Fantasy Update: Last-minute Las Vegas lineup advice

Race No. 3 of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is here, and it’s time to set those Fantasy Live lineups for Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). What six drivers should comprise your lineup? Does Kyle Busch’s practice wreck change things if you were thinking about using the hometown hero? Let’s answer that and offer up my race-day lineup and bonus picks below.

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Pat DeCola’s race-day lineup for Las Vegas:
1 – Kyle Larson
2 – William Byron
3 – Christopher Bell
4 – Tyler Reddick
5 – Ryan Blaney
Garage: Joey Logano

Next in line: Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric and Daniel Hemric.

MORE: Full Vegas guide | Latest odds

Analysis: Saturday’s on-track action for the Cup Series was fast and furious, slotting back-to-back practice and qualifying on the schedule with just a handful of minutes between the sessions.

The most notable development came in the form of Busch’s aforementioned spin, early on in practice. Given the extent of the damage his No. 18 Toyota incurred, Joe Gibbs Racing elected to bring out an unmarked, non-team-specific backup for the two-time champ to race in for Sunday’s event. Busch’s crew went to work quickly to transform it into a No. 18 machine, catered to Busch’s preferences, but it’s a tall order. Busch is arguably the most talented driver in NASCAR, so if anybody can take a previously untrimmed backup with no practice time from the back of the pack – he skipped qualifying to the team could wrench away – to Victory Lane, it’s him. But he’s an easy avoid for fantasy purposes this week, despite racing in his native Vegas.

Now that we’ve ruled out Rowdy, who should be in your lineup?

Heading into the weekend, in-house fantasy expert RJ Kraft had a tentative lineup of Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and William Byron, with Brad Keselowski in his garage.

I’m largely going to stick with that based on what we saw in practice, but we did see a bit of a surprise with Sunday’s pole winner – Christopher Bell, currently 36th in points with just … 10 of them.

Bell, understandably, had a “stay away from” designation in RJ’s Fantasy Faslane analysis, but he merits consideration now. In three of his previous four Vegas starts Bell finished 24th or worse, but that was pre-Next Gen.

His car this weekend, however, looks like a bullet after he posted the second-fastest speed in practice before setting the qualifying pace, as well as turning in top-five speed on the lap averages chart.

You’ll notice those Hendrick Chevrolets continue to show elite-level speed, and there’s next to no reason to not toss Larson – the defending race winner as well as last week’s victor – out there. Look for William Byron to make his first imprint on the 2022 season this weekend as well, with a stout ride under him.

Beyond that, Vegas marks a good spot for Reddick to potentially cross over into Cup Series winner’s territory. In addition, all three Team Penske boys deserve a look. You honestly can’t go wrong with any of them, but Logano and Blaney have proven to be exceptionally strong at Vegas over the years. Cindric, however, is the current points leader and should be a contender most weekends – including this one.

Featured Matchup bonus picks
Chase Elliott vs. Kyle Larson: All eyes will be on these two teammates as they overcome last week’s run-in. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish 1-2. My pick: Larson

Kyle Busch vs. Joey Logano: Easy one here, unless Logano runs into trouble. Busch needs a huge race to overcome Logano in this matchup. My pick: Logano

William Byron vs. Tyler Reddick: Hardest matchup, by far. Both are near-locks for the top 10, but I think Byron breaks out big this week. Reddick could win, though. My pick: Byron

Kurt Busch vs. Austin Dillon: The Toyotas, on the whole, seem to be playing a bit of catchup early on. RCR, however, is punching above its recent-years weight class. Go with the hot hand. My pick: Dillon