Dan Beaver

NASCAR Fantasy Cheat Sheet

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FireKeepers 400 Cheat Sheet

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The two-mile tracks of Michigan International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway are the closest comparatives of any two tracks on the schedule.

Last year, five drivers swept the top 10 on these two courses, led by Kyle Larson with a sweep of Victory Lane. Martin Truex Jr. scored two top-fives and a sixth, Chase Elliott had one runner-up finish and two more top-10s, Jamie McMurray had a fifth and two top-10s, while Kyle Busch swept the top-10 with a best of seven.

McMurray and Elliott failed to keep that streak alive at Auto Club this March, but they remain solid values heading into the Firekeepers Casino 400.

1. Kyle Larson
Larson has an opportunity to win four races at Michigan and match a record set by Bill Elliott in the mind-1980s. Even if he misses that mark, he's likely to be a great value.

2. Chase Elliott
With three second-place finishes in four races at Michigan plus an eighth, Elliott has to be considered one of the top contenders this week.

3. Joey Logano
Before running into trouble at Michigan last August, Logano had a nine-race, top-10 streak on this track with an average finish of 5.33.

4. Martin Truex Jr.
There is a lot of reason to be hopeful about Truex this week: He won the Auto Club 400 this spring and was second in last August's Pure Michigan 400.

5. Kyle Busch
One can ignore Busch's recent record at Michigan in favor of his recent momentum, but for the record: he hasn't had a top-five on this track in his last nine starts.

6. Kevin Harvick
In allocation management games, this might be a good week to leave Harvick in the garage. He failed to crack the top 10 at Michigan last year and wrecked himself in the latest race on a two-mile track when he lost his composure passing Larson.

7. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski had a nine-race, top-10 streak going on two-mile tracks before this race last year. He stumbled at Michigan in the Firekeepers Casino 400 to finish 16th and was 17th in the Pure Michigan 400.

8. Denny Hamlin
In the past four years, Hamlin has scored only one top-10 each season at Michigan. Last year, he was fourth in the spring and 16th in the summer.

9. Jimmie Johnson
This is a track on which Johnson could run well, but he is more likely to finish on the high side of the top 10 than to challenge for a top-five. He hasn't had one of those since winning in 2014.

10. Ryan Blaney
Blaney should be beat his average finish of 18.2 at Michigan now that he is with Team Penske, but it remains to be seen by how much.

11. Kurt Busch
In the past two seasons, Busch has finished every Michigan race in a narrow band of 10th through 12th.

12. Erik Jones
In four starts on two-mile tracks during his career, Jones has two top-10s and a worst effort of only 13th. There is little downside to starting him this week.

13. Aric Almirola
Almirola is still flying under the radar slightly, but he enters the weekend with a seven-race streak of results 17th or better in 2018.

14. Austin Dillon
Dillon has been mostly consistent on the two-mile tracks in recent years with five results of eighth through 16th in his last seven races on the track type. His other two efforts netted 20-something results.

15. Clint Bowyer
After scoring a third last spring at Auto Club, Bowyer failed to impress with a pair of 20-somethings at Michigan. This year, he managed only an 11th in the Auto Club 400.

16. Jamie McMurray
It's still a little too soon to jump on McMurray's bandwagon, but he does have a current four-race streak of top-10s at Michigan to his credit.

17. Matt Kenseth
In three starts this year, Kenseth improved from 36th at Kansas, to 17th at Charlotte, to 13th at Pocono. With a little luck, he could challenge for a top-10 this week.

18. Alex Bowman
Bowman has shown flashes of speed with one top-five and four top-10s this season, but his average is closer to 16th. Hedge your bets and wait for consistency to develop for the new driver of the No. 88.

19. Paul Menard
His last two Michigan results with Richard Childress Racing were not great, but Menard had a seven-race streak of top-15s going from 2012 through 2015.

20. Daniel Suarez
He should be able to better this record in the Firekeepers Casino 400, but Suarez has only one top-20 in four starts on two-milers during his career.

21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Three of Stenhouse's last four races on two-mile tracks ended within two positions of 20th and that is about where he will finish this week as well.

22. AJ Allmendinger
The No. 47 team is liable to go unnoticed this week, which makes Allmendinger a great differentiator. His last five efforts on two-mile tracks ended in a range of 15th through 22nd.

23. Ryan Newman
Newman has not been particularly easy to handicap this year and we have placed him within three positions of his finish only once. On the other hand, our handicap has been within six spots on 10 occasions.

24. William Byron
Hendrick Motorsports has a solid record at Michigan, but Byron is still an unknown entity and that makes him a risky proposition.

25. Bubba Wallace
The book is still very thin on Wallace, but the pair of starts he's made on two-mile tracks is encouraging with a 19th at Michigan last June and a 20th at Auto Club this March.

26. Kasey Kahne
Kahne finished 24th in the Auto Club 400 and that is about where he can be expected to land again this week in the Firekeepers Casino 400.

27. Ty Dillon
He has not burned up the track, but Dillon has finished between 18th and 27th in his last five attempts on two-mile tracks.

28. Chris Buescher
One of Buescher's best efforts last year came in the Pure Michigan 400 when he finished sixth, but he also has three results of 25th or worse on two-milers in the past two seasons.

29. Michael McDowell
McDowell's last three attempts on this track type ended in the mid-20s with a best of 23rd in last year's edition of the Firekeepers Casino 400.

30. Corey LaJoie
If he can match his last two attempts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, LaJoie could be this week's best dark horse. He finished on either side of 25th at Kansas and Charlotte.

31. David Ragan
Ragan has had some strong runs recently this season, but two-mile tracks have not been overly kind with his last four results landing 25th or worse.

32. Matt DiBenedetto
In his last four starts at Michigan, Matt DiBenedetto has gotten progressively better each time with a high of 26th last August.

33. Landon Cassill
Cassill should be watched closely in practice and qualification because he has two 25th-place results in his last four attempts at Michigan.

34. Ross Chastain
In 13 starts this year, Chastain has finished better than he started in all but one race – including a seven-position advance to 29th in the Auto Club 400.

35. Timmy Hill
Hill's last two starts in this car ended in 32nd-place finishes at Kansas and Charlotte. Michigan should fall in that same general range.

36. Gray Gaulding
Gaulding has not yet started a race at Michigan, but in two Auto Club contests he finished 37th last year and 32nd this spring.

37. DJ Kennington
A new number for Premium Motorsports obscures the fact that this is probably the same team as the No. 55. Kennington will not perform as well as the more experienced Reed Sorenson.

38. Garrett Smithley
After 78 starts in the Xfinity series with one top-five and four top-10s, Smithley will make his debut in the second StarCom entry this week instead of Derrike Cope.

Previous Cheat Sheets

Auto Club 400 
Coke 600 (Charlotte) 
KC Masterpiece 400 (Kansas) 
Pennzoil 400 (Vegas) 
QuikTrip 500 (Atlanta) 

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.
Email :Dan Beaver

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