The first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is in the books, and Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon all saw their championship hopes come to an end after last weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval. The 12 drivers remaining will now turn their attention to Dover International Speedway, and “The Monster Mile” will host Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400.
This weekend’s race will be the second trip to the one-mile, concrete oval, but the stakes are obviously higher this time around, especially with a wild-card race at Talladega looming the following week. All the playoff drivers will be looking to secure a win this weekend to earn an automatic spot in the Round of 8.
In the season-long fantasy leagues, the end of the first round of the playoffs will have a big impact in the Fantasy Live game at NASCAR.com. The four drivers eliminated will now join the pool of non-playoff drivers, which means that these two roster spots suddenly have a lot more potential for stage points.
For the Driver Group Game, we are at the point in the season where your lineup decisions need to be based on how you have allocated your starts. There are several drivers who have excellent track records at Dover, and while I wouldn’t hesitate to use one of my final starts from the Big 3 or Chase Elliott in Group B, I probably wouldn’t burn my final start from guys like Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney or Erik Jones this weekend.
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FANTASY NASCAR RANKINGS
1. Martin Truex, Jr., Furniture Row
Truex has been a lock for a great finish at Dover since joining Furniture Row Racing. In nine starts here in the No. 78, he has a 5.7 average and hasn’t finished worse than 11th. More importantly, he has four straight Top 5s at Dover, and he has led more than 50 laps in three of those starts. His consistency gives him the top spot over the other two members of the Big 3 this weekend.
2. Kevin Harvick, Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer
He clobbered the field here in May, leading 201 of the 400 laps on his way to the win. Harvick has two wins at the track since 2015, and over his last nine Dover starts, he has led at least 90 laps five times.
3. Kyle Busch, M&M’s
While he hasn’t been as consistent at the other members of the Big 3 at Dover recently, Busch still offers just as much upside. After all, he won the fall race here last year, and he was the runner-up in the fall event in both 2016 and 2015. You are really splitting hairs when you pick between the Big 3 this weekend.
4. Kyle Larson, Credit One/DC Solar
Larson has done everything but win at Dover, logging seven Top 10s in nine starts to go along with an 8.1 average finish. He cracked the Top 5 in both races here last year, leading more than 130 laps in each. If you are fading any of the Big 3 this weekend, Larson should be an excellent alternative.
5. Brad Keselowski, Miller Lite/Discount Tires
He had one of the strongest cars in the May race at Dover earlier this year, leading 108 laps and finishing sixth. Keselowski has now cracked the Top 10 in four of his last five starts at the track, and he has led more than 25 laps in five of his last eight starts here. After the Big 3, Keselowski is one of the strongest fantasy options available in all formats.