NASCAR VICTORY LANE:
Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
By Tyler Miller @rickybobby_jr
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series will race 500 laps around Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night. Denny Hamlin is on the provisional pole, pending pre-race inspection on Saturday. Double check lineups because any driver that fails inspection will have their qualifying time disallowed and will have a starting position at the back of the field.
There is 500 laps at Bristol puts a premium on drivers leading laps and finishing the race with 50 points available for running every lap and 50 points available for leading laps (on FanDuel scoring). The importance is even more pronounced on Draft Kings with 250 points available for fastest laps and 125 points for laps led. Finding the right combination of drivers who will move forward from bad starting positions (Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, and anyone failing inspection) and the driver who leads the most laps will be imperative this week. Let’s get started.
If you can make a lineup you like that includes Kyle Busch’s high salary you probably should. It’s challenging for me because there are a lot of mid-tier guys I like that don’t fit well with Bush’s salary. Busch’s career numbers at Bristol are ridiculous. He’s led 2,304 laps at Bristol, no other active driver has led 1,000. Kyle won this race in the spring from the 17th starting position, he starts 31st Saturday night.
Kyle hasn’t showed the speed you’d like to see from a $15.5 k driver in final practice. Kyle ran 16th in single lap speed, 17th in 10 lap average, and 15th in 15 lap average (he did not run 20 consecutive laps). The decision on Kyle Busch will depend on how confident you are in his history at Bristol and if you can put a lineup together that works with his high salary. I am going to fade him in cash, but he must be considered in some of your tournament lineups.
Jimmie Johnson is a strong alternative to Kyle Busch in cash games. Jimmie is starting 30th, nearly $7k cheaper that Kyle, and ran well in long runs during final practice. Johnson indicated that he didn’t make a qualifying run during practice which hurt them during qualifying Friday night. There is a lot of upside with Johnson starting this far back, but if a lot of drivers fail inspection and his starting position moves up significantly, I’d be much less interested. I think a top 15 finish is all we can hope for out of Johnson, but with +15 differential points and his low salary, that would be a good value in cash games.
Joey Logano is my pick to win the race and finish top 2 in DFS scoring. Logano is starting 11th and ran the 5th fastest 10 lap average, 2nd fastest 15 lap average, and was fastest in 20, 25 and 30 lap averages during final practice. Logano led 146 laps in the spring race and finished 3rd. He has led laps in 7 of the last 8 races at Bristol.
Hamlin has been on a hot streak lately. He finished 5th at Bristol in the spring leading 7 laps. In his last 5 races, Hamlin has finished 5, 2, 1, 3, and 2. Hamlin ran 6th in 10 lap average during final practice, 7th in 15 and 20 lap average and 4th in 25 lap average. Starting from the pole, Hamlin will lead laps early and contend throughout the race. I like pairing Hamlin with Logano at the top end of lineups Saturday night.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex is a nice alternative to Hamlin and Logano. If you are playing tournaments, I would mix and match these drivers in lineups to find the right combination. Truex is starting 3rd and ran 11th in 15 lap average during final practice but did not run 20 consecutive laps. I like Truex to finish well on Saturday night, but my preference still lies with Logano and Hamlin.
I like Paul Menard as a sneaky value play this weekend. Starting 25th he showed top 15 speed in final practice and can realistically finish in the top 15 Saturday night. Bristol is one of Menard’s best tracks, he has 1 top 5 and 7 top 10s in 24 starts. I think Buescher will be highly owned at a similar salary and starting position and I like Menard to outscore Buescher on Saturday night.
Matt DiBenedetto made news this week as his team announced he will not be returning to the 95 car next season. DiBenedetto took to the track on Friday and was 4th in 1st practice, won final practice, and qualified 7th. I think he is fast enough to finish the race somewhere between 6th and 9th if he stays out of trouble. For the low salary, I like his potential of getting a top 10 finish.
It’s hard not to like Suarez this weekend. Starting 18th, he showed top 10 speed in final practice. Suarez has been a risky play all year, but I think he’s safe enough for all lineups Saturday night.
David Ragan is the only value driver I like this weekend. Ragan is starting 16th and has shown top 20 speed throughout practice. I don’t have a lot of confidence in his team or pit crew, but I feel confident that Ragan is the fastest of all the drivers priced under $5k on FanDuel. He is a tournament only play to be sure, he could just as easily finish 25th or worse, but I think he can contend for a top 20.
This article is contingent on all drivers passing pre-race inspection. As we have seen this year, that is rarely the case. Keep an eye on twitter and double check lineups as starting positions may change. My core cash lineup includes Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Paul Menard. Good luck!
Tyler Miller is a lifelong NASCAR enthusiast who spent five years as a producer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (2008-2013). Upon meeting his wife in Washington DC, Tyler became an Army spouse and left his career to move all over the country and help raise their two children. Tyler holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sport Communication and Electronic Media Production from Ashland University and is currently pursuing a Masters’ of Science degree in Marketing: Sports Marketing and Media, from Liberty University.