Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season continues this weekend with a trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway, and after a crash-filled, wild-card race at Daytona to start the year, Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is a chance to get on the right track in your season-long fantasy leagues.
Unlike last weekend's restrictor-plate event when a damage control strategy was the smart option, tracks like Atlanta tend to be much more predictable. As a result, you will want to be a little more aggressive with your lineups, and the big-name drivers are definitely in play.
In fact, I'd recommend loading up on the top options in all three tiers of the Yahoo game. Early in the year, it is tough to establish a pecking order among the mid-pack and sleeper drivers. To avoid the guessing game, you can stick with the drivers who tend to run well year in and year out. Leaning on the proven options should ensure that you a solid start to the year.
In the NASCAR.com game, the dominator categories (laps led and fastest laps run) will move to the forefront after taking a backseat at Daytona. History says one driver is going to lead 100-plus laps, and even with points now being handed out for running in the Top 10 at the end of Stage 1 and Stage 2, the dominator categories are still going to be a big source of points.
In the FOX game, the place differential category remains the main source of bonus points. However, there is nothing wrong with picking a couple of drivers who are simply safe bets to finish up front. Unlike Daytona, you aren't going to see a ton of drivers start at the back and move to the front this weekend, so loading up on too many drivers starting deep in the field will undoubtedly result in a few busts.
Check out a closer look at all my season-long fantasy NASCAR lineups.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Kevin Harvick (A)
He has four Top 10s in his last five starts at Atlanta, and he has led the most laps in four of the last five races here, including all three races with Stewart-Haas Racing. After grabbing the pole, Harvick looks like the safest bet to contend for the win this weekend.
Kurt Busch (B)
Busch has shown a blend of reliability and upside at Atlanta, and that's what I'm looking for this early in the year. He has three Top 5s in his last five starts at AMS, and his 9.3 average finish over the past ten races at the track is tied for tops in the series.
Chase Elliott (B)
Early in the year, I'm looking for safe options. Elliott finished eighth in his first Cup start at Atlanta last year, and by the end of the season, he was routinely contending for Top 5s at the 1.5-mile ovals. He starts 11th, and I think his floor is a Top 10 finish.
Daniel Suarez (C)
I'm interested to see how the pecking order shakes out between Suarez and fellow rookies Erik Jones and Ty Dillon. I'm opting for Suarez this weekend because he seems willing to stay out of trouble and take what the car will give him, rather than wreck trying to overdrive. I think he is a safe bet to crack the Top 20.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kevin Harvick ($28.00)
Harvick put any fears about the offseason switch to Ford to rest by snagging the pole for Sunday's race. This will now be the fourth straight race at Atlanta that he will start sixth or better, and in the previous three, he has led more than 100 laps. Harvick is in prime position to own the dominator categories and finish as the top scorer.
Jimmie Johnson ($27.25)
I'm not worried one bit about his 18th-place qualifying run. After all, he started 19th here last year and won the race, and the year before, he started 37th and went to victory lane. He led 50-plus laps in both those races, so Johnson has upside in the place differential and dominator categories. He looks like the total package for Sunday's race.
Kasey Kahne ($22.00)
After qualifying 29th, Kahne has too much upside to ignore. Last year, it was common for Kahne to gain double-digit spots and finish in the Top 10 at 1.5-mile tracks, so his poor qualifying spot is just an opportunity to score points in the place differential category. Meanwhile, Atlanta has always been one of his stronger tracks, so he could even add a few points in the dominator categories.
Aric Almirola ($12.50)
I'm not the biggest Almirola fan, but all the pieces are in place for a solid point total Sunday. He starts 30th, so he has a lot to gain and little to lose through the place differential category. He has also been solid at Atlanta recently, three straight Top 15s and four straight Top 20s. As a bonus, his salary is driven down by a disappointing 2016 season. I think he can provide great value at one of his better tracks.
Michael McDowell ($9.75)
Not only does McDowell provide plenty of salary cap relief, but he also has legitimate upside through place differential. He starts back in 36th after not making a qualifying run, but he reeled off four Top 25 finishes in his final five starts at 1.5-mile tracks last year, gaining at least nine spots four times. He is a low-risk source of cap relief.
FOX Fantasy Auto Racing
Matt Kenseth ($11,300)
On the heels of a mediocre 16th-place effort in qualifying, Kenseth could be one of the bigger movers Sunday. He has finished 12th or better in nine of his last ten starts at Atlanta, logging two Top 5s in his last three starts here. Kenseth should have no issues delivering around 40 fantasy points.
Jimmie Johnson ($11,100)
He has been missing a little bit of speed this weekend, but the No. 48 team is one of the best at dialing in a car in time for the race. Plus, Johnson has five Top 5s in his last seven starts at Atlanta, including back-to-back wins, so his track record at AMS speaks for itself. He should have no trouble moving up from his 18th starting spots, and upwards of 15 bonus points through place differential aren't out of the question.
Kasey Kahne ($10,500)
After qualifying 29th, Kahne is in position to be one of the top scorers in this format. Last year, he gained nine-plus spots and finished in the Top 10 in four of the final five races at 1.5-mile tracks. A similar charge to the front could be on tap Sunday, and 50-plus fantasy points aren't out of the question.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,600)
Truex's ceiling isn't huge after he qualified in the Top 10, but balancing high-upside plays with safer picks isn't a bad strategy, especially when there aren't any more obvious choices starting in the back. Over the last five races at Atlanta, Truex's four Top 10s are tied for the most in the series, and last year, no driver led more laps at 1.5-mile tracks. He should deliver 30-plus fantasy points based solely on his finishing position.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($7,200)
Starting 12th, Junior doesn't have a ton of room to earn bonus points. However, he does run well at Atlanta, and he enters Sunday's race with five straight finishes of 11th at the track, including back-to-back Top 3 runs. Equally as important, his price tag is still discounted after he missed the second half of last year. It's not often you can roster a driver with Junior's upside for less than the likes of Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne. Take advantage of the value.