The NASCAR Cup Series wraps up its West Coast swing this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, and now that qualifying is in the books, it is time to set our season-long Fantasy NASCAR lineups for Sunday’s Fan Shield 500.
Track position always seems to be crucial at a flat track like Phoenix, and looking at the starting lineup, I think this is a week when you will want to stick to big names for Fantasy Live. Many of the typical Phoenix studs are starting up front, and I expect them to stay near the front throughout the afternoon, piling up those valuable stage points in the process.
For the Driver Group Game, I also mainly stuck with drivers starting inside the Top 10. However, I did get a little more creative with my Group B picks. You have to make your starts stretch further in this format than you do in Fantasy Live, so I’m going to try to take advantage of some underrated Phoenix options who have shown speed this weekend.
Slingshot Fantasy Auto was probably my biggest challenge this weekend. With almost all of the big names starting up front, there weren’t any low-hanging place differential points available. Instead, I went with a combination of cheaper drivers starting deeper in the field and a couple of drivers starting up front. I need the guys starting up front to grab some stage and have a clean race, and while there is the risk of negative differential points, I think it is my best path to a big point total.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Busch has been a force at Phoenix the last several years, notching eight Top 5s in his last nine starts and logging two wins and two second-place finishes in his last four starts alone. Starting in the Top 10 with a car that posted the second-best lap in Happy Hour, another Top 5 finish and plenty of stage points should be on tap.
The nine-time Phoenix winner looks primed to make a run at victory No. 10 this weekend. He was a force on long runs during practice, and he qualified on the front row. He has never finished outside the Top 10 here since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, notching five wins and 10 Top 5s. I expect him up front all afternoon.
Elliott has had some bad luck at Phoenix, but speed usually isn’t an issue. He’s been fast again this weekend, and he will lead the field to the green Sunday. Last fall, Elliott finished second and third in the two stages at Phoenix, and I’m expecting a similar showing out of him this weekend.
He has two strong efforts at Phoenix last year, posting third-place finishes in both races. Blaney has also been fast out of the gate in 2020, flirting with wins in each of the first three races. Following a Top 5 qualifying effort, I’m expecting that trend to continue this weekend. Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola are two other options I like if you want to save starts from any of the big names starting in the Top 5.
One of the best flat track drivers in the business, Hamlin has logged three Top 5s in his last four starts at Phoenix, including a dominating win here last fall. After qualifying third, I’m looking for another strong showing out of Hamlin at one of his best tracks.
Garage Driver – Brad Keselowski
While I have loaded up on drivers who are starting in the Top 10, I still want Keselowski available this weekend. He had one of the best cars during Friday’s practices, especially on longer runs. Yes, he starts 14th, but I think he can still pile up plenty of stage points if he backs up his practice times.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kevin Harvick (A)
In his 12 starts at Phoenix with SHR, he has a 3.42 average finish and has notched 10 Top 5s, and Harvick looks poised for another strong showing this weekend. He will start on the front row, and he showed excellent long-run speed in practice. I think a Top 5 finish is his floor.
Aric Almirola (B)
I normally consider Almirola a conservative, fallback-type fantasy option, but looking at the practice sheets, he appears to have a Top 5 car. He also has a solid record at Phoenix, and he has finished seventh or better n three of his four starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing. Starting sixth, double-digit stage points and a Top 5 finish aren’t out of the question.
Kurt Busch (B)
Busch is an underrated option at the flat tracks, and he has finished 11th or better in seven of his last 10 starts at Phoenix. He popped up in the Top 10 and Top 5 throughout Friday’s practices before qualifying in the Top 10. I’m expecting stage points and a strong finish out of Busch this weekend.
Ross Chastain (C)
Seeing Ryan Newman back at the track makes me think his return to the car could happen sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will continue to take advantage of Chastain’s time in the No. 6. If you are looking for an alternative, Cole Custer looked solid on the practice sheets.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Brad Keselowski ($11,800)
Keselowski has been a little boom or bust at Phoenix, but based on the practice sheets, he has one of the cars to beat this weekend. He is also one of the few big names with some actual place differential upside. Keselowski qualified 14th, but I think he ends up in the Top 5 Sunday.
Chase Elliott ($11,400)
I don’t make a habit of rostering drivers starting up front, let alone the pole-sitter, in this format, but there aren’t a lot of big names starting deeper in the field. Meanwhile, Elliott has shown plenty of speed all weekend, and he is the cheapest option among the drivers I consider the favorites for the win. I’m hoping he stays up front all afternoon, piles up stage points and ends up in victory lane.
Jimmie Johnson ($10,100)
William Byron is another driver in this price range that I considered, but Johnson starts a little deeper in the field, and he has a more proven record at Phoenix. He starts 21st, but he has eight Top 15s in his last 10 Phoenix starts, including four straight.
Austin Dillon ($8,800)
I hate using Austin Dillon, but even he should be able to take advantage of the place differential category after qualifying 30th. He has an 18.5 average finish and seven Top 20s in the last 10 races at Phoenix, and I think he can at least find his way to a mid-pack finish Sunday.
Tyler Reddick ($7,700)
Reddick qualified way back in 29th, but he showed Top 15 speed on both short and longer runs during Friday’s practices. I think he can at least push towards the Top 20, gaining double-digit spots and padding his point total with differential points. Reddick offers a decent floor and some upside for a great price.