Clint Bowyer is on the pole for Sunday’s South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and will lead a four-car brigade for Stewart-Haas Racing in the front two rows. Does the SHR driver merit a spot in your Fantasy Live lineup? And how should you navigate the playoff game format? We‘ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration.
RJ Kraft‘s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Las Vegas:
Playoff driver 1: Kevin Harvick
Playoff driver 2: Chase Elliott
Non-playoff driver 1: Jimmie Johnson
Non-playoff driver 2: Daniel Suarez
Garage: Kyle Busch
Analysis: For the playoff game, I’m going to ride the hot hand of Harvick. He’s been too strong of late to avoid. For my second active play, I’m going to try something and go with Elliott. He had strong averages in final practice and I like that he’ll have better track position than most playoff drivers in the field. The body of work at 1.5-mile tracks this year hasn’t been impressive for him, but it wasn’t in 2016 when he ran well at Chicago to open that postseason.
As for the garage: The 18 camp has been off in qualifying in recent weeks but still scores strong finishes. It was really a choice between Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and the hometown driver Busch. I am reluctant to bet against Busch with no use limits in this format as good as the Penske duo has been at Las Vegas and the long run speed they’ve shown.
On the non-playoff side, I am rolling with Johnson. He had the best 10-lap average among the non-playoff drivers and the speed has been there in recent weeks. Plus, I think the sting of missing the playoffs for the first time is a big motivator for “Seven-Time.” The other non-playoff spot was a choice between Daniel Suarez and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Suarez has put together four straight top-11 finishes while Stenhouse finished in the top 10 here in March and was the best non-playoff car on the 15-lap board. I’m going with the recent record and taking Suarez.
For the bonus picks, I will take Harvick to win Stage 1 with Elliott in Stage 2 and Keselowski for the win. The Keselowski pick is a hedge to have him somewhere in my roster/picks for this race.
Each week in this space, we‘ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. O/U 1.5 non-playoff drivers finish in the top 10. I am taking the OVER here as we just need two to do it. My early bets would be Johnson and Suarez, but Stenhouse finished in the top 10 in the spring and Menard has a solid history here as well. Last year, three non-playoff drivers finished in the top 10 so it is certainly doable.
2. Which Joe Gibbs Racing driver will finish higher: Denny Hamlin or Martin Truex Jr.? I am taking Truex here in a little bit of a contrarian move. I know Hamlin has the better starting spot and has been the hotter driver of late, but Truex has been the better driver at Las Vegas overall in recent runs. The 2017 champ had better averages in the practice sessions and let’s not forget, day-to-night races are a Truex-Cole Pearn specialty, so I like him to outrun Hamlin here.