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Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon will start from the pole position for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Does he merit a spot in your lineup? We’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as you make roster decisions.
RJ Kraft’s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Auto Club:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Joey Logano
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Erik Jones
Garage: Kyle Larson
RELATED: Odds for Auto Club | 10-lap averages from Auto Club | Podcast: Fantasy Fastlane
Analysis: I’m making one switch from my original lineup and it’s plugging in Erik Jones for Martin Truex Jr. Jones has the best average running position here (6.871), earned stage points in all four stages of the past two races here and topped the 15-lap board in final practice (h/t@MikeJoy500). I haven’t used him much, he’s only owned by six percent of players (as of Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET) and this seems like a good spot to plug him in. Truex will start 27th and while he has had solid speed this weekend, I think I’ll be better served to save the use.
Busch, Keselowski and Logano look very much how I expected them to and I see no reason to move away from them. Keselowski paced the final practice and had the best 10-lap average in the final session, Logano has the long run speed dialed in and Penske as a whole has this particular rules package dialed in. Busch is one of the best here and I have no doubt he’s hungry to claim a milestone victory — No. 200 — in his career at a track where he’s had a strong history.
If you listened to the Fantasy Fastlane Podcast, you know I was big on Bowyer for this race and I am still committed to that. I haven’t used him yet and I like giving myself an out on one of the big names with a low usage driver for me. On top of that, Bowyer’s posted solid times and has two top-11 finishes here with Stewart-Haas Racing. For the garage, I’m rolling with “2-mile Kyle.” He has a win and two runner-ups at Auto Club and once the top lane gets rolling, look out. The No. 42 team hasn’t been as sharp as I would like but an eighth-best 10-lap average suggests they are rounding into form. Other drivers I considered were: Truex, Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney — his averages in particular gave me a lot to think about.
For the stage winners, I’m taking Kevin Harvick in Stage 1 as I like the starting spot and want to conserve the use since the No. 4 car seems to tail off in the second half of races. I’ll go with Kyle Busch for the Stage 2 win and the race win with Ford as the manufacturer.
Each week in this space, we’ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. Which Joe Gibbs Racing driver will have the higher finishing position: Erik Jones or Denny Hamlin? Even though Hamlin has a better starting spot than Jones (sixth vs. 18th), I like Jones on this prop. The younger Joe Gibbs Racing driver had faster 10-lap averages in both Saturday practices and also had a faster lap on the board than the 2019 Daytona 500 winner. Plus, even though Jones has only two starts at the 2-mile track, I think the history is a bit more consistent and favorable than Hamlin’s has been — just six top 10s in 17 starts here.
2. Chevrolet had had three drivers finish in the top 10 the past two Auto Club races. O/U 2.5 Chevrolet drivers finish in the top 10 on Sunday? I’m on the under for this one. In the two races in the 1.5 to 2-mile range this season, Chevrolet has only scored two top 10s in each of those races — Atlanta and Las Vegas. I’m expecting more of the same this week. There are only two bowtie brand cars in the top 10 to start the race and I think that two of the Chevys outside the top 10 — Larson and Jimmie Johnson — will take the place of Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott when the day is over. Spoiler alert: Despite going against Chevy on this prop, I like the prop of Johnson earning a top 10.