Toyota/Save Mart 350
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The Sprint Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Sunday's race is the first road course event of the season, and while the drivers will have to adjust to elevation changes and the combination of left-hand and right-hand turns, fantasy owners will have to make some adjustments of their own in DFS NASCAR.
Thanks to Sonoma's 10-turn, 1.99-mile layout, Sunday's race is only 110 laps, making it the second-shortest race of the season. As a result, the impact of the laps led and fastest laps categories are substantially minimized. The fact that pit strategy tends to play a significant role at road course races can also make these categories tough to predict.
With that in mind, you will want to put plenty of emphasis on finishing position and the place differential category. I suggest trying to target a combination of drivers that should be able to finish in the top 10 and those that should be able to gain 10-plus spots.
You can still pay up for a high-priced stud or two, but don't do so if it means punting a roster spot with a low-priced option that won't manage more than 20 fantasy points. You will need a lineup that has solid contributors from top to bottom to contend this weekend.
Qualifying is set for 2:15 p.m. ET Saturday, and you can check out the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET on FS1.
Kurt Busch ($10,700)
Busch has a series-leading 5.4 average finish in the last five races at Sonoma, and he has four top-five finishes during the stretch, including a win. He ranks first in laps led and second in fastest laps run at the track, and last year, he led 43 laps and recorded 20 fastest laps on his way to a second-place finish.
Kyle Busch ($9,800)
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and Busch ranks third in laps led and fourth in fastest laps run at Sonoma. He also leads all drivers with 141 laps led over the last ten road course events, and he has four top-three finishes during the same stretch, including a pair of wins.
A.J. Allmendinger ($9,600)
Allmendinger is a boom-or-bust option, but he is one of the most talented road racers and will be going all out to win this weekend in an attempt to make the Chase. He has led more than 20 laps in three of the last four road course events, picking up a win at Watkins Glen during the same span.
Brad Keselowski ($8,100)
He hasn’t had the best luck at Sonoma, but his overall road course numbers suggest Keselowski is a potential bargain this weekend. He has six finishes of 12th or better in the last ten road course events, and he has three second-place finishes at Watkins Glen over the stretch. He is priced well below several unproven options and drivers he has typically outperformed.
Clint Bowyer ($7,700)
The equipment at HScott Motorsports has been holding him back, but the disadvantage should be minimized at a road course, especially since Bowyer is one of the best road racers in the business. His 7.7 average finish over the last ten road course events leads all drivers, and he has cracked the top 10 in all five races at Sonoma in that span. In fact, Bowyer has four top-five finishes in the last five races at Sonoma, including a win.
Ryan Newman ($7,500)
While he doesn't have an enormous ceiling, Newman is one of the more reliable road course drivers. His 14.0 average finish over the last ten races at Sonoma ranks fifth in the series, and he has just one finish outside the top 20 during the same stretch. Newman also has three straight top 15s here, and he makes an attractive mid-priced play if he qualifies 20th or worse.
Greg Biffle ($6,700)
Biffle has quietly turned himself into a serviceable road course driver, and over the last ten races at Sonoma, his 12.9 average finish ranks fourth among all drivers. He has three top 10s in the last four races at the track, and over the last ten road course events, he has completed all but one of the laps. For the price, he should be a safe, reliable addition to lineups, especially in cash games.
Casey Mears ($5,800)
He has been a reliable fantasy option at road courses recently, logging eight top 20 finishes in his last ten starts. Mears has finished 16th or better in five of his last seven road course events. If he qualifies in the middle of the pack or deeper, he should be an excellent source of cap relief.
Michael McDowell ($5,400)
If you are looking for a serious sleeper, McDowell could be worth a flier. He has a strong background in road racing, driving several road course events for Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series. At the Cup level, he has a pair of top 25 finishes in four road course starts with the No. 95 team.
Drivers to Avoid
Tony Stewart ($8,900)
Stewart will go down as one of the best road racers in NASCAR history, and his seven road course wins rank second all-time. However, he just isn't the same driver he used to be, and he has finished outside the top 10 in his last three starts at Sonoma. I expect him to finish somewhere in the top 15, but unless he qualifies deep in the field, Stewart is going to have a tough time living up to his hefty salary.
Denny Hamlin ($8,000)
I think Hamlin is a much better road racer than his results indicate, but at some point, it's impossible to ignore his numbers. He has finished outside the top 15 in his last six starts at Sonoma, compiling a 28.8 average finish and finishing outside the top 25 four times.