Denny Hamlin earned his third Busch Pole Award in four years at Homestead-Miami Speedway and will lead the field to green for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Does his favorable history at the season-finale track make him a lock for my lineup? And what of the Championship 4? After three practice sessions and qualifying determining the starting order, 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.)
Also, all drivers will be scored for stage points in the Fantasy Live game. In real life, the Championship 4 do not receive stage points, but in the Fantasy Live game they will receive stage points as they have all year.
RJ Kraft’s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Miami:
Playoff driver 1: Joey Logano
Playoff driver 2: Martin Truex Jr.
Non-playoff driver 1: Denny Hamlin
Non-playoff driver 2: Brad Keselowski
Garage: Kyle Larson
Analysis: This is it! The last week of the the season and the last week in Fantasy Live. I am going against the popular plays to try and gain ground in this last weekend. As of this writing, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are each owned by 70 percent of Fantasy Live players. Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano are owned by significantly less and that is just part of the reason I am changing course from my pre-weekend lineup and going with BOTH Truex and Logano in my lineup. The main reason I am going with both the 78 and 22 is they have just looked faster than their Championship 4 competitors. Logano led both Saturday practices and was best on the 10-lap board in both sessions. Truex was top five on the 10-lap board in both practices on Saturday. Both Logano and Truex were 1-2 on the 15-lap board as well, according to NBCSN. Busch is a solid pick and has had a good weekend, but not as good as Logano and Truex. On the other hand, Harvick seems a little off. The 4 is a car built for long runs, but I expected to see a little more speed from the 2014 champion so far.
I am sticking with my initial non-playoff plays across the board of Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson — meaning I will go with a roster alignment of three non-playoff drivers to two playoff drivers. I realize there is a lot of risk in not having Busch or Harvick even in the garage, but that is a gamble I am willing to take in an effort to differentiate my roster to try and gain ground. There are bonus picks I could use on one of those drivers if I so choose — more below on that.
Hamlin won the pole and has five straight top 10s at Miami. Keselowski will start fourth, has four top 10s in his last five Miami starts and appears to be the best of the non-playoff cars based on 10- and 15-lap runs. The 2012 champ has also been solid on 1.5-milers (earning the sixth-most points on that track length) and a great source of stage points — earning the fourth-most in the series. Larson gets the garage nod for his Homestead history with three straight top fives there and his propensity to run the high line to make time is especially intriguing. He was also sixth on the 15-lap board, per NBCSN.
I am taking Truex to win Stage 1 and Logano to take Stage 2 with Kyle Busch as the race winner pick. Like I said earlier, I want to differentiate my lineup a bit from the masses, but I need to have the 18 represented somewhere. If you remember back to last year, his car was the best when the night time rolled around.
Thanks for playing and following all year long. Best of luck to everyone in their leagues for the final race of 2018.