The Cup Series welcomes another new addition to the schedule this weekend when it visits Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Technically, Sunday's Jockey Made in America 250 will be the second Cup event at the 4-mile, 14-turn road course, but unless you happened to catch the 1956 race, this will be a new experience for both drivers and fans.
Although the XFINITY Series has been running at Road America since 2010, the return of the Cup Series to the track is part of NASCAR's added emphasis on road courses for 2021. Sunday's race will be the fourth road course event so far this season. From a fantasy standpoint, road courses can present some unique challenges, but they also create some opportunities.
While it is true that stage points can be tough to predict at times because of pit strategy, road courses are also a chance to get creative with your fantasy lineups. While plenty of the weekly studs also excel at road racing, there are also some mid-level drivers who enjoy a boost in performance. Throw in part-time options like A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Cindric, and you can assemble some strong lineups without relying solely on the usual big names.
Yes, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and Martin Truex Jr. are all among the elite road racers, but these drivers are also able to pile up points at just about any track on the schedule, and Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game limit how many times you can use each driver. You have to pick and choose when to fade these big names, and a road course allows you to use some different contrarians when their ceilings are higher than at a typical oval track.
With Road America essentially being a new addition to the Cup schedule, NASCAR will have a practice session on Saturday before qualifying on Sunday before the race. I'll add my Slingshot picks after the starting lineup is set, and I will also make adjustments to my Fantasy Live and DGG lineups if necessary.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
To say that Logano likes the rules package being used at the road courses would be a major understatement. He has six straight top-10s dating back to the Charlotte Roval last year, and he has four straight finishes of fourth or better. Logano has a 3.0 average finish in the three road course events this season, scoring an average of 46.0 points per race.
He can be a bit of a boom-or-bust fantasy option, but you have to love the upside Chastain has shown at the road courses in his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing. Since crashing at the Daytona Roval, Chastain has bounced back with a fourth-place finish at COTA and a seventh-place run at Sonoma. There aren't many tracks where I feel Chastain has legit top-10 potential, so I will try to steal a strong finish out of him this weekend.
Over the last 10 road course events, Busch is tied for fifth in the series in points and is tied for third with six top-10s. He has been even better since joining Chip Ganassi Racing, logging three finishes of sixth or better in the last four road races. Busch isn't an elite fantasy option weekly, but he is one of the best in the business when it comes to road courses. I'm going to take advantage.
Allmendinger is one of the best road racers around. After spending the last couple of years piling up some XFINITY wins, he returned to the Cup Series with Kaulig Racing. He immediately notched finishes of seventh and fifth at the Daytona Roval and COTA, respectively. Allmendinger will pilot a Kaulig entry again this weekend at Road America, and there is no reason he shouldn't be a top-5 threat.
McDowell has finished 12th or better in four of the last six road course events, and if he hadn't been spun on the last lap at Sonoma, he would be sitting on top-10s in all three road races this season. He is one of the more experienced road racers in the Cup Series, and he owns an XFINITY Series win at Road America. He should be in the mix for a top-10 Sunday.
Garage Driver – Austin Cindric
He ended up 25th at COTA in his road course debut at the Cup level, but the final result is misleading. Cindric led a few laps early, and he finished in the top 5 in both Stage 1 and Stage 2. If not for the race being called for rain shortly after he had pitted, a top-15 was probably the worst-case scenario. Cindric is a road racing stud, and he won the XFINITY race at Road America last year. If he piles up stage points again Sunday, I won't hesitate to slide him into my starting lineup.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Chase Elliott (A)
Nobody has been better at the road courses the last couple of years than Elliott. He has an incredible six wins in that span, and he also leads all drivers with seven top-5s, eight top-10s, and a 7.2 average finish. So far this year, Elliott has led the most laps at the Daytona Roval, won at COTA, and finished second at Sonoma. Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. are my top alternatives if you want to fade/save Elliott.
Kurt Busch (B)
Kyle Larson is the top option in this tier, but with the potential for pit strategy to jumble up stage points, I will save him for the intermediate ovals where he has been next to unstoppable. Busch is a high-upside alternative in his own right, and he has finished sixth or better in three of the last four road course events. Over the last 10 road races, his 312 points scored are tied for the fifth-most.
Chris Buescher (B)
I'm trying to save some starts from the top options in this tier, and while he doesn't have a ton of upside, Buescher should be a relatively safe play. He has finished in the top 20 in all 12 road course events since 2017, posting a 14.83 average finish overall in that span. This year, he has finished 16th or better in all three road course events. Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman are two strong alternatives if you have the starts to spare.
A.J. Allmendinger (C)
There are several solid options in this tier, including series regulars Ross, Chastain, Michael McDowell, and Chase Briscoe, and road course ringer Austin Cindric. Instead, I'll go with the other part-time road racing ace. Allmendinger will drive a Kaulig Racing entry this weekend, and in two starts for the team this year, he has a seventh-place finish at the Daytona Roval and a fifth-place effort at COTA. I can't pass up his top-5 upside.
NASCAR guru Brian Polking has been committed to producing Fantasy NASCAR coverage for nearly a decade and written countless articles for his devoted audience who swear by his advice year after year.
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