William Byron will start from the Busch Pole in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Does the young star offer the upside worthy of a spot in your Fantasy Live lineup? We’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration.
IMPORTANT GAME NOTE: For the Coca-Cola 600, there are four stages. However in Fantasy Live, Stages 1 and 2 will only be scored towards stage points in the game. The garage will lock at the end of Stage 3, meaning that players will get to see 75 percent of the event before locking in their lineups. It’s the most of one race players can see before their lineups lock.
RJ Kraft’s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Charlotte:
(Original: 18, 19, 11, 1, 42, 88)
1. Kyle Busch
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Daniel Suarez
4. Joey Logano
5. Aric Almirola
Garage: Denny Hamlin
Analysis: The three Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin were in my original lineup and I’ve seen nothing speed-wise to change my thinking there. Busch topped the 10-, 15- and 20-lap boards (h/t@MikeJoy500 for the 15- and 20-lap times). Truex and Hamlin are just a tick behind him but still really strong. Hamlin’s qualifying position of 20th shifts him to the garage for me.
I’m plugging in three Fords for the three Chevrolets I was going to play — so in go Suarez, Logano and Almirola, while Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman fall out of my lineup. Suarez has turned heads this weekend leading both Saturday practices and placing fourth on the 15- and 20-lap average board. Logano is more of a gut feeling for me as Keselowski was a bit better on the average board, but I like the starting spot — he’s starting seventh — and his ability to get stage points from there. He’s the leader in stage points on the season. Almirola was on my avoid list heading into the weekend but he’s qualified second for this race. The speed has been there on the intermediates and in the past when he qualifies well, he earns stage points in spades. I also like that he will have a younger driver on the front row next to him and I think that can help set him up to get the lead for a bit.
I also like Erik Jones, whose averages were just as strong as his teammates, but I was not quite ready to go all the way in on JGR. Clint Bowyer’s recent solid intermediate runs made him a consideration, as well. Byron has qualified well in recent weeks but doesn’t have the points to show for it — see third-place starting spot at Kansas and a 17-point day with a 20-place result at Kansas two weeks ago. Austin Dillon’s 10-lap time is strong but I feel like we have seen this out of the RCR camp all year in practice and the race results don’t match it. I was planning to ride the Bowman hot streak but it feels like this is the weekend he cools down a bit. Uses are why Kevin Harvick will not be in my lineup — I’m down to four with him so I am going to be a little tighter on the 4 car for a bit to save him for Michigan, Chicago and Darlington. If you are at five or more uses available, feel free to play away.
My bonus picks will be heavy on Kyle Busch for the first two stages but I’ll switch it up and put Harvick for the win to get some points out of him if he’s on since he won’t be in my lineup.
Each week in this space, we’ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. With an extra stage before the final stage, which driver will finish higher in more stages: Kevin Harvick or Martin Truex Jr.? The qualifying spots favor Harvick (fifth) over Truex (14th) but I like Truex on this one. I think Harvick gets him in Stage 1 but I think that Truex will have the stronger car as we move closer to night. Cole Pearn and company are the best in the day-to-night transition. I also like that Truex has four straight top-five finishes in this race. I think Harvick is the more popular pick in this category so I don’t mind being the contrarian on this one.
2. O/U 14.5 lead-lap finishers. I’m taking the over on this one. With the exception of Kyle Busch stomping of the field in last year’s Coca-Cola 600, the over was hit in the three years prior to Busch’s first Charlotte points-paying win. I tend to think when something has 75 percent of the time in the past four years, the odds are good that’s the right side to pick.