Erik Jones will start out front for Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and gives fantasy players plenty to consider when setting their lineups. There were three practice sessions for the playoff opener, giving players lots to digest. We’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as you make roster decisions.
Remember that the garage locks at the end of Stage 2. Also, your garage play can only be swapped for a driver of similar classification (a playoff garage driver can only be swapped for a playoff driver in your lineup; a non-playoff garage driver can only be swapped for a non-playoff driver in your lineup).
RJ Kraft’s revised Fantasy Live lineup following the lineup being set:
Playoff driver 1: Kevin Harvick
Playoff driver 2: Martin Truex Jr.
Non-playoff driver 1: Jamie McMurray
Non-playoff driver 2: Ryan Newman
Garage: Kyle Busch
Analysis: The Fantasy Live Playoff Game is here! I’m not going to overthink this — in fact I am sticking with my original five drivers. I’m taking the Big 3 — they’ve been the best all season, have been the top three drivers on 1.5-mile tracks and have won all seven races at that track length. I think Harvick and Truex have the two best cars of the Big 3, so they get the start and I will have the 2015 champion in the garage. For the garage, I think it’s important to protect your playoff plays in the early going.
The speed out of Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney gave me something to think about and I will utilize one of them for a bonus pick. Kyle Larson’s knack for the high line and recent results at Las Vegas were food for thought as well. Joey Logano’s strong qualifying spot and history at Las Vegas was also a consideration, but at the end of the day I’m dancing with the dates that brought me success all season — the Big 3.
For the non-playoff plays, I like McMurray here. The veteran driver qualified the best of the non-playoff drivers (12th) and is coming off two straight top 10s. For the other spot, I am going with Newman. He topped Saturday’s first practice and was in the top five on the speed chart in final practice. Despite the fact that he announced Saturday that he is leaving RCR at the end of 2018, he has a plenty to offer owners for this race with four top 15s in his last five Las Vegas starts. I also considered Daniel Suarez, but his lack of 1.5-mile success — just two top 10s in 18 career starts at that track length and no top 10s on 1.5-mile tracks this year — was enough to scare me off.
For the bonus picks, I am taking Jones to win Stage 1. From there, I am doubling down on Harvick to win Stage 2 and pick up another race win. I am also taking Harvick to win the championship as my shot for the 60-point bonus pick that must set prior to the start of this race. He’s been so consistent all year and has a knack for coming up big in clutch spots. It’s hard to go against that.