Round 1 of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs comes to an end this weekend with the Bank of America ROVAL 400. Heading into Sunday, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Erik Jones are on the outside looking in, while Williuam Byron, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, and Ryan Newman are the “first four” in. Who will be the 12 that advance to Round 2? We’ll find out soon enough.
The ROVAL is the third and final road course race of the season. Typically, the races at these tracks are very predictable, and for this weekend’s race I’ve compiled a bunch of great data for you analyzing the last two years of road course races. Click here to see that.
Click here for the starting lineup for Sunday’s race at the Charlotte ROVAL. You can also find the speeds from Practice #2 on Saturday by clicking here. For speeds from the third 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.*
Bank of America ROVAL 400 Slingshot Picks
Denny Hamlin ($12,500) – The image above shows why Denny Hamlin is starting in the rear this weekend. He’ll still be scored from the 28th starting spot in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest, but before the green flag waves, the #11 Toyota will have to drop to the rear. Am I worried? Absolutely not. Any top tier driver that has to start at the rear really isn’t that disadvantaged in NASCAR anymore because of the equipment/talent gap, and then you add in the Stage cautions, and there’s no reason at all to worry. And at a track like the ROVAL, just think of it this way: Denny now has a ton of corners to make passes in on Sunday. As far as Hamlin goes at this track type, his average finish of 8.6 on the road courses over the last two years ranks as 3rd-best in the series, and in Saturday’s two practice sessions here this weekend, Hamlin showed top 10 speed. He’ll be fine, and should score plenty of place differential points for your Slingshot team.
Chase Elliott ($12,000) – The last time we were at a road course track was at Watkins Glen, and in case you forgot what happened there, a little guy named Chase Elliott absolutely dominated the race from the pole, leading 80 of the 90 laps en route to victory lane. This weekend, I don’t think Elliott is going to have as good of a performance at the ROVAL, but a top 5 finish is definitely within reach for this #9 team. Momentum-wise, Chase has finished 9th or better in five of the last seven Cup Series races overall, and I see that being six of the last eight after Sunday. Over the last two years, Chase has the 6th-best average finish (9.8) on the road course tracks in the Cup Series garage.
Erik Jones ($10,800) – Even though he crossed the finish line in 4th at Richmond last weekend, Erik Jones was credited with a 38th-place finish because he failed post-race inspection. Why am I mentioning this? One, that makes it three straight races where Jones has finished 36th or worse–absolutely killing fantasy owners–but, more importantly, two, I’m a little concerned simply because we’ve seen those post-race failures really affect teams in the past–most notably Joey Logano a couple of years ago. With that being said, Jones fits into this lineup perfectly, and he starts in 15th so he has place differential potential, so I’m rolling the dice. This #20 Toyota has finished 8th and 4th in the two road course races this season, and although Jones didn’t look great in practice on Saturday, I can’t argue against recent results on this track type.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,800) – This season, Matt DiBenedetto has notched six single-digit finishes. one of those was at Daytona, so you can say that he has five legitimate single-digit results in 2019. Two of those were at the road courses. In addition to finishing 4th at Sonoma back in June, Matt also came home 6th at Watkins Glen in August, so he’s averaging a result of 5th on this track type in this #95 Toyota. As far as this weekend goes, DiBenedetto starts in 18th for Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400, but I see no reason why he shouldn’t challenge for a top 10. He’s a solid mid-tier option in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest this weekend even with the higher-than-normal salary.
Parker Kligerman ($5,800) – Parker Kligerman is a roster filler this weekend, but at the same time, I don’t hate the pick. He starts back in 40th due to not making a qualifying lap (they had to pull out a backup car after the first practice session), which means he literally cannot score negative points in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest on Sunday. Additionally, looking at the road course races this season, Kligerman finished 30th at Sonoma and then came home 26th at Watkins Glen. That’s not awful for a driver in this talent tier. Last year on the road courses, he finished 23rd (Sonoma) and 24th (Watkins Glen).