Fantasy Update: William Byron, Toyotas shine at COTA

Fantasy Update: William Byron, Toyotas shine at COTA

For the second consecutive season, William Byron will lead the Cup Series to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of The Americas (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The No. 24 car put down the fastest lap in practice as time expired and backed it up in qualifying by setting a new track record. During race pace, however, the Toyotas — and Ty Gibbs, in particular — shined. Corey LaJoie was also in the mix, earning the best starting spot of his career in fifth. A big point of emphasis this weekend is stage breaks returning to road courses. Many drivers will score a similar number of points. For instance, 21 drivers scored at least 20 points in this race two seasons ago, but the highest point total was 47.

FANTASY: Set your lineup | COTA 36 for 36 picks

Dustin Albino’s race-day lineup:

Starter 1: Tyler Reddick

Starter 2: Ty Gibbs

Starter 3: William Byron

Starter 4: Ross Chastain

Starter 5: Shane van Gisbergen

Garage pick: AJ Allmendinger

NEXT IN LINE: Christopher Bell, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace

MORE: Sunday’s starting grid | Weekend schedule

RISING: It goes without saying that Gibbs is fast this weekend. The No. 54 Toyota paced the field during an extended practice session after being the first car to take a time, all the way until the final lap of Group B, which was turned by Byron. Gibbs had more than a second on the field more than halfway through the session. The sophomore driver has always had road-course success, dating back to his first national touring series start on the Daytona road course when he won in 2021. I sound like a broken record, but this might be the week Gibbs finds Victory Lane.

Wallace has put a point of emphasis on improving his road-racing abilities. It began paying off midway through the 2023 season, and he had his best road race to date in the final road course event last season at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course. The No. 23 car has shown itself to be among the frontrunners thus far this weekend, ranking fourth in practice and qualifying. He has yet to finish a race at COTA in three attempts, but he boils that down to rain (2021), a wheel falling off (2022) and a mistake (2023).

FALLING: Daniel Suárez wasn’t pleased with the speed nor drivability in his No. 99 Chevrolet Saturday at COTA. He ranked 24th in practice and qualified 18th despite looping around entering Turn 1 during one of his hot laps. Suárez has dropped from my lineup completely, but he typically runs well in the race at COTA, though his results would suggest otherwise. It’s going to be a tough decision on whether you have Allmendinger available or not. Because Kaulig Racing entered the No. 13 car as an open car, he has zero concerns about acquiring points and will solely be chasing the victory. The problem is that Allmendinger was average in practice and qualifying, ranking 17th and 14th, respectively. Keeping him in your lineup would be beneficial if he wins, giving you an automatic 40 points. He’s just lacking pace compared to his standard on road courses.


Kyle Busch vs. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin was slow in practice but turned in another top-10 qualifying run on a road course. Admittedly, he’s trying to collect any points he can this weekend, meaning the No. 11 car may stay out as the opening two stages wind down. Busch qualified 16th, saying that’s all he had for pace. The No. 8 car also spun during practice. Sticking with Hamlin, but his track position could be buried to start the final stage if he earns points in the opening two.

Tyler Reddick vs. Kyle Larson: Reddick spun early in the session, trying to maximize the limit out of his No. 45 Toyota. He still ended up 12th in practice and improved to third in qualifying. Nothing stood out about Larson’s pace on Saturday, so I’m sticking with Reddick. It’s quite possible he will win at COTA for the second consecutive season.

Daniel Suárez vs. Ross Chastain: Saturday was a tale of two tapes for the Trackhouse Racing teammates. Compared to the past two seasons at COTA, Suárez struggled mightily off the hauler. Meanwhile, Chastain kept up his good fortune here, entering the weekend with a 2.5 average finish while driving for Trackhouse. It seems possible that Chastain has enough speed to contend for the win, so I’ll take that any weekend for my lineup.

Alex Bowman vs. Austin Cindric: The frustration was evident on Cindric’s face following missing the final round of qualifying. Still, he qualified 11th and thinks he has enough tempo to be competitive during the race. Bowman dropped to 17th in qualifying after going third quickest in practice. Bowman has consecutive third-place finishes at COTA, but Cindric is an all-around road racer. I’ve flipped to Cindric.