Success in Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing comes down to pretty much one thing: managing your allocations in the right way. This usually isn’t much of an issue in the A Group just because there is so much talent there, but maximizing points with starts from the B and C Group studs is very important. Luckily, short tracks, such as Bristol, usually give some of the ‘lower tier’ drivers in those two groups a chance to shine–Chris Buescher finished 5th in this race last year, for example–so now it just comes down to rolling the dice with the right one.
I will post my final Yahoo! roster for Bristol 2 on Twitter on Thursday evening. Please follow me there: @FanRacingOnline
PLEASE NOTE: I’m going to continue just updating this post after qualifying and practice, so be sure to check back here on Friday evening or later for my post-practice final Group rankings as well as my starters and a little bit of notes from practice.
Yahoo! A Group Picks and Rankings for Bristol 2
Kevin Harvick (5 starts remaining) – “Happy” is the defending winner of the Bristol night race and has pretty much had a car capable of winning here at Bristol for the last four years. That’s not going to suddenly change this weekend. Back in the April race, Harvick started back in 10th and ended up leading 14 laps en route to a 3rd-place finish, which–at that point in the season–was the best finish for the #4 team in 2017. Since then, this team has progressed quite a bit, and seem to have found a bit more speed since the All Star Break. Harvick has disappointed fantasy owners quite a bit over the last two races, but Bristol is a great track for him to turn things around at. For what it’s worth, Kevin has the best average running position (8.4) over the last five Bristol races of anyone in the garage.
Jimmie Johnson (9 starts remaining) – Bristol Motor Speedway is a great track to go with an off-sequence pick in Yahoo!, and right now it’s looking like Jimmie Johnson is the best option. Yes, the #48 team continued their annual summer slump at Michigan last weekend, but let’s not forget that Johnson had one of the fastest cars at the track until he put it in the wall during final practice. Additionally, this is the right around the time when JJ and Knaus get out of their slump/testing phase–just look at Jimmie’s finishes over the last four years starting with this race. As mentioned before, Johnson won here at Bristol back in April and has actually finished 7th or better in five of the last six races at this track.
Speaking of off-sequence picks, keep an eye on Joey Logano‘s ownership percentage this week. If it is under 15% on Friday night, I also love the #22 as an off-sequence pick this weekend. Logano is in must-win mode to get into the playoffs this year and is a two-time winner at Bristol Motor Speedway. He finished 5th here back in April and has wound up 10th or better in six of the last eight–four of which were also top 5s. Additionally, the #22 team has showed better speed over the last month or two, now it just comes down to good race day execution.
Martin Truex, Jr. will be a contender on Saturday night, and not just because he led the 2nd-most laps (116) here at Bristol back in April. This #78 team is firing on all cylinders and is capable of winning literally every single weekend. The only thing that’s impossible to overlook when it comes to Truex is his history here at Bristol Motor Speedway; over 23 career starts at this race track, Truex has just two top 5 finishes and only three (!!!) top 10s. The good news for Truex fans is that he started 3rd and finished 8th when we raced here earlier this season.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas should all have cars capable of finishing near the front on Saturday night. Now, whether that will happen remains to be seen. Kyle Busch is a five-time winner at this track and has had, hands down, the best car in the last two August races. Unfortunately, it seems as though the #18 team has tried to push the envelope just a bit too much as of late, as Rowdy has had a handful of mechanical issues over the last three years at Bristol, and just one finish better than 29th in his last six starts here. The #18 Toyota is going to be fast this weekend, though, and if I had more than two Kyle Busch Yahoo! starts left, he’d probably be on my roster this weekend.
Denny Hamlin is still on baby watch, and now that it’s going on three races, it might be best to take the safe route and stay away until the child is born. With that being said, Hamlin has finished 3rd in the last two Bristol night races, and is more than capable of getting a good finish this weekend, too. EDIT: Denny Hamlin is officially off of baby watch, as his daughter was born on Tuesday.
As far as Matt Kenseth goes, he’s currently in the playoffs based on points, but a win by a driver behind him could knock Kenseth out real quick. He should be another great off-sequence pick in Yahoo! this week, especially considering Matt has four career victories at this track and top 5 finishes in four of his last eight starts here. The #20 Toyota came home 4th in the first race here this season.
Pre-Lockdown A Group Rankings: (1) Kevin Harvick, (2) Martin Truex, Jr., (3) Denny Hamlin, (4) Jimmie Johnson, (5) Matt Kenseth, (6) Joey Logano, (7) Brad Keselowski, (8) Kyle Busch, (9) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Final Post-Practice A Group Rankings: (1) Martin Truex, Jr., (2) Kyle Busch, (3) Matt Kenseth, (4) Denny Hamlin, (5) Jimmie Johnson, (6) Kevin Harvick, (7) Joey Logano, (8) Brad Keselowski, (9) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Practice/Qualifying Notes: All of the A Group Toyotas look great this weekend. Martin Truex, Jr. gets the nod as the #1 heading into Saturday night simply because of how dominant the #78 Toyota has been this year, but it’s not a guarantee that he will be the highest finisher among this group. Matt Kenseth actually had the best ten-lap average in Happy Hour on Friday, and Kyle Busch was 2nd in that category. Rowdy will have to start from back in 18th when we go green but keep in mind that with all five of his Cup Series wins at this track, he’s never started better than 12th. Kyle Busch has the best car in the field this weekend, but whether or not he’ll be able to get the finish is up in the air. He has had terrible luck at Bristol as of late. Another driver that will have to make his way through the field is Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 21st. That #48 Chevrolet went to victory lane here back in April, though, and was inside the top 5 in both practice sessions when it came to ten-lap average on Friday. One surprise this weekend is Kevin Harvick, who is great at this track. His car never showed great speed in the practice sessions and he wound up 29th in qualifying. With that being said, if Harv can stay on the lead lap Saturday night, he’s more than capable of a good finish.
My Starter: Jimmie Johnson over Martin Truex, Jr.
Yahoo! B Group Picks and Rankings for Bristol 2
Clint Bowyer (4 starts remaining) – This week in the B Group, my plan is to go with the “two studs, two saves” approach. Essentially, this gives me the most options on race day while also having a safety net in case the “start savers” don’t work out. Clint Bowyer is one of those drivers that falls into that “stud” category at Bristol, as he finished runner-up to Jimmie Johnson here back in April and has wound up 8th or better in three of the last four races here–including an 8th-place finish in that terrible HScott Motorsports car last season. Bowyer had a rough race at Michigan last week but this is the same driver that has posted five results of 7th or better in the last eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races overall. Clint has never went to victory lane here in Thunder Valley but seven top 5 finishes in twenty-three career starts (30.4%) isn’t too shabby.
Kyle Larson (3 starts remaining) – Of course Kyle Larson won at Michigan last weekend after being nowhere near the front for 90% of the race. Of course. Oh well, as mentioned last week, I’m still holding these final 3 Larson starts for races when he can go out and dominate, and that just might be this weekend. The #42 Chevrolet sat on the pole here at Bristol back in April and led a race-high 202 laps en route to a 6th-place finish. That makes it four finishes of 12th or better in seven career starts at “The Bullring” for young Larson. There’s no guarantee that his car will be as good this weekend as it was four months ago, but at the same time, you should probably stick Larson on your roster for Bristol 2 this weekend.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (6 starts remaining) – I’m probably higher on Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. than anybody else this weekend, but you can’t argue with results. Having a couple of good finishes at a track could be chalked up to getting lucky, but having an average finish of 10.4 over nine career starts–at Bristol nonetheless!–isn’t luck. Perhaps the most impressive thing with Stenhouse at Bristol is that he has finished on the lead lap in seven of those nine events. Additionally, over the last seven races in Thunder Valley, Ricky has wound up finishing 9th or better in five of them. The #17 Ford hasn’t finished better than 14th since winning at Daytona back in July but that could easily change this weekend.
Austin Dillon (8 starts remaining) – Hopefully the solid finishes that the Richard Childress Racing cars ended up with at Michigan last weekend will give them a shot in the arm here at Bristol on Saturday night. With that being said, we just went through four straight races where strong engines were key, and quite honestly that’s not where the RCR strength lies this season. On the shorter tracks, though, the #3 and #31 Chevrolets haven’t fared too badly. As far as Austin Dillon goes, his record here at Bristol isn’t too shabby, and this actually ranks as one of his best tracks on the schedule; Dillon owns a career average finish of 15.0 in seven career starts in Thunder Valley and has wound up 13th or better in five of those attempts. Additionally, he finished a career-best 4th in this race one year ago.
Austin’s RCR teammate, Ryan Newman, is another good choice at Bristol Motor Speedway. “The Rocketman” has finished 14th or better in five of his last six starts in Thunder Valley and has actually ended up inside the top 10 in over half of his 31 career starts here (16 to be exact). With that being said, Newman is likely to be one of the higher-owned drivers in the B Group this weekend, so as far as off-sequence pick goes, he might not be the best choice.
If you really want to dig deep in the B Group this weekend, there are a couple of decent selections that could post good results. First is Chris Buescher, who finished 5th in this race one year ago and came home with a surprising 6th-place result at Michigan last weekend. He’s very good at avoiding trouble on race day and that’s why Buescher has finished 11th or better in three of the last four races overall (and 16th or better in five of the last seven). Another sleeper is Trevor Bayne, who actually has a pretty decent record here at Bristol Motor Speedway. In addition to finishing 5th in the spring race here last season, Bayne also has ended up 15th or better in each of his last four starts here. For whatever reason, Roush-Fenway Racing seems to have something figured out at this half-mile track.
Ryan Blaney has had some terrible luck here at Bristol, and from what he has shown in his young Cup Series career thus far, he’s not one of those drivers that can just bust out of a slump at a track. In four career starts in Thunder Valley, Blaney’s best finish thus far has been 11th, and the three other races ended with him in 22nd or worse. Unless you’re sitting on a bunch of #21 starts in Yahoo, it’s best to leave Ryan off your roster this week. He’s much more valuable at the intermediate race tracks.
As unreliable as Jamie McMurray has become on the intermediate race tracks, it could be a good play to use one of your final starts here this weekend. McMurray has been consistent here at Bristol over the last three years, with finishes between 8th and 14th in each of the last six races. Last week at Michigan, this #1 team got their first top 10 since Kentucky back in early July, and will be looking to build on that momentum this weekend as they (hopefully) make the playoffs on points.
Finally, Kurt Busch is a driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Like his brother, he’s a five-time winner at Bristol Motor Speedway and is more than capable of coming home with a solid finish here on Saturday night. Unfortunately, since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, Kurt has been pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to this track, as he has four finishes of 15th or better in his last seven starts here to go along with three finishes of 25th or worse. With as much trouble and bad luck as the #41 team has had this season, though–especially on the short tracks–it’s hard to recommend Kurt with any sort of confidence this weekend.
Pre-Lockdown B Group Rankings: (1) Kyle Larson, (2) Chase Elliott, (3) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., (4) Jamie McMurray, (5) Clint Bowyer, (6) Austin Dillon, (7) Kurt Busch, (8) Ryan Newman, (9) Ryan Blaney, (10) Trevor Bayne, (11) Chris Buescher, (12) Danica Patrick, (13) A.J. Allmendinger, (14) Kasey Kahne, (15) Paul Menard, (16) Aric Almirola
Final Post-Practice B Group Rankings: (1) Kyle Larson, (2) Chase Elliott, (3) Clint Bowyer, (4) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., (5) Jamie McMurray, (6) Ryan Blaney, (7) Ryan Newman, (8) Kasey Kahne, (9) Austin Dillon, (10) Kurt Busch, (11) Trevor Bayne, (12) Chris Buescher, (13) Danica Patrick, (14) A.J. Allmendinger, (15) Paul Menard, (16) Aric Almirola
Practice/Qualifying Notes: Kyle Larson will start from the outside pole on Saturday night and is the most likely driver to lead the most laps in this year’s Bristol Night Race. Now the question comes down to whether or not you are going to burn a start with him. Personally, I have 3 Larson starts left and I still haven’t made up my mind, but I’m leaning toward saving him and hoping he falls back a bit. Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer have been solid since the teams unloaded their cars and are both capable of a top 10 finish. Ryan Blaney has had very good speed this weekend but we’ve seen this before: the #21 Ford tends to perform better in practice than in the actual race, and Blaney has had terrible luck here at Bristol thus far in his young career. One surprise in qualifying was Kasey Kahne, who will start from 3rd on Saturday night. Start at your own risk. He’s the most unreliable driver in the Cup Series garage right now and has just one top 15 (a 13th) at Bristol in the last six events.
My Starters: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Clint Bowyer over Trevor Bayne and Kyle Larson
Yahoo! C Group Picks and Rankings for Bristol 2
It’s going to be very difficult to not start Daniel Suarez or Erik Jones at Bristol this weekend, but strategy-wise it’s going to be the best move. Those two drivers are inching closer and closer to legitimate top 10 threats every time we stop at an intermediate race track, and we have quite a few left on the schedule this season. That means that over the remaining short track and restrictor plate races in 2017, we have to find an alternate solution in the C Group–and this week that driver is Ty Dillon. Ty actually posted a respectable 15th-place finish here back in April, and if he’s able to replicate that this weekend, that’s perfectly fine with me. The only choice you have to make is whether you want to put Suarez or Jones on your roster with Dillon, in case either is able to qualify in the top 4 and get bonus points in Yahoo!. If not, Matt DiBenedetto is actually a decent option this weekend, as he seems to love this track; in addition to finishing 6th here last season, DiBenedetto has finished 19th or better in each of his last three starts here, and has an average career finish of 19.2 at “The Bullring” in Monster Energy Cup Series action.
Pre-Lockdown C Group Rankings: (1) Daniel Suarez, (2) Erik Jones, (3) Ty Dillon, (4) Matt DiBenedetto, (5) Michael McDowell, (6) David Ragan, (7) Landon Cassill, the rest
Final Post Practice C Group Rankings: (1) Erik Jones, (2) Daniel Suarez, (3) Ty Dillon, (4) Michael McDowell, (5) Matt DiBenedetto, (6) David Ragan, (7) Landon Cassill, the rest
Practice/Qualifying Notes: The C Group had their day during qualifying on Friday, as Erik Jones won the pole and Daniel Suarez also made the final round of qualifying. Now the question is: should you start Jones? The #77 Toyota looked fast in practice and he’s starting out front. Honestly, if I had him this weekend, I’d start him. Suarez has a good car as well but is only top 10 good, so I will be going with Ty Dillon on Saturday night, who had a better qualifying effort than normal (22nd) and could pull out a top 15.
My Starter: Ty Dillon over Daniel Suarez