The road courses are opportunity races for some. Gone for now are the days of road ringers, but the back-counting strategy in these races have a tendency to invert the field at critical junctures. If a caution waves at the wrong time, it can strand a driver in the back of the pack – and passing on the twisty courses can be difficult.
Watkins Glen International is not Sonoma Raceway, however. Passes can be made here especially at the end of high speed straights when a driver has enough temerity to brake late and hope that his tires have not lost very much grip. Several years ago, Kyle Busch not only made up several laps – because of NASCAR’s Free Pass and Wave Around rules – but he took his tired steed to the front and scored a solid run.
Still, the Go Bowling at the Glen is not one for which players want to overcommit salary for marquee drivers. The most expensive drivers will most likely earn the most points, but there is no guarantee they will stay out of trouble or get the strategy right.
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,300)
Among the most expensive, the decision comes down to three drivers this week: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Truex. We are still learning to trust Harvick after his myriad of mistakes and Busch showed last week that his strategy is subject to error. That leaves Truex as the driver with the best recent record on road courses. If not for the wreck triggered by Jimmie Johnson’s desperate need for a win at the Roval, Truex would have four wins and a second-place finish in the last five races on this track type.
Group B: (Between $9,700 and $8,500)
Denny Hamlin ($9,500)
If one looks to last year, Hamlin is not a particularly good value on road courses. He finished all three races on this track type in a narrow band and swept the top 15, but with a best of 10th at Sonoma he did not earn maximum points. Look a little further back, however, and he has a sweep of the top five in the two seasons preceding 2018 with a victory in the 2016 race at the Glen. This June, he scored another top-five in Sonoma. He has momentum on his side with three straight top-fives that culminated in a victory last week at Pocono and shows no sign of slowing down.
Erik Jones ($8,100)
Likewise Jones has three top-fives to his credit in the last three weeks. His record on road courses is not perfect, but strong enough to make him a very compelling pick with top-10s in four of five races. He was running well last fall on the Roval before he sustained crash damage that cost him a lap. This team is likely to gamble on strategy to get a victory and lock into the playoffs. The gamble could pay maximum points.
Group C: (Between $8,300 and $7,200)
Daniel Suarez ($8,100)
Looking at Suarez’s record at Sonoma and the Charlotte Roval, it would be a hard sell to convince players to activate him this week. There is a difference between the three road courses, however, and that occasionally makes a huge difference in regard to results. For some reason Suarez has finished 15th or worse on the other two tracks. At the Glen, however, he has a perfect record of top-fives with a best of third in 2017. Last year he finished fourth, but he banked 17 place-differential points to help his cause.
Alex Bowman ($7,600)
The pickings are a little slim at this level, but what Bowman lacks in raw strength is made up for in consistency. In four starts on road courses with Hendrick Motorsports, he has earned one top-five, another top-10, and a sweep of the top 15. That suggests he will not cost fantasy players a lot of points if he is needed to stretch one’s salary cap at the top of the order. With a little luck, he could land in the mid-single digits again this week.
Group D: (Between $7,000 and $6,200)
Matt DiBenedetto ($6,500)
Make no mistake, DiBenedetto knows when the momentum shifted for this team. It was the fourth-place finish that he earned in the Toyota 350k that set the No. 95 on an upward trajectory that now includes three top-10s in his last five attempts. One of these was a fifth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – a track that some believe rewards the same driving style as the road courses. DiBenedetto does not have a great overall record on this track type, but he is currently the most successful driver at this level.
Michael McDowell ($6,800)
McDowell did not live up to expectations at Sonoma. He finished 25th after starting 13th, but that is only the second time since summer 2016 that he finished outside the top 20. We are willing to believe it was a fluke. At the Glen McDowell has a four-race streak of top-20s with a best of 12th in 2017 and an 18th last year with his current team. Do not be surprised if he challenges for a top-15, which will make him a great value at this level.
Group E: (Less than or equal to $6,100)
Parker Kligerman ($5,900)
Kligerman was not overly impressive at Sonoma this June. His 30th-place finish scored the 29th-most points in the Draft Kings game, but he has earned enough points in other races to make him an interesting bargain basement pick. He scored the 19th-most points in the World 600, the 21st-most at Talladega Superspeedway, and the 23rd-most at Texas Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway. Considering the fact that he is the 10th-cheapest driver this week, you don’t need a lot of productivity to make it worthwhile to start him.