Dan Beaver

NASCAR Fantasy Live Preview

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Fantasy Live: Michigan

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Last week’s Go Bowling at Watkins Glen International kicked off a five-race streak of unique tracks. The road course will be followed by this week’s two-mile contest at Michigan International Speedway, the half-mile bullring of Bristol Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway with its distinctive rough surface, and the flat 2.5-mile Brickyard. While it is likely that the Big 3 will continue to dominate all the way through the regular season, the battle to fill the final two spots on your NASCAR Fantasy Live roster is going to be intense.

One big question still to be answered is whether Chevrolet – and specifically Hendrick Motorsports – has worked out their aerodynamic challenges. Strong runs from the HMS camp and Richard Childress Racing in recent weeks, plus the overall strength of Kyle Larson for most of the year suggests change is in the air. With four weeks remaining before the playoffs begin, Chevrolet could put one of their drivers in contention to battle the Big 3.

Michigan is going to be one of the keys to the remainder of the season. The drivers who run well there are likely to be good fantasy values at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Kansas Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and Homestead-Miami Speedway – all of which are critical for advancing in the playoffs.

The Dominators

Back on an unrestricted, intermediate speedway, one of The Dominators is most likely to be this week’s winner and the other two will finish somewhere in the top five.

Kevin Harvick should be ranked first among them for two reasons. 1) He finished second in this race to Clint Bowyer and might have shown a little more aggression and won if he had been racing anyone other than his teammate. 2) He watched Kyle Busch win the last oval race and wants to close that points gap.

Busch has four wins on the two-mile tracks. Three of these came at Auto Club Speedway and only one has been earned at Michigan, but he finished fourth in the rain-shortened Firekeepers Casino 400 this June. He was third at Auto Club in March and has a current five-race, top-10 streak on this course type.

Martin Truex Jr. was one of the most dominant drivers at Michigan last year, winning three of the four segments and finishing fourth in the other to add extra points to his fantasy player’s total. He was not nearly as strong this spring and didn’t earn any segment points en route to an 18th-place finish, but he had four results of sixth or better in the four races on two-mile tracks preceding that. 

Kyle Larson
Anything can happen in NASCAR, and that is why they run the race. Kyle Larson could win. He had such a great record on the two-milers that everyone expected him to challenge the Big 3 in the Firekeepers Casino 400. He was pushing hard and spun in the shortened race and was not able to overcome the deficit he created for himself. His four consecutive wins at Auto Club and Michigan in 2016/2017 are part of a five-race streak of top-three finishes.

Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott started his career at Michigan with three straight runner-up finishes. A couple of these were races he could have won if not for bad restarts and now that he has a taste of victory, he could very well get a second in consecutive races. If he misses, it is unlikely to be by much because he has a perfect record of top-10s in five starts on a track that has also been extremely kind to the other HMS drivers.

Erik Jones
After dealing with the shade cast on them by Harvick at the start of the season, the Young Guns are finally beginning to shine. Erik Jones’ win at Daytona and Elliott’s victory last week is starting to eat away at the advantage of the Old Guard. Jones enters the Consumers Energy 400 with back-to-back top-fives for the second time in his career. The last time he had two such finishes, he finished fifth at Darlington in the midst of a six-race, top-10 streak.

Greatest Differentiator

Paul Menard
In 2013/2014, Paul Menard recorded three consecutive fourth-place finishes at Michigan. This spring, he finished fifth in the Firekeepers Casino 400 after earning six points for his fifth-place position at the end of Segment 2. Ryan Blaney finished fourth in the 2016 summer race at Michigan with this same organization, so the combination of driver and team is going to be a potent one. Menard is liable to fly under the radar screen given his current streak of three results outside the top 15 this season and he is unlikely to be on a majority of rosters.

Garage Pick

William Byron
William Byron finished 13th this spring, but not before scoring segment points in both stage. With that bonus, he earned as many points during the race as the ninth-place finisher Elliott – every point matters both in the Cup series and Fantasy NASCAR. Byron enters the weekend with consecutive top-10s at Pocono Raceway at Watkins Glen. Hendrick Motorsports has a great set of notes from which to work and that could add up to a third straight top-10.

Red Flag

Team Penske
Team Penske is struggling to find the front of the field. The best finish among them in the last two weeks was a pair of 12th-place results scored by Ryan Blaney. The average for the organization at Pocono and the Glen is 23.7. All three finished in the top 10 at Michigan earlier this year with Brad Keselowski sixth, Joey Logano seventh, and Blaney eighth, but it would not be a surprise to see them struggle to get a single top-10.

That will be particularly disappointing for Logano who has victories on this track in 2013 and 2016, but it could be even more problematic for Keselowski who is in danger of entering the playoffs without a win and only four bonus 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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