Last week was as unpredictable as any race on a restrictor-plate, superspeedway ever was, but we were still able to place five drivers within five spots of their eventual finish—including two of the racers we said would finish in the top five. Joey Logano was handicapped first, but finished fourth despite two penalties. Denny Hamlin was expected to finish fifth, but wound up two spots better in third.
Since the Daytona 500 was such a wild card, however, for many fantasy players the season starts now with what should be a much more predictable Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. There will be 10 races held on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year, and that gives players a lot of data to consider.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
It would be extremely difficult to put anyone else in the Number 1 slot this week, considering how dominant Truex was on 1.5-milers last year
2. Kevin Harvick
With nine top-10s in 10 races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year, Harvick is as close to a guarantee as players will get this week.
3. Joey Logano
Team Penske showed a lot of speed last week at Daytona. Better still, they now have an opportunity to race on a track where they control their Fate.
4. Chase Elliott
Atlanta is Elliott's home track and there is no place he'd rather win - which is easier said than done - but he still has a great shot at getting in the top five.
5. Denny Hamlin
It took a while for Hamlin to get going last year on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, but once he did he ended the season with six straight top-fives.
6. Ryan Blaney
He did not get the Daytona 500 win, but Blaney was easily the strongest driver last week. That exceptional debut is going to parlay into a great season.
7. Kyle Larson
Four of Larson's 10 attempts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks ended in second-place finishes, including the runner spot at Atlanta.
8. Brad Keselowski
Kez punched his ticket to the playoffs at Atlanta last year in the midst of a great early season streak on this track type. Unfortunately, he lost speed at the end of the year.
9. Kyle Busch
Busch has always been an all or nothing driver on unrestricted, intermediate speedways. Last year was no exception with about a .500 record on this track type.
10. Erik Jones
He has the equipment and the talent; now Jones needs to stay out of trouble by making the right decisions in traffic on the unrestricted, intermediate speedways.
11. William Byron
With so much carnage last week at Daytona, it is impossible to fault Byron for getting involved in crash. The season starts in earnest for him this week.
12. Jimmie Johnson
One cannot make too many predictions based on a single restrictor-plate, superspeedway race, but Johnson did not tear up the track last year on "cookie-cutter" tracks and that makes players cautious.
13. Jamie McMurray
The hallmark of McMurray's 2017 season was consistency. That is how he made the playoffs and it is why he was such a great fantasy value all year.
14. Kurt Busch
Until the very end of the season, Busch alternated top-10s on "cookie-cutter" tracks with results outside that mark. Atlanta's seventh was one of his high points.
15. Austin Dillon
Winning the first race of the season is a double-edged sword. Dillon has punched his playoff ticket, but fantasy owners will never know how much experimentation is going on as a result.
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Seven out of 10 races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks ended between 11th and 15th last year, so it's fairly easy to predict where Stenhouse will finish this week.
17. Darrell Wallace Jr.
A second-place finish in the Daytona 500 is about as great a start to a rookie campaign as any driver can hope for. Reality will start to set in this week.
18. Daniel Suarez
When he has been running at the end of a "cookie-cutter" race, Suarez has never finished worse than 21st and he has two top-10s on them.
19. Alex Bowman
The No. 88 team picked up where they left off in 2018. Byron ran well on the plate track, but he is likely to struggle like Jr. did on unrestricted, intermediate speedways.
20. Clint Bowyer
The season starts in earnest this week for fantasy players since Daytona was so much of a wild card; Bowyer was strong at the beginning of 2017 on this track type with seven straight top-15s.
21. Trevor Bayne
The first five "cookie-cutter" races for Bayne were sweet with results of 16th or better, but he became much less predictable later in the year.
22. Ryan Newman
This was not Newman's best track type last year with only one top-15 in 10 starts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile courses.
24. Aric Almirola
With only one top-10 on "cookie-cutter" tracks in the past two years it is difficult to tell if the issue was with Almirola's old team or the driver.
25. Chris Buescher
Most of Buescher's efforts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks ended in the 20s, but he shocked the field with a solid top-10 last year at Kansas in the fall.
26. AJ Allmendinger
Last year, Allmendinger's results suffered just a little while the JTG-Daugherty Racing team expanded to two cars. This year, they should do a better job of allocating resources.
27. Matt DiBenedetto
In comparable equipment, DiBenedetto finished in the mid-teens in the vast majority of his "cookie-cutter" races last year.
28. Ty Dillon
Now that his brother is locked into the playoffs, it is conceivable that Richard Childress Racing will direct some additional resources to Germain Racing for Ty’s effort.
29. Kasey Kahne
If not for an accident at Daytona last week, Kahne would enter Atlanta with some momentum on his side. This team will improve in 2018, but in small, incremental ways.
30. Michael McDowell
As predicted, the driver swap that put McDowell into a Front Row Motorsports car was good for both him and Kasey Kahne. McDowell scored a solid top-10 last week in the Daytona 500.
31. David Ragan
There were equal parts highs and lows last year on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks for Front Row Motorsports. Watch them closely, but it's difficult to forecast a top-25.
32. Corey LaJoie
The best thing about LaJoie is that he takes care of his equipment and manages to stay in contention till the end. That is good for a position or two in the final rundown.
33. Jeffrey Earnhardt
In 17 career starts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, Earnhardt has never cracked the top 25. This week is not going to be an exception.
34. Justin Marks
This will be Marks' first attempt on something other than a restrictor-plate, superspeedway or road course, so treat him with a lot of caution.
35. Gray Gaulding
Gaulding made all 10 races on this track type last year, but only one was with his current team and they retired first with engine problems.
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