The good news for fantasy owners is that we get to leave Talladega and superspeedway racing in the rearview mirror for a while. The bad news is that we still have to deal with a “Monster” this weekend. Dover International Speedway is the next stop on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, but while the concrete oval may have earned the nickname “The Monster Mile,” we don’t need to hit the panic button over Sunday’s Gander RV 400.
Yes, the track has been known to chew up and spit out a racecar or two over the years, but there are also several drivers who have really excelled at the one-mile oval. In fact, there are plenty of drivers who have amassed great resumes here. I plan on leaning heavily on these Dover masters when building my fantasy lineups this weekend, and that means using a few starts from some of the top options.
In Fantasy Live, I feel I have a solid blend of elite options and guys in the next tier down. They aren’t sleeper by any means, but I’ve been leaning heavily on Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano early in the year, and I only have one of them in my lineup this weekend.
For the Driver Group Game, I used a similar strategy, avoiding the elite options but still using proven drivers. My Group B plays trend more towards the middle-tier, but I am still using drivers who have delivered consistent, solid results at Dover.
I had a much tougher time deciding on my Slingshot picks this weekend, and that’s part of the reason I love the pricing in this game. Every week, I can’t simply roster all my top plays unless I am willing to completely punt the end of my roster. Instead, I am left debating between multiple mid-priced drivers and several lineup combinations. I like the challenge.
As for Sunday’s race, I ended up going with a couple of drivers who I feel are locks to provide a lot of differential points and paired them with some riskier, mid-priced plays who I feel could contend for strong finishes.
Without further ado, let’s dive into this weekend’s season-long Fantasy NASCAR picks for the Gander RV 400 at Dover.
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Harvick has been nothing short of dominant at Dover since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He has led more than 90 laps in six of the last 10 races here, leading 779 more laps than any other driver in that span. He also has a pair of wins in that stretch, including a victory in the spring race last year. Harvick actually led more than 200 laps in both Dover races in 2018, winning all four stages at the track. A sixth-place qualifying effort has him positioned for a lot of stage points again this weekend.
I know his luck has been terrible this year, but Larson has been excellent at Dover. He has seven Top 10s and an 8.5 average finish in 10 starts here, and he led more than 100 laps and finished in the Top 5 in both races in 2017. After he qualified third and showed good speed in practice, I have to gamble on his upside.
Keselowski has been rock solid at Dover for a while now, logging eight Top 15s and six Top 10s in the last 10 races. He finished sixth in the spring race here a year ago, leading 108 laps and finishing second and third, respectively, in the two stages. Keselowski also earned points in both stages in the fall race last season. Qualifying ninth, his streak of stage points at Dover has a great chance to continue this weekend.
Dover just might be Elliott’s best track on the schedule, and in six starts here, he owns five Top 5s and a 4.3 average finish. Last year, he earned points in all four stages between the two Dover races, ending up in victory lane in the fall race. He will lead the field to the green after capturing the pole, and since I’ve only used Elliott twice this year, I don’t have to think twice about starting him Sunday.
Bowyer had a great car in both races at Dover last year, finishing seventh or better in all four stages and cracking the Top 5 in three of them. He has finished sixth or better in two of his four starts at the track with Stewart-Haas Racing, and if not for a cut tire late in the fall race last year, he would probably have finished in the Top 5. Starting in the Top 10, Bowyer could pile up some stage points again Sunday.
Garage Driver – Martin Truex Jr.
He’s been the model of consistency at Dover the last few years, piling up a series-best eight Top 10s in the last 10 races to go along with a 6.6 average finish. Truex has also cracked the Top 5 in four of the last five Dover races, leading 50-plus laps three times in that stretch. His 13th-place qualifying run was spectacular, but his car was stout in practice, and he is still close enough to the front for plenty of stage points. With seven starts still remaining from Truex, having him available on the bench is an easy call.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
I went back and forth between Truex and Chase Elliott, but although Elliott won the pole, Truex appears to have one of the best cars in race trim. He also has a series-best eight Top 10s in the last 10 races at Dover, including four Top 5s in the last five races alone.
Jimmie Johnson (B)
I thought long and hard about using either Clint Bowyer or Aric Almirola, but I think both those drivers have Top 10 potential at plenty of tracks still come. Instead, I will try to get a strong run out of Johnson at one of his best tracks. No, he isn’t the dominant force here that he once was, but he still has seven Top 10s and three wins over the last 10 Dover races. After qualifying 12th and showing great speed in Happy Hour, I think he is a great shot at another Top 10 Sunday.
Daniel Suarez (B)
He is in the middle of the best stretch of his career, and Suarez owns a 10.2 average finish in the six races leading up to Dover. He also happens to be excellent at this track. He has a 6.8 average finish in his four starts here, and he has never finished outside the Top 10. Starting 14th with a car that was borderline Top 5 in practice, I think this is the perfect spot to try to grab a strong finish out of Suarez.
Matt DiBenedetto (C)
I went into the weekend with DiBenedetto and Ryan Preece, and since Preece hasn’t given me anything to get excited about, I’m going the other direction. DiBenedetto’s numbers at Dover don’t excite by any means, but he has never made a start here in the No. 95. He qualified a respectable 17th, and despite lackluster practice times in his own right, I think he’s my best bet at a decent finish from my Group C driver.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Martin Truex Jr. ($12,800)
I thought long and hard about Kyle Busch, but Truex appeared to have the better car in race trim, and the extra salary space allows me to field a stronger lineup.
Jimmie Johnson ($11,000)
While I’m not expecting a vintage Dover performance out of Johnson, he does appear to have a Top 5 car for Sunday’s race. Starting 12th, he is in good position to grab some stage points and a few place differential points on top of that.
Kyle Larson ($10,800)
This is the pick that will probably make or break my lineup. Larson has had terrible luck this year, and starting up in third, he is going to kill me if he has trouble. On the flip side, he’s been excellent at Dover, and he had a pair of dominant outings here in 2017. If he can hang around the Top 5 all day and pile up some stage points, he will be a great value at this price.
Daniel Suarez ($10,200)
Suarez’s Dover resume includes four Top 10s in four starts and a 6.8 average finish. After seeing practice times, he appears well on his way to another strong run Sunday. Starting 14th, I’m expecting some differential points and some stage points out of him.
Ross Chastain ($5,100)
Since I wasn’t in love with any of the cheaper options this weekend, I decided to go with a total punt play and load up the rest of my lineup. Chastain starts back in 36th, but he has a 27.7 average finish for the year and typically cracks the Top 30. He should at least provide positive points.