Dan Beaver

NASCAR Fantasy Live Preview

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Fantasy Live: First Data 500

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Options are dwindling in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game with only eight playoff contenders. The Big 3 have made it through to Round 3 as has the driver with the most current momentum, Chase Elliott. The remaining four championship eligible drivers have not shown the kind of consistency one needs in order to make them regular, weekly threats.

It may be time to shift and make the garage pick a non-playoff driver to see which of the Others will rise in a given week.

No one knows yet what Round 3 will look like. If somehow Elliott, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Aric Almirola manage to win these three races, the massive bonus points accumulated by Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick will not be enough to get them both into the final round. Entering Martinsville, they have just as much pressure as the rest of the field.

Playoff Drivers

Kyle Busch
While he has lost much of his cache over the past six weeks, it bears to remember that Busch’s best run during the playoffs came at Richmond Raceway in Round 1. He won the Federated Auto Parts 400 as one of two top-fives with the championship on the line. Since Busch does not know what Round 3 holds, it is imperative that he returns to winning form. The short track is a good place for this to happen because he has five victories in the last eight races including one in this event last year after he bumped teammate Denny Hamlin out of the lead on the final lap.

Kevin Harvick
Harvick did not get the results he wanted in Round 2, but he arguably had one of the best cars every week. The team has made mistakes. He has made mistakes – and frankly the crew chief just guessed wrong on fuel mileage one time, but his performance in the first two stages of the races have still made him one of the most prolific points earners. Harvick has been perfect in regard to top-10s on short tracks this year. In fact, his streak of six consecutive top-10s dates back to last year’s First Data 500 at Martinsville.

Garage Pick: Chase Elliott
Chase Elliott was well on his way to earning his first career victory in this race last year before contact from behind sent him into the wall. That would have locked him into the Championship Finale. Instead, it put a chip on his shoulders and in retrospect many experts believe it is when his performance reached another level. The chip is still there – and now that he has three victories in the last 11 weeks, he has learned how to win. No one has scored their first three wins in a single season since Carl Edwards did so in 2005. Edwards went on to get a fourth that same season.

Red Flag: Kurt Busch
Busch advanced to Round 3 of the playoffs, but he didn’t sound particularly confident following the race. This led the NASCAR America analysts to wonder how long it will be before the team implodes. Regardless of how well the chemistry is between the team and driver, Martinsville has not been particularly kind to Busch. He won the 2014 spring race in his first year with Stewart-Haas Racing, but that is his only top 10 in the last 25 races there.

Non-Playoff Drivers

Brad Keselowski
Often, one of the former playoff drivers plays the role of spoiler in this round. Keselowski entered this spring’s STP 500 with a four-race streak of top-fives that included a win in spring 2017. He finished only 10th that afternoon and that would not be enough to recommend him as one of the playoff picks. It should make him one of the top two or three non-playoff drivers, however. And with the right call at the end of the race, he could be in contention to win.

Kyle Larson
Larson has become a strong short track racer. He enters the weekend with a four-race streak of top-10s on tracks less than a mile in length. Two of these were runner-up finishes at Bristol and two were seventh-place results at Richmond. Martinsville has been the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place, largely because there is not an outside groove where Larson feels comfortable. He is learning to be successful on short, flat tracks, however, and this could be his breakthrough race.

Garage Pick: Ryan Blaney
This has not traditionally been a good track for Blaney, but it is a good venue for Team Penske. They swept the top 10 in the STP 500, which was Blaney’s second consecutive top-10 at Martinsville. Those are also his only two top-15s there in a five-race career. Blaney will be on a mission this week. After failing to advance to Round 3 – mostly because the team ran out of fuel coming to the green for the Talladega overtime – he feels he should be part of the championship hunt. Pride is a powerful motivator.

Red Flag: Erik Jones
We like Jones in most situations, but short, flat tracks have not been well-suited to his skill-set this year. In five starts so far this year at Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway (Phoenix), Martinsville, Richmond, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway he has only one top-10 – a ninth in Phoenix. His worst result was a 17th at Martinsville and his average is 13.2. He could beat those odds, but the likelihood of him being one of the three best points’ producers among non-playoff drivers is low. 



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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