The MENCS heads back to Charlotte for the final race of the first round of the playoffs. This will not be a regular race though. The track has been turned into a half-road course, half-oval (Roval) track. Teams have had plenty of time to test but so far those tests have resulted in a lot of crashes. This is either going to be the coolest race ever or a complete disaster. The Bank of America Roval 400 can be seen Sunday at 2pm ET on NBC.
The MENCS will need all the practice they can get this week. There will be one practice Friday (12pm ET on NBCSN) and two practices Saturday (11am ET on NBC Sports App and 1:30pm ET CNBC). Qualifying will be Friday evening at 4:45 PM ET on NBCSN. Our lineups need to be entered by 8 AM ET Friday.
The race this week is going to be hard to predict. There are no tracks on the circuit to compare the Roval to. Some team’s say it races like Sonoma, some teams say they are completely lost. The MENCS drivers are worried about this race and so should you. Any “fantasy expect” who says they know what to predict in this race is lying. I plan to save my top drivers for more predictable tracks.
Here are my picks for Charlotte…
Driver Group Game A Picks
I mapped out my allocations in Group A for the final 8 races. I am in good shape. I have 1 allocation left with Kyle Busch, 2 with Kevin Harvick and 4 with Martin Truex Jr. I plan to use Brad Keselowski at Talladega so I can use the “Big Three” at the rest of the tracks. I could also use Kyle Larson at Homestead if I need too. So I will not be saving allocations in Group A this week. I need points so I am picking the two best drivers in the field.
Martin Truex Jr. (4): There are four drivers who are already locked into Round 2 of the playoffs. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch are in with their wins and Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick (all he had to do is make 1 lap) are in on points. The drivers who are not pressured to win Sunday should run well. They do not need to worry about over-driving the car. Truex has 3 wins on the road courses. He has finished 1st, 1st and 2nd in the last 3 road course races. He should be racing Kyle Busch for the win Sunday.
Kyle Busch (1): Kyle Busch loves Kyle Busch. He wants to be the best at every track and win every trophy. The only track he has not won at is the Charlotte Roval. He will be extra motivated to win this week. The No. 18 car is my pick to win but I am not using him in the race. Busch in on my team for qualifying points only. I feel confident that Martin Truex Jr. will run well and I will not need the No. 18 car. But I will take the 10 bonus points when Busch wins the pole.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kyle Busch 2) Martin Truex Jr. 3) Kevin Harvick 4) Denny Hamlin 5) Brad Keselowski 6) Kyle Larson 7) Joey Logano 8) Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game B Picks
Group B is going to be tough this week. I am running low on allocations with Clint Bowyer (1), Kurt Busch (1) and Chase Elliott (3). These are my 3 top drivers in Group B but I need cannot use them Sunday. I will try to find 4 value picks, crossed my fingers, hold a rabbit’s foot and pray for the best.
AJ Allmendinger (7): Before NASCAR decided to race the Roval at Charlotte they asked Allmendinger to test the track. The reason why they asked him is because they knew he was the best road course driver in the series. Allmendinger has made more laps around the Roval than any other driver. He said it is similar to what the race in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona (He has a lot of laps in that race). Allmendinger also told MRN Radio, “I wish this was the last race before the playoffs because I think I can win this race.” Allmendinger should be a top-five driver Sunday.
Daniel Suarez (7): Suarez grew up racing go-karts and Volkswagons on the road courses. He leads the MENCS series in average finishing position on the road courses over the last two seasons (9.5 average finish). He has finished 3rd, 4th and 15th in his last 3 starts on the road courses. Suarez is driving for a seat in 2019 so he will be looking to showcase his skills Sunday. I expect him to run well.
Aric Almirola (5): Almirola is not a driver who will be in many lineups this week. He is running well right now (finished 5th and 6th in the two playoff races). Almirola does not need to win Sunday. He only needs to finish in the top 10 to advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs. I expect Almirola to take it easy on his car, stay out of trouble and finish in the top 10. He finished 8th at Sonoma this season so he does have the road course skills to run well.
Jamie McMurray (5): McMurray always runs well at the road courses, he just has a hard time finishing up front. His average running position in the last 6 road course races is 9.8 but his average finishing position is 16.7. Charlotte is his best track so maybe the oval part of the Roval will help him this week. I do not have a lot of confidence in McMurray but he is the best choice available for the final spot in my lineup.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Kurt Busch 2) Chase Elliott 3) Clint Bowyer 4) AJ Allmendinger 5) Daniel Suarez 6) Aric Almirola 7) Jamie McMurray 8) Matt Kenseth 9) Paul Menard 10) Ryan Newman
Driver Group Game C Picks
Michael McDowell (5): Where is Marcus Ambros when you need him? He was always my go-to-driver in Group C at the road courses. Since he left NASCAR, my new driver on the road courses has been McDowell and he has not let me down. McDowell grew up racing sports cars on the road courses. His experience has translated into success in the MENCS. McDowell has a 16th-place average finishing position on the road courses over the last 2 seasons. I will gladly take a top 15 from him Sunday.
Chris Buescher (4): Buescher has spent a lot of time working with AJ Allmendinger on his road course driving skills and it has paid off. Buescher has finished 11th, 12th and 20th in the last 3 road course races. He is much better at Sonona than he is at Watkins Glen. Since most drivers are comparing this track to Sonoma, Buescher should be a good pick. I expect Buescher to finish in the top 20 this week.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Alex Bwman) Michael McDowell 3) Chris Buescher 4) Regan Smith 5) William Byron
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Martin Truex Jr. (4), Kyle Busch (1)
Group B: AJ Allmendinger (7), Daniel Suarez (7), Aric Almirola (5), Jamie McMurray (5)
Group C: Michael McDowell (5), Chris Buescher (4)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game Saturday evening.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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