While the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads into its final off weekend of the 2018 season, the XFINITY Series will be in action at Road America. Saturday’s Johnsonville 180 will be the third road course event in the last four races for the XFINITY teams, but even by road course standards, this race is a little extreme.
Road America is a massive 4-mile, 14-turn course, so the scheduled distance of the race is just 45 laps. Needless to say, the dominator categories won’t be nearly as valuable as the typically are, even compared to the other road courses.
As a result, any quality driver starting deeper in the field practically becomes a must-own option because of the boost in importance the place differential category is going to experience. Meanwhile, a Top 10 finish alone has plenty of value this weekend, especially if there aren’t any obvious options starting deeper in the field.
For the most part, I expect to simply build lineups that are solid from top to bottom for Saturday’s race. This will likely include a couple of drivers who can challenge for the win and maybe provide dominator points, but I’m certainly not chasing points in those categories. If qualifying throws a curveball and a bunch of big names end up starting in the back, I’ll go all out to own them, even if it means including a punt play or two.
Qualifying and the race are set for Saturday, but before the starting lineup is set, here is a closer look at the drivers I’ll be targeting for the Johnsonville 180 at Road America.
Justin Allgaier ($11,100)
Allgaier has finished as high as second at Road America, and he has finished 11th or better in his last four starts at the track. He has also been one of the best at the road courses this year, finishing third at Watkins Glen and winning at Mid-Ohio a couple of weeks ago. A Top 5 finish seems likely, and Allgaier should be in the mix for the win and some dominator points this weekend.
Justin Marks ($10,200)
He wasn’t as dominant as I expected he would be at Mid-Ohio, but Marks was still positioned for a Top 10 until a spin in the final laps. He also has two Top 10s in the last three races at Road America, including a fourth-place run last year while driving for Chip Ganassi. Marks, a former road course winner at the XFINITY level, is back with Ganassi this weekend. A Top 5 finish and some dominator points are possible.
Austin Cindric ($9,400)
He has a background in road racing, and Cindric’s talent was on full display a couple of weeks ago at Mid-Ohio when he led 59 of the 75 laps on his way to a runner-up finish. He is back in a Team Penske machine this weekend, so he will have the equipment to get the most out of his ability. Cindric could win the dominator categories once again and end up as the top scorer at DraftKings, and his price tag is much lower than I expected.
Cole Custer ($9,900)
He has been the model of consistency at the road courses, cracking the Top 10 in his Road America debut last year and finishing in the Top 10 in both road races so far in 2018. The issue is that he is kind of expensive, and he hasn’t been quite good enough to provide dominator points. Of course, that could easily change this weekend, and Custer could be a contrarian dominator candidate, especially if he happens to qualify on the front row. He could be a great GPP play depending on how things unfold.
James Davison ($8,900)
Davison has an extensive background in road racing, and he has already shown he can make an impact at the XFINITY level. He will make his fourth road course start in the series this weekend and his third for Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished fourth at Mid-Ohio last year in his JGR debut, and although he crashed out at Road America, he led 11 laps and looked like a threat to win. Armed with elite equipment, Davison is a Top 5 threat and could be a sneaky source of dominator points.
Brendan Gaughan ($8,700)
Gaughan will be back in the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 machine at what might be his best track. He is a former winner at Road America, at in his six XFINITY starts, he has five finishes of 11th or better, including four Top 5s. Gaughan has 30-point potential no matter where he qualifies, and if he ends up with some decent place differential upside, he will be one of the better values available.
Matt Tifft ($8,500)
He crashed at Watkins Glen, but Tifft bounced back with a Top 5 finish at Mid-Ohio, and he finished third in his Road America debut last season. He has quickly built an impressive road racing resume, and his potential for 30-plus fantasy points on finishing position alone makes him one of the better values on the board.
Andy Lally ($7,700)
The veteran road course racer has reeled off four straight Top 15s at road courses at the XFINITY level, and he has cracked the Top 15 in both of his XFINITY starts at Road America. He also has four Top 10s under his belt, so even if he doesn’t have a lot of differential upside, he could still be a useful option at this price. If he does qualify a little deeper in the field, Lally becomes a potential bargain.
Michael Annett ($7,100)
He was actually the runner-up at Road America last year, but Annett was one of several drivers who capitalized on excellent pit strategy. I’m more focused on his road course results this year, and in both races, he has finished inside the Top 20 and has gained at least six spots. If Annett qualifies around 25th or worse once again, he should be a safe, affordable source of 25-plus fantasy points. I’ll have him in mind for cash games in particular.
Alex Labbe ($6,600)
Labbe will be making just his third road course starts in the XFINITY Series this weekend, but the early results are encouraging. He finished inside the Top 20 at Watkins Glen earlier this month, and he followed that up with a ninth-place run at Mid-Ohio the next week. At the very least, Labbe should have a shot at a Top 15, and he is someone I’ll have some exposure to if he qualifies in the middle of the pack or worse.
Josh Bilicki ($5,800)
Bilicki had an incredible run at Road America last year, starting back in 33rd but finishing 12th. This year, he has gained at least six spots in both road course events, and he finished in the Top 20 a couple of weeks ago at Mid-Ohio. If he starts outside the Top 25, he could provide a decent point total while freeing up some valuable cap space.
Spencer Boyd ($5,400)
It has been all about place differential points for Boyd at the road courses this year. He finished 24th at Watkins Glen and 25th at Mid-Ohio, but he gained 11 and 10 spots, respectively, in those two races. If Boyd qualifies well outside the Top 30 once again this weekend, he has shown he can be a cheap source of around 25 fantasy points.