What a crazy race it was to end the first round of the MENCS Playoffs at the Charlotte Roval. We survived the carnage though by scoring 309 points. That is not too bad in a race where most of the big name drivers were taken out. Now it is onto Round 2 and a trip back to the Monster Mile. The race can be seen Sunday at 2pm ET on NBC Sports Network.
The MENCS will have a normal schedule this week. There will be one practice Friday (12pm ET on NBCSN) and two practices Saturday (11am ET on CNBC and 1:30pm ET on NBCSN). Qualifying will be Friday afternoon at 3:30pm ET on NBC Sports App (Yes there is no TV for this and that just sucks!). Our Driver Group Game picks need to be submitted before 8am ET Friday morning.
The MENCS last competed at Dover in May. Kyle Larson won the pole but had to start in the back because his car failed inspection. The race was dominated by Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. Keselowski qualified 8th, had a 3.2 average running position, led 108 laps and finished 6th. Harvick qualified 2nd, won both Stages and led 201 laps on his way to Victory Lane. It was his 2nd career win at the Monster Mile. Stewart-Haas Racing had 3 cars in the top 5 and all 4 cars in the top 11.
Race Rewind at Dover: AAA Race for Autism 400 (2018)
Now it is about to get interesting. It will be important to focus on the 12 drivers who are still competing for the MENCS Championship. Team Penske announced they built brand new cars for the rest of the playoff races (Except Talladega). Greg Zipadelli told PRN Radio that the 4 Stewart-Haas Racing cars will work together in the next 2 rounds. He said each team will test different setups in practice and the organization will determine which is the best for the race. Having 4 cars in the final 12 should be an advantage for them. Now that Jimmie Johnson is eliminated, I expect the No. 48 car to test different setups for Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman to work with in the race. Joe Gibbs Racing only has one driver left (Kyle Busch) so the No. 11, No. 20 and No. 19 cars will all be working to help Busch get to the final 4.
Here are my picks for Dover…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Martin Truex Jr. (3): Truex considers the Monster Mile one of his home tracks. Dover ranks as the 3rd-best track for Truex. He has a series-best 124.3 driver rating and a series-high 4.2 average finishing position in the last 5 races at the track. Truex has not finished worst than 4th since the spring race of 2016 at the Monster Mile. He should also be a threat for the pole since he has qualified in the top 3 in the last 5 races at Dover. The plan right now is to start Truex in the race Sunday.
Kevin Harvick (2): Dover ranks as the 15th best track for Harvick but it is hard to ignore what he did at the Monster Mile in May. He led over half the laps, won both stage and won the race. The entire Stewart-Haas Racing team looked awesome at Dover in May. I expect the same Sunday. Harvick should be a threat to win the pole and score bonus points for our teams. He qualified 2nd in the last race at the track.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Martin Truex Jr. 2) Kevin Harvick 3) Kyle Busch 4) Brad Keselowski 5) Kyle Larson 6) Jimmie Johnson 7) Joey Logano 8) Denny Hamlin
Driver Group Game B Picks
I really wish I had more allocations with Clint Bowyer (1), Kurt Busch (1). These two drivers rank as the 2nd and 3rd best picks in my rankings this week. I am saving Bowyer for Martinsville and Busch for Texas. If you have more than 1 allocation with either of these drivers, I would use them over Daniel Suarez or Aric Almirola.
Chase Elliott (3): Dover ranks as the best track for Elliott and he is my sleeper pick to win Sunday. Elliott has competed in 5 races at the Monster Mile and he has finished 4 of them in the top 5. He led the most laps and finished 2nd in this race last year. The No. 9 team will receive a lot of support from the No. 48 team this week and that should help them out. Johnson has won 11 times at Dover. Elliott leads the MENCS with a 9.3 average finishing position in the last 10 races so he has a lot of momentum too. I have no problem burning an allocation with Elliott Sunday.
Erik Jones (3): Jones ran well in the first race at Dover but he ran out of gas and that caused him to finish 18th. His average running position was 9.1 so he had a top 10 car. Jones would have been a better choice if he was still racing for the championship but the No. 20 car should still have speed. Jones ranks 6th on the steep tracks (Bristol, Darlington and Dover) this season. I plan to watch Jones in final practice and if he posts top-10 speed, I will use him in my lineup.
Daniel Suarez (7): Dover ranks as the best track for Suarez. He has competed in 3 races in the MENCS at the Monster Mile and he finished 3rd, 8th and 6th. That is pretty good. Suarez qualified 7th, had an 8.2 average running position and finished 3rd in the last race at Dover. I am hoping they have the same speed this week.
Aric Almirola (5): Stewart-Haas Racing had the best cars in the first race at Dover. I like their strategy of using different setups in all of their cars in the first two practice sessions and then using the best setup they found in the final practice to dial in their cars. Almirola said on NBCSN after the race last Sunday, “I’m glad we advanced because Dover is my favorite track to race on and I think we will have a good race next week.” He finished 11th in the last race at Dover. I expect a top-10 finish from him Sunday.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Chase Elliott 2) Kurt Busch 3) Clint Bowyer 4) Erik Jones 5) Ryan Blaney 6) Aric Almirola 7) Daniel Suarez 8) Matt Kenseth 9) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 10) Jamie McmUrray
Driver Group Game C Picks
* My picks for Group C may change later in the week. Richard Childress Racing said they want to get Daniel Hemric in the car for a few more MENCS races before the end of the season. I am sure this will be the races when the Xfinity Series and MENCS both compete at the track. This is one of those races. If Hemric is in the No. 8 car I will use him over Chris Buescher this week.
Stewart-Haas Racing also said they want to get Cole Custer in a fully funder SHR car. If Custer is entered into a MENCS in a fully funded SHR car he will also be a good choice. I will check the entry list Tuesday afternoon and post any changes I make with my lineup.
William Byron (2): Byron had a decent run in his first race at the Monster Mile. He qualified 17th, had a 13.6 average running position and finished 14th. He also has 2 races in the Xfinity Series at Dover on his resume. He finished 3rd and 6th in those two races. Hendrick Motorsports is running better than they were in May. I expect Byron to finish in the top 15 again Sunday.
Chris Buescher (4): I would love to use Alex Bowman in this spot but I am down to two allocations with the No. 88 car. Bowman is better on the short, flat tracks so I will save him for Martinsville and Phoenix. Buescher has been running well so he will get the final spot in Group C. Buescher ranks 17th on the speed tracks this season (Bristol, Darlington and Dover). He finished 20th in the first race at Dover and he should finish in the top 20 again Sunday.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Alex B0wman) William Byron 3) Chris Buescher 4) Michael McDowell 5) David Ragan
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Martin Truex Jr. (3), Kevin Harvick (2)
Group B: Chase Elliott (3), Erik Jones (3), Daniel Suarez (7), Aric Almirola (5)
Group C: William Byron (2), 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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