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Daniel Suarez
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Fantasy Live: South Point 400

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: September 10, 2019, 4:11 pm ET

The playoffs begin this week, which means allocation limits are gone. That’s the good news. NASCAR.com has thrown players another curveball, however. Beginning with the playoffs, fantasy players have to end the race with two non-playoff drivers on their roster, which is a challenging proposition in the first couple of rounds when the top 10 is going to be dominated by the teams vying for a championship.

Stating with the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, you will be required to select two starters each from a selection of playoff and non-playoff drivers. The garage pick can be either a playoff or non-playoff driver, but can only be swapped for someone in that same level during the race.

For the first couple of rounds, it is highly suggested that players have playoff drivers in the garage. If a driver you expected to earn 40 or more points crashes—like Erik Jones did last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway—you will want the option to maximize points. By Round 3 and the Championship Round, you probably will want to have a non-playoff driver on deck.


Typically when the series comes to one of the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks we like to look back at the other courses of this track type. In seven races this year, however, no one has swept the top 10. Only two drivers have five strong runs (Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones), while a few more have scored four.

For that reason, we look heavily at a driver’s record at Las Vegas on its own where six racers have three or more top-10s in the last four races. These are Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Aric Almirola.

Playoff: Joey Logano
Logano may be getting momentum at just the right time. His second-place finish last week at Indy ended a five-race skid of results outside the top 10. He may have been pacing himself recently. The team may have been experimenting, but all of that has to stop this week with a championship on the line. Logano won this spring’s Pennzoil 400, which is part of a current, seven-race streak of top-10s at Vegas. Five of those were top-fives.

Playoff: Kyle Larson
Larson was disappointing at Vegas this spring with his 12th-place finish. The good news is that like Logano, he enters the week with momentum following a solid run last week and five top-10s in his last six attempts. He made a mistake and crashed at Indy, but fantasy players should be willing to believe that he has that out of his system. Last year Larson finished third and second at Vegas; he had another second-place finish in 2017. He should readily be able to contend for another top-five.

Non-Playoff: Matt DiBenedetto
With Tuesday’s announcement that DiBenedetto will drive the No. 21 in 2020 after Paul Menard retires, this driver is going to have even more confidence than he’s had in the second half of the regular season. Suddenly DiBenedetto is going from a circumstance where he is helping a moderately-funded team grow to the potential of being in a B+ or even A- ride. His strongest runs this year have been on other track types, so one should not automatically assume he will score a top-10, but his last 1.5-mile start ended with a 16th at Kentucky.  

Non-Playoff: Daniel Suarez
Suarez missed the playoffs by four points. The driver 17th in the standings traditionally enters this race with a chip on his shoulder and ultra-focused on proving something. Add into the mix increasing rumors about Cole Custer and ways to make room for him in the four-car Cup team of Stewart-Haas Racing and Suarez will be on his A game. That will be enough for a top-15 finish and make him a great value as the playoff contenders sweep the top-10 positions.

Garage Pick

Brad Keselowski
Keselowski should probably be listed as a favorite this week, but he has seemed a little anemic in recent weeks. Based on his Vegas stats alone, no one will be surprised to see him challenge for the win after capturing three of the last eight on this track. This spring he finished second to teammate Logano, which is part of an eight-race streak of results seventh or better. Equally important, he has a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway earlier this season to recommend him.

Red Flag

Martin Truex Jr.
Now we’re going to go a little bit off the reservation and instead of hyper-focusing on Vegas, we will consider recent momentum to a greater degree. If we only looked at Vegas, Truex would be one of the favorites to contend for a top-five because he entered this spring with three consecutive results in that range on this track—including a win in 2017. He finished eighth in the Pennzoil 400. Unfortunately he has not looked sharp for three weeks now and failed to crack the top 10 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, and Indy. At most, make him a garage pick.

Stage Wins This Year
Kyle Busch (10), Joey Logano (8), Kevin Harvick, (5), Chase Elliott (4), Brad Keselowski (4), Kyle Larson (4), Martin Truex Jr. (3), Denny Hamlin (3), Kurt Busch (3), Ryan Blaney (2), Austin Dillon (2), Ty Dillon (2), William Byron (1), Aric Almirola (1), Jimmie Johnson (1)

 

Segment wins and points at Las Vegas
(8 segments to date)

Driver

Segment
Points

Segments
earning
points

Segment
Wins

Martin Truex Jr.

63

8

3

Kevin Harvick

48

5

3

Joey Logano

46

7

1

Brad Keselowski

44

7

1

Chase Elliott

36

8

 

Kyle Larson

34

5

 

Ryan Blaney

32

5

 

Kyle Busch

25

5

 

Kurt Busch

23

4

 

Jamie McMurray

14

3

 

Jimmie Johnson

13

4

 

Denny Hamlin

13

2

 

Alex Bowman

12

3

 

Erik Jones

9

2

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

8

2

 

Aric Almirola

6

2

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

5

2

 

Ryan Newman

3

2

 

Paul Menard

2

2

 

Daniel Suarez

2

1

 

Matt Kenseth

2

1

 

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 15 years with a little help from his >600,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.