Only eight cars survived the Daytona 500 without damage. In all likelihood, your roster was decimated along with your competition and that means the 2019 fantasy season actually starts this week at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Handicapping one of the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks is supposed to be easy, but with a new rules package designed to encouraging more passing it might be a little more difficult than one supposes.
The masters of the 1.5-milers will continue to be strong, but there might be a bit of an advantage for Young Guns who are not firmly entrenched in old setups. Drivers who have been waiting to break out – like William Byron or Daniel Suarez – will be very interesting to watch. Those on the cusp of greatness like Chase Elliott or Ryan Blaney could find a way to dominate.
Unfortunately that is all speculation until a couple of races are in the books and all players have to go on are the historical statistics that suggest the Big 3 will take the lion’s share of top-fives this week just like they did in all of 2018.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
It is hard to believe Truex will not be one of the favorites to finish in the top five this week since he has finished that well in most of the last two years on 1.5-milers.
2. Joey Logano
With 11 top-10s in his last 12 races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, Logano has been almost as flawless as last year's Big 3.
3. Chase Elliott
Who says you can't go home again? Look for Elliott to be one of the best values on his native Georgian track.
4. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski won the 2017 edition of this race and finished third last year. Team Penske obviously has a great setup for this course.
5. Kyle Busch
Before a brief stumble at Texas II last fall, Busch had 10 consecutive top-10s on this track type that included victories at Texas I, Charlotte, and Chicagoland.
6. Kevin Harvick
Harvick kicked off his incredible run of eight wins with an Atlanta victory last year and he should easily contend for another top-five this week.
7. Kyle Larson
If not for an accident in the first Texas race last year, Larson would have a perfect record of top-10s on this track type with most of those results landing in the top five.
8. Ryan Blaney
Blaney ended last season with three top-fives and a seventh in the final four races on 1.5-milers. Two of these were runner-up finishes at Kentucky and Texas.
9. Erik Jones
With the exception of an accident at Vegas that was not of his making and a 19th in the Coke 600, Jones was almost perfect on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.
10. Aric Almirola
The No. 10 finished in a narrow range of sixth through 13th in eight of 10 races last year on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. Almirola should pick up where he left off.
11. Kurt Busch
Busch finished in the top 10 in six of 10 races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year, but he never cracked the top five. Moreover, this team was less than stellar last year with McMurray behind the wheel.
13. Clint Bowyer
While his teammates dominated the top 10 on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year, Bowyer was able to score only three such finishes.
14. Alex Bowman
In three previous starts at Atlanta, Bowman has gotten progressively better. He finished 20th last year and could challenge for a top-10 in 2019.
15. Denny Hamlin
In the last four races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks in 2018, Hamlin failed to crack the top 10 a single time and had only one top-15.
16. Paul Menard
The Wood Bro.’s alliance with Team Penske is at its most successful on unrestricted, intermediate speedways. Menard will contend for a top-15.
17. Daniel Suarez
Suarez will be energized by his new team and start contending for top-10s on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks before the halfway mark of the season.
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
This team got progressively better on 1.5-milers as the season progressed, but they still have a ways to go before challenging for a top-10 on a weekly basis.
19. Jimmie Johnson
Once the king of "cookie-cutter" tracks, Johnson barely managed to score on top-10 on them last year. He was fifth under the lights in Charlotte.
20. Austin Dillon
Dillon finished off the season with three results of 11th or 10th on this track type, but he started the year with a huge deficit.
21. William Byron
Byron scored top-20s in half of his starts on 1.5-milers last year. He will improve in 2019, but it might take a little time.
22. Matt DiBenedetto
This will be a week for DiBenedetto to show if he can continue to contribute to the growth of a team that has been breaking out for the past three years.
23. Chris Buescher
Buescher was a surprisingly good value on four occasions on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year with results of 15th or 16th. He finished 25th at Atlanta.
24. David Ragan
If you toss out a bad finish in Chicagoland, Ragan finished in a narrow range of 23rd through 27th for most of 2018 on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.
25. Michael McDowell
McDowell finished outside the top 30 only once on this track type last year and had an average of 24.3. With a best of 14th at Texas in the spring, that is minimal risk for a decent reward.
26. Ty Dillon
Dillon had a handful of decent runs on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year, but he was outside the top 25 more often than should be comfortable for fantasy owners.
27. Bubba Wallace
After scoring a dramatic second-place finish at Daytona last year, Wallace struggled on the unrestricted, intermediate speedway with a 32nd at Atlanta.
28. Landon Cassill
Cassill was a little uneven last year on this track type, but when he found the right groove, he was capable of finishing in the top 25.
29. Ryan Preece
Simply by surviving last week, Preece took the lead in the rookie battle. No one can take his first career top-10 away, but the 1.5-miler will be a greater challenge.
30. Daniel Hemric
The Rookie battle will begin in earnest this week as NASCAR's top freshmen enter a track on which they can control their destiny.
31. Matt Tifft
Tifft did his job last week in Daytona. He stayed out of trouble until a veteran made a mistake and collected half the field.
32. Parker Kligerman
Kligerman was a pleasant surprise on numerous occasions last year, so don't hesitate to use him if he fits a comfortable niche on your roster.
33. Garrett Smithley
This was the No. 78 last year with Truex behind the wheel. Without one consistent driver in 2019, it is going to be incredibly difficult to know how to handicap them.
34. Corey LaJoie
LaJoie's best finish in the second half of last year came on the similarly-configured track in Las Vegas when he scored a remarkable 16th.
35. Ross Chastain
Last week at Daytona, Chastain earned his first career top-10. He will continue to get a lot of seat time in Atlanta and runs in the support series only adds to his notebook.
36. Cody Ware
Ware has made three starts in the Cup series since the middle of last year and has a best finish of 28th in Phoenix.
37. BJ McLeod
The last three times McLeod has made a start on unrestricted ovals, he finished in the mid-30s. Look for that to happen again.