Update: Charlotte (Fall)
Rain plagued North Carolina Saturday, canceling both practices for the Bank of America 500 and leaving the field with a green track and very little seat time. It’s happened before and will happen again, so the teams are as well prepared as possible. Typically in this situation, we suggest that experience will win out, but that is not automatically true in 2017 with some strong rookies in the field.
Pretty much all fantasy players have to go on is qualification. One practice was run on Friday, but since no one made a 10-lap run, it can fairly well be assumed that most of the drivers worked on qualification setups.
Denny Hamlin won the pole with a speed of 191.958 mph and this is a track type that has been incredibly kind to him in recent attempts. With a fifth at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coke 600 and fourth-place finishes at Kentucky Speedway and Chicagoland Speedway, he should be considered a favorite to finish that well again. It would be nice to know what kind of long-run speed he has, but even if he doesn’t lead many laps, he should still be a top earner with minimal lost place differential points.
Hamlin’s speed was underscored by the fact that teammate Matt Kenseth sits on the outside pole. Kenseth was less than 2/100ths of a second slower, which is as close to a tie as fantasy owners need in terms of evaluating the two drivers’ chances. Hamlin has the better record and is recommended in head to head contests, but when one factors in the salary cap, Kenseth becomes the greater value.
Two more heavy hitters line up on row two. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch start close enough to the front and have enough aggression to gouge their way to the lead. Busch enters the weekend with back-to-back wins, however, and that certainly tips the scale in his favor. In fact, he might have swept Victory Lane in the first round if not for a penalty at Chicagoland.
Clint Bowyer is the highest qualified driver not in playoff contention and that is notable. It means he is affordable in salary cap games and flying under the radar in Pick ‘Ems, so he could be one of this week’s top differentiators. His odds of earning a top-10 are only about 50 percent, but he should not miss by a wide margin since he has a sweep of top-15s on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.
This week’s best bargain in games that offer place-differential points is Erik Jones. He failed to clear inspection in time to post a lap in round one and rolls off the grid 38th. No one expects he will finish in the back half of the pack; in fact, he should easily contend for a top-10 and earn 28 or more points for his advancement.
Joey Logano will probably not fare as well. He qualified 28th and it seems that the wind has completely left this team’s sails after getting the encumbered finish at Richmond International Raceway this spring and missing the playoffs. He might still make some noise this year, but fantasy owners want to be extremely cautious.