Dan Beaver

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Fantasy Live: Toyota 350k

Thursday, June 21, 2018


It would be nice to think that a new winner will emerge this week, but four of the last six Sonoma events have been won by this year’s multiple victors. Kevin Harvick won at Sonoma last year, Kyle Busch took the checkers in 2015, Martin Truex Jr. in 2013, and Clint Bowyer in 2012. That leaves two events in the last six years for other winners, but Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are no long contending.

One thing giving fans of diversity a little hope is that there has been a different winner every season at Sonoma since 2009 – a streak of nine years. Another is that recording consecutive top-fives on this track has been difficult for today’s drivers. Denny Hamlin has a two-race, top-five streak going, but he stands alone. And while a few others have top-10 streaks, they are not as common as one would expect on a specialty track like this road course.

Sonoma is considerably different than Watkins Glen International. This twisty track in the California wine country is a technical course that requires precision; the Glen is a wide-open, fast track. Still, there is a common skill associated with tuning both right and left and that means it is often helpful to look at the combined road courses.

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin not only has a two-race top-five streak going at Sonoma, he has finished that well at the Glen as well – giving him four consecutive top-fives on road courses. He finished second in the 2016 Toyota 350k and won the Cheez-it 355k at the Glen. Full disclosure requires the caveat that in six previous seasons on the twisty tracks he has only two top-20s and an average finish of 29th – and also a note about his propensity to incur penalties this year. But, if he stays out of trouble, he should be a great value this week. 

Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer is still charged up from his second win of the season last week at Michigan International Speedway. And momentum has often played a big part in how he performs. His Sonoma victory in 2012 kicked off a five-race, top-10 streak. All but one of those ended sixth or better. He has lost some of that consistency since, but four of his last six attempts on the twisty tracks have been sixth or better – including a runner-up finish in last year’s Toyota 350k and a fifth at the Glen.

Kevin Harvick
There is no getting around Kevin Harvick this week. He won last year’s edition of this race and has a three-race streak at Sonoma of results sixth or better. His domination this season – with five wins and six more top-fives – suggests there is simply no way for him to stumble. Not having him on the roster is risky and is a strategy that should only be employed if a player is desperate: Anything can happen on a road course and Harvick could just as easily have an off-road excursion as the next driver.

Kyle Busch
The exact same comments that apply to Harvick can be made for Kyle Busch. These two drivers have dominated the season unlike anything seen in decades. Harvick has the head-to-head matchup on most courses, but Busch might be a little stronger on road courses overall. He enters the weekend with a six-race streak of top-10s to his credit on this track type as well as wins at Sonoma in 2015 and the Glen in 2013.

Greatest Differentiator

Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch often flies under the radar on road courses. He is one of the nine different winners at Sonoma in the past nine years, but his victory came well back in 2011. After that, he struggled at the Glen for the next two seasons while continuing to finish in the top-five at Sonoma. Once he got his bad luck out of the way, he has gone on to finish 12th or better in his last 10 attempts on road courses. Last year, he was seventh at Sonoma and sixth at the Glen, so players should not be surprised to see him challenge for a top-five.

Garage Pick

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney has been getting progressively stronger on road courses during his brief career. He started out with a 23rd at Sonoma in 2016, improved to 19th at the Glen, and then was ninth and eighth on those two tracks respectively in 2017. With his newfound speed in the No. 12 and a bigger organization behind him this week than last year, Blaney could challenge for a top-five. The odds are good that he will finish better than eighth in any regard and that should keep his streak of consistent improvement alive.

Red Flag

AJ Allmendinger
AJ Allmendinger gets a lot of press every time the series rolls onto a road course because of his 2014 win in the Cheez-it 355k at the Glen. He has run well at Sonoma, but has not been able to close the deal in the last four years. In fact, three of those results landed in the mid-30s with a best of 14th. Let someone else take a risk on Allmendinger while you save your dark horse pick for another pony.



Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.
Email :Dan Beaver



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