NASCAR travels from one of the least predictable tracks to one where streaks are commonplace.
Talladega Superspeedway was as much of a wild card as predicted with a massive crash in the closing laps that eliminated many top contenders.
Dover International Speedway offers the promise of something different.
Last year, four drivers swept the top five there. Two others posted a pair of top 10s and several more swept the top 15. Far from making it easier to pick one’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live lineup, it puts a premium on getting exactly the right five on the roster.
Fantasy players need to look for consistency to go along with strength and put a lot of thought into which of the following 10 drivers will be the one that differentiates their lineup from the competition.
1. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 3.25 in four races)
Simply put, Elliott is as close to perfect at Dover as any driver will get before winning a race. Inheriting the team that propelled Jeff Gordon to so much success, Elliott has finished in the top five in four starts and finished second in last fall’s playoff race.
2. Martin Truex Jr. (5.67)
Truex’s name is going to pop up a lot in the next seven races because he has recent victories on all but one of those tracks. At Dover, he has been both consistent and good with a win in fall 2016 and an eight-race streak of results 11th or better.
3. Daniel Suarez (7.00 in two starts)
When handicapping a NASCAR race, one has to look at a driver’s track record and recent results. Suarez not only swept the top 10 at Dover last year, but he enters with back-to-back 10th-place finishes at Richmond Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway. That means he also has momentum on his side.
4. Kyle Larson (7.67)
With the exception of a 25th in fall 2016 and an 11th in his Dover debut, Larson has swept the top 10 on the Monster Mile. Three weeks ago, he finished second on another high-banked oval. His second-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway has him hungry for his first win of 2018.
5. Kasey Kahne (9.50)
This could be the week Kahne gives Leavine Family Racing their first top 10 on a non-plate track since 2016. Dover is a driver’s track and Kahne has a worst finish of 17th there in his last six attempts.
6. Jimmie Johnson (13.00)
This is going to be a great test of how much Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team have learned about the new Chevrolet Camaro. With a record 11 wins – the most recent of which came in last year’s AAA 400 – there is simply no one who has a better idea of what it takes to get to Victory Lane.
7. Kevin Harvick (13.50)
Harvick is a difficult driver to predict this week. His three-year average is positively skewed by a first and second-place finish in 2015. He has not earned a top five at Dover since. Then again, he has rarely entered the AAA 400 with as much momentum as this week.
7. Erik Jones (13.50 in two starts)
The super sophomores Suarez and Jones make great garage picks in the NASCAR American Fantasy Live game because of their consistency. Make the decision about which to place based on the weekend data – after practice and qualification are in the books.
9. Brad Keselowski (14.33)
While Keselowski has been solid at Dover in the past three years, these are not his glory days. From fall 2012 (when he won a race on fuel mileage) through 2014 he scored four top fives in five races. He has replaced that with consistency in recent years with only one result worse than 16th in the last six races.
10. Kyle Busch (14.50)
If this was the fall race, Busch would be one of the favorites. He has finished first or second in the last three October events. His best recent effort in the spring came last year with a 16th, but he was 30th or worse in the three preceding races.
10. Ryan Newman (14.50)
This should be precisely the type of track that favors Newman and his take-no-prisoners attitude, but he has only been able to score one top five in the last three years. He’s consistent, however, with a sweep of the top 20.
Pole Winner: Truex has the most poles this season, but that is not the only reason to recommend him. He has started on the front row in his last three Dover attempts and won the pole for the 2017 Apache Warrior 400.
Segment Winners: Keselowski and Harvick – both of whom are among this week’s 10 best – have the most segments wins in 2018. With four apiece, they double the closest competitors and have an opportunity to extend that lead in the AAA 400.