Fantasy NASCAR: South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Driver Rankings

Brian Polking

The second round of the Cup Series playoffs begins this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and after back-to-back short track events to close the Round of 16, we will get back to the bread and butter of the schedule with a trip to a mile-and-a-half oval.

Sunday's South Point 400 is actually the second race of the year at Vegas, but the first event took place way back in February. While the first Vegas race seems like an eternity ago, we have had plenty of other races at 1.5-mile tracks, eight in total in 2020 thus far.

Looking at how drivers performed at Las Vegas the first time around is definitely worth your while, I think it is even more helpful to look at how drivers have performed across all the races at mile-and-a-half tracks this season. The same drivers and team tend to have success at all the high-speed, intermediate ovals like Las Vegas, and I don’t expect the trend to end now.

  1. Kevin Harvick: Harvick already has a career-high nine wins under his belt in 2020 after his victory at Bristol Saturday night, and I don't expect him to slow down this weekend. He led a race-high 92 laps back at Las Vegas in February, and he has led double-digit laps in five straight starts here, leading 80-plus laps three times. Starting from the pole, Harvick should be able to carry a lineup in any fantasy format this weekend.
  2. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski is the definition of a high-floor fantasy play this weekend. He has 10 straight finishes of seventh or better at Las Vegas, winning three times and posting a 3.6 average finish in that stretch. He is also owns a series-best 6.8 average finish at 1.5-mile ovals in 2020, and he is the only driver to crack the Top 10 in all eight of those races.
  3. Joey Logano: He led 54 laps and picked up the win at Las Vegas back in February, and Logano has won two of the last three races here while also logging nine straight Top 10s. He has led laps in every race during the stretch, leading at least 25 laps eight times and topping 40 laps led seven times. Logano is a must-start in Fantasy Live, and you will want plenty of exposure in DFS contests.
  4. Martin Truex Jr.: Truex picked up the win at Las Vegas last fall, and while he finished 20th here in February, he finished in the Top 3 in both stages and was a factor for the win before a tire issue. For the year, he ranks third in points scored in the eight races at 1.5-mile ovals, and in the last five of those races, he has finished third or better and led 40-plus laps three times.
  5. Chase Elliott: He had the car to beat at Las Vegas back in February, leading 70 laps and sweeping the first two stages before a tire issue ruined his afternoon. That performance came after a fourth-place effort in the fall race here last year, so all signs point to Elliott being a Top 5 option this weekend.
  6. Ryan Blaney: While his first-round playoff exit could suck a little life out of Blaney, I expect the No. 12 machine to be fast this weekend. He has finished in the Top 5 in three of his five Las Vegas starts with Team Penske, and he was leading before a late caution and questionable pit strategy cost him a win here in February. Blaney’s 360 points scored in the eight races at mile-and-a-half ovals in 2020 are 57 more than any other driver. He will be one of my Group B options in the Driver Group Game this weekend.
  7. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has actually been a little boom or bust at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, but he has four Top 5s in the eight races, including a win in the most recent at Kansas. He only has two Top 5s in 17 starts at Las Vegas, but Hamlin has shown enough speed in 2020 that you still have to consider him a threat this weekend, even if he isn’t a must-start fantasy option.
  8. Kyle Busch: Ever the optimist, Busch predicted he would be eliminated in this round of the playoffs, but while it has been a down year, he has been trending up at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has finished sixth or better in three of the last five races at mile-and-a-half ovals, leading laps in all of those starts and leading 52 laps and winning Stage 1 at Kansas. Busch offers Top 5 upside, especially with spot on the front row.
  9. Aric Almirola: He has caught fire at the mile-and-a-half tracks, ripping off four straight Top 10s and leading 30-plus laps in two of those races. Almirola has also been solid at Las Vegas, notching four Top 15s and three Top 10s in five starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing. A Top 5 starting spot further boosts his upside, making him a great Group B target in the DGG.
  10. Kurt Busch: Busch struggled at Las Vegas back in February, but he has been rock solid at the 1.5-mile tracks overall, logging six Top 10s and a 10.2 average finish in the eight races. He will start in the Top 10 Sunday, and like Busch as a high-floor Group B option in the Driver Group Game.
  11. Austin Dillon: Dillon was a surprise force in the Round of 16, and he has been solid at the 1.5-mile tracks all year. He has a 10.6 average finish in the eight races, cracking the Top 15 seven times. Dillon finished fourth at Las Vegas in February, and he has four Top 15s in the last five races here. He’s worth considering as a Group starter in the DGG.
  12. Tyler Reddick: The rookie has been at his best at the 1.5-mile tracks this season, posting a 10.6 average finish in the eight races while logging four Top 10s. He also ranks ninth in the series with 248 points scored in those events, giving him a 74-point edge on any other Group C option in the Driver Group Game. If you have starts remaining for Reddick in the DGG, this is a track to use one of them.
  13. William Byron: He ended up 22nd at Las Vegas earlier this year, but Byron had one of the better cars in that event, finishing sixth and fourth in the two stages. He has also finished 11th or better in three of the last four races at 1.5-mile tracks. Byron will have to start deeper in the field thanks to his issues at Bristol last weekend, giving him a ton of upside for DFS contests and for Slingshot Fantasy Auto.
  14. Clint Bowyer: While he doesn't offer much upside, Bowyer has proven to be a steady performer at the 1.5-mile tracks, especially the second half of the season. He has four straight finishes of 14th or better, and he finished 12th at Las Vegas back in February. If you are looking for a safe, solid Group B option in the DGG, Bowyer should be able to deliver a Top 15.
  15. Erik Jones: Jones isn't the first person to have bad luck in Las Vegas, and in six career starts, he has one Top 10 and a 22.5 average finish. On the flip side, he did show some muscle in the two most recent races at mile-and-a-half tracks, finishing sixth at Texas and fifth at Kansas, so he has some potential as a high-risk, high-reward contrarian play this weekend.
  16. Alex Bowman: He has been decent at Las Vegas, and Bowman has three straight Top 15s at the track, including a sixth-place run last fall. Unfortunately, he has had a bad habit of fading late in races at 1.5-mile tracks this year. Bowman has collected plenty of stage points and ranks 13th in total points in the eight events, but he also has just one Top 10 and an 18.8 average finish. He has upside if he can put together an entire race, but I'd probably avoid him in contests that place a high priority on finishing position.
  17. Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto was the runner-up at Las Vegas in February, but he was more of a Top 15 performer before a late caution jumbled things up. He owns a 16.1 average finish in the eight races at 1.5-mile ovals overall, finishing between 14th and 17th in four of those events. Expect him to land in or around the Top 15 Sunday.
  18. Cole Custer: His win at Kentucky is the highlight of his season, but Custer has been able to crack the Top 20 in six of the eight races at 1.5-mile tracks as a rookie, logging a Top 10 at Kansas in the most recent of those events. If you have used up your starts from Tyler Reddick in the DGG, Custer is my top Group C alternative.
  19. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson had a strong showing at Las Vegas earlier in the year, picking up a Top 5 finish and earning points in both stages. However, his numbers at 1.5-mile tracks have plummeted after a solid start, and he has finished outside the Top 15 in the last four races and outside the Top 25 in the last two. I won't be using him in season-long contests this weekend.
  20. Christopher Bell: As is often the case with rookies, Bell's numbers have been up and down all year, especially at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has a 17.5 average finish in the eight races, notching three Top 10s but failing to crack the Top 20 four times. Starting outside the Top 25, it could be worth taking a chance on his upside in DFS contests.
  21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: He opened the year with two Top 5s in the first three races at 1.5-mile tracks, including a third-place run at Las Vegas, but Stenhouse's numbers have been going in the wrong direction. He has finished 20th or worse in the last four races at mile-and-a-half ovals, finishing 29th or worse in three straight. Stenhouse is a risky play, but starting outside the Top 30, he's an intriguing roll-of-the-dice play for DFS contests.
  22. Ryan Newman: The 1.5-mile tracks haven't been a strong suit, but Newman does have four finishes between 13th and 17th in the eight races. Starting outside the Top 25, he should end up being a safe, lower-priced options in cash lineups, but he doesn't have much ceiling.
  23. Chris Buescher: Buescher hasn't been able to replicate his production at the 1.5-mile tracks from a year ago, and through eight races, he owns a 20.4 average finish. Perhaps more importantly, he hasn't been able to exploit the place differential category at these tracks thanks to NASCAR's COVID qualifying format. Buescher could crack the Top 20 Sunday, but he won't have much upside from the 16th starting spot.
  24. Matt Kenseth: The veteran has had his share of struggles since taking over the No. 42 ride, and the 1.5-mile ovals have been especially troublesome. He has a 21.3 average finish in seven starts, and his best finish is a 15th-place effort at Atlanta. A Top 20 is probably the best-case scenario.
  25. John Hunter Nemechek: Outside of a crash at Kentucky, Nemechek has held his own at the mile-and-a-half ovals despite below average equipment. He has a 21.5 average finish in the eight races, cracking the Top 25 seven and notching four Top 20s. The rookie has some sleeper appeal at the DFS sites.
  26. Michael McDowell: He has been solid at the mile-and-a-half ovals this year, especially in the second half. McDowell has compiled a 21.6 average finish in the eight races, finishing 16th or better in three of the last four. McDowell has some sleeper potential, but a Top 20 starting spot makes him a GPP-only play for me.
  27. Bubba Wallace: Wallace finished sixth at Las Vegas in February, but his overall numbers at the 1.5-mile tracks paint a much different picture. He has a 24.1 average finish in the eight races, finishing outside the Top 20 five times and finishing 37th or worse three times. The risk probably won't be worth the reward.
  28. Ty Dillon: He actually managed a Top 10 finish at Vegas earlier this year, but as I have mentioned, the wild finish to that race jumbled up the running order. Dillon owns a 23.1 average finish in the eight races at 1.5-mile ovals overall, and he has finished 25th or worse five times. There's not much to get excited about with Dillon.
  29. Corey LaJoie: For a driver from a small team, LaJoie has held his own at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, cracking the Top 25 in five of the eight races and finishing 16th and 21st in the two most recent events. Throw in a poor starting spot for Sunday’s race, and LaJoie has some potential as a DFS punt play.
  30. Ryan Preece: The 1.5-mile ovals have brutal for Preece this season. He has an ugly 30.6 average finish in the eight races, and he failed to crack the Top 20 in any of those starts. Preece can be ignored this weekend. 

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