Following a trio of races in the Sunshine State, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. The 1.5-mile oval will host Sunday's Pennzoil 400, and the second race in a row at a mile-and-a-half track should provide an opportunity for Fantasy NASCAR owners to start building some positive momentum.
Granted, we won't see nearly the same level of tire wear this weekend as we did at Homestead last Sunday, but races at 1.5-mile tracks tend to be among the most predictable in terms of the top options living up to expectations. I think Las Vegas will have even fewer surprises because of less fall off with the tires.
With that in mind, I think you can confidently load up on some of the top drivers in both Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. Unless we see some ill-timed cautions, I think the drivers with the best cars will hog the stage points and compete for the win, creating the opportunity for some hefty point totals.
For Slingshot, I will try to take advantage of the stronger options that have some place differential upside. Thanks to NASCAR's qualifying formula, a few bigger names start deeper in the field because of rough starts to the year. As the cream rises to the top over the year, these opportunities will be harder to find. I suggest taking advantage in the meantime to try to post some bigger point totals.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Martin Truex Jr.
He showed plenty of speed last weekend at Homestead, and Truex gets around Las Vegas as well as any driver in the series. He has three top-10s, including a win, in the four races here with the new aero package, and he has logged double-digit fastest laps in seven straight starts here. From Row 2, I think Truex ends up in victory lane Sunday.
Hamlin doesn't have the most consistent record at Las Vegas, but he had the car to beat here last fall, leading a race-high 121 laps and logging 19 stage points. He will start sixth this weekend, and there is no reason he shouldn't be one of the main players for the win.
He was the victim of bad luck in both Vegas races last year, but Elliott led at least 70 laps in both starts. He also won three of the four stages in those events, collecting 37 stage points overall. Elliott should have no problem piling up more stage points Sunday when he rolls off inside the top 10.
His numbers at Vegas are actually kind of ugly, but Byron could have easily had top-10s in both races last year based on speed alone. More importantly, he went out and smashed the field last weekend at Homestead and will start on the front row Sunday, putting him in a perfect position for stage points. I am jumping on the Byron bandwagon.
Larson was solid at Las Vegas during his time with Chip Ganassi, finishing 12th, eighth and ninth in his last three starts. His move to Hendrick Motorsports should only raise his ceiling, and his strong run last weekend at Homestead has him rolling off third Sunday. I could see Larson hanging in the top 5 all afternoon.
Garage Driver – Kevin Harvick
I'm a little worried about his lack of speed at Homestead last weekend, but Harvick still salvaged a top-5 finish in that race and will start on the pole Sunday. He has also been strong at Vegas historically, leading more than 40 laps in five of the last seven races here. In case he stays up front all afternoon, I want him available.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
Kevin Harvick from the pole has plenty of potential in this spot, but Truex is starting in the top 5 and has shown just as much upside at Las Vegas the last couple of years. More importantly, I feel Truex showed a lot more raw speed than Harvick last weekend at Homestead, and Harvick didn't have the best showing here from the pole last fall. I like the idea of fading Harvick, who I expect to be the most popular play.
William Byron (B)
His numbers at Vegas leave a lot to be desired, but Byron had top-10s runs going in both races here last year before some late cautions jumbled things up. He is also coming off a dominating win at Homestead last weekend and will start on the front row. I'm expecting a top-5 finish and double-digit stage points. Kurt Busch is another potential top-5 threat.
Alex Bowman (B)
Bowman has locked in at Las Vegas with this rules package, cracking the top 15 in each of the last four races while posting an 8.8 average finish. Bowman has two finishes of sixth or better in that span, and he earned points in all four stages in last year's events. Starting in the top 10, look for the trend to continue this weekend. Kyle Larson should be another strong play, and I like Cole Custer as a sleeper.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (C)
There are many intriguing Group C options this year, and while I understand riding Michael McDowell's hot hand from a top-5 starting spot, I'm taking a chance on Stenhouse's upside. He is coming off a top-15 at Homestead, and he has finished sixth or better in the last two spring races at Vegas.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Joey Logano ($11,600)
Logano has one of the best in the business at Las Vegas with the current rules package, notching a 6.0 average finish and a pair of wins in four starts. Set to start 15th, Logano gives me a shot at the win, plenty of stage points, and 20+ differential points. He should be the total package in this format.
Ryan Blaney ($11,100)
His brutal start to the season has him starting 26th, but if not for a late caution, Blaney probably wins the spring race here last season. He has seven finishes of 11th or better in his nine starts here overall, and he has posted double-digit fastest laps in all four Vegas races with the reduced-horsepower package. He has the potential to finish at the No. 1 scorer.
Aric Almirola ($10,300)
Vegas hasn't been his best track, but he typically runs in or around the top 15 at the 1.5-mile ovals, and he has a 14.5 average finish in the four races at Las Vegas over the past two seasons. Starting 28th, he should gain 10+ spots with ease with an even higher ceiling.
Matt DiBenedetto ($9,100)
He didn't deliver the performance I was hoping for last weekend at Homestead, but I am doubling down at DiBenedetto again this weekend. He starts back in 30th, and he was the runner-up in both Vegas races a year ago. I'm not expecting a top-5 Sunday, but I do think he makes a push for a top-15 and 30-plus differential points.
Chase Briscoe ($7,800)
Rolling the dice on a rookie can be risky, but Briscoe managed an 18th-place finish last weekend at Homestead, and he will be able to lean on the place differential category from his 24th starting spot. I think he can at least crack the top 20 again Sunday. Fenway Racing teammates Chris Buescher and Ryan Newman are two other intriguing options in this price range.
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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