Auto Club 400
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stops at Auto Club Speedway this weekend, and if you play season-long Fantasy NASCAR, I'm here to help prepare you for Sunday's Auto Club 400.
It has been a bit of a strange weekend so far, and after several surprises in qualifying, this is a good week to remind you that knowing the scoring system of each fantasy league inside and out is critical if you want to be successful.
Thanks to issues in pre-qualifying inspection, Joey Logano and a couple of other drivers didn't even make a qualifying lap. Jimmie Johnson also decided to qualify after wrecking in Friday's practice and going to a backup car. As a result, there are some quality drivers starting deep in the field and there is an unusually high amount of points available in the place differential category in the NASCAR.com and FOX games.
The category is just one piece of the puzzle in the NASCAR.com game, but now that it has a chance to be such a large piece, I'm putting more emphasis on place differential than on the dominator categories. Place differential is always king in the FOX game, but with Logano and Johnson holding so much upside, I think you have no choice but to pay for both and make the rest of the salary numbers work.
The Yahoo game is a different story since place differential isn't a factor. There is no potential penalty for picking drivers who start up front, and there is no extra reward for picking drivers starting in the back. Instead, I'm just focusing on drivers who have run well at Auto Club and at two-mile tracks in general.
Check out a complete look at my season-long lineups for all three leagues, and make sure to get your rosters set for Sunday's Auto Club 400.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Brad Keselowski (A)
He has been the model of consistency at the 2.0-mile tracks, reeling off eight straight Top 10s and compiling a series-best 5.4 average finish. He has finished first and ninth in two starts at Auto Club in that span, and after qualifying third, he has arguably the safest floor of any driver.
Kyle Larson (B)
I've used Larson a couple of times already, but I can't pass on the hottest driver in the series at one of his best tracks. He has finished second in three straight races leading up to Auto Club, and he has finished as high as second here and has won at Michigan. After grabbing the pole, Larson is my favorite to win Sunday, so I have to burn up another start.
Kurt Busch (B)
I was tempted to use Chase Elliott again, but since I have already used him multiple times, I'll opt for Busch. He has been excellent at Auto Club, logging four Top 10s in his last five starts here and three Top 5s in his last four. Busch qualified 15th, and at the very least, I expect him to challenge for a Top 10.
Erik Jones (C)
I've made sure not to burn through all of Jones' starts right out the gate, but I will use one up Sunday. He has been challenging for Top 10s every week, and all the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have been fast this weekend. Jones will start in the Top 15, and he topped the charts in the first Saturday practice. He has a ton of upside for a C-List option, and even if he just holds his position, he will be an excellent play.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Joey Logano ($28.00)
After failing to make a qualifying lap, Logano has to start back in 35th. He now has enormous upside through place differential, and considering he has eight Top 10s in the last nine races at two-mile ovals, he should take advantage. Logano could easily gain 30-plus spots Sunday, and even if he doesn't lead a single lap, he could end up being one of the top scorers.
Kyle Larson ($27.25)
Starting from the pole, Larson is in perfect position to win the dominator categories and finish as the top scorer this weekend. He has been excellent at the 2.0-mile tracks and has been arguably the most impressive driver this season. I think it all comes together in the form of a dominating performance for Larson on Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson ($26.50)
Yes, he is starting back in 37th in a backup car, but Johnson knows how to get around at Auto Club. He leads all drivers with six wins and a 6.5 average finish here, and in 22 starts, he has 16 Top 10s. At worst, he should gain a ton of spots and take full advantage of the place differential. Meanwhile, he leads all drivers in both laps led and fastest laps run at ACS, so you can't rule out some points in the dominator categories. He looks like a lock to post a huge point total.
Aric Almirola ($12.50)
He has quietly been a Top 20 option in this format because of his ability to exploit the place differential category, and he should be able to do the same this weekend after qualifying 31st. He started 30th and finished 14th at Las Vegas, and he started 28th and finished 17th at Phoenix. Another Top 20 run Sunday will make him a bargain at this price.
Gray Gaulding ($5.50)
I need a punt play to free up cap space, and Gaulding gets the nod solely because he is super cheap and starting dead last. At the very least, I know he won't lose me any points. If he can gain a few spots and contribute something, it's icing on the cake. I'm counting on my three most expensive drivers to carry the load.
FOX Fantasy Auto Racing
Joey Logano ($12,200)
It's rare that you find elite drivers starting outside the Top 30, and you absolutely have to find a way to roster them when the opportunity presents itself. Logano starts 35th after the tech inspection issue, but he has finished in the Top 10 in eight of his last nine starts at 2.0-mile tracks. He should easily eclipse 50 fantasy points, and a 70-point performance is on the table.
Jimmie Johnson ($12,100)
He opted not to qualify after wrecking his primary car in first practice, and Johnson has to start 37th as a result. Like Logano, he has unprecedented upside in the place differential category, and considering he has the best numbers of any driver at Auto Club, he is poised for a huge performance. You have to pay for him.
Chase Elliott ($11,000)
Elliott has been a stud at the two-mile tracks in his brief career, finishing sixth in his Auto Club debut last season and second in both races at Michigan. He was strong in practice Saturday, and I think a Top 5 finish is possible. Elliott starts 13th, so he should add some place differential points to his final score. I like his chances of delivering 40-plus points.
Trevor Bayne ($8,200)
He was among the drivers who weren't able to qualify, and while I'm not normally big on Bayne, I can't pass up the upside this weekend. He starts 36th, so even if he just matches his 20th-place finish at Auto Club from a year ago, he will deliver 37 fantasy points. Meanwhile, his ceiling is even higher.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($5,900)
It hasn't been the best start to 2017 for Junior, but he is still underpriced for a driver of his caliber. Not only is he cheap, but he starts 18th, so he has some upside in the place differential category. Junior has finished 12th or better in his last five starts at Auto Club, and he has a chance to be one of the best bargains of the weekend.