The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to Sparta, Kentucky this week for the Quaker State 400. The race can be seen Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. Be sure to test your Fantasy NASCAR skills in the Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing game.
Finally we get back to some normal racing at Kentucky. The drivers who have run well on the large ovals this season should be up front Saturday. Martin Truex Jr. (2.99), Kyle Busch (5.01), Kyle Larson (6.76), Kevin Harvick (8.38) and Matt Kenseth (8.97) have the best average running position at these tracks.
Kentucky was repaved in 2016 and the new track is smooth and fast. The jury is still out as to if the racing will be any better on the new surface. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series conducted a tire test at Kentucky in May. Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones participated in the tire test. Goodyear announced they will bring the same tire used in the test so these drivers should unload from the hauler with a lot of speed this week.
Fantasy teams must understand the rules for Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing now that we are getting into the second-half of the NASCAR season. Saving allocations is important but the best way to win you league is to try and score bonus points for qualifying. The game awards 10 points for the pole, 5 points for 2nd, 3 points for 3rd and 1 point for 4th. These points can add up quickly so do not ignore drivers like Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson because you are low with your allocations with them. You can still select them for your team and earn qualifying points without losing an allocation. Just do not start them in the race.
Here are the drivers who scored the most qualifying points on the large ovals this season…
- Kevin Harvick 30 points
- Kyle Larson 20 points
- Ryan Blaney 18 points
- Martin Truex Jr. 14 points
- Brad Keselowski 13 points
Yahoo Group A Picks
There are many good choices in Group A this week and your picks depend on what strategy you want to use. The safest picks are Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. There have only been six races at Kentucky and these two drivers won five of them. They will be up front Saturday night.
Martin Truex Jr. has been the most dominant driver on the 1.5-mile tracks and he was in position to win this race last year until he was penalized for passing the pace car while coming into the pits. If you are not worried about allocations, Truex should be in your lineup. I am saving my allocations with the No. 78 car for later in the season.
My strategy this week is to go for max points. I am pairing Kevin Harvick with Brad Keselowski because this combo should give my team the best chance to score maximum points at Kentucky. Harvick has won the pole in 3 of the 4 races on 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte) this season. Harvick also won the pole for the race at Kentucky last year. The No. 4 car will have the best chance to score 10 bonus points for qualifying Saturday night. Keselowski has won half of the races at Kentucky so he is a safe pick for the race.
Brad Keselowski (5)
Keselowski has been the most dominant driver at Kentucky. He has won 3 of the 6 races at the track. Keselowski has also led a series-high 483 laps at the track. The No. 2 car has run well on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He went into a slump for a month, but that had more to do with bad luck than it was a result of bad performance or a slow car. Keselowski won at Atlanta and finished in the top five at Las Vegas and Kansas. He should add another top-five finish to his resume this week.
Kevin Harvick (5)
My plan is to use Harvick for qualifying points only this week. He has been the best in the sport at winning the pole on the 1.5-mile tracks and I am banking on Harvick doing it again Friday. I plan to use Keselowski in the race since he is so good at this track, but Harvick is good at Kentucky too. His average finishing position at the track since joining Stewart-Haas Racing is 8th. Last year the No. 4 car led the most laps in the race but ran out of fuel. Harvick is the best pick for qualifying points and a good pick for the race.
Other good choices: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth
Yahoo Group B Picks
The drivers from Group B do not have the stats at Kentucky that the drivers in Group B have. That does not mean there aren’t any good drivers in this group. I am using that stats on large ovals this season to determine which drivers I will use this week.
Kyle Larson (4)
I am using Larson for qualifying points only this week. He won the pole in the last race on a large oval at Michigan. Larson also won the pole at Kentucky in 2015. I am banking he will qualify up front Friday and give my team some free points. There is no way I will use Larson in the race so this is a risky strategy. So far using drivers for bonus points has paid off for me so I am sticking to it.
Chase Elliott (7)
Elliott only has one race at Kentucky in the MENCS on his resume. He started 8th and finished 31st. Elliott was running in the top 10 when he got together with Ryan Blaney and sent both cars behind the wall. Sooner or later luck will be on Elliott’s side. He always has a great car and he has the talent to win races. I have 7 allocations left with Elliott so I am not afraid to burn one this week.
Ryan Blaney (5)
Blaney has been one of the most consistent drivers on the large ovals this season. He has top-10 finishes Las Vegas, California and Kansas. Blaney won the race at Pocono and the horsepower the Wood Brothers Racing Ford had in that race should translate into a lot of speed this week. Blaney is a good pick for your fantasy team this week.
Kurt Busch (6)
Busch is a great pick this week. He participated in the tire test at Kentucky in May and his stats at the track are very good. Last year Busch had to start in the back for a transmission change and he immediately made his way to the front. He led two laps and finished eighth. Busch has never finished a race at Kentucky outside the top eight. Busch is the safest pick in Group B this week.
Other good choices: Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman
Yahoo Group C Picks
The top three drivers in Group C will be the top three choices this week. Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Ty Dillon have been the class of the field from this group and I expect them all to finish in the top 20 Saturday night.
Aric Almirola will be back in 2-4 weeks so we are running out of time to use Bubba Wallace. I am going with two of the drivers listed above because I have 14 allocations left with Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Ty Dillon and there are 19 races left on the schedule. I know I will use Michael McDowell at Watkins Glen and Talladega so I need to fill in three more races. I have no problem using McDowell in three other races if a better option does not become available later in the season.
Erik Jones (4)
Jones is another driver who will be helped this week by the knowledge he gained in the tire test at Kentucky. Jones has never competed in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky but he has three finishes in the top 10 in the Xfinity Series at the track. Jones will have the car and the talent to finish in the top 10 Saturday night.
Daniel Suarez (5)
Suarez may be the most underrated driver on the track this season. He has top-10 finishes at California, Kansas and Dover. Suarez has never competed in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky but he has four races at the track on his Xfinity Series resume. Suarez finished three of the four races in the top four. He will compete with Erik Jones as the top pick in Group C this week.
Other Good Choices: Ty Dillon, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell
I will post my final picks for Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing Saturday morning.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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