The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Dover International Speedway this weekend for the second race of 2019 at the concrete oval. Sunday’s Drydene 400 will also kick off the second round of the playoffs, so fantasy owners have a little more to think about at Fantasy Live when preparing their lineups for “The Monster Mile.”
Following last weekend’s elimination race, four more drivers are now part of the non-playoff pool. These drivers will immediately deserve consideration for your non-playoff spots, but at this point, I still recommend making your bench option a third playoff driver. Even with the expanded non-playoff pool, the drivers with the most upside are still your playoff drivers. Personally, I want as many chances as possible at nailing the top scorers.
In the Driver Group Game, we are getting to the point in the rear when every driver decision is critical. With three races at mile-and-a-half tracks still to come, a trip to Dover is a decent opportunity to try to utilize some midrange and sleeper-type options if you are running out of starts from the elite options. I’ll be doing just that with my Group B and Group C picks this weekend.
For Slingshot, I decided to anchor my lineups with a couple of drivers who are starting up in the Top 5 and pair them with drivers who have a little more to offer in the place differential category. This strategy is a little risky, especially with Kyle Busch and the Team Penske drivers starting a deeper in the field, but there are a few drivers who I feel are going to run up front all afternoon, and I want to try to capitalize on the stage points and the potential bonus points for a race win.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Martin Truex Jr. (Playoff)
Truex started at the rear of the field at Dover in May, but that didn’t stop him from winning Stage 2 and winning the race. Over the last 10 races here, he leads all drivers with eight Top 10s, and in the last six races alone, he has five Top 5s and a couple of wins. Starting third, he’s in prime position to pile up stage points and contend for another Dover win.
Chase Elliott (Playoff)
He is the defending winner of the fall race at Dover, and in seven starts here, Elliott has piled up six Top 5s and a series-best 4.4 average finish. He had a great car in the May race earlier this year, finishing third in Stage 1 and fifth in Stage 2 while leading a race-high 145 laps. After a Top 5 qualifying run, he should pick up where he left off.
Jimmie Johnson (Non-Playoff)
Even with some new options in the non-playoff driver pool, I’m staying on the Johnson bandwagon this weekend. Since the playoffs began, he has finished 11th or better in all three races. He also happens to be one of the best to ever get behind the wheel at Dover. Johnson is an 11-time winner here for his career, and he has five Top 15s and four Top 10s in his last six starts at the track. He qualified 11th, and he had a strong car on long runs in practice. A Top 10 finish and some stage points aren’t out of the question.
Erik Jones (Non-Playoff)
Horrible luck brought an early end to his playoff run, but I’ll gladly take advantage of Jones’ newfound status as a non-playoff driver. He has an 11.0 average finish in five starts at Dover, finishing fourth last fall and sixth in the spring. Jones also earned points in both stages in the May race here. Starting in the Top 10, I think he has the highest ceiling among the non-playoff options. I also like Daniel Suarez and Matt DiBenedetto if you are looking for some alternative options.
Garage Driver – Kevin Harvick (Playoff)
Harvick is no stranger to delivering dominant performances at Dover, and over the last 10 races here, he has a couple of wins and has scored the second most points of any driver. He has also led 90-plus laps six times in that span, leading 624 more laps than any other driver overall. Harvick swept both stages at Dover last fall, and he finished in the Top 5 in both stages here in the spring. After qualifying in Row 2, he’s in position to pile up points again this weekend. Kyle Larson is another excellent option.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
I went back and forth between Truex and Chase Elliott, and with both drivers starting in the Top 5, I really think you are just splitting hairs with these two. In the end, I opted for Truex because he won here in May and tends to be a little better at piling up stage points.
Alex Bowman (B)
He had to start at the rear of the field in the May race at Dover, but Bowman had a rocket ship. He was already up to seventh by the end of Stage 1, and he went on to finish second in Stage 2 and in the race. Bowman qualified 12th and showed plenty of muscle in practice. He has also led double-digit laps in two of his three starts at Dover in the No. 88, and as strong as he was here in the spring, a Top 5 finish and plenty of stage points could be on tap.
Daniel Suarez (B)
I am running low on starts from a lot of the reliable Group B options, so I am going to roll the dice on Suarez at one of his best tracks. He has a 7.6 average finish in five starts at Dover, and he has never finished worse than 11th. I also considered Jimmie Johnson and William Byron, but Suarez showed Top 10 speed on long runs in practice and will start in the Top 15. I think this is my best chance to get a solid finish out of Suarez and maximize his value.
Ty Dillon (C)
I wanted to save Chris Buescher’s remaining starts for the 1.5-mile tracks still to come, and with just one start left from Matt DiBenedetto, I decided to try to capitalize on Dillon’s recent momentum. He has quietly cracked the Top 20 in six of the last seven races this season, finishing 16th or better in three of the last four. Dillon finished 22nd at Dover in May, and I think he can at least challenge for a Top 20 Sunday while allowing me to save a start from both of the Group C studs.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Kevin Harvick ($12,500)
It is always a little risky to go with a driver starting towards the front of the field, but Harvick appears to have an excellent car this weekend, and he has a history of delivering dominant performances at Dover. In fact, he swept both stages here last fall and finished in the Top 5 in both stages in the spring race this season. Harvick qualified fourth, and I expect him to run inside the Top 5 all afternoon and challenge for the win.
Chase Elliott ($12,000)
I thought about going with Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski to build some more place differential upside into my lineup, but Elliott has been phenomenal at Dover. He has six Top 5s and a 4.4 average finish in seven starts, winning here last fall and leading the most laps back in May. Starting fifth, he should at least pile up a bunch of stage points, and I also think he is one of the favorites to score the win.
Alex Bowman ($10,400)
Bowman had one of the strongest cars at Dover in May when he finished second, and looking at the practice charts, I think he has Top 5 upside again this weekend. Starting 12th, I like his chances of earning a double-digit stage points and double-digit place differential points.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,000)
He had a mediocre 19th-place showing at Dover in May, and while he qualified 20th this weekend, his long-run speed in practice was that of a borderline Top 10 car. Throw in how well he has performed the last couple of months, and I think a Top 15 finish and 10-plus place differential points are his floor.
Daniel Hemric ($6,900)
I’m rolling the dice on Hemric, but I think it could be worth the risk. He starts way back in 31st, but he looked more like a Top 20 car based on his speed in practice. If Hemric can just approach the Top 20 Sunday, he will pile up enough differential points to be a solid value pick.