NASCAR is back this weekend with the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway! Sonoma is one of three road course tracks that we visit throughout the year, and one thing should come to your mind with these tracks: strategy. Teams will be making all kinds of strategy moves on pit road in the first two Stages here on Sunday to set themselves up for the best chance at getting to victory lane at the end. Most of those teams won’t even care about Stage points. As far as the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest goes, place differential is the target here this weekend–at least in my opinion–as the best road course racers will always find their way to the front no matter how far back they start.
Click here for the starting lineup for this weekend’s race at Sonoma. Also if you’d like to analyze the results from Friday’s first practice, you can do so by clicking here. For speeds from the second practice (Happy Hour), click here.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on Sunday.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Picks for Sonoma
Kevin Harvick ($11,500) – The #4 team has struggled more this weekend than I’ve probably ever seen them struggle, but Kevin Harvick is an elite road course racer and should still have a pretty good race here on Sunday. Over the last four Sonoma races, “Happy” has finished 6th or better in each, and that includes a win here in 2017 and a 2nd-place finish last season after leading 35 of the 110 laps. Harvick qualified 23rd for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, so for obvious reasons he’s a great play in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. With this lineup I have posted, you could also go with Brad Keselowski ($11,600) in this spot, but Kez’s track record leaves a lot to be desired (just one finish better than 10th in nine career Sonoma starts). Keselowski starts one spot better than Harvick on Sunday, in 22nd.
Kurt Busch ($11,200) – The Fantasy Racing Online algorithm loved Kurt Busch coming into the weekend, and even though he didn’t stay at P1 after the practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday, it still has Kurt projected for a top 3 finish–which would be a huge points day in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest considering he qualified back in 16th for this year’s Toyota/Save Mart 350. Overall, Busch has been a top 10 machine here at Sonoma over the years, with just one result outside of that mark in his last eight starts here–and that was a 12th-place finish in 2014. My main concern this weekend with Kurt Busch is the fact that the Ganassi Chevrolets tend to struggle here at Sonoma on the long runs. Hopefully Kurt’s move to this team helps close that gap to the rest of the field for the organization.
Erik Jones ($11,000) – Chalk pick of the week right here. Erik Jones suffered a flat tire during qualifying and will be scored from the 32nd starting spot in Fantasy NASCAR on Sunday. Remember, each positive place differential is two fantasy points in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest, so unless Jones has more issues during the Toyota/Save Mart 350–which honestly isn’t out of the question with how his luck has been this year–it’s almost guaranteed that he’s going to be one of the highest-scoring drivers in this game this weekend. Looking at Jones’ track history here at Sonoma, he qualified 30th and finished 25th in his rookie attempt in 2017, and then started 20th and finished 7th here last year. For what it’s worth, Erik also posted a 5th-place finish at Watkins Glen last season. Speed-wise, I’d say the #20 was a top 15 car during the two practice sessions here on Friday.
Clint Bowyer ($10,900) – Clint Bowyer is a top 5 machine here at Sonoma Raceway and he qualified in 14th, so you do the math. And at a sub-$11,000 price, Bowyer is probably one of the better value plays in the field here on Sunday. Speed-wise, this #14 Ford was 7th-fastest in Practice #1 on Friday morning and then posted the 4th-fastest lap in Happy Hour later that afternoon. Even better? Clint had the best ten-lap average and ranked 2nd when it came to 15-lap average during that session. As I said before, Sonoma is a great track for Clint Bowyer, as he has finished 3rd or better in three of the last four races here and also has eight top 5s in his 13 career starts at this track–including a win here back in 2012.
Parker Kligerman ($5,300) – Even though he’s priced down there with other “back markers,” Parker Kligerman is actually a decent Fantasy NASCAR value this weekend in the #96 Toyota. Remember, Kligerman came home 23rd in this race at Sonoma one year ago, and looking at the Watkins Glen race from last year, Kligerman ended up being the last car on the lead lap and finishing 24th after starting 27th. This weekend at Sonoma, Parker qualified 29th, and honestly I think he has about a mid-20s car on the speed chart. The #96 Toyota was 6th-fastest in Happy Hour after posting the 28th-fastest lap in Practice #1. As long as Kligerman doesn’t wreck out and finish 38th on Sunday, he’s a nice value play here in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest.