The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back at Dover International Speedway this weekend for the start of the second round of the playoffs. The one-mile, concrete oval will host Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400, and thanks in large part to the lack of an infield between the outside and inside retaining walls, the track has earned the nickname “The Monster Mile” for its ability to tear up racecars.
For as rough as Dover can be at times, it has actually been a fantasy-friendly track overall. The big names trend to live up to expectations here, and last season, six drivers who cracked the Top 10 in the spring race also finished in the Top 10 in the fall. Needless to say, I went back and looked at my lineups from the May race to see how they performed.
In that spring race, I tried to take advantage of how well the Big 3 have performed at Dover in recent years when building my Fantasy Live lineup. The strategy worked well as Kevin Harvick scored the maximum 60 points for the race earned me all the bonus points since I picked him to deliver the clean sweep. Kyle Busch did end up burning me after he suffered an engine issue late in the race, but considering he amassed 17 stage points, this was a case of bad luck and not a bad play.
I also had a solid afternoon in the Driver Group Game by sticking mainly to bigger names. All four of my drivers cracked the Top 15, including my Group C play, William Byron. I wish I would have gotten more out of the Group A pick than the Top 10 Kyle Larson provided, but the third-place finish from Daniel Suarez as a Group B play was a nice surprise.
Yes, the format has changed slightly for Fantasy Live now that the playoffs have begun, but building around the Big 3 worked the first time around, and it can work again this weekend, especially since the field was set by owner points. We also have four more names added to the pool of non-playoff drivers after the first wave of eliminations that you should take advantage of. I will also be running out a very similar lineup in the Driver Group Game.
Check out a complete look at all my season-long Fantasy NASCAR picks for Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover, and good luck conquering “The Monster Mile” this weekend.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kevin Harvick (Playoff)
Harvick has actually been a little boom or bust at Dover in terms of finishing position, but he always seems to bring a fast car. That was especially true back in May when he swept both stages, led a race-high 201 laps and went to victory lane. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, he has led more than 90 laps in five of his nine starts here, leading more than 200 laps three times. Starting on the front row with a car that was considered the best in practice by many of his competitor, a repeat of his performance in the spring race could be on tap.
Kyle Larson (Playoff)
It was hard not to go with Kyle Busch for this spot, but in the two practices NASCAR has fit in between the rain, Larson sat atop the charts. He also showed excellent long-run speed. Larson has seven Top 10s and an 8.1 average finish in nine career starts at Dover, and he has led at least 85 laps in three of the last five races here. Larson appears to have one of the cars to beat this weekend, and I think he will quickly move from 10th into the Top 5 and end up outscoring Kyle Busch.
He has no one to blame but himself for being eliminated from the playoffs, but if there is a silver lining for Johnson, it’s the fact that he gets to head to one of his best tracks. He is an 11-time winner at Dover, and he has four straight Top 10s here, including a ninth-place run in May when he finished eighth and fourth in the two stages. A solid finish seems like a given, and starting 13th with a car that cracked the To 10 in average speed in final practice, he won’t have far to go to earn stage points.
His teammate, Daniel Suarez, has great numbers here, but Jones showed plenty of speed in the lone practice session Saturday. In addition to posting the third-fastest lap overall, he ranked in the Top 10 in average speed for the session. Yes, he starts back in 16th, but with the field being set by points, none of the other non-playoff drivers are starting up front either. Meanwhile, Jones seems to have the speed to earn some stage points. Denny Hamlin could also be in play here, but he is too mistake prone for my taste.
Garage Driver – Martin Truex Jr. (Playoff)
Truex has been the most consistent of the Big 3 at Dover, and he has finished in the Top 5 in four straight starts here. He has also earned points in five of the six stages here since 2017, finishing third or better in four of them and picking up a couple of stage wins. He will get to start third Sunday, so he could easily earn the most stage points of any driver this weekend. I want him available this weekend.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
You can make an argument for any of the Big 3 for this spot, but I’m saving my final start from Kyle Busch for Martinsville, and Kevin Harvick hasn’t been able to match the consistency of Truex at Dover. In his nine starts in the No. 78 here, he has a 5.7 average finish and hasn’t finished worse than 11th. Truex has also reeled off four straight Top 5s at Dover heading into Sunday’s race, and he is set to start third.
Chase Elliott (B)
Although his first Cup Series win came at Watkins Glen a few months, that first trip to victory lane nearly came at Dover last fall when Elliott led a race-high 138 laps before being passed late by Kyle Busch. In five starts here, he has four Top 5 finishes and a 5.0 average finish, and he has finished third or better three times. He will roll off from the ninth position, and he cracked the Top 5 in Happy Hour. With four starts left from Elliott, I can use him Sunday and will still have him available for Martinsville and Phoenix, two of his best tracks.
Daniel Suarez (B)
He has quickly amassed an impressive resume at Dover, and in three Cup starts here, Suarez has never finished outside the Top 10. He actually has a 5.7 average finish in those starts, and he finished third in the spring race earlier this year while posting the sixth-best average running position and fifth-best driver rating. This is a great chance to sneak a Top 10 out of Suarez while saving a start from guys like Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones.
William Byron (C)
The rookie had a solid Dover debut back in May, coming away with a 14th-place finish. He didn’t steal that finish with pit strategy or catch a break on some late restarts either. Byron posted the 16th-best average running position in that race, and he spent more than half the laps running in the Top 15. Looking at his practice times, Byron should at least be able to crack the Top 20 Sunday.