Fantasy Update: Ford shines in qualifying at Las Vegas


Intermediate race tracks haven’t been ideal for Ford in 2022. However, the manufacturer took up four of the top eight spots in qualifying for Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM).

Tyler Reddick will start from the pole, with Austin Cindric leading the charge for the Blue Oval in second. Toyota, which has dominated recently on 1.5-mile tracks, has just two of the top 10 starting positions with a best effort of Christopher Bell in seventh.

RELATED: Starting lineup for Sunday | Set your Fantasy Live lineup

Dustin Albino’s race-day lineup:

Starter 1: Ryan Blaney
Starter 2: Ross Chastain
Starter 3: Christopher Bell
Starter 4: Joey Logano
Starter 5: William Byron
Garage pick: Bubba Wallace

NEXT IN LINE: Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric.

RISING: During Saturday’s qualifying session, Wallace noted that the car he has this weekend is the same one that dominated the final stint of the race at Kansas last month. With how strong that same No. 45 Toyota was at Kansas — leading a career-high 53 laps — it’s worth having him available to play on Sunday.

With how Ford has performed on intermediates this year, I shied away from putting any blue ovals in my lineup earlier in the week. That changed after Saturday. Blaney was the quickest car in practice on the one-lap and 10-lap average. Two-time Las Vegas winner, Logano, will start from fifth.

FALLING: Entering the weekend, Toyota was expected to dominate the race. And that still might be the case come the 400-mile event on Sunday. But it was a Saturday to forget, with Denny Hamlin starting from 31st position (his worst effort of the year on pavement), nearly one second off the pace. Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t much better in 27th after ranking 29th in practice.

As noted earlier in the week, Las Vegas hasn’t been Chase Elliott’s best track. In practice, the No. 9 car ranked 19th and qualified 20th. When asked about his car, he said it wasn’t terrible but needed to drive better. One of the trends for Elliott in the playoffs has been getting out of the hole after a hiccup in the opening race of the round. Starting in the middle of the pack doesn’t help his chances of bucking the trend on Sunday.

FEATURED MATCHUPS:

Christopher Bell vs. Ryan Blaney: Earlier in the week, Bell would have been the easy choice. But with Blaney and Team Penske showing speed — all three of its cars start in the top five — I’ll give the ever-so-slight advantage to the No. 12 car. Practice is one thing and the race is another. Don’t be surprised if Bell, who was the best of the Toyota bunch, is in contention for the win.

Chase Elliott vs. Joey Logano: On paper, Logano holds every statistical advantage over Elliott at Las Vegas, and don’t expect that to change this weekend. Whenever Ford has shown speed in qualifying this year, it often performs well. Meanwhile, Hendrick Motorsports was a tick off, with just one of its drivers — William Byron — starting in the first six rows.

Denny Hamlin vs. Ross Chastain: Sticking with Chastain on Sunday, especially with how far off Hamlin’s car was on single-lap speed in qualifying. The No. 1 car ranked second in 10-lap average, while Hamlin never made a run of 10 straight laps. Chastain was confident before getting on track Saturday, believing his Trackhouse Racing team has enough speed to race its way into the Championship 4. Go with Chastain this weekend.

William Byron vs. Chase Briscoe: Unless Byron has trouble, expect the No. 24 Chevrolet to outperform Briscoe on Sunday. While the No. 14 car was seventh in practice, he dropped to 16th in qualifying, which is below his average starting position in 2022. The easy choice is Byron.