By Jordan McAbee
Now that we’ve had two weeks of great on-track action at Daytona and Atlanta, we’re probably due for a mediocre race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday–at least from a fan perspective. I hope not, but the first two races are going to be pretty hard to top. As far as fantasy points, we got the bounce back we neededwith the 339 points scored in Yahoo! at Atlanta after the struggle in week one.
With the Kobalt 400 on Sunday, it should be a relatively predictable event. Teams will be focusing more on speed than comfort this weekend–the exact opposite of last–as Las Vegas is a much smoother track than Atlanta. It is another 1.5-mile venue, however. With that being said, LVMS is a tri-oval compared to Atlanta’s quad-oval shape. We typically see familiar faces up front in Sin City, but we’ll also take into account how teams performed last week due to the new low downforce package.
Yahoo! A Group Picks for Las Vegas
Matt Kenseth (9 starts remaining) – Well, I can guarantee this: if Matt Kenseth gets black flagged on Sunday, he will know about it immediately. Jason Ratcliff made a major mistake last weekend by not telling Kenseth he was black flagged, and it might have cost the #20 team the race. Matt arguably had the best car up until that point, and in case you don’t believe that, look at the fact that he had the 6th-best driver rating at Atlanta despite finishing two laps down in 19th. So, I’m going to go with Kenseth this week in a bounce back performance at Las Vegas. He’s a three-time winner here and has finished 11th or better in five of the last six races at this track. Additionally, he has led the most laps here of all drivers with 516 total. Kenseth excels at race tracks where he can get in a groove, and that has Las Vegas written all over it.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (8 starts remaining) – Junior didn’t have the 2nd-best car at Atlanta last weekend but he had a top 5 car for sure. Now we’re going to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a track that the #88 Chevrolet has ran the best of all Sprint Cup cars over the last two years. We might burn another Junior start here early in the season but I’m okay with that. In last year’s Las Vegas race, Earnhardt started 4th and finished there as well, and in 2014 he ran 2nd to Brad Keselowski. Additionally, Junior hasn’t ended up worse than 16th at this track since the 2006 season, and he’s posted a top 10 in seven of the last eight here. You could make a case for a few other drivers over Junior this week, but I’m still in safe mode. And if the #88 Chevrolet has as much speed as it did at Atlanta, Junior just might win the Kobalt 400 on Sunday.
For the record, Kevin Harvick is probably going to be the favorite this weekend, and I can’t argue with putting him on your roster for Las Vegas. He did win this race last year after all. With that being said, I’ve already used one Harvick start, and we have Phoenix coming up after Las Vegas, where the #4 Chevrolet is a virtual lock.
Yahoo! B Group Picks for Las Vegas
Carl Edwards (8 starts remaining) – Well how about that, a solid top 5 finish out of Carl Edwards at Atlanta. This new low downforce package is going to help him a lot, and that means Carl should be even better at tracks that he’s run well at over the last few years… a.k.a. Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Last year, Carl finished 42nd in this race but let’s not forget that he was running near the top 5 when he had contact with Kasey Kahne that ruined his day. In the four previous races at Las Vegas, Edwards never finished worse than 5th, and that streak started with a win back in 2011.
Martin Truex, Jr. (8 starts remaining) – Different year, same heartbreak for Martin Truex, Jr. The good news for fantasy owners is that the #78 Chevrolet was one of the best cars at Atlanta, and I could make the case that Truex is better this year than he was last year. That means he should win at least one race in 2016. Looking at his history at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Truex posted a career-best 2nd-place finish in last year’s event, and he has three top 10s in his last five starts here. I know we might use another Truex start here on Sunday, but I’m not in the business of giving up top 5 finishes with the B Group drivers.
Paul Menard (9 starts remaining) – Some drivers just really like a certain track and always finish well there, and that’s exactly how it is with Paul Menard at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Over the last five Sprint Cup seasons, Menard has never finished worse than 12th here in Sin City, and that includes a career-best 3rd-place finish here in 2014. I’m not overly impressed with how this #27 team is running thus far in 2016, but what’s a Las Vegas race without taking a little bit of a risk?
Ryan Newman (9 starts remaining) – Yeah, “The Rocketman” burned a lot of fantasy racers last week at Atlanta, but let’s not dismiss the fact that he was running very well up until the wreck. And despite finishing 24th, Newman still had the 12th-best driver rating. Looking at his recent history here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Ryan has ended up 7th or better in four of the last five races and ran 3rd in this race a year ago while leading 14 laps. It’s important to have a short memory with Fantasy NASCAR, so if Newman burned you in Atlanta, don’t hold it against him in Las Vegas.
If you’re looking for to save the starts of a guy like Truex or Edwards, why not give Austin Dillon a shot? He ran 11th at Atlanta last weekend after posting a top 10 finish at Daytona. I’ve seen over the years that some “mid-tier” drivers simply get off to a hot start and then fizzle out, so it’s best you use them while they’re running well.
Yahoo! C Group Picks for Las Vegas
I’m kicking myself for not taking Chase Elliott (9 starts remaining) at Atlanta last weekend. Those top 10 runs out of C Group drivers are exactly what you need to finish among the best in this game. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, though, you can only hope to not make the same mistake twice. Now the question becomes who to pair Elliott with on your roster for Las Vegas. Brian Vickers (9 starts remaining) will be in the #14 Chevrolet this week and has finished 15th or better in four of his last five starts at this track, two of which were also top 10s. I’m not expecting that on Sunday but it’s possible. Ryan Blaney ended up 19th here at Las Vegas one year ago, but with that being said, I’m going to use alternatives while I can, so my C Group drivers will be Chase Elliott and Brian Vickers for Las Vegas.