Fantasy NASCAR Picks: The Best 2018 Food City 500 Lineup

Can Kyle Busch take two in a row down in Thunder Valley?

NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for Sunday’s Food City 500. The half-mile track is one of the toughest on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

 

The factors that go into building a winning fantasy team at a short track are much different than those at an intermediate or superspeedway.

 

First off, it is important to pinpoint a few different dominator candidates — drivers who lead a chunk of laps and record the most “fastest laps” in a given race. DraftKings awards .25 points per lap led and .5 points per fastest lap. With 500 scheduled laps, there could be a handful of different drivers who dominate a portion of the race. Selecting the right drivers will give you a huge advantage over the rest of the fantasy field.

 

Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for the Food City 500.

 

ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up

 

Kevin Harvick ($11,500)

Bristol: 34 starts, two wins, 12 top fives, 17 top 10s
Average finish at Bristol: 13.4

 

Harvick is a weekly dominator candidate, and he remains a favorite heading into Bristol. In 2017, he posted two top-10 finishes there, his best being a third in the spring race. He also has two wins at the track, most recently in 2016.

 

Harvick led 87 laps and recorded 82 fastest laps in a second-place effort at Texas last weekend. With three wins in seven races, the No. 4 team continues to be the odds-on favorite every week until further notice.

 

Kyle Busch ($11,300)

Bristol: 25 starts, six wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s
Average finish at Bristol: 14.6

 

It was only a matter of time before Busch found Victory Lane. He was unbeatable last weekend at Texas and clinched his spot in the 2018 MENCS playoffs.

 

When it comes to Bristol, Busch is as good as it gets. He is the most recent Bristol race winner and has six career victories in 25 starts. In three of the last five Bristol races, he has led more than150 laps. Busch is the most likely dominator candidate heading into the race weekend and has a great shot at two in a row.

 

Kyle Larson ($9,700)

Bristol: Eight starts, four top 10s
Average finish at Bristol: 18.0

 

Larson led the first 202 laps in this race a season ago. He started from the pole and it looked as though he couldn’t be beaten until a pit road speeding penalty put a damper on the rest of the contest. He was never able to recover and settled for a sixth-place result.

 

Larson has been vocal about how Bristol is his favorite track to race on. His aggressive driving style fits this track perfectly. Runs of sixth and ninth in 2017 make Larson a perfect Bristol pivot from the two favorites paired with a lower salary.

 

ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 - $9,400

 

Jimmie Johnson ($8,800)

Bristol: 32 starts, two wins, 11 top fives, 18 top 10s

Average finish at Bristol: 13.7

 

Johnson was the main beneficiary of Larson’s speeding penalty in that 2017 Bristol race; it was he who took the checkered flag. He finished 11th in the second Bristol event for a solid average finish of 6.0.

 

Johnson was running well at Texas until he got caught up in a multi-car wreck which ended his day. The seven-time champion has not had a good start in 2018 but Bristol could be a great turnaround for him.

 

Erik Jones ($8,300)

Bristol: Two starts, one top five, one top 10

Average finish at Bristol: 9.5

 

In just two MENCS starts, Jones has emerged as one of Bristol's top contenders. He finished 17th in the spring race but really showed his talent the next time the series was in town. Jones started on the pole and was up front all night long. He led the race on nine separate occasions for a total of 260 laps. A fantastic battle for the win during the final moments with now-teammate Busch ended in a second-place finish.

 

Jones has two XFINITY wins at Bristol on his resume, both coming in the spring.

 

Clint Bowyer ($8,200)

Bristol: 24 starts, seven top fives, 11 top 10s

Average finish at Bristol: 15.2

 

Bowyer was the runner-up in this race last year. It was one of his best races during his first season for Stewart-Haas Racing.

 

Now a race winner in 2018, Bowyer will not need to win another points race for the remainder of the season. That will allow him to compete harder for wins with ultimately nothing to lose. That extra dose of aggression could pay off huge at a track like Bristol.

 

BARGAIN TIER: $7,900 and below

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,600)

Bristol: 10 starts, three top fives, five top 10s

Average finish at Bristol: 10.8

 

Stenhouse is averaging just better than an 11th-place finish through 10 career MENCS races at Bristol. That puts him right behind Jones for the best among all active drivers.

 

Like Larson, Stenhouse is an aggressive driver who doesn’t shy away from pushing the envelope. But giving 110 percent has also come back to bite him already this season. He has wrecked his primary car in practice three times through seven races and has crashed twice in the main event. Starting from the back of the pack in a backup car is not always good for daily fantasy purposes, so if that happens again this week, be wary.

 

Stenhouse has incredibly high value with a low salary and tremendous track history. He is without a doubt the most intriguing driver this weekend.

 

Trevor Bayne ($6,000)

Bristol: Seven starts, one top five, two top 10s

Average finish at Bristol: 16.0

 

Bayne has five straight top-15 finishes at Bristol with three of those resulting from starts of 20th or worse. That is almost as good as a win when it comes to daily fantasy. With a price of $6,000, Bayne is a can’t-miss option this week. He finished 11th and seventh in the two Bristol MENCS races in 2017.

 

 

Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup Example:

 

(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)

Event Date: 
Sunday, April 15, 2018 - 14:30

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