The MENCS Playoffs are flying bye as two races are in the books. Now the series will compete at the track everyone has been worried about.. The Charlotte Roval. Teams have practiced getting around the tricky half road-course, half oval track, but no teams have been on the track with other cars. This is either going to be the coolest race NASCAR has had or a complete disaster. The race this with is Sunday at 1pm ET on NBC.
The NASCAR drivers typically complain that they have too much practice time. That will not be the case this week. The drivers will need all the track time they can get in order to figure out the Roval. There will be one practice Friday (12pm ETNBCSN) and two practices Saturday (11am ET NBC Sports App and 1:30pm ET CNBC). Qualifying will be Friday evening at 4:45pm ET on NBCSN.
My early week pick for the pole is Kyle Busch. It is going to take a skillful driver to figure out this track. I consider Busch to be the most skilled driver in the garage. It is very important for him to win at each track on the schedule and the Roval is the only track he has not been to Victory Lane at. I expect Busch to be very motivated to put on a show Sunday and it will begin with a start from the pole position.
Each week I use different stats in my model to create the best rankings possible to give you an edge on the completion. This week I used the results from the Sonoma, results from Watkins Glenn, Driver Ranking on Road Courses this season, Driver Rankings on Road Courses in their career, Test Session Speeds at Charlotte and Average Finishing Position in the last 6 races (We want drivers who have momentum) to determine my rankings.
Here are my picks for Charlotte…
DraftKings NASCAR Preview
What should we expect this week at a track no drivers have competed on and most crashed their cars at least once in the many test sessions? This race will likely be the Talladega of road courses so we should play it that way in DFS. My strategy at Talladega is to try and find drivers who will simply finish the race. I will lean heavily on the drivers who have had a lot of success at finishing their races on the road courses. We also need to look at the drivers who are already locked into Round 2 of the playoffs (Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick). These drivers do not need to overdrive their cars and should be able to take more risks to stay up front.
There are only 109 laps in the race this week. That means there are 27.25 points available for leading laps and 54.5 available for fastest laps. I expect these dominator points to get spread out. There will likely be many cautions that will allow different drivers to lead laps. The trend on the road courses is that the fastest to be spread throughout the field because traffic tends to dictate who is fast. I plan to play one dimanator and focus more on finishing position Sunday. If your lineup has all 6 drivers finish the race, they will likely all finish in the top 15 and allow you to cash in your contest.
The drivers I expect to be the top dominators this week include: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and AJ Allmendinger
The drivers who could be the top value picks (between $9k – $7K) for the race Sunday include: Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Erik Jones
The drivers I expect to be the best cheap drivers (below $7K) for the race Sunday include: Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher, Daniel Hemric and Regan Smith
I will post my final DraftKings picks Saturday evening.
Fantasy Live Preview
My Fantasy Live Playoff picks have gotten off to a slow start after completely dominating the regular season. My picks were pretty good last week but the problem with this stupid format is that 70% of the people have the same drivers. It is hard to make your way up the standings when everyone has Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. If you fade these drivers you will probably lose points to the competition. To say I am not a fan of the new Fantasy Live setup is an understatement.
*Pick for the Pole*: Our pick for the pole needs to be in before qualifying at 4:30 p.m. ET Friday. My pick for the pole will be posted after the final practice Friday (1p.m. ET) on the front page of this website.
Here are the drivers I have penciled in right now…
2 Playoff Drivers
The two best choices in the field this week are Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Both drivers already have their spot in Round 2 of the playoffs secured so we do not need to worry about them over-driving their cars to “make something happen.” Busch has a series-high 4 wins on the road courses. He finished 3rd at Watkins Glen and 5th at Sonoma. This is the only track Busch has not won at so he will be extra motivated to get to Victory Lane Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr. has been the best driver on the road courses this season. He won at Sonoma and finished 2nd at Watkins Glen. His average finishing position in the last 3 road course races is 1.3. Truex has also led at least 30% of the laps in 3 of the last road course races. The No. 78 car will be tough to beat Sunday.
2 Non-Playoff Drivers
My two Non-Playoff Drivers are likely to be two drivers will likely be AJ Allmendinger and Daniel Suarez. Before NASCAR decided to race the Roval at Charlotte they asked Allmendinger to test at 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. If Allmendinger can keep from over-driving the car he should finish in the top 5 Sunday.
Daniel Suarez grew up racing go-karts and Volkswagens 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.
I do not feel very confident about the Non-Playoff Drivers this week so I plan to use a Playoff Driver in the Garage. Denny Hamlin is 16th in the MENCS Playoff Standings. He will likely need to win Sunday to advance in the playoffs. Hamlin has finished 4 of the last 6 road course races in the top 4 so he knows how to run up front. I expect Joe Gibbs Racing to give Hamlin the best car they have this week to get him into Round 2. If Hamlin looks fast in practice, he will be in the Garage Sunday.
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch
Stage 2 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Winning Manufacturer: Toyota
Fantrax Bronze Point Salary Cap Game Preview
I really have not decided who I will use in my Fantrax Salary Cap Game lineup Sunday. I want to see how Denny Hamlin looks in practice. I expect the No. 11 car to be at the top of the speed and if he is, I will trade Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for Denny Hamlin. I will also be watching Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. I know I will use Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch but finding the third top driver will be the key to my lineup Sunday. I will also be watching AJ Allmendinger in practice. If he looks fast I will sell Paul Menard for Allmendinger.
I will evaluate the drivers on this team during the test sessions this week and try to get as much information as possible to help us win. Here is the lineup I have “penciled in” right now…
Martin Truex Jr.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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