The second road course race of the 2018 season is on tap this weekend as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen International. Road racing is a much different discipline and a much different challenge for the drivers and teams, and fittingly, fantasy owners will want to take a different approach when building many of their season-long Fantasy NASCAR lineups for Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen.
While the games aren’t identical, Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game both limit the number of times you can use each driver. You can’t use the Big 3 and the other top options every race. Choosing when to use alternative options is critical, and I like using the road courses to save starts from the top options.
For one, the gap between the top guys and the rest of the field tends to be a little smaller at the road courses, especially when you drop below the weekly Top 5 threats. Pit strategy also tends to be more of a factor at road courses, which can cause the top cars to miss out on stage points and can allow average cars to steal solid finishes.
In fact, only three drivers earned points in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 at Watkins Glen last year, and earlier this year at Sonoma, only two drivers earned points in both stages. Perhaps more telling, Martin Truex Jr. dominated the Sonoma race, leading 62 laps and winning, without earning a single stage point.
Of course if you happen to have a bunch more starts left with the Big 3 in Fantasy Live, feel free to use them this weekend. For everyone else, I recommend saving the studs in both Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
For Slingshot Fantasy Auto, I’ll be taking advantage of the two drivers who failed inspection and pairing them with a couple of big names. You could also try to load up your lineup with all the decent options starting in the middle of the pack, but I like the idea of having a couple of studs instead of hoping that multiple mid-pack options come through with solid runs.
Follow me on Twitter at @BPolking for updates, and feel free to message me or e-mail me at email@example.com with any Fantasy NASCAR questions for Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Bowyer is one of the best in the business at road courses, and he has logged seven Top 10s in the last 10 road races, including a fifth-place run at Watkins Glen last year and a third-place finish at Sonoma back in June. Stage points are going to be tough to predict, but even after a mid-pack qualifying run, I love Bowyer’s chances of challenging for a Top 5 and delivering more than 30 fantasy points for his finishing position alone.
He has been on a roll at the road courses, reeling off five straight Top 10s and finishing first and fourth, respectively, in his last two starts at Watkins Glen. He also won Stage 2 at Sonoma earlier this year, so there is a chance that he will be on a strategy that earns some stage points again this weekend. If not, he should at least be in the mix for a Top 5 after grabbing the pole for Sunday’s race.
He has been as consistent as any driver in the series at the road courses, and Busch’s eight Top 10s in the last 10 road races are tied for the most in the series. He also ranks second with seven Top 10s in the last 10 races at The Glen. Yes, he is starting in the back after inspection issues, but he started 23rd at Sonoma in June and still finished sixth. Regardless of his strategy, I think he is a save bet to eclipse 30 points with his finish alone, and I’m hoping starting at the rear forces him into some early stage points.
He tends to be a boom-or-bust fantasy option at the road courses, and back at Sonoma in June, he won Stage 1 before missing a shift and finishing last because of a blown motor. Still, the upside is tough to pass up, especially since The Glen has bene his best track. In nine starts here, he has six Top 10s and has only finished outside the Top 15 once. Allmendinger also picked up points in both stages here a year ago and will start in the Top 10 this weekend. I’m rolling the dice because I won’t have another chance to get this many points out of Allmendinger.
Elliott has quietly become a solid performer at the road courses. Last year, he finished third in Stage 1 on his way to a Top 15 at The Glen, and he was excellent at Sonoma in June, finishing fourth in the race and fourth and second, respectively, in the two stages. Elliott is slated to roll off third with a car that has been fast all weekend. I think he is a Top 5 threat, and the potential for plenty of stage points is there.
Garage Driver – Erik Jones
He showed plenty of speed in practice and qualified in the Top 10, and Jones has wasted no time amassing some solid finishes at the road courses. He notched a Top 10 in his Watkins Glen debut last year, finishing fifth in Stage 2. Jones also finished seventh at Sonoma back in June, proving his Top 10 at The Glen was no fluke. I think he should be able to provide a solid finish, and if he ends up on a strategy that gets him some stage point, I can swap him into my starting lineup.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
I can only use the Big 3 a total of 27 times this year, and the road courses and superspeedways are great spots to use somebody else. Since the start of 2016, Hamlin has four Top 5s and five Top 10s in five road course starts, picking up a win at The Glen. After grabbing the pole, it seems like the perfect time to use him.
Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer are the top plays in this tier, but they are both consistent Top 10 options at any track. The same cannot be said for a lot of other drivers, including McMurray, so I’m going to try to save starts from both of them while I have some appealing alternatives. McMurray has four Top 15s in his last five starts at The Glen, and he cracked the Top 10 in both practices Saturday. He qualified 14th, and I’m hoping he can finish inside the Top 15, as well.
Again, I was tempted to use Busch or Bowyer, but I’m sticking to my big picture strategy. Plus, Kenseth has quietly become one of the steadier performers at The Glen, cracking the Top 15 in nine of his last 10 starts and notching four straight Top 10s. I’m not expecting a Top 10 Sunday, especially after a rough qualifying effort, but a veteran like Kenseth should be able to work his way into the top half of the field.
The road courses are a perfect spot to save a start from the usual Group C guys, and McDowell is one of the more underrated road racers in the series. He has three straight Top 20s at The Glen, including a 12th-place run last year. He will start 12th after making the final round of qualifying, and I should be able to get a solid finish and save guys like Alex Bowman and William Byron for later in the year.