The first round of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is in the books, and the championship dreams for Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and Ryan Newman have come to an end. The 12 remaining title contenders will turn their attention to Dover International Speedway as “The Monster Mile” prepares to host Sunday’s Drydene 400, the second race of the year at the progressively-banked, concrete oval.
From a fantasy standpoint, Dover often lives up to its nickname. Yes, plenty of drivers have amassed excellent records here, but when drivers have bad days, they tend to be really bad. There just isn’t a lot of room between the racing surface and the outside and inside walls, and at these speeds, any spin is typically a race ender, often for more than one driver.
For the Driver Group Game, you should probably let your driver allocation situation determine your overall strategy. There are plenty of big names who have excelled at Dover, but as I already mentioned, minor mistakes can turn into major problems at Dover. If you have to save starts from the bigger names in the Group B and Group C tiers, Dover and Talladega are two remaining tracks where you may want to try to squeeze starts out of some alternative options.
In Fantasy Live, the first wave of eliminations beefs up the talent available for your non-playoff spots heading into Dover. We can finally get a little creative with our selections in this category, which should create some opportunities to build some different lineups and potentially gain ground on the competition.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
Despite having to start at the rear of the field at Dover in May, Truex still managed to lead 132 laps and go to victory lane. He has five Top 5s, including a pair of wins, in his last six starts at Dover, and over the last 10 races here, his eight Top 10s and five Top 5s are both tied for the most in the series.
2. Kevin Harvick
Harvick finished fourth at Dover earlier this year, his third straight finish of sixth or better at the track. He has been a staple at the front of the field here recently, and his 1,274 laps led over the last 10 races are 624 more than any other driver. Harvick has led 90-plus laps in six races in that span, topping 200 laps led in two of his last three starts. He should be an excellent option in any format.
3. Chase Elliott
Dover has been his best track at the Cup level, and his 4.4 average finish here is the best in the series. Elliott has cracked the Top 5 in six of his seven starts here, winning the fall race last year and leading a race-high 145 laps in the May race earlier this year. This is a great spot to use him as a Group A option in the Driver Group Game.
4. Kyle Busch
Busch has been a little boom or bust at Dover, but he still has six Top 10s in his last 10 starts here, including a win and a pair of second-place finishes. He has also led laps in seven of the races in that span. This may not be the best track to use him in the Driver Group Game, but you should still expect Busch to challenge for a Top 5 this weekend.
5. Kyle Larson
He has been an absolute force at Dover throughout his career, and in the last 10 races here, Larson is tied for the series lead with eight Top 10s. He only has one finish worse than 12th in that span, and he has five Top 5s, including a third-place run back in May. Larson is a legitimate Group A option in the DGG this weekend.
6. Brad Keselowski
Although he hasn’t been able to pile up the wins at Dover, Keselowski is no stranger to running up front here. He has led laps in eight of the last 10 races at the track, including four straight. Keselowski has led more than 25 laps in six of those starts, leading 58 laps back in May. He has plenty of upside, especially at the DFS sites.
7. Joey Logano
Logano has been solid, albeit not spectacular, at Dover in recent years. He finished third here last fall and seventh in the spring, and while he has just two Top 5s in his last 10 starts at the track, he also has eight Top 15s and an 11.6 average finish. Logano still possesses a Top 10 floor, and he is always capable of more.
8. Erik Jones
While his championship hopes have come to an end, Jones still has plenty left to offer fantasy owners, especially at Dover. He has four Top 15s and an 11.0 average finish in five starts here overall, and he finished fourth in the fall race last year and sixth here in May. Jones should be a strong Group B option in the DGG, and he is my top non-playoff option in Fantasy Live.
9. Denny Hamlin
Dover used to be an Achilles’ heel for Hamlin, but he has figured out “The Monster Mile in recent years. He has five Top 10s in his last seven starts here, including a second-place run last fall. A tire issue cost ruined his race here in May, but Hamlin should be back in the Top 10 mix on Sunday.
10. Clint Bowyer
He has been steady at Dover for most of his career, and Bowyer has made the jump to Top 10 threat since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He has finished ninth or better in three of his last four starts here, finishing second in the spring race last season. Don’t hesitate to use him as a Group B option in the DGG.
11. Alex Bowman
Bowman is a tough driver to predict this weekend. After finishing outside the Top 20 in both starts at Dover last year, he was excellent here in May. He qualified in the Top 5 and earned points in both stages, eventually leading 16 laps and finishing second. You have to like his upside as a potential Group B option for the DGG.
12. Jimmie Johnson
He isn’t the unstoppable force he was at Dover early in his career, but Johnson is still a solid performer here. He cracked the Top 15 in the May race earlier this year, and he has four Top 10s in his last six starts, including a win in 2017. Even with the field of non-playoff drivers expanding, I still like Johnson in Fantasy Live.
13. Ryan Blaney
His overall numbers at Dover aren’t spectacular, but Blaney has cracked the Top 15 in all three starts here since joining Team Penske. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him challenge for a Top 10 Sunday.
14. William Byron
He is putting together a solid resume at Dover, and in three starts, Byron owns a 13.7 average finish. He has cracked the Top 20 in all three of his starts, logging a career-best eighth-place finish at the track back May. Byron should at least challenge for a Top 15, and he has sneaky Top 10 upside. He could be a great Group B sleeper for the DGG.
15. Kurt Busch
Busch has been an all-or-nothing option at Dover throughout his career, but he finished in the Top 5 in both races here last year and picked up a Top 15 back in May. Bounced from the playoffs, you have to consider gambling on his upside in Fantasy Live for one of your non-playoff spots.
16. Daniel Suarez
Suarez picked up yet another Top 10 at Dover back in May, giving him four in five career Cup starts here to go along with a 7.6 average finish. This is a great spot to use him as a Group B sleeper in the Driver Group Game or as a non-playoff driver in Fantasy Live.
17. Ryan Newman
He has overachieved all season, but Dover hasn’t been his best track in recent years. Newman has just two Top 10s in his last 10 starts here, and he finished 17th here last fall and 18th back in the spring. A mid-pack finish is likely on tap, and a Top 15 is probably the best-case scenario. You can find a better Group B alternative in the DGG this weekend.
18. Aric Almirola
Although he has been better at Dover with Stewart-Haas Racing, Almirola still isn’t a must-start fantasy option. He has finished 11th, 14th and 16th in his three starts here for SHR, so he should be able to flirt with a Top 15. Almirola has a safe floor as a Group B alternative in DGG or as a non-playoff option in Fantasy Live, but he isn’t going to put a lineup over the top.
19. Matt DiBenedetto
Everyone’s favorite underdog delivered a Top 20 finish at Dover back in May, and based on how he has been performing the last couple of months, that is probably his floor this weekend. If you have the starts to spare, he is the top Group C option in the Driver Group Game.
20. Paul Menard
His overall numbers at Dover remain sketchy, but Menard has shown some signs of life since joining the Wood Brothers. He finished 16th in the fall race last year, and he finished 17th here in May. Menard should be able to battle for a Top 20, but his fantasy value will depend on his starting spot.
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse crashed out of the May race at Dover, but he’s managed decent results here recently. He has five Top 15s and six Top 20s in his last eight starts, so he could have some upside as a GPP-only DFS option.
22. Austin Dillon
He hasn’t been terrible at Dover, cracking the Top 20 in five of his last six starts and finishing 16th or better four times in that span. Dillon actually finished seventh here last fall, but his 19th-place run here in May is probably more of what fantasy owners should expect this weekend. He will be a qualifying-dependent DFS option this weekend.
23. Chris Buescher
Buescher has been a Top 20 machine most of the year, but Dover has never been his best track. He finished 23rd here back in May and has finished 23rd or worse in five of his seven starts overall. Buescher is still one of the best Group C options for the Driver Group Game, but if you are low on starts, you need to save him for the 1.5-mile track remaining on the schedule.
24. Daniel Hemric
Hemric made his Dover debut back in May, finishing six laps off the pace in 25th. He’s been popping up in and around the Top 20 more in the second half of the year, but you should probably set your expectations at another Top 25. I’d only turn to Hemric if you are almost out of starts from Matt DiBenedetto and Chris Buescher in the Driver Group Game.
25. Ty Dillon
He has made five starts at Dover for his current No. 13 team, and Dillon has cracked the Top 25 in four of them, finishing 22nd or better and gaining at least six spots three times. Dillon could be a desperation Group C sleeper for the DGG, but he is best suited as a DFS punt play if he qualifies poorly.
26. Ryan Preece
Preece had a forgettable Dover debut earlier this year, starting 29th and finishing 28th. He’s shown a little more speed in recent weeks, but I still wouldn’t expect more than a Top 25 out of the rookie this weekend. I don’t expect to have Preece in any of my fantasy lineups.
27. David Ragan
Ragan finished 26th at Dover earlier this year, his fourth straight finish of 27th or better at the concrete oval and seventh in the last nine races at the track. He doesn’t have the upside to be a worthwhile option in season-long contests, but Ragan could have some DFS appeal if he starts deep in the field.
28. Bubba Wallace
While he has shown zero upside at Dover, Wallace has been consistent. In three Cup starts at the track, he has finished 25th, 23rd and 27th. Obviously, it will take a terrible qualifying effort to make him worth a look at the DFS sites, but Wallace likely ends up around the Top 25 Sunday.
29. Michael McDowell
Considering the equipment he has had to work with, McDowell has actually been decent at Dover. He cracked the Top 25 here in May, and in six starts, he owns a 23.0 average finish and has never finished worse than 27th. Depending on where he starts, McDowell could be a serviceable source of cap relief at the DFS sites.
30. Matt Tifft
Tifft started and finished 32nd in his Dover debut back in May, but he been able to run in and around the Top 25 for much of the second half of the year, and he owns a 26.6 average finish for the season overall. His ceiling is limited, but if he happens to qualify well outside the Top 30, he could be a DFS punt play.