The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competes at Chicagoland Speedway this week. This is the first race of the 2017 NASCAR Playoffs. The race can been seen Sunday at 3pm ET on NBC Sports Network.
My Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing picks scored 263 points at Richmond and are beating 98% of the entries (7,453 points). I hate making excuses for my picks but Clint Bowyer had damage because an ambulance was parked at the entrance to pit road? Really?? I have to have better luck this week.
The are 16 drivers competing for the championship: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray. It will be important to focus on these drivers while they are still alive in the playoffs. Drivers who are eliminated from the playoffs usually give these drivers plenty of room on the track.
The drivers who have run well the past month will be the best drivers to select for Chicago. Momentum is important in NASCAR so I will be looking at the driver’s average running position at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2017, driver rating at Chicago and drivers average finishing position at Michigan, Darlington and Richmond to figure out which drivers are the best selections this week.
Here are my picks for Chicago…
Yahoo Group A Picks
Many of the drivers in Group A have had success at Chicago. The Toyota’s have had the most speed this summer so I recommend selecting two of their drivers for your team. Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch are the most reliable but fantasy teams are quickly running out of allocations with them. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin have run well and will be good replacements for either Truex or Busch.
The Fords have been able to finish in the top 10 but it has been hard for them to get to the front and lead laps at the 1.5-mile tracks. Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick have excellent stats at Chicago. They are the only two Ford drivers I would consider this week.
Jimmie Johnson is the driver for fantasy teams who are deep in their league standings and need to throw a Hail Mary to outscore their competition. History suggests the No. 48 team will unload this week with a car fast enough to win the race. Jimmie always struggles in the summer and shows up in the playoffs with one of the most dominant cars. Can he do it again? If you feel like gambling, the No. 48 is your car Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr. (3) iis my pick to win the opening race of the playoffs. Did you see how pissed off Truex looked after the race Saturday night? This team wants to make a statement this week and the odds are high that Truex will get the job done. Truex won the race at Chicago last year and he has three wins on the 1.5-mile tracks this season (Las Vegas, Kansas and Kentucky). Truex has led 1,646 laps this season. He will add to that total on his way to Victory Lane.
Kyle Busch (2) starts the playoffs third in the point standings. He may have been second if he did not get off to a slow start. The No. 18 team is one of the hottest in the sport right now and it would not surprise me if they won the race Sunday. After his slow start, Busch finished 5th at Kansas, 2nd at Charlotte, 5th at Kentucky and 2nd at Darlington (all 1.5-mile tracks). Busch has five consecutive finishes in the top eight at Chicago. I am pairing Busch with Truex and I know this should give me the best chance to score well Sunday.
Here are my allocations left with the drivers in Group A: Kyle Busch (2), Martin Truex Jr. (3), Brad Keselowski (3), Kevin Harvick (6), Joey Logano (6), Denny Hamlin (8), Jimmie Johnson (9), Matt Kenseth (9), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (9)
Yahoo Group B Picks
Kyle Larson is the best choice for Group B this week. I cannot use him because I only have two allocations left with him and I want to save them for Dover and Homestead. I would recommend using Larson if you have three or more allocations left with him. You can replace Ryan Blaney in your lineup with Larson if you can.
I will be focusing on the drivers who are in the playoffs this week. It is amazing how these drivers struggle as soon as they are eliminated, so my advice is to use them while they still have everything to race for.
Kurt Busch (2) has had an up and down season. He is trending upwards right now and fantasy NASCAR players need to start using him before he cools off. The No. 41 team said they could some speed in a tire test in early August. Their results prove this is true. Busch finished 5th at Bristol, 3rd at Darlington and 4th at Richmond. Busch has a 7th place average finishing position at Chicago the last four seasons. He should finish in the top 10 again this week.
Chase Elliott (4) has been good on the 1.5-mile tracks this season and Chicago is his best track. Last year Elliott started 14th and quickly made his way to the front. He led 75 laps on his way to a third-place finish. Elliott also has a win at Chicago in the Xfinity Series. It is hard to tell what Hendrick Motorsports has up their sleeve this week. If I were a gambling man I would put my money on their two playoff cars being fast this week.
Jamie McMurray (1) started of the season running really well. He has cooled off the last month but I think the No. 1 team went into prevent mode. They knew they had enough points over Clint Bowyer that they would make the playoffs as long as no new drivers won the race. I expect McMurray to get back to running well again. He has finished 6 of the 7 races this season on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 10. His worst finish in 12th at Charlotte. I expect another top-10 finish from McMurray Sunday.
Ryan Blaney (1) has been a hard driver to trust over the summer. I think the reason why the team slowed down is because there were only two 1.5-mile tracks on the schedule since the beginning of June (Kentucky and Darlington). Blaney has run well at the 1.5-mile track and Chicago is his best. Last year he qualified 22nd and led 8 laps on his way to a 4th place finish. Blaney needs a good finish to advance in the playoffs. I expect the No. 21 and No. 2 cars to work closely this week to make sure they run well.
Here are the allocations I have left in Group B: Jamie McMurray (1), Ryan Blaney (1), Kyle Larson (2), Chase Elliott (4), Kurt Busch (2), Clint Bowyer (4), , Austin Dillon (6), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (6), Ryan Newman (6), AJ Allmendinger (7), Kasey Kahne (8) and all the rest 9.
Yahoo Group C Picks
The two rookies drivers for Toyota are the best picks in Group C this week (Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez). It will be hard to sit Jones this week. He is one of the best drivers in the sport right now at his best track. Suarez has also run well at the 1.5-mile tracks so he should receive strong consideration for your team.
Two sleeper drivers I would consider this week are Ty Dillon and Michael McDowell. Both drivers qualify poorly but make their way into the top 20 at the end of the race.
Erik Jones (1) has been close to getting his first win in the MENCS. Although the No. 77 is eliminated from the playoffs, I still expect him to run well. Jones has never competed in a MENCS race at Chicago but he went to Victory Lane in 2 of his 3 races in the Xfinity Series at the track. Chicago is one of the best tracks left on the schedule for Jones. I only have one allocation left with him but if he practices well I will not hesitate to use him this week.
Ty Dillon (3) is the driver I will pair with Erik Jones. Dillon is hard to trust because he has consistently had problems in qualifying. The good news is that his car performs well in race trim. I am hoping Dillon has some speed this week since I want to save Jones if I can. I am willing to take a chance on Dillon since Richard Childress Racing thinks their cars found some speed in the recent tire test. Maybe Germaine Racing received some of that info.
Here are the allocations I have left in Group C: Erik Jones (1), Daniel Suarez (2), Ty Dillon (4), Michael McDowell (5), David Ragan (8) and the rest with 9 allocations.
Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing Team
Group A: Martin Truex Jr. (3), Kyle Busch (2)
Group B: Kurt Busch (2), Chase Elliott (4), Jamie McMurray (1), Ryan Blaney (1)
Group C: Erik Jones (1), Ty Dillon (3)
I will post my final picks for Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing Saturday after final practice.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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