NASCAR’s condensed schedule rolls on this week with a return trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway. The mile-and-a-half oval will play host to Wednesday night’s Alsco 500, and compared to Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the second race of the doubleheader will seem like a sprint in comparison.
As was the case with the back-to-back races at Darlington last week, the field for Wednesday’s race will be set by the finishing order for the Coca-Cola 600. The Top 20 finishers from this weekend’s race will again be inverted, and drivers who finished outside the Top 20 will start in the same position where they finished on Sunday.
While we did see a lot of the same drivers run well and earn solid finishes in both Darlington races, the inversion procedure definitely had an impact. Not only did it allow some different drivers to lead for longer stretches, but it also caused stage points to be distributed a bit differently. Throw in the fact the stages Wednesday will be just 55 laps, compared to 100 laps on Sunday, and I think you need to keep initial track position in mind when assembling your fantasy rosters.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still going to have plenty of exposure to Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and other drivers who start towards the middle of the pack who were among the top contenders Sunday. However, the Hendrick Motorsports duo on the front row looks mighty appealing, and guys like Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto could be sneaky plays.
1. Chase Elliott
Talk about a couple of brutal finishes for Elliott, who could have easily won both the Wednesday night race at Darlington and Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. No, he didn’t end up in victory lane at Charlotte, but Elliott finished third, and earned 14 stage points. Don’t be surprised when he closes the deal at Charlotte Wednesday night.
2. Martin Truex Jr.
He ended up sixth Sunday night, but Truex had one of the dominant cars. Not only did he lead 87 laps, but he was the runner-up in both Stage 1 and Stage 2. The three-time Charlotte winner will be back in my fantasy lineups Wednesday in the return trip to the track.
3. Alex Bowman
Bowman spent the first half of Sunday’s race clobbering the competition, and he led a race-high 164 laps while winning each of the first two stages. The late caution and final restart saddled him with a 19th-place finish, but that means Bowman will be on the front row Wednesday. He should be a stud in all fantasy formats.
4. Kevin Harvick
He didn’t have one of the top cars Sunday night, but Harvick continues to be the safest option in the series. He came away with a fifth-place finish at Charlotte, giving him five Top 5s and seven Top 10s through the first seven races, and Harvick’s 4.7 average finish is by far the best in the series.
5. Kyle Busch
It wasn’t a dominant night from Busch, but he finished sixth in Stage 1 and third in Stage 2, and he rallied from a problem on pit road to finish fourth in the race. I’m not sure I am going to have a ton of exposure to him at the DFS sites, but I love him for season-long contests like Fantasy Live.
6. Brad Keselowski
He didn’t earn any stage points, but Keselowski took advantage of the final caution and went to victory lane Sunday, putting an exclamation point on a strong stretch at Charlotte. I’m not expecting him to complete the sweep Wednesday, but he should at least deliver another Top 10.
7. Joey Logano
His 13th-place finish Sunday doesn’t jump off the page, but Logano had himself a solid night. He led 26 laps, and he followed up a fifth-place finish in Stage 1 by finishing seventh in Stage 2. Rolling off inside the Top 10 Wednesday, Logano should be a solid option for Fantasy Live.
8. William Byron
His cut tire in the final laps Sunday ruined a strong night and cost his teammate a win, but his 20th-place finish also puts him on the pole Wednesday night. Byron finished eighth and fourth in the first two stages over the weekend, and starting out front should only help matters. Byron has a ton of upside in season-long and DFS formats.
9. Erik Jones
Jones was running in and around the Top 10 throughout Sunday’s race, and he earned a sixth-place finish in Stage 2 before ending up 11th overall. He probably isn’t going to provide much help in the dominator categories, but he has been one of the steadiest performers at 1.5-mile tracks for more than a year. Jones should be back in the mix for a Top 10 Wednesday.
10. Jimmie Johnson
He ended up crushing me in Fantasy Live when his runner-up effort Sunday was disallowed because of an illegal car, resulting in a 40th-place finish. It will also force him to start dead last Wednesday, but while it may take Johnson some time to work his way towards the front, I think he will be knocking on the door of the Top 10 when all is said and done. He is a must-own for Slingshot Auto and for cash lineups at the DFS sites.
11. Ryan Blaney
Blaney was a DFS juggernaut Sunday night, gaining 23 spots on his way to a third-place finish. He probably had more of a Top 10 car than a Top 5 car, but with the field being inverted, he should once again be a great source of differential points Wednesday night.
12. Denny Hamlin
His Coca-Cola 600 was essentially over before it began after he lost eight laps when a chunk of ballast fell off his car during the parade laps. If there is a silver lining from a fantasy standpoint, Hamlin now has to start 29th. He should be an excellent option for DFS cash lineups.
13. Kurt Busch
Busch led the first 54 laps from the pole Sunday, but he was unable to continue his dominance following the rain delay. He ended up seventh but gained just two stage points. Busch should be able to flirt with another Top 10 Wednesday night, but I wouldn’t bank on him leading laps or contending for the win.
14. Tyler Reddick
He continued his awesome rookie season, notching an eighth-place finish and seven stage points in his Coca-Cola 600 debut. He is hands down the class of the Group C options in the Driver Group Game, and you may just want to ride the hot hand while he is clicking off Top 10s.
15. Matt DiBenedetto
An up-and-down night ended with a 17th-place finish, but to be fair, DiBenedetto gained 16 spots on the night. He won’t have the differential upside on Wednesday because of the inversion, but starting in the Top 5, he could grab a few stage points and end up in the Top 15. DiBenedetto is a Group B sleeper candidate in the DGG.
16. Austin Dillon
Dillon had a decent showing in the Coca-Cola 600, earning points in each of the first two stages and ending up 14th. He will start in the Top 10 Wednesday, so he may be able to deliver a similar result. If you are looking for a contrarian Group B option for the DGG, you could roll the dice on Dillon.
17. Aric Almirola
He picked his way from 40th to 15th in Sunday’s marathon, and Almirola has now cracked the Top 15 in all three Charlotte starts with Stewart-Haas Racing. He is a safe bet to finish in the top half of the field, but since he doesn’t usually provide many stage points and doesn’t have any differential upside, I don’t see much fantasy upside here.
18. Christopher Bell
After a brutal start, Bell has finally found a little momentum. He followed up an 11th-place run in the second race at Darlington with a Top 10 run in the Coca-Cola 600. With the series right back at Charlotte Wednesday, this could be a great time to dial up Bell for your Group C pick in the DGG.
19. Chris Buescher
The doubleheader at Darlington wasn’t kind to him, but Buescher got back on track with a Top 10 run at Charlotte Sunday. The only downside is that it the solid run will have him starting 11th Wednesday, and without much differential upside, Buescher’s fantasy upside is capped. Expect a respectable finish, but not necessarily a big point total.
20. Ryan Newman
He was running inside the Top 10 when a battery issue resulted in an unscheduled stop and a 27th-place finish. The bad finish means a bad starting spot for Wednesday night’s race, but Newman is one of the best in the business at grinding out decent finishes. He should be a solid option for cash lineups at the DFS sites.
21. Cole Custer
He spent a majority of the race running in the middle of the pack, but Custer eventually got back on the lead lap and ended up 12th. The rookie might not be able to match that result in the return trip to Charlotte, but a Top 20 is on the table. Custer is a serviceable Group C option in the DGG.
22. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth had his worst performance at Charlotte in quite in some time thanks a cut tire, and as a result, the veteran will have to start 26th Wednesday night. I probably won’t use him in the DGG, but all those spots to gain make him an intriguing option for Slingshot and for DFS contests.
23. Clint Bowyer
A cut tire sent Bowyer slamming into the wall and saddled him with a 39th-place finish in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. With tons of spots to gain, Bowyer will be worth a long look for cash contest at the DFS sites. However, he has struggled at Charlotte overall, so I have him below the other mid-tier guys starting deep in the field.
24. John Hunter Nemechek
The good news is that the rookie continued overachieve in Front Row Motorsports equipment, coming home 16th Sunday. The bad news, at least for fantasy owners, is that he will start in the Top 5 Wednesday. Nemechek could end up with another Top 20, but he is on the wrong side of the place differential line to have any DFS value.
25. Ryan Preece
David Smith has some great spider charts up and Motorsports Analytics, and one of them shows that Preece has quietly been a force at gaining spots, both on restarts and over the course of runs. After bad luck to start the year, he is starting to run in and around the Top 20 on a routine basis. He’s become a nice source of cap relief for GPP contests.
26. Bubba Wallace
A solid start to 2020 hit a major hurdle when a tire problem brought his Coca-Cola 600 to an early end. He has to start back in 38th on Wednesday as a result, an while I wouldn’t count on more than a Top 25, he enormous place differential upside should still allow him to be a worthwhile DFS play.
27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
If you feel like rolling the dice on a high-risk sleeper, you may want to venture down the Stenhouse rabbit hole. He has six Top 15s in his last seven starts at Charlotte, including a 10th-place effort in 2018 and a fifth-place run last year. Stenhouse also finished third at Las Vegas in February, albeit with the help of a couple of timely cautions.
28. Ty Dillon
Dillon has been able to deliver his share of Top 20 finishes in 2020, but he has a forgettable run at Charlotte over the weekend when he ended up 25th. It is hard to expect more than a Top 25 out of him in Wednesday’s return trip to the track, and I don’t see using him in fantasy contests this weekend.
29. Michael McDowell
He brings a 20.9 average finish into Wednesday’s race, which would easily be the best mark of his career. From a fantasy perspective, unfortunately, McDowell’s Top 20 effort Sunday has him starting third in the second race of the Charlotte doubleheader. The looming place differential loss is going to crush his value.
30. Corey LaJoie
Consistency is always going to be tough to find while he is driving for a small team, but LaJoie has managed back-to-back Top 25 finishes, including a 23rd-place run in the Coca-Cola 600. LaJoie is starting a bit too far forward for my taste Wednesday night, but he could be a DFS lottery ticket for GPP contests.