Denny Hamlin nabbed the Busch Pole Award before Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Michigan International Speedway and found himself a spot in my starting lineup as a result. After three practice sessions and qualifying, we’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as you make roster decisions for the 23rd Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of 2018. Remember that the garage locks at the end of Stage 2.
To the rear: Blake Jones (transmission change), Ross Chastain (driver change), David Ragan (transmission change).
There will be a competition caution on Lap 25.
RJ Kraft’s revised Fantasy Live lineup following practices and the lineup being set:
1: Kevin Harvick
2: Erik Jones
3: Joey Logano
4: Ryan Blaney
5: Denny Hamlin
Garage: Kyle Larson
Analysis: A few changes from my original lineup but before we get into those, let’s run through who I am keeping. I devised my Harvick usage plan around having him for Michigan and he’s looked solid, so he’s a must start for me. Jones led the way on the 10-lap average board in both of Saturday’s sessions and has six top-seven finishes in his last seven races. Logano has a good Michigan history, topped the speed chart in final practice and I’m in a pretty good spot with usages there. Larson’s solid showing in final practice keeps him in my lineup but shifting him to the garage. The three-time Michigan winner has plenty of confidence here and was third on the 10-lap average board in final practice.
Two lineup changes for me going into Sunday’s race. Out are Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. and in are Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin. Elliott has a good history here but seems a little off this weekend after his Watkins Glen win. Truex is hit or miss at Michigan over the past few years and this seems to be shaping up as a miss. He was 17th in final practice and struggled here in June as well. With two uses left, I will likely deploy him at Darlington and Indianapolis to close out the game.
Blaney moves into my lineup on the strength of placing in the top six in all three practice sessions and second on the 10-lap board in final practice. He won a stage here in June and had the fourth-most points in that race, so I am saying yes to YRB. Hamlin takes the last active spot in my lineup based on his pole position and a top-five showing on the 10-lap board in final practice. I started the weekend thinking I would avoid him, but feel pretty good about how he looks this weekend.
A spotty Michigan history combined with two uses left and wanting to use Kyle Busch for the two longest races left — Bristol and Darlington — lead me to keep him off the roster this weekend. The 2015 champion will be deployed as a stage winner for me as will Harvick, with “Happy” being my race winner pick after coming so close here in June.