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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is at Bristol Motor Speedway, and while short track races can have higher attrition and be a little tougher to predict, they also provide an opportunity to get a little creative with your fantasy lineups. That’s exactly what I plan to do with many of my season-long lineups for Sunday’s Food City 500.
If you’ve been reading my articles this year, then you know that I haven’t exactly been shy about using the top drivers in the early weeks. The strategy has worked thus far, and I’m currently ranked No. 7 overall at Slingshot Fantasy Auto and sitting in the 99.8 percentile at Fantasy Live.
The problem is that I can’t use guys like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano every single week for Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, so when I think I have an opportunity to post a big point total with some alternative options, I try to take advantage.
Bristol can be a track that provides that opportunity, and fortunately, most of the drivers I was eyeing coming into the weekend have been living up to my expectations. Needless to say, I am giving most of the heavy hitters a week off in Fantasy Live and the DGG.
For the Slingshot contest, I don’t have to worry about the number of times I use each driver, so I am going to be sticking to my strategy of using any driver who has both some place differential potential and a good shot at some stage points and a great finish. The strategy can be a little conservative at times, but it has been paying dividends thus far.
Check out all of my season-long Fantasy NASCAR picks for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Elliott grabbed the pole for Sunday’s race, and he showed last August that he can be dangerous when starting up front. He qualified second in that race, leading 112 laps and finishing third. Elliott also finished fourth and second in the two stages. A similar performance could be on tap this weekend, and I love his chances of grabbing double-digit stage points.
It looked like Blaney might win Stage 1 of the spring race last year, but he got tangled in lap traffic and crashed after leading 100 of the first 117 laps. He came back in August and finished seventh, leading 121 laps and finishing first and fifth in the two stages. Blaney has been fast all weekend, and he should be a threat for the win and a ton of stage points after qualifying third.
His ceiling is usually at its highest at the short tracks, and Bristol has been no exception. Bowyer has finished in the Top 10 in three of his four starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing, finishing eighth and sixth in the two races last year. He also finished sixth or better in three of the four stages here last season, finishing third in Stage 1 of both events. After securing a Top 10 starting spot, Bowyer is positioned for another solid run at one of his best tracks.
Johnson has actually been the most consistent performer at Bristol recently, scoring more points than any other driver over the last 10 races here. During that stretch, he leads all drivers with five Top 5s, and his seven Top 10s are tied for the most. Johnson finished in the Top 10 in both races here last year, and he earned points in all four of the stages. He rolls off 10th Sunday, and history says he will be hanging around the front all afternoon.
He nearly won the August race here in 2017, and Jones just seems to have a great feel for this place. Even with some tire issues in the spring race, he managed to earn points in three of the four stages at Bristol 2018, finishing in the Top 5 in the night race. More stage points could be coming his way this weekend after a fourth-place effort in qualifying.
Garage Driver – Denny Hamlin
He’s been hot and cold at Bristol throughout his career, but Hamlin has been one of the best in the business so far in 2019, and he’s showing speed again this weekend. Starting fifth, I think he is headed for another strong run. Ideally, I can save him for another week, but I think he’s a great option to have in my back pocket if one of my starters has issues.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Joey Logano (A)
I had Kyle Larson slotted here coming into the weekend, but while I wouldn’t be surprised to see him figure things out on Sunday, he sure didn’t show his usual speed in practice. Meanwhile, Logano qualified eighth and posted solid times in both practice sessions, and he’s been one of the most reliable performers at Bristol for years.
Jimmie Johnson (B)
His 8.3 average finish over the last 10 races at Bristol is the best in the series, and during that same stretch, he is tied for first with seven Top 10s and leads all drivers with five Top 10s. The blend of reliability and upside is perfect for a track like Bristol, and a Top 10 qualifying effort should help his cause.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (B)
Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones are all great options, but while I should be able to get strong finishes out of all four of those drivers at a lot of other tracks, Bristol is probably the only track outside of Daytona and Talladega where I have a shot at getting a Top 5 finish out of Stenhouse. He has four Top 5s, six Top 10s and a 10.2 average finish over the last 10 races here. Yes, he qualified back in 19th, but Stenhouse has started 19th or worse and finished inside the Top 10 in five of the last 10 Bristol races.
Matt DiBenedetto (C)
I was planning to use Ryan Preece in this spot, but after qualifying 30th, he ended up cutting a tire and crashing his primary car in practice. On the flip side, DiBenedetto has shown Top 15 speed this weekend, and given his decent results at Bristol in lesser equipment, I think he could surprise on Sunday.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kyle Busch ($13,500)
He is going to be a popular play after qualifying 17th, but when you add a decent amount of place differential upside to a driver who has seven wins at Bristol, he’s tough to pass up. Busch has won two of the last three races here, and he has led over 100 laps in four of the last seven. I’m expecting a huge point total.
Kevin Harvick ($12,800)
Harvick showed excellent speed throughout both of Saturday’s sessions, and he appears to have a car capable of contending for the win and earning some stage points. Starting outside the Top 10, he also has a little place differential potential. I think he will be an all-around fantasy force.
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,200)
I was leaning towards Kurt Busch or Kyle Larson after qualifying, but both drivers left a lot to be desired in practice. Truex cracked the Top 10 in both sessions, and starting 23rd, he has more differential upside than Larson and almost as much as Busch. His Bristol resume doesn’t stack up with those two, but Truex appears to have a better car this weekend.
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,000)
DiBenedetto has managed decent results at Bristol in the past despite some weak equipment, and now that he’s in the No. 95, he looks ready to make some real noise. He cracked the Top 15 in the first session Saturday and finished inside the Top 10 in Happy Hour. Afterwards, he took to Twitter to say how happy he was with his car. Starting 21st, I think he could be a steal.
Ross Chastain ($5,000)
In order to make my lineup work, I needed a punt play. Starting dead last, Chastain is the safest play on the board. At the very least, he isn’t going to lose you any point, and he did finish 26th at Bristol last summer. There is usually some attrition here, so I’m hoping he can stay out of trouble and sneak into the Top 30.