The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, and while the high-banked short track can be a bit of challenge for fantasy owners, it can also be an opportunity to help your long-term outlook in many season-long leagues.
In both the NASCAR Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, you are limited with how many times you can use each driver over the course of the year. Short tracks like Bristol tend to be a little more unpredictable, and it isn’t uncommon to see several drivers outperform their typical results.
With that in mind, I like to have a balance of dependable options and mid-tier drivers in my lineups. Ideally, I’ll still be able to post a strong score this weekend while helping out my long-term lineup flexibility.
For the Slingshot game, a rather unexpected qualifying session has several solid options starting deeper in the field. As a result, I’m not really concerned with trying to get the 20 bonus points for picking the winner. Instead, I’ll be going after all of the place differential points.
Get ready for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with my fantasy picks, and you can always get in touch with me at @BPolking or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for advice or lineup tips on any fantasy NASCAR games not covered in this article.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
I’ve only got seven starts left from Busch, but it’s hard not to use another one this weekend after he grabbed the pole and posted the best 10-lap average speed in final practice. He is a six-time winner at Bristol, and he has led more than 150 laps in three of the last five races here. Busch could easily sweep the stages and win the race this weekend, and my bonus picks are going to reflect that.
Bristol is one of his favorite tracks, and Larson knows how to run up front here. He led 70-plus laps in both races here last year, picking up a stage win and finishing seventh or better in all four stages. Rolling off sixth, I expect Larson to continue to pile up stage points and contend for the win again this weekend. With nine starts still remaining from Larson, this is an easy pick for me.
Jones delivered a pair of impressive starts at Bristol as a rookie last year, finishing sixth or better in all four stages between the two races and finishing third or better twice. He also led the most laps and finished second in the night race. Starting 13th with a car that posted the best 10-lap average speed in the first practice Saturday, I think Jones will be able to get into the Top 10 during Stage 1 and end up challenging for Top 5.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse has amassed one of the most consistent records at Bristol, and his 10.8 average finish here since 2013 is the best in the series. Qualifying fourth puts him in great position to earn stage points, which provides a huge boost to his upside and his appeal. This is a golden opportunity to save a start from one of the top options while still posting a strong score.
He seemed happy with his car when they unloaded this weekend, and his Top 10 effort in qualifying backs up his confidence. It also puts him in a good position to earn some stage points. I definitely don’t foresee using Bowman 10 times this year, so if I can grab a solid score out of him this weekend while saving a start from one of the bigger names, it will also help my long-term lineup flexibility.
Garage Driver – Clint Bowyer
I’m taking a bit of a chance on some midrange plays this weekend, so I want my bench driver to be more of a sure thing. Bowyer finished second at Bristol last spring, and starting in the Top 15 with a car that looked solid in practice, he’s primed to earn some stage points. Whether one of my picks has trouble or Bowyer simply has one of the best cars, I’ll have the option to swap him in.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
It seems like Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are the class of the field this year, and while Havick has been more consistent at Bristol than the other two, Busch offers the most upside. He’s also starting on the pole while the other two are starting outside the Top 25. Busch’s six wins here are the most among active drivers, and Busch has led the most laps of any driver in the series by a wide margin. I like his chances of winning this weekend, so I don’t mind using up a start.
I consider Jones one of the bigger names in Group B, but when I feel a Group B driver has a legitimate chance to win, I don’t mind using up a start. Jones ran in the Top 5 for stretches in both races at Bristol last year, leading more than half the laps and finishing second in the night race. He’s starting 13th, but he showed strong speed in practice Saturday. I’m expecting a strong showing from him.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Bristol has been one of the few tracks where Stenhouse has been dependable, and his 10.8 average finish at the track over the last 10 races is actually the best in the series. He has finished sixth or better four times during that stretch and outside the Top 20 only once. After a Top 5 qualifying effort, it’s the perfect time to try to squeeze a start out of one of the more unpredictable Group B options.
While Alex Bowman once again looks like the top Group C play, I have a hard time using up one of his starts at a track where things can get a little chaotic. Buescher starts 22nd, but he popped up in the Top 15 in both practices Saturday. He should be able to finish in the top half of the field, and I think he is a safer play long term in this scoring system.