Alright, the driver-by-driver slate breakdown is back after I took a week off from it at Richmond. This post will be a little bit different than normal, as I will be explaining many times why most drivers have upside on Saturday night. Here’s the thing: Bristol is a beast of a race for Fantasy NASCAR players. Things change quickly here. We’ll likely see at least three dominators on Saturday night, if not five or six. One small mistake can ruin a team’s night. One bad adjustment can ruin a team’s night.

To compare this race to Daytona or Talladega wouldn’t be completely wrong, although Bristol races are a bit more predictable. Still, attrition is real here: only 28 of the 40 drivers actually finished the race with a running car the last time we were here in May. Well, that was the last time we raced here in a points-paying event. Don’t forget, the Cup Series also ran the All Star Race here in July. Both races are worth taking a look at to get an idea of who should be good on Saturday night.

Click here for my Projections post. That article goes hand-in-hand with this one.

Core Drivers

If you throw my Projections for Bristol into an optimizer and let it create 150 lineups with no restrictions, these are the core drivers that it uses most of the time:

  • Kyle Busch (99%)
  • Chase Elliott (97%)
  • Ryan Blaney (65%)
  • Jimmie Johnson (57%)
Austin Dillon 2018 Darlington Throwback Dale Earnhardt Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Bristol Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Driver-by-Driver Analysis

  1. Brad Keselowski ($11,200) – 66.8 projected FPTS
    – BK should lead a good portion of this race on Saturday night. He started on the pole here back in May and went to victory lane that day after leading 115 laps. Part of that was due to the fact that he was running 3rd when Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin wrecked while battling for the win, but still: a win is a win. I’ll have moderate Keselowski exposure on Saturday night but I’ll very likely be underweight in mass entry GPPs.
  2. Joey Logano ($9,700) – 52.7 projected FPTS
    – I don’t mind having around 10% Logano exposure here on Saturday night. In five of the last twelve Bristol races he has led 72 or more laps, but over the last four night races here he’s averaging just 10.8 fastest laps per race. That’s pretty typical of Logano (not many fastest laps), but without dominator points, taking the driver starting 2nd generally doesn’t work out in DraftKings.
  3. Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,000) – 53.6 projected FPTS
    – I wrote up Martin Truex, Jr. as a GPP/tournament play in my Projections article. Click here to read that.
  4. Kevin Harvick ($11,600) – 73.8 projected FPTS
    – I’m actually quite high on Kevin Harvick this weekend, and I like him as a pivot off of Denny Hamlin. He hasn’t finished better than 10th at Bristol since the 2018 season, but Harvick is a two-time winner here and is very reliable for fastest laps. Over the last four Bristol Night Races, Harvick is 2nd in fastest laps (40.8 per race), and he put up 31 here in the May race this season.
  5. Austin Dillon ($7,800) – 32.3 projected FPTS
    – With this price tag and him starting 5th, I don’t see Austin Dillon ending up in any great DraftKings lineups on Saturday night, but then again I haven’t expected him to be a legitimate top 5 threat in both Playoffs races this season, either. One positive note: Austin finished 6th here at Bristol back in May.
  6. Chase Elliott ($10,700) – 88.0 projected FPTS
    – Chase Elliott was almost one of my Cash Core drivers in my Projections article this week, but I decided to go with Kyle Busch instead. Still, Elliott is a prime pick on Saturday night, and I love pairing those two together in lineups. Chase had a top 2 car here back in the May race but wrecked while battling for the lead, and then he went on to dominate the All Star Race. Over the last four Bristol Night Races, Chase has the best average running position (6.1) and he’s also averaging the 4th-most fastest laps per race over that span (26.8). He had the best average running position and the 2nd-most fastest laps in the May race here this season.
  7. Denny Hamlin ($12,000) – 81.0 projected FPTS
    – I don’t love the price of Denny Hamlin this weekend in DraftKings, but he’s the defending winner of this race, and he also led the most laps here back in May, so you have to respect it. The question is whether or not he will be able to maintain that speed. Over the last four Bristol Night Races, Hamlin is averaging just 23 fastest laps per race, although his average running position of 9.4 is 3rd-best in the series. He’s going to need to dominate quite a bit for that price tag to be worth it.
  8. Alex Bowman ($7,400) – 34.9 projected FPTS
    – With his price tag, it’s worth having a little bit of Alex Bowman exposure on Saturday night, but you’re really just going to finish points when picking him. Over the last five Bristol races, Bowman hasn’t had a single race with more than 17 fastest laps here, and he’s never led a lap at this track in his Cup career. One thing to note: the last time Bowman started 8th at Bristol (in 2018), he finished 5th. That’s what you’re going to need for him to be in a good lineup on Saturday night.
  9. Kyle Busch ($10,400) – 87.8 projected FPTS
    – I wrote up Kyle Busch as a cash game play in my Projections article. Click here to read that.
  10. Aric Almirola ($8,200) – 34.2 projected FPTS
    – Aric Almirola actually had a pretty strong race here back in May, with an average running position of 7.7 along with 22 fastest laps. If he can repeat that and actually get the finish, he’s a decent pivot off of Blaney/Johnson/DiBenedetto. The last four Bristol races have ended with Almirola in 29th or worse but that’s more due to bad luck than anything else.
  11. Clint Bowyer ($8,400) – 50.8 projected FPTS
    – Give me Clint Bowyer as a pivot off of Ryan Blaney or Jimmie Johnson this weekend. Clint doesn’t have the place differential potential that those two do (or the dominating potential either) but Bowyer came home 2nd here in the May race this season and has now finished 8th or better in each of the last five Bristol races. This team just needs to play it safe and have a good race to get to the next round of the Playoffs and I think they’ll do that.
  12. Cole Custer ($6,900) – 23.8 projected FPTS
    – Honestly, I won’t have much Cole Custer exposure this weekend. He starts too high and his salary is too high, in my opinion. In the first Bristol race this season, Custer got caught up in a wreck and finished 35th, and then he ended up 16th in the All Star Race (out of 20).
  13. Kurt Busch ($9,100) – 39.8 projected FPTS
    – Kurt Busch deserves some exposure on Saturday night, but I’m not going crazy. Probably around 10% is where I will be. He’s currently on a four-race streak of top 10s here at Bristol, and that includes a somewhat surprising win here back in April of 2018. Kurt is averaging just 13.8 fastest laps per race over those last four, though.
  14. Ryan Blaney ($8,800) – 62.2 projected FPTS
    – I wrote up Ryan Blaney as a GPP/tournament play in my Projections article. Click here to read that.
  15. William Byron ($7,900) – 44.3 projected FPTS
    – Fun fact: William Byron was slated to be in my Projections article as a GPP/tournament play, but I wrote up JJ Yeley instead. So with that being said, obviously I like being overweight on Byron here. He offers a bit of a salary break from guys like Jimmie Johnson, while I think having similar upside. Byron had 23 fastest laps here at Bristol back in May in addition to finishing a career-best 8th.
  16. Matt DiBenedetto ($8,100) – 32.4 projected FPTS
    – Everyone’s favorite underdog is going to need a great run here (possibly even a win) to keep his championship hopes alive, and with his 2nd-place finish in this race last season, I’m sure a healthy percent of lineups will include DiBenedetto on Saturday night. My contrarian self likes being underweight on him, simply because this #21 team has lost speed and basically shit the bed ever since the Playoffs started.
  17. Tyler Reddick ($6,600) – 24.7 projected FPTS
    – At $6,600, you have to have some Tyler Reddick in your lineups. He starts 17th so a top 10 finish would definitely be worth it. Back in May, Reddick wrecked out and finished 36th here, but if he can keep his car clean on Saturday night, it’s not like he doesn’t have the talent to run well here.
  18. Christopher Bell ($7,100) – 29.5 projected FPTS
    – Back in the May race, Christopher Bell started 35th and finished 9th. Could he do the same thing this weekend? It wouldn’t surprise me. Will I have very much exposure with my lineups? Probably not. I do think he’s a decent pivot off of Ryan Newman, though.
  19. Matt Kenseth ($6,300) – 37.5 projected FPTS
    – My projections LOVE Matt Kenseth this weekend. He finished 16th here back in May, and that’ll equal a nice little score for him in DraftKings if he can do the same on Saturday night. The price tag is what makes Kenseth a viable GPP/tournament option this weekend. I’ll likely have around 30% exposure.
  20. Erik Jones ($9,400) – 54.9 projected FPTS
    – Just like most weeks, I’ll have a good amount of Erik Jones in DraftKings on Saturday night. I think his price tag will scare people off a bit, but don’t forget that Jones has three top 5s in the last six races at this track, including a near win in 2017 and a 5th-place finish back in May. Additionally, Jones is pretty reliable for fastest laps; over the last four races here, he’s ended up with between 20 and 25 every race.
  21. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,600) – 38.3 projected FPTS
    – In my Slingshot article this week, I explained why I like Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. this weekend in that game. It’s similar to why I like Stenhouse in DraftKings, so click here to read that. Ricky has an awkward salary in DraftKings this week and that might keep his ownership level down, but I don’t mind having around 20% exposure.
  22. Ryan Preece ($5,700) – 21.5 projected FPTS
    I’ve been higher on Preece than most all season, so why would that change this weekend? He has three Cup Series starts at Bristol and has finished 25th, 18th, and, most recently, 12th. The 22nd-place starting spot sucks but the $5,700 price tag makes it bearable. Preece is a GPP/tournament pick on Saturday night.
  23. Chris Buescher ($6,000) – 30.8 projected FPTS
    – I kind of have the same opinion on Buescher as I do Ryan Preece. If either of them (or both) survive the wrecks on Saturday night, they could surprise with a teens finish. Buescher has finished 17th and 19th in the last two Bristol night races.
  24. Jimmie Johnson ($8,600) – 59.3 projected FPTS
    – I wrote up Jimmie Johnson as a cash game play in my Projections article. Click here to read that.
  25. Ryan Newman ($7,300) – 35.3 projected FPTS
    – My projections are probably a little too low for Ryan Newman this weekend, especially when you look at his track record at Bristol; over the last 12 races in Thunder Valley, “The Rocketman” has just one finish outside of the top 15, and over the last six he has posted three top 10s. He’s a viable option all around on Saturday night.
  26. Michael McDowell ($5,900) – 23.3 projected FPTS
    – I’d consider Michael McDowell a cash option this weekend, and obviously viable in GPPs/tournaments as well. He came home 14th here back in May, and with that performance and at just $5,900, that would be some great value. Also, it’s hard to see McDowell losing any spots from his 26th starting position, unless, of course, he wrecks.
  27. Bubba Wallace ($6,800) – 31.5 projected FPTS
    – I’m all on board for taking Bubba Wallace this weekend. His salary of $6,800 is a little higher than I would like, but he’s starting back in 27th and has finished 16th or better in three of his five career Cup Series starts at Bristol. He ended up 10th here back in the May race. One thing to watch is whether he gives McDowell a little bump early. Remember, these two had a run-in during the All Star Open race…
  28. Ty Dillon ($6,100) – 23.2 projected FPTS
    – If you want to roll a little safer than Michael McDowell, then pivot up to Ty Dillon. He starts a couple of spots further back, and in three of the last four Bristol races, Ty has finished 21st or better.
  29. Daniel Suarez ($5,400) – 18.5 projected FPTS
    – It’s rare for me to have any Daniel Suarez exposure, but he’ll be in at least 10% of my lineups on Saturday night. This is one of those races where a driver will move up by surviving the wrecks, and Daniel Suarez is pretty good at that. It’s exactly why he’s never finished worse than 18th at Bristol, including his 18th-place finish here in the May race. If this ends up being a clean race, though, Suarez probably won’t move up much.
  30. Corey LaJoie ($5,500) – 20.3 projected FPTS
    – I’ll probably have close to the same LaJoie and Suarez ownership on Saturday night. They’re basically the same driver to me this weekend, just Suarez has a better track record. LaJoie has never finished better than 24th at Bristol, but a lot of wrecks can change that.
  31. John Hunter Nemechek ($6,400) – 28.7 projected FPTS
    – I wrote up John Hunter Nemechek as a cash game play in my Projections article. Click here to read that.
  32. JJ Yeley ($4,600) – 19.3 projected FPTS
    – I wrote up JJ Yeley as a GPP/tournament play in my Projections article. Click here to read that.
  33. Quin Houff ($4,500) – 14.2 projected FPTS
    – At Bristol, Quin Houff has three Cup Series starts under his belt, and has improved each time. First he finished 32nd, then 30th, then 27th. It’ll take wrecks on Saturday night for him to best that 27th, but it’s not out of the question. This #00 Chevrolet is a step above the other back markers on speed. Like Yeley, I love the DraftKings salary here, too, with Houff, but don’t go overboard on ownership.
  34. Reed Sorenson ($5,000) – 12.0 projected FPTS
    – Reed Sorenson is in the #77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports this weekend. Garrett Smithley drove this car to a 26th-place finish in the first Bristol race this season and Sorenson has similar upside, but he’s going to need to avoid the wrecks.
  35. James Davison ($4,700) – 06.5 projected FPTS
    – I really don’t like taking the risk on these Rick Ware cars, especially since they’ve gotten slower over the last few months (not that they were very fast at their peak anyway). I definitely don’t like taking a chance on a guy making his first Bristol start either.
  36. Joey Gase ($4,900) – 10.7 projected FPTS
    – Gase is in the #51 Rick Ware Ford this weekend. See my notes above on that organization. I could see him finishing high 30s but that’s about it.
  37. Gray Gaulding ($5,100) – 18.3 projected FPTS
    – Gray Gaulding has the potential to run around 32nd or so on Saturday night but will need attrition to move up any more. He’s behind the #27 Ford this weekend instead of JJ Yeley, and that car has been notably faster than other back markers lately. Gaulding ran the first Bristol race in this car this season and finished 30th.
  38. Timmy Hill ($5,200) – 18.8 projected FPTS
    – One of the most surprising finishes in the first Bristol race this season was Timmy Hill in 19th and on the lead lap. He has the talent to do it again, but this car isn’t anywhere near the level it was back in May. Hill will need attrition to put up a decent score on Saturday night.
  39. Josh Bilicki ($4,800) – 13.8 projected FPTS
    – JJ Yeley finished 25th in this car in the first Bristol race, and Bilicki achieved the same result at Indianapolis. Both of those races. had high attrition, and that’s what it’ll take this weekend as well for Bilicki to be above 33rd or so.
  40. Garrett Smithley ($5,300) – 17.3 projected FPTS
    – Typically we see BJ McLeod behind the wheel of the #78 Chevy, but this time it will be Garrett Smithley. This car is a back marker and the only way Smithley will move up is through attrition–and even then it’s not guaranteed, as two of the last three races this car has entered it has had “mechanical issues.” I will note that McLeod finished 28th in the first Bristol race this season, but once again: attrition. I don’t like the price for Smithley but if you want to take a shot, it’s impossible for him to score negative points…
As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.