Last week’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway backed up what we all thought after Daytona: the Hendrick cars have a definite advantage over the rest of the field. There’s no reason to think that that won’t change this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Kobalt Tools 400. This is another 1.5-mile race track although it is different than Atlanta both in the banking as well as the frequency in which the favorites finish up front; don’t expect too many surprises inside the top 10 this Sunday. We may be in Sin City but a jackpot sleeper is few and far between at this race track.
Fantasy Favorites for Las Vegas
Carl Edwards – If Carl Edwards was able to post top 5 finishes here in lacking Roush Fenway equipment, imagine what he’ll be able to do in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Now I’m not saying Carl Edwards is going to go out there and dominate the race on Sunday, but he should definitely be a threat for a top 5 finish. Carl and Darian Grubb are still working out some kinks–and probably will for a while–but I think the driver’s talent will trump the limitations of the crew chief this weekend. Currently, Edwards is on a four-race streak of top 5 finishes here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and is a two-time winner at this venue, with the most recent coming in 2011. He actually owns the best average finish of all Sprint Cup drivers here (9.2), just barely above Jimmie Johnson’s 9.23. The #19 Toyota will be on many fantasy rosters this weekend, and for good reason. Now hopefully he can get the finish us fantasy owners deserve. In The Showcase, Edwards will receive 3 handicap points for the Kobalt Tools 400. This lower amount is to be expected for a guy like Carl and is comparable to the amount Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are receiving as well.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – I went against my own advice last weekend and didn’t pick Junior in many leagues, simply because I wasn’t so sure that him and his new crew chief had all the kinks worked out yet. Well, judging by the races at Daytona and Atlanta, this might be a better pairing than Dale and Steve Letarte last year, which means one thing: wins. The only thing I really know about Greg Ives is that he tends to be a perfectionist and that is exactly what Junior needs. They almost won their first race together last week and I think the #88 Chevrolet will once again be in the hunt this weekend at Las Vegas. Earnhardt has a career average finish of just 14.7 at this race track but has finished inside the top 10 more often than not (8 times in 15 tries). In fact, six of those have came in the last seven races–which is the exact number of events Junior has ran here while with Hendrick. The #88 was runner-up in the 2014 Las Vegas race, finishing 2nd to Brad Keselowski after leading 81 laps. In The Showcase, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will receive zero handicap points on Sunday because of how well he has ran over the last six Sprint Cup races overall (5.8 average finish) as well as the last six races at this track (8.8). Because of the zero handicap points, I’d only put Junior on my roster if I think he has a legitimate shot to win on Sunday, which will probably end up happening.
Joey Logano – Yeah, pretty obvious, right? Oh, well. For most race tracks, Joey Logano has a disappointing average finish because of the years he struggled in the Cup Series while with Joe Gibbs Racing. However, his average here in Sin City is a respectable 12.3, and he posted a career-best finish of 4th here last season. When you add that with the fact that the #22 Ford has been one of the best in the field in 2015 thus far, you get a very solid fantasy pick. Joey Logano broke out as one of the best intermediate track drivers last season and, from what we saw last weekend, there’s no reason to think that that was a fluke. Also, I like to take into account momentum a lot more than normal when we’re this early in a season–for examples, see Martin Truex, Jr. and Jeff Gordon for this–and nobody has more than Joey Logano right now. In The Showcase, the driver of the #22 Ford will receive 1 handicap point this weekend, which is to be expected. We all know that Logano will probably qualify up front for the Kobalt Tools 400, and as long as he practices decently, he should finish up there as well. I have very few reasons not to pick Joey this weekend.