Now that we have Daytona out of the way, it’s time to get more strategic with our Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest rosters. Last week, pretty much any driver in the field was a decent option in NASCAR Fantasy. This week, if you want to do well, that’s not the case–at least in my opinion.
We’re at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Pennzoil 400 race this weekend, and the interesting thing about this track in Sin City is how starting position has meant pretty much nothing in years past. The last time we were here (last September), pole sitter Clint Bowyer led one lap and finished 25th. In the fall of 2018, pole sitter Erik Jones led zero laps and finished 40th. Ryan Blaney was on the pole in the spring 2018 race and ended up finishing 5th but led just one lap.
What we did see in the Vegas races last year was a ton of place differential, which should be music to the ears of Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest players. Last September, race winner Martin Truex, Jr. started 25th, and eight of the top 10 finishers started 14th or worse. In the spring race, Joey Logano won after starting 10th, and four of the top 8 finishers started 19th or worse. If that continues this weekend, we should see some huge scores in this Fantasy NASCAR game.
With the schedule this weekend, we got two practices on Friday followed by qualifying on Saturday. Unfortunately, qualifying got rained out, so the starting lineup was set by the 2019 Owners Points. On a positive note, we don’t have to deal with race day inspection, so those starting positions are final. Click here for the starting lineup for the 2020 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
*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 race day.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for Las Vegas
My Strategy: I don’t think you need to dip too low in the driver pool this weekend. With most weeks in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest last year, the top lineups typically had one driver in the sub-$7,000 range, and then a couple of studs up top. However, with the limited place differential potential for the top guys this week, as well as the fact that there’s a ton of value in the mid-priced drivers on Sunday, I will be going for a more balanced approach with my lineups. Here are three that I am debating between:
Chase Elliott ($11,700) – Don’t let Chase Elliott’s career average finish of 20.7 at Las Vegas scare you away. He has finished 9th or better in three of his last five starts in Sin City, and has honestly just had some really bad luck in half of his attempts here. What you need to focus on is this: Chase has finished inside the top 10 in nine of the last ten Stages at Las Vegas, and ran 9th and 4th in the two races here last season. The other Hendrick cars all showed very good long-run speed here on Friday, and keep in mind that Chase is one of those guys that likes to kind of lay back in practice. He still had the 10th-best overall speed over the two sessions on Friday. I think he’s going to be a solid top 10 driver with a chance at a top 5.
Alex Bowman ($10,700) – There’s plenty of question marks heading into the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, especially with those two big-name rookies now in the field. But one unknown that isn’t getting a lot of attention is Alex Bowman, and whether he’ll be able to repeat his 1.5-mile performance from 2019. Only Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick had a better average finish than Bowman on the 1.5-mile tracks last season, and here at Las Vegas, Alex posted career-best finishes of 11th and 6th in the two races. This weekend, the #88 Chevrolet looks super strong on the long runs (Bowman had the best 20-lap average in Happy Hour) and was also 2nd-fastest in overall speed between the two practices on Friday. Alex will start from 12th but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised with a top 5 finish. The Fantasy Racing Online algorithm (click here) predicts that will happen too!
Aric Almirola ($10,000) – The Stewart-Haas Racing Fords all look strong this weekend, and when you look at the overall average speed chart from both practice sessions on Friday, they took three of the top four spots. And believe it or not, on top of that chart was Aric Almirola. Now, I don’t think that the #10 Ford is the car to beat here in Sin City on Sunday, but am I more than willing to roll the dice with Almirola on my NASCAR Fantasy teams? Absolutely. Here at Vegas, Aric has five straight finishes of 14th or better, including three top 10s in his last four attempts. He will roll off the grid from 14th when the Pennzoil 400 goes green on Sunday but should be able to contend for a top 10 finish.
Ross Chastain ($9,000) – It’s going to be fun to watch and see what Ross Chastain can do with this opportunity to race in better-than-average equipment in the Cup Series on Sunday. Ryan Newman drove this #6 Ford to a 10th-place finish here at Las Vegas last fall, and looking at practice speeds from Friday, Chastain looked to be a solid top 15 pick for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400. Now, he’s being credited with a 15th-place start, but if Ross can pull off a top 10 finish this weekend, that’ll be a great Slingshot points day for a guy priced at $9,000. What I liked most about Ross Chastain during practice on Friday was the fact that he had the best 15-lap average and 2nd-best 20-lap average in Happy Hour. Las Vegas is notorious for long, green flag runs, so that long-run speed is absolutely necessary for a good run this weekend.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,500) – Matt DiBenedetto should be another fun watch on Sunday. This is the best Cup Series ride he’s had, and I’m sure he’s going to make the most of it. Last year on the 1.5-mile tracks, DiBenedetto was a Fantasy NASCAR player’s nightmare, as he had an average finish of 23.7 on them. However, Matty D started to turn things around int he second half of the season on them, posting an average result of 17.2 in the final five on this track type–with no finish worse than 21st. This Sunday, DiBenedetto will roll off from 19th, but practice speeds showed he probably had a high-teens car. For what it’s worth, Paul Menard finished 14th, 15th, 10th, and 9th in his four races here at Las Vegas with the Wood Brothers.
Originally I had this second lineup, and I might still end up rolling with it: Chase Elliott ($11,700), Alex Bowman ($10,700), William Byron ($10,400), Ross Chastain ($9,000), and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($8,200). The main difference is Byron over Almirola and Stenhouse instead of DiBenedetto. Stenhouse definitely has the place differential updside since he starts back in 26th. Another lineup I like is Chase Elliott ($11,700), Kurt Busch ($10,600), Cole Custer ($9,400), Christopher Bell ($9,300), and Ross Chastain ($9,000). This is a good one if you want to roll the dice with those rookies.