscle a car around Bristol, and he picked up a 15th-place finish in the May race earlier this year. He now has nine Top 15s in his last 10 starts here, including seven straight, to go along with a 12.4 average finish. Newman should be a safe alternative to the high-end Group B options in the DGG, and starting outside the Top 20; he's a great cash target on DraftKings.
  16. William Byron: After four finishes outside the Top 15 to begin his Cup career at Bristol, Byron delivered an eighth-place effort here in May, grabbing some points in Stage 2. It remains to be seen if it is a sign of things to come for him at Bristol, but he showed enough upside to be on fantasy radars this weekend.
  17. Alex Bowman: He was one of several drivers involved in a major wreck at Bristol in May, but he had finished in the Top 15 in three of his four previous starts here in the No. 88. Bowman should be able to flirt with the Top 15 again this weekend, but I don't think he offers enough upside to be a must-own in any format.
  18. Aric Almirola: Bristol has been a house of horrors for Almirola the last couple of years. He has crashed out of two of the last four races here, and he has finished 29th or worse in four straight starts. Almirola is normally a safe bet for a Top 15, but it is hard to trust him in any fantasy format this weekend.
  19. Christopher Bell: Bell had plenty of short track success in the lower series, and it carried over in Bristol debut in May when he notched a ninth-place finish. I wouldn't bank on another Top 10 this weekend, but I think Bell will be a Top 15 threat. Dial him up as a Group C starter in the Driver Group Game.
  20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Bristol is one of his best tracks outside of the superspeedways, and he has five finishes of 16th or better in the last nine races here, including three Top 10s. Granted, he has also crashed out of plenty of races in that same stretch, including the May race this year. Stenhouse is a high-risk, high-reward Group B sleeper in the DGG, but Stenhouse is best suited to be a GPP option on DraftKings.
  21. Bubba Wallace: Wallace has been solid at Bristol, cracking the Top 20 in four of his five starts. He finished 14th at Bristol in the night race last year, and he gained 26 spots and finished 10th in the May race earlier this year. Not only will he be a Group C sleeper for the DGG, but starting outside the Top 25, Wallace could have serious value in Slingshot Auto and at DraftKings.
  22. Tyler Reddick: A crash in his Bristol debut makes it tough to know what to expect from Reddick this weekend, but the rookie has shown all year that he has Top 10 upside. I recommend saving him for the 1.5-mile tracks still to come in the Driver Group Game, but I don't mind taking a flier on him in DFS.
  23. Cole Custer: Custer crashed out of his Bristol debut back in May, but he has opened the playoffs with back-to-back Top 15s and has four in the last five races overall. His recent momentum makes him a viable Group C option in the DGG, but his value is limited at DraftKings because of a solid starting spot.
  24. Matt Kenseth: The veteran managed a 16th-place finish a Bristol in May, and considering his struggles since jumping in the No. 42, that performance qualifies as one of his better efforts. Another Top 20 could be on tap this weekend, but he is still a fringe Group C option in the DGG, at best.
  25. Chris Buescher: He has picked up Top 20 finishes in the last two Bristol night races, but Buescher has just one Top 15, and a 23.2 average finish in nine career starts at the track. With limited upside, I'll probably roll the dice on different options when looking for DFS sleepers this weekend.
  26. Ryan Preece: Preece has enjoyed some minor success at Bristol, following up an 18th-place run last summer with a 12th-place effort in May when he gained 21 spots. I'd like to see him start a little deeper this weekend from a fantasy standpoint, but he has potential as a contrarian source of cap relief for GPP contests at the DFS sites.
  27. John Hunter Nemechek: The sample size is small, but Nemechek delivered a 13th-place finish in his Bristol debut earlier this year. Yes, he took advantage of a wreck-filled race, but regardless, a Top 20 finish seems possible. Starting deep in the field, Nemechek could be a useful source of cap relief in Slingshot Fantasy Auto and for DFS contests.
  28. Ty Dillon: Dillon has had a couple of Top 15 runs at Bristol, but he has also had several terrible outings at the track, including a 39th-place run in May. He is starting deep enough to have some potential as a low-priced DFS play, but he is a risky option even in those contests.
  29. Michael McDowell: He has had some rougher finishes in recent weeks, but McDowell did have a solid run at Bristol in May, coming away with a Top 15. Still, his career numbers at the track leave a lot to be desired, making him a shot-in-the-dark DFS option this weekend.
  30. Daniel Suarez: Suarez took advantage of the high attrition at Bristol in May to gain 19 spots and secure an 18th-place finish. He will need similar chaos to approach a Top 20 again this weekend, but he has potential as a DFS punt play thanks to a bad starting spot.
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