The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is visiting Auto Club Speedway this weekend, so for the first time this year, we will be building fantasy NASCAR lineups for a two-mile track.
Now that Fantasy Live is no longer including dominator categories, the fact that Sunday’s race is only 200 laps isn’t as relevant as it used to be. What I do think is relevant is the trend of drivers who qualify well also running well in the race. In each of the last five races here, there have been at least 10 drivers who have qualified in the Top 15 and have also finished there.
This trend is especially important because a ton of big names failed to pass qualifying inspection and will have to start in the back. Yes, some of these drivers are going to get to the front, but this could also be a chance for some surprise drivers to steal decent finishes.
With that in mind, I’m not opposed to trying to steal a quality finish or two out of drivers who are considered midrange options on a typical week if they had a strong qualifying run. This is especially true in the Driver Group Game where stage points don’t come into play and you have to stretch starts over 36 races instead of just 26 like in the Fantasy Live game.
One last note, I have added picks for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto game for Sunday’s race and will continue to provide them the rest of the year. They will be located below my Driver Group Game picks. This week, I loaded up on the drivers who failed to pass qualifying inspection, but I also opted for Kevin Harvick. He looks like a frontrunner for the win yet again, and the bonus for winning the race plus his differential and finishing position points would yield a huge score.
As always, you can get in touch with me at @BPolking or at [email protected] if you are looking for advice or lineup tips on any fantasy NASCAR games not covered in this article.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
I benched Larson last weekend after his spin, so I still have all 10 of his starts remaining as he heads to one of his best tracks. Larson won this race in impressive fashion last year, finishing first and second in the two stages. He actually swept all three races at the two-mile tracks last year, earning stage points in all six stages and finishing third or better in four of them. Larson has won four straight races at the two-mile ovals dating back to 2016, and after qualifying third and showing Top 5 in practice, he should be in the mix for top-scorer honors this weekend.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex was a beast the two-mile tracks like year, finishing sixth or better in all three races and finishing fourth or better in all six stages. After grabbing the pole for Sunday’s race and simply fine-tuning in practice, I expect him at or near the front all race long. He could end up being the top scorer.
He can run hot and cold at the two-mile tracks, but he has won two of his last four starts at Auto Club. He’s also starting on the front row and is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes at Las Vegas and ISM. He’s got momentum and excellent track position, and I expect Busch to pile up the stage points and contend for a win.
I used a start from Jones last weekend at ISM because of how well he performed there last year as a rookie. I’m using the same reasoning to deploy him again this weekend. Jones finished in the Top 15 in all three races at two-mile tracks last year, grabbing stage points in four of the six stages and finishing in the Top 5 in three of the six. After qualifying fourth and showing competitive speed in practice, he looks poised for some stage points again this weekend.
Busch has a history of being boom-or-bust at the two-mile tracks, but he also has a big ceiling. He has four wins between Auto Club and Michigan, and he has shown some muscle in pratice. Stewart-Haas Racing has been rolling, and with Busch starting seventh, I love his chances of piling up some stage points and delivering a Top 10.
Garage Driver – Clint Bowyer
I’m trying to capitalize on the hot start from Stewart-Haas Racing, but Bowyer starting in the back complicates matters. Early stage points could be tough to come by, but he did show some upside at the two-mile tracks last season. He finished third at Auto Club, ranking sixth and fourth in the two stages. Bowyer also finished sixth and fifth in the two stages of the June race at Michigan. If he gets to the front quickly, I’ll be ready to put him in.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Group A – Kyle Larson
As much as I have loved running out Kevin Harvick for multiple wins in recent weeks, I can’t burn up all his starts this soon. Plus, Larson has been next to unstoppable at the two-mile tracks. He won here last year in dominating fashion and has won the last four races overall at two-mile ovals. Harvick looks capable of a four-peat Sunday, but Larson has shown plenty of muscle himself.
Group B – Erik Jones
Jones has Top 10 potential at almost any track, and he’s already shown encouraging consistency at ISM. He finished eighth in the March race and fourth in the fall event, he and finished three of the four stages running seventh or better. I haven’t used Jones yet this season, but after a Top 5 qualifying effort and solid practice times, I think it’s worth using one of his starts this weekend.
Group B – Kurt Busch
Like I mentioned in my Fantasy Live preview, I want to get the most out of Stewart-Haas Racing’s hot start, and Busch has already shown upside at Auto Club. Starting in the Top 10 with a car that looked plenty fast in racer trim, I’m riding the hot hand.
Group C – Alex Bowman
Bowman quietly having a solid year, finishing inside the Top 20 in all four races and posting a 16.0 average finish. I won’t be surprised to see him finish the year as the highest-scoring Group C driver, but I still don’t mind using up some of his starts early on because I think William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr. will improve as they gain more seat time, making them a little more useful later in the year. It wasn’t ideal for Bowman to miss qualifying, but with Byron and Wallace are also starting in the middle of the pack or worse, I still like Bowman this weekend.