By Jordan McAbee
After a mediocre Daytona 500 in FOX Fantasy Auto Racing, we bounced back nicely at Atlanta with 249 points. Now we have to keep it going with the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway! Now, I know the way that you dominate this FOX game is by picking rivers who are going to get a bunch of place differential points, but there are occasionally some exceptions–as we will see this week. Typically I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the starting lineup when it comes to intermediate tracks, but for whatever reason it seems like it makes a bit of a difference here at Las Vegas.
There’s also some really good cars starting up front this week. In case you want a refresher on how the Sprint Cup cars will line up on Sunday, click here for Friday’s qualifying results. Keep in mind that Carl Edwards will have to start from the back but he is still going to be credited with his 24th-place starting spot in this FOX game. That’s noteworthy because he’s not going to get points for the cars he passes between 24th and 29th.
FOX Fantasy Auto Picks for Las Vegas
Matt Kenseth ($10,100) – I know that we should be picking the best drivers that are starting a little bit further back, but Matt Kenseth at this price point is simply too hard to pass up. The #20 Toyota could easily win this race on Sunday and Kenseth is just the 13th-highest priced driver. Getting a potential win at that price point is an incredible value. Remember, the #20 Toyota was one of the best cars at Atlanta last weekend up until they got black flagged, and that speed has definitely carried over here to Las Vegas. Kenseth will roll off the grid 3rd on Sunday and has consistently been one of the fastest cars in the test sessions and practices since Thursday. Matt had the 2nd-best ten-lap average in Test Session #2, ranked 4th on that chart in Practice #2, and then 4th in Happy Hour as well. I think all rosters need to start out with Kenseth and then build from there. Remember, you don’t lose points for place differential, only gain.
Jimmie Johnson ($11,900) – Last week’s race winner looks to have another potentially winning race car this weekend, so we’re going to stick with Jimmie Johnson, even at this price point. He will start 11th for the Kobalt 400, which leaves some room for place differential points as well. The #48 Chevrolet has been consistently one of the fastest cars all week and might be even stronger this week than it was last. Johnson had the best ten-lap average in Practice #2 on Saturday and wound up 2nd on that chart in Happy Hour. He also had the best ten-lap average in Test Session #2 on Thursday, which is the one test that was held in the middle of the day. Jimmie is a four-time winner here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and has ended up finishing 6th or better in four of the last six events here. Remember, Johnson arguably had the best car here at Las Vegas last season before blowing a tire and killing the car.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ($12,100) – At this point, we can either go with two of the higher “middle-tier” FOX drivers, or take one of the lower, mid-range drivers and pick up another high-priced driver. Initially I had Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards in these final two roster spots, and I still might go back to that, but I think we’re going to get another top 5 run out of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and I want those points along with the place differential points he’s going to get from starting 20th. Junior almost won the race at Atlanta one week ago and now we’re at Las Vegas, a track where he runs even better at; nobody has ran better than Earnhardt here in Sin City over the last two years (his average driver rating of 122.6 is incredible) and he has two top 5 finishes to show for it. Junior is also on a five-race streak of top 10 results here at Vegas and should be able to make it six in a row on Sunday. This team finally found some speed late in Happy Hour and I expect the #88 Chevrolet to be more and more solid as the day goes on on Sunday.
Austin Dillon ($8,700) – Another reason I decided to go this route was because Austin Dillon has a really, really good race car. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look this good since he joined NASCAR’s top series. And since we don’t lose points for place differential in FOX Fantasy Auto Racing, it makes it a lot more reasonable to take a shot with someone like Austin, who is starting up front (5th) on Sunday. The #3 Chevrolet was near the top of the ten-lap average chart in virtually all testing and practice sessions this week, and the team thought the car was so good in Happy Hour that they ended their practicing 20 minutes early. We’re not going to get a lot of points out of Austin Dillon on Sunday (I expect him to finish between 10th and 15th) but it’s worth putting him on the roster simply because of the upside that is there–plus it allows us to afford Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Brian Vickers ($5,000) – As usual, we’re going to have a low-priced driver to afford the rest of our roster. In my mind, the choice comes down to Brian Vickers or Chase Elliott. Both cost the same amount of money at $5,000. Now, right now I’m leaning toward Brian Vickers, although you could definitely make the case for Chase as well–especially after his very solid top 10 finish at Atlanta last week. The reason I’m leaning toward Vickers is because he starts a little further back than Chase, and should get a few extra points for place differential. I think both of these drivers have the potential for a top 15 finish, although it wouldn’t surprise me if one of them snuck into the top 10 (probably Chase). I really like how Vickers has performed here at Las Vegas over his career, though; in his last five starts at this track, Brian has ended up 15th or better in four of them. Like I said, you can go either way on this one. The only way there’s going to be a major difference between these two is if one of them wrecks.