2019 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway Picks

Fantasy NASCAR expert Brian Polking gets you ready to dominate your season-long leagues with his top plays for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, and while the first road course race of the season is going to be a bit of a challenge for Fantasy NASCAR owners, it is also an opportunity to get creative with your lineups and save starts from top options in season-long contests that limit the number of times you can use each driver.

Laps at Sonoma were already long enough to allow drivers to pit under green without losing a lap. The inclusion of “The Carousel” portion of the course this year increases the length from 1.99 miles to 2.52 miles, making green flag stops even easier. Unfortunately, this causes many of the best cars to pit before the end of each stage, forfeiting stage points in favor of track position for the final stage.

Stage points are valuable in most season-long contests, but they are especially crucial at Fantasy Live. The fact that they will likely be earned by pit strategy instead of raw speed is not an ideal situation for fantasy owners, but there is no need to make a tough situation worse by using up starts from big names when they may not even earn stage points.

Guys like Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are all excellent road racers, but I won’t be using them in Fantasy Live this weekend. Instead, I will be using some upper-end, midrange options who have had a lot of success at road courses. Drivers like Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer have Top 5 upside, and they have just as much of a chance at stage points as the top guys.

I will be using a similar strategy in the Driver Group Game with my Group B and Group C picks. There isn’t enough depth in these tiers to risk using the elite options at a track where stage point distribution can be so volatile.

Play the long game with your lineups this weekend. A conservative approach can still yield a big point total, and at the very least, you aren’t going to waste starts from the top fantasy options. You never want to have a bad fantasy showing, but a bad showing with a lineup full of big names can have a long-lasting impact.

Check out all of my season-long Fantasy NASCAR picks for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, and enjoy the first road course race of 2019.

Get access to DFS information with our DFS All-Access Package! Check out all the perks today!

NASCAR.com Fantasy Live

Chase Elliott

Elliott has emerged as weekly starting option in Fantasy Live, but with five starts left, I’ll use him as an anchor to my lineup, even at a road course. He finished fourth, first and sixth in the three road races last year, scoring the most points of any driver in those three events. Elliott also earned points in five of the six stages in those races, picking up three Top 5 finishes and a stage win. Starting fourth, Elliott looks like one of the frontrunners for the win this weekend.

Kurt Busch

I tend to shy away from Kurt Busch in this format because he doesn’t always pile up stage points, but that could change in a big way this weekend. After all, he is an absolute stud when it comes to road racing, leading the series with nine Top 10s and a 6.4 average finish over the last 10 road course events. Busch has finished 12th or better in eight straight starts at Sonoma, picking up a win and leading laps in five of those starts. He could be a threat for the win and a lot of stage points Sunday.

Clint Bowyer

Bowyer has always been able to handle himself at a road course, and he’s been even better since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. Bowyer has a 4.8 average finish and four Top 5s in five road races with SHR, and he has finished second and third in two starts at Sonoma for the team. In 13 career starts at Sonoma, he has eight Top 5s and 10 Top 10s. Following the race at Pocono, Bowyer made a point of saying that his team needed to make sure to get stage points when they have strong cars. I think his strategy will reflect that this weekend, which should only add to his value in this format.

Jimmie Johnson

Part of my motivation for using Johnson is to save a start from one of the elite fantasy options, but he could pack some upside in his own right. After all, he earned points in five of the six stages at the road courses last year, picking up four stage finishes of fourth or better. After qualifying 11th, Johnson could be piling up some stage points again this weekend.

William Byron

I pondered his teammate, Alex Bowman, but Byron has been fast all weekend, showing great speed in practice before qualifying on the front row. When Byron has qualified up front this year, and he has been able to deliver strong results in the race. I am hoping that trend continues this weekend.

Garage Driver – Kyle Larson

Larson was my pick to win the pole this weekend, and he delivered. Of course, history says he will fade from the top spot throughout the race, but Larson was staying up front at the Roval last fall before crashing on a restart. In case he is able to hang near the front and pile up stage points, I want Larson available.

Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game

Martin Truex Jr. (A)

While I do like to save starts from bigger names at the road courses, I don’t feel as pressured to do so with my Group A pick. Between Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and Kevin Harvick, there plenty of strong options to turn to every week. With that in mind, I am going with Truex this weekend. He has been the best at the road courses this weekend, winning at Sonoma last year and picking up two wins and a second-place finish in the last four road races. Truex topped the charts in opening practice and qualified in the Top 10.

Daniel Suarez (B)

Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer are probably the top road racers in this tier, but they are also two of the best Group B options overall. As valuable as their starts are, it doesn’t make sense to use one at a track like Sonoma where stage points can be tough to predict. With that in mind, I’m going to roll the dice on Suarez. He has an 11.8 average finish in five road course starts, logging a couple of Top 5s. Suarez will start in the Top 5 tomorrow, and I am hoping he can parlay the track position into some stage points and a solid finish.

Jimmie Johnson (B)

Again, it is tempting to use road racing studs like Kurt Busch or Clint Bowyer, but I need them for the bigger ovals where the top drivers from the top teams tend to dominate. Plus, Johnson has quietly emerged as one of the stronger options at the road courses recently. He nearly won at the Roval last fall, and he earned points in five of the six stages across the three road races in 2018, finishing third or better four times. Starting 11th, he is positioned for more stage points and another strong finish.

Michael McDowell (C)

I think Chris Buescher will be fast again this weekend, but he’s been too valuable at the bigger ovals to risk using at a road course. Instead, I’ll turn to McDowell, a proven road racer in his own right. He has win at Road America in the XFINITY Series, and he has finished 21st or better in the last six road races at the Cup level, finishing 18th or better five times in that stretch. McDowell was happy with his car during practice, and he qualified 13th. I think he has a shot at a Top 15 Sunday, and this is a golden opportunity to maximize his value.

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto

Kevin Harvick ($11,500)

Harvick hasn’t shown elite speed yet this weekend, but I can’t pass up the chance to roster one of the top road course drivers in the series when he is starting outside the Top 20. He has eight Top 10s in the last 10 road course races, and Harvick has led laps and finished sixth or better in four of the last five races at Sonoma.

Kurt Busch ($11,200)

He has an excellent road racing resume, including a series-best nine Top 10s in the last 10 road course events. Busch also has a great combination of place differential upside and stage point potential after qualifying 16th. He’s positioned for a huge points total.

Erik Jones ($11,000)

Jones is a bit of a gamble because of how bad his luck has been this year, but starting 32nd, I can’t ignore his upside in the place differential category. Jones has cracked the Top 10 in three of his five road course starts, and he finished seventh at Sonoma last year. Jones could easily move up 20-plus spots Sunday.

Clint Bowyer ($10,900)

Like Kurt Busch, Bowyer offers the best of both worlds this weekend. Starting 14th puts him close enough to the front to earn stage points while still giving him some place differential upside. Bowyer has 10 Top 10s in 13 career starts at Sonoma, including finishes of second and third in two starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Parker Kligerman ($5,300)

I’m going with the punt play this weekend, but I like Kligerman’s chances to deliver a positive score. He starts 29th, but he has cracked the Top 25 in both of his road course starts at the Cup level, finishing 23rd at Sonoma last year.

Starting Lineup for the 2019 Toyota/Save Mart 350

1. Kyle Larson
2. William Byron
3. Joey Logano
4. Chase Elliott
5. Daniel Suarez
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Kyle Busch
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Ryan Blaney
10. Chris Buescher
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. Alex Bowman
13. Michael McDowell
14. Clint Bowyer
15. Aric Almirola
16. Kurt Busch
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
18. David Ragan
19. Matt DiBenedetto
20. Ryan Preece
21. Ryan Newman
22. Brad Keselowski
23. Kevin Harvick
24. Paul Menard
25. Daniel Hemric
26. Austin Dillon
27. Corey Lajoie
28. Matt Tifft
29. Parker Kligerman
30. Bubba Wallace
31. Ty Dillon
32. Erik Jones
33. Justin Haley
34. Cody Ware
35. Landon Cassill
36. JJ Yeley
37. Kyle Weatherman
38. Reed Sorenson

Join FullTime Fantasy for top advice in the industry from check-cashing, proven winners!