Fantasy Auto Racing cheat sheet for Food City 500

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/205/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Harvick">Kevin Harvick</a> won the pole at Atlanta and dominated. But he finished 9th. (Getty)
Kevin Harvick won the pole at Atlanta and dominated. But he finished 9th. (Getty)

Special to Yahoo Sports
By Dan Beaver

The Food City 500 is the second short track race in the past three weeks. Next up will be Richmond International Raceway and this mini-short track season allows fantasy players to find some dark horses that are not good values on unrestricted, intermediate speedways. This is a good week to roll the dice, because the half-mile bullring is also prone to multi-car accidents that could readily take out several of the marquee teams.

1. Kevin Harvick: There is a difference between the summer and spring race on this track. Harvick has been better under the lights with a win last year and a runner-up finish in the summer of 2015. He was seventh in this race last year.

2. Matt Kenseth: Ranking Kenseth this high takes some faith in his overall Bristol strength. His last three efforts on this bullring ended outside the top 35 because of trouble. He has not been immune from that in 2017.

3. Joey Logano: With two victories in his last five Bristol attempts, Logano is going to be front of mind for fantasy players. Last year, he finished 10th in both races on this half-mile bullring.

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4. Jimmie Johnson: Now that he has a victory to his credit this season, fantasy players will be more likely to trust Johnson’s three top-fives in 2014/2015 rather than last year’s 23rd in this race.

5. Kyle Larson: This will be a good test of how well Larson has improved overall. He swept the top 12 in his first three Bristol starts, but has struggled there in his last three races with results of 24 or worse.

6. Chase Elliott: He is not one of the first drivers who comes to mind at Bristol, but Elliott scored a fourth-place finish in this race last year. He was 15th in the summer, which was not bad for a rookie.

7. Clint Bowyer: Drivers’ tracks like Bristol are where experts expected Bowyer to excel. He’s been better than predicted everywhere else, so he could challenge for a win on this high-banked, short track.

8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: A runner-up finish for Stenhouse last summer came as a bit of a surprise for many, but it should not have. He had three straight top-six finishes in 2014 and 2015.

9. Kyle Busch: From 2008 through 2011 Busch finished first or second in five of six races. He has one more runner-up since, but last year was brutal on this track with results in the high 30s.

10. Brad Keselowski: He scored back to back wins in 2011 and 2012 plus two more top-fives since. It is clear Keselowski knows how to get around this track. He also has a pair of 30-something results in the past two years, however.

11. Jamie McMurray: The driver of the No. 1 is possibly the most consistent driver in the field with five consecutive top-15s and a best of eighth in that span. Look for another result on either side of 10th.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Winning on tracks where his father excelled has always been special for Junior. His top-five in Texas could have him emotionally prepared to challenge for a Bristol win. He was second in this race last year.

13. Denny Hamlin: Joe Gibbs Racing has struggled this season. That has caught players off guard and this week could be another uncertain outcome. Hamlin has been all or nothing in his last eight Bristol attempts.

14. Martin Truex Jr.: He has come close on three occasions, but Truex has not scored a top-10 in his last nine attempts at Bristol. There are simply better places to start him and fantasy players want to wait for an unrestricted, intermediate speedway.

15. Austin Dillon: With a pair of 20-something results in six starts, Dillon is certainly not a sure thing, but he has finished in the top 15 at Bristol more frequently and should be watched closely in race prelims.

16. Kurt Busch: Three of Busch’s last 11 Bristol races ended in top-five finishes. Unfortunately, the remaining efforts were bad enough to give him an average result that stands in the shadows of 20th.

17. Ryan Blaney: It is difficult to know where Blaney will finish at Bristol. In three starts, he has one result in the teens, one in the 20s, and one in the 30s. He could get a top-10, but that seems like a long shot.

18. Matt DiBenedetto: Dark horses abound on drivers’ tracks. DiBenedetto is one of several sleepers who swept the top 20 at Bristol last year.

19. Kasey Kahne: It has been more than five races since Kahne cracked the top 10 at Bristol. He’s been close in recent events with results near 15th, but he has no appreciable momentum on his side entering this weekend.

20. Paul Menard: In the past two years, Menard has been stronger in the spring race than under the summer lights. He has a pair of top-15s in the last two editions of the Food City 500.

21. Trevor Bayne: Roush-Fenway Racing continues to show a lot of promise. Bristol could be a good track for Bayne because he enters with three straight top-15s there.

22. Erik Jones: Last week might have shaken Jones confidence just a little and there are going to be better venues on which to start this Rookie of the Year contender.

23. Ryan Newman: Bristol is often kind to bulldogs. Newman is one of the toughest drivers in the field to pass and that is going to make him attractive to some fantasy players. It could also make him the recipient of a bump-and-run move.

24. Ty Dillon: The younger Dillon brother is a throwback to drivers like Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison. That means he is good on tracks like Bristol that have a long history as one of the tougher places on which to race.

25. Landon Cassill: There are several dark horse contenders who should be watched this week. Cassill finished in the low 20s in both Bristol races last year and this is a track that rewards driver skill as a greater percentage of the whole.

26. AJ Allmendinger: It took a while, but Allmendinger finally scored a top-10 on this track last summer. Lightning is not supposed the strike the same place twice, so leave the No. 47 in the garage for now.

27. Aric Almirola: One bad finish in this race last year has kept Almirola from entering the Food City 500 with a four-race streak of top-15s. Flip a coin this week to decide whether to start the No. 43.

28. Daniel Suarez: There have been a couple of tracks on which Suarez has been less than comfortable. Bristol will bring that level of unease to an entirely new level.

29. Chris Buescher: After finishing 25th and 21st in his first two Bristol starts, Buescher shocked the fantasy racing community last summer with a fifth in the night race at Bristol.

30. Danica Patrick: Some of Patrick’s best results have come on short tracks, but they tend to be on the minimally-banked courses. Six her of nine attempts on this track ended in the high 20s, so expect her to finish in that range.

31. Michael McDowell: The No. 95 team has a place on keeper leagues because McDowell has consistently finished better this year than he did at the start of last season.

32. David Ragan: Last summer snapped a three-race streak of results 39th or worse for Ragan, but his 21st was not enough to make him a good value in most fantasy games.

33. Corey LaJoie: Now that he has learned to drive within the capability of the car, LaJoie has a chance to complete all the laps at Bristol and move up the grid through attrition.

34. Jeffrey Earnhardt: Bristol was one of the few tracks on which Earnhardt showed some promise last year with a two results just inside and outside of 30th. If a player is going to start the No. 33 anywhere, this is the place.

35. Cole Whitt: He entered last fall’s night race at Bristol with three consecutive results in the 20s before slipping to the mid-30s. Whitt should be watched closely this week and considered as a dark horse only if he practices well.

36. Reed Sorenson: If a player is willing to roll the dice, Sorenson could be a great value this week. Three of his last four Bristol races ended in the 20s. If he qualifies outside the top 30 he could add place differential points to his total in games that offer them.

37. Timmy Hill: Bristol is one of the tracks on which Hill has made sporadic starts. None of them have ended particularly well with a best of 39 in two starts. He also failed to qualify on a third occasion.

38. Derrike Cope: He will be running at the end of the race, but Cope is going to be off the pace and simply making laps. This team has a place on the NASCAR grid, but not a fantasy roster.

39. Gray Gaulding: Rookies are not expected to do well on bullrings like Bristol and Gaulding does not have the experience to buck that trend.

For more analysis, go to DanBeaver.com or follow him on Twitter

 

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