After having his win taken away in Las Vegas, Kevin Harvick came to Phoenix on a mission and was able to win his third straight race. Outside of Chase Elliott, we saw Team Hendricks struggle again, and the Chevys in general have struggled to find the speed they need. The Fords continue to be strong, while the Toyotas looked a lot better this past weekend.
Looking towards this week, we have a two-mile track with a lot of tire wear. That presents a lot of issues we can’t predict, so it’s a weekend to play it a little safer with your picks. Practice on Saturday will tell us a lot about the cars, as we should have a good idea of cars we expect to run well and move up.
Just a quick reminder that this is a preview article, and I write it before we have starting positions. If you want even more in-depth information, consider my NASCAR DFS package over at the RotoGrinders Marketplace.
This weekend we have the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway of California. It's a two-mile large-oval track, and it's a 400-mile/200-lap race. It’s a three-stage race; stage one and two are 60 laps each, while the final stage is 80 laps. Auto Club Speedway is a large-oval, but it’s a high tire wear track. I think the best comp for the track is Michigan, but I also look at Atlanta data because of the tire wear. I like to look at the last two races at Auto Club, four races at Michigan, and the last two races at Atlanta when researching for this race.
Drivers To Watch
Kyle Larson – I think Kyle Larson is the favorite this weekend. He has won the last four races between Michigan and Auto Club Speedway. Plus, Larson has been really good at these two-mile large-oval tracks, and when you throw in Atlanta to the research, he has an average finish of 7.1 over the last eight races at those three tracks combined. Larson started strong last weekend in Phoenix, but the car fell off towards the middle of the race. I worry about the new Camaros a lot more now than I did at the start of the season, so I will be paying close attention to them in final practice on Saturday afternoon.
Kevin Harvick – Harvick is on fire right now, as he’s won three of the first four races to start the season. He is extremely good at tire wear races, and he typically excels at this racetrack as well. Harvick has finished second or better in two of the last three races here, and he has seven top 10 finishes in the last 10 races here, with five of those being top five finishes. Depending on where he starts this weekend, I think Harvich is a potential dominator, as he should have a solid finishing position here. If you’re playing on FantasyLive, I think it’s another good weekend to use Harvick.
Joey Logano – Logano is another guy that has been strong at this track recently. He joined Penske in 2013, and he’s posted four top 10 finishes in five races here since joining Penske. The one race Logano didn’t finish in the top 10, he was in a wreck and finished 39th. That said, he has a 107.6 driver rating at the last six two-mile tracks, and he won the June 2016 Michigan race. Logano has been extremely strong at two-mile tracks with Penske, and if he struggles in qualifying, he’s surely someone to look at in daily fantasy this weekend. He’s someone I’m looking at on FantasyLive for a strong finish.
Chase Elliott – Elliott is one of the more interesting play this weekend. He’s been the one guy from this team that has showed speed this season, but he’s coming off a big penalty at Phoenix. Still, Elliott is a guy that’s going to be strong this weekend. In six career races at two-mile tracks, he has a 112.2 driver rating, which is the highest among active drivers over the last six races at two-mile tracks. Elliott has a 109 driver rating in two career races at Auto Club Speedway, and he also has an 81.7% quality pass percentage in those two races, which is something I like to look at on a track like this. His average running position is 6.3 in two races here, and I expect him to be a top 10 car this weekend.
A.J. Allmendinger – Allmendinger is off to a rough start this season, but he comes to a track that he’s done well on recently. He’s finished 17th or better in three of the last four races here, and two of those finished were top eight finishes. Allmendinger has five top 20 finishes in the last six races at two-mile tracks. It’s going to depend on his practice speeds this weekend, and where he qualifies, but he’s certainly someone I’m looking at closely.
Drivers Running Well
Martin Truex Jr. – Truex has yet to dominate a race, but he continues to be one of the strongest cars every weekend. Dating back to the end of last season, Truex has eight top five finishes in the last 10 races, and he has a 112.4 driver rating in that span. Only Kevin Harvick has a better driver rating in that span. Truex has the second-best driver rating to start the season, and he’s run 94% of his laps in the top 15, which is the highest among drivers this season. He led at least 57-laps at all three two-mile races last season, and he finished sixth or better in all three of those races.
Ryan Blaney – Blaney has been hit or miss at the two-mile tracks in eight career races, but I expect him to be a lot better in this Penske car. This is a Penske-built track, and the Penske cars usually run really well here. Blaney has a 98.7 driver rating after four races this season, and that’s the fourth highest behind Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, and Kevin Harvick. He struggled a little at ISM Raceway last weekend, but he’s been able to finish 16th or better in all four races this season. Blaney is not the cheapest play on the board this weekend, but could be a nice GPP play depending on qualifying and practice.
Paul Menard – I was down on Menard last season, but he’s off to a strong start in 2018. He’s really taken advantage of this new opportunity with Woods Brothers Racing. He has three total top 10 finishes in 2017 with RCR, and he’s already had two top 10 finishes this season with Woods Brothers Racing. Menard had an issue last weekend that ended his day early, but has finished 17th or better in three of the other four races this season. Taking out the wreck at ISM Raceway, Menard has an 83.3 driver rating in the other three races this season, which is the 13th best in those three races. He’s priced as the 21st driver, and I’m hoping he qualifies in a spot that we can take advantage of in DFS this weekend.