It has been about seven months, but the Cup Series returns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend for the second race of the season at the track and the ninth race of 2020 at a mile-and-a-half oval.
While plenty has chanced since the February race at Vegas, you won’t have to overthink your strategy when building Fantasy NASCAR lineups for Sunday’s South Point 400. More than any other type of track on the schedule, driver performance at 1.5-mile ovals like Las Vegas tends to remain similar across all tracks with a similar layout.
The top drivers from the top teams tend to be particularly strong at these tracks, and now that we are in the middle of the playoffs, don’t expect that trend to change. I’m sticking to these household names when assembling my lineups for Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, and if you have been listening to my advice about saving a few starts from the top options in each tier in the DGG, it is time to reap the rewards of this big-picture approach.
For Slingshot Fantasy Auto, I went with a more balanced approach overall. I targeted a couple of big names with the most to offer in the place differential category, and I went a little more aggressive with differential upside for my mid-priced picks. I’m currently sitting inside the Top 20 in this contest, and I feel this combination gives me a high ceiling while also protecting me from a disastrous performance.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
He led a race-high 92 laps and collected 13 stage points at Las Vegas in February, and Harvick has been a force at the mile-and-a-half ovals all year. He has scored the second-most points in the eight races, logging a series-high five Top 5s and leading the most laps. Starting from the pole, he is in prime position to be the top scorer, and he may sweep all the bonus categories.
Logano won at Vegas earlier this year, and no driver has scored more points in the last 10 races at the track. He has nine straight Top 10s here, winning two of the last three races and leading more than 40 laps seven times. Logano has been strong at 1.5-mile ovals in general, leading double-digit laps in seven of the eight races and leading more than 20 laps six times. Locked into a Top 5 starting spot, he should be a safe bet for a big point total.
No driver has been more consistent at the mile-and-a-half tracks in 2020 than Keselowski. He is the only driver who has finished in the Top 10 in all eight races, and his 6.8 average finish in those events paces the field. Keselowski has reeled off 10 straight Top 10s at Las Vegas, and his three wins, seven Top 5s and 3.6 average finish during that stretch all lead the series. Pencil him in for a strong showing Sunday.
After leading 70 laps and winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 at Las Vegas in February, a tire issue robbed Elliott of a potential victory. He had a fourth-place run at Vegas last fall, and he ranks in the Top 5 in points scored at 1.5-mile tracks this season. Starting third, a Top 5 finish and double-digit stage points seem like his floor.
Martin Truex Jr.
He had one of the strongest cars at Las Vegas in February, but after cracking the Top 3 in both stages, a tire problem knocked him out of contention for the win. Truex won the fall race at Vegas last year, and he ranks third in points scored at mile-and-a-half ovals in 2020.
Garage Driver – Kyle Busch
Ryan Blaney is another driver to strongly consider, and he has been much better than Kyle at the 1.5-mile tracks this season. However, Busch starts on the front row this weekend, and he has been slowly finding a little more speed. He nearly won last at Bristol last Saturday, and he led 52 laps at Kansas, the most recent race at a mile-and-a-half oval. I think the defending champ is going to have a breakout performance before the end of the year, and I want him available in case it happens at his home-state track.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kevin Harvick (A)
I thought about Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and both Team Penske drivers, but when in doubt, go with the driver who has been the best in the series all year. Harvick also starts from the pole, led the most laps at Vegas in February and has scored the second-most points at 1.5-mile tracks this season, leading the most laps in the eight events.
Ryan Blaney (B)
He had an abysmal opening round of the playoffs, but he has been a force at the mile-and-a-half ovals all year, scoring 57 more points than any other driver in the eight races. Blaney earned 16 stage points in the February race at Las Vegas, and he was leading before a caution in the final laps jumbled up the finishing order. This a track where you can maximize the value of one of the elite Group B options.
Aric Almirola (B)
Almirola has come into his own at the 1.5-mile tracks after a slow start. He has notched four straight Top 10s, posting a 7.2 average finish and earning the third-most points of any driver in those races. He should be able to battle for a Top 10, and set to start in the Top 5, Almirola is in great position to earn valuable stage points. Austin Dillon is another safe bet for a solid finish, and William Byron is an intriguing upside play.
Tyler Reddick (C)
I have been saving Reddick’s final starts for the remaining races at 1.5-mile tracks, and my patience should pay off this weekend. He has a 10.6 average finish in the eight races at mile-and-a-half ovals, and he ranks ninth in points scored. More importantly, he has scored 74 more points in those races than any other Group C option.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Martin Truex Jr. ($13,000)
A tire issue ruined his afternoon at Las Vegas earlier this year, but prior to the issues, Truex finished in the Top 3 in both stages and was a major player for his second win in a row at the track. He ranks third in points scored at mile-and-a-half ovals this year, and he is one of the few legitimate contenders who will start outside the Top 10. Truex should be an all-around force and 100-plus-point scorer this weekend.
Brad Keselowski ($11,600)
His issues at Bristol have him starting 12th, the worst among the remaining championship contenders. I’ll gladly take advantage of the added place differential upside at a track where Keselowski has been excellent. He has 10 straight Top 10s here, posting a 3.6 average finish and winning three times. Keselowski also owns a series-best 6.8 average finish at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020. He should cruise to 100-plus points.
William Byron ($8,600)
He has to start 28th after problems at Bristol knocked him out of the race and the playoffs, but Byron could capitalize on the place differential points he has available. He has finished 11th or better in three of the last four races at 1.5-mile ovals this season, and before the wacky finish the February race at Vegas, he has accumulated 12 stage points and looked like a Top 5 threat. If you want to go with a top-heavy lineup, I suggest paying up for Ryan Blaney and punting your final spot.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,500)
DiBenedetto isn’t a flashy pick, but he offers solid value compared to other drivers available with my remaining salary. He starts 19th, but he owns a 16.1 average finish in the eight races at 1.5-mile ovals, finishing 17th or better six times. Team Penske’s success at Vegas shouldn’t hurt his chances either, and at the very least, DiBenedetto should flirt with a Top 15 and 70-plus total points.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,300)
I’m rolling the dice on one of the most volatile drivers in the series, but with Stenhouse starting back in 33rd, the path for a big point total is there. His results have been all over the place at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, but he finished third at Las Vegas in February and has a 21.4 average finish in the eight races overall. A mid-pack finish will net him 30-plus differential points and 80-plus total points.