Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Weekend Update: Toyota 350k

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Track position is important on a road courses – and it starts from the drop of the green flag. Employing a strategy is made easier when a driver has options. Some of those are removed from the equation when he starts deep in the pack.

Unfortunately, a couple of contenders we expected to start near the front will not. Kurt Busch qualified 23rd, Denny Hamlin starts 21st with Clint Bowyer starting 19th. All three of these drivers are expected to climb to the top 10 and contend for top-fives before the day is over and that means place-differential points are going to play an important factor in winning this week's fantasy contest.

Practice

Clint Bowyer got off to a solid start this weekend, but got progressively worse. He posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session, but failed to carry that speed into Happy Hour and landed only 17th on that chart. By the time Saturday's qualification rolled around, he slipped two more spots and will line up 19th on the grid. He has been practically perfect at Sonoma in the past and it is impossible to completely discount him. He has lost some of his attraction, although his third-quickest 10-lap average in Happy Hour helps somewhat.

Kurt Busch (94.061 mph) has the fastest single lap in Happy Hour. He was part a sweep of the top three positions in terms of quickest average laps in the final practice – second-best in that regard to Kevin Harvick and just ahead of Bowyer. Busch has an affinity for this track and he is not going to break the bank in salary cap games. Feel free to use all three Stewart-Haas Racing drivers if they fit on your roster.

Martin Truex Jr. ran into trouble in the final practice on Friday. Rookie driver Bubba Wallace struggled all the way around the track, but no one told Truex to take it easy when he got behind him in the esses. When Wallace bobbled in the closing minutes, Truex ran into the back of his car and did significant damage to the nose of the No. 78 Toyota. It did not do any lasting harm, however, because Truex qualified second.

Qualification

We expected one of the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers to win the pole, but frankly it seemed Jamie McMurray had the better opportunity. He won two of the last four poles and showed speed in practice. While he came close and will roll off the grid fourth, it was his teammate Kyle Larson that took the top spot. Larson also won the pole last year, but he was not able to keep his car clean and finished 26th. He continues to represent a significant risk, but it would not be completely surprising to see him challenge for an upset top-10.

Truex will line up on the outside of the front row, and many experts think he showed impressive speed on some of the tightest turns.

Hendrick Motorsports drivers performed well in qualification. Chase Elliott lines up third on the grid with Jimmie Johnson seventh and William Byron eighth. The aerodynamic disadvantage experienced by Chevrolet should not be as pronounced on a road course and that makes these three extremely interesting. Unfortunately, their record in 2018 makes it hard to recommend them unless one needs to make up ground on their competition.

Hamlin was perhaps the biggest disappointment in qualification. He posted a lap that was about 1.4 mph slower than the pole sitter and will roll off the grid 21st. He enters the Toyota 350k with back-to-back top-fives and cannot be discounted. In any event, he should be able to earn significant place-differential points.



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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