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NASCAR Fantasy Cheat Sheet

Pennzoil 400 Cheat Sheet

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: February 20, 2020, 7:00 pm ET

The Daytona 500 is hard to predict. Flipping a coin is often as accurate as studying the numbers and last week the cheat sheets were off by 12.8 spots on average. Then again, we warned you that might be the case.

On the other hand, the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks are much more likely to behave according to plan. Last year the cheat sheets for the Pennzoil 400 were accurate to within 3.6 positions. Week 2 in the Fantasy Power Rankings have typically rebounded well and showcased predictions as close as 4.7 in 2018 and 5.3 last year.

With so many races on 1.5-mile tracks in a given season, there is plenty of data to compare. Better still, there are very few outliers that are not explained by accidents or on-track incidents. As a result, the only real unknown values belong to new drivers and team changes. There are plenty of those in the field this week.

The drivers at the top of the order all have long streaks of top-10s to their credit and should be relatively safe bets, but take some time to evaluate your dark horses and mid-cap picks.

Fantasy players should not enter practice and qualification with a predetermined lineup in mind. Wait to see how the six rookies perform in the prelims. Compare Chris Buescher and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to one another and Matt DiBenedetto to last year’s performance in the No. 21. Then create a mix of marquee names and dusky dark horses and you should dominate your league.

1. Brad Keselowski
In his last three Vegas starts, Keselowski finished first in fall 2018, second in spring 2019 and third last fall. That is part of a current nine-race streak of top-10s on this track.

2. Joey Logano
Logano's win of last year's Pennzoil 400 was part of a string of eight consecutive top-10s on this track. His average in that span is a remarkable 5.2.

3. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has long been one of the best similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track drivers in the field. His legend is partially built on Vegas wins in 2017 and 2019.

4. Kevin Harvick
Harvick swept the top five at Vegas last year, but he also has a tendency to find trouble on this track. Three of his previous six wins were 38th or worse. Then again, he won in 2015 and 2018. That makes him an all or nothing driver.

5. Chase Elliott
Elliott could be a risky proposition this week. In six previous Vegas starts he has finished in the top 10 three times and in the 30s three times.

6. Ryan Blaney
Team Penske has the best overall team record on this track. Blaney has regularly done his part with five results of seventh or better in his last six Vegas races.

7. Kyle Busch
Busch can be uneven at Vegas. He finished third in the spring Pennzoil 400 and was 19th last fall in the South Point 400. He swept the top 20 in 2018 with a best of second in this race.

8. Kyle Larson
Larson was all over the board last year on the 1.5-mile tracks. Vegas was relatively consistent, however, with a 12th in the spring and eighth in the fall. Before that, he had three consecutive top-fives there.

9. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin already has his ticket punched for the playoffs. That could contribute to a bit of a letdown in performance this week. Worse still, he has not scored a Vegas top-10 since 2015.

10. Erik Jones
Jones scored eight top-10s on 1.5-mile tracks in 11 starts as well as another top-15. If nor for accidents at Charlotte and Vegas 2, he might have been perfect in that regard.

11. Alex Bowman
Bowman got off to a modest start on 1.5-milers last season with results in the teens in the first three races - including an 18th at Vegas. He improved at the end of the year with six top-10s in the las eight races, including a sixth in Vegas 2.

12. William Byron
Byron has gotten progressively better at Vegas in his four starts, but with only one top-10 to his credit it's too soon to make him one of this week's roster anchors. Use him as a fill-in pick.

13. Kurt Busch
Busch has not been particularly strong on his hometown track, but he showed some power in the spring with a fifth-place result that was part of a four-race streak of top-10s on 1.5-milers.

14. Chris Buescher
Some of Buescher's best runs came on the 1.5-mile tracks and Roush Fenway Racing has enough power to make him fantasy relevant. This team will be racing with a lot of emotion at Vegas in support of their injured comrade.

15. Austin Dillon
If one discounts his two crash-marred attempts on the 1.5-mile tracks, Dillon had an average finish of 15th in 2019 on this track type. That makes him one of the drivers to watch this week.

16. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson scored five top-10s on the 1.5-milers and another pair of top-15s. When he missed it was by a wide margin, however, and he represents a fairly significant risk.

17. Aric Almirola
We were excited about Almirola on 1.5-mile tracks at the start of 2019, but he slipped to 23rd at Kansas 2 and 22nd at Homestead and our enthusiasm waned.

18. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer finished 14th in last year's Pennzoil 400. He was 25th in the South Point 400 and that should give fantasy players a momentary pause. He was much better on the other 1.5-mile tracks, however, and should be watched in practice.

19. Matt DiBenedetto
In this car in the past two years, Menard swept the top 15 in four starts. There is no reason DiBenedetto can't give this team another.

20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse's sixth-place finish in last year's Pennzoil 400 was one of the highlights of his season. JTG-Daugherty Racing was pretty good on this course type as well with Buescher behind the wheel.

21. Ross Chastain
The car will be up to the challenge and Chastain is a very good driver, but it's going to take a few races to see how the pair meshes as he drives in relief for Ryan Newman.

22. Christopher Bell
Bell was able to run with the leaders last week at Daytona. It remains to be seen how the Joe Gibbs Racing resources will improve this Leavine Family Racing team.

23. Cole Custer
Custer was great in the Xfinity series on 1.5-mile tracks and this car was a strong contender with Suarez behind the wheel last year. The combination should prove valuable.

24. Daniel Suarez
This will be one of the first big tests for the No. 96. Suarez ran well on 1.5-milers last year in the No. 41, Parker Kligerman was solid on this course type in this car. Now we need to see how the two programs will merge.

25. Tyler Reddick
This team qualified well last year at Vegas with top-10 starts in both events. They faded in both races though and finished 23rd and 17th with Daniel Hemric behind the wheel.

26. JH Nemechek
Nemechek's two attempts on 1.5-milers at the end of last year showed a lot of promise: he was 21st at Texas and 23rd at Homestead. That is the same ballpark that Matt Tifft played in for most of the year.

27. Michael McDowell
After getting off to a slow start with a 37th at Atlanta and 30th at Vegas, McDowell scored an average finish of 23rd in the last nine races on 1.5-mile tracks. That could make him an interesting dark horse.

28. Ty Dillon
Dillon has finished in the 20s in 14 of his last 18 attempts on 1.5-mile tracks. Two of his last four ended in the teens, however, and that makes him an attractive dark horse with a manageable downside.

29. Ryan Preece
Preece scored seven top-25s in 11 starts on 1.5-mile tracks last year. His two Vegas attempts ended in a 25th in the spring and a 27th in the fall.

30. Bubba Wallace
Look for Wallace somewhere in the 20s this week. Last year he landed between 23rd and 29th in nine of 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks.

31. Corey LaJoie
After finishing in the top 10 at Daytona, LaJoie has some momentum on his side. He finished 12th in last year's Coke 600 by staying out of trouble and moving up as others failed.

32. JJ Yeley
Yeley was denied an opportunity to race last week when he was turned into the wall by LaJoie in his 150-mile Duel. He'll be itching to defend his 26th-place finish from last year's Texas 2.

33. Brennan Poole
This car had a few strong runs last year with Chastain behind the wheel, but Poole is still an unknown entity at the Cup level and could be a little worrisome.

34. Quin Houff
If one ignores his 28th-place finish in the attrition-filled Coke 600 and his incident-plagued race at Chicagoland, Houff has results of 33rd or 34th on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.

35. Reed Sorenson
Sorenson will move up with attrition and with a little luck he will beat some of the non-franchise players. Look for something in the high-30s, however.

36. Garrett Smithley
Smithley finished 35th at Vegas last fall, which pretty much perfectly matches his 1.5-mile average of 34.6 in 2019.

37. Joey Gase
In five starts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year, Gase finished 38th four times. He'll get track time this week, but don't expect much from the No. 53.

38. Timmy Hill
On the doglegged 1.5-milers, Hill finished between 37th and 39th four times last year. He was quite a bit better at Homestead in the 2019 finale with a 33rd.

Las Vegas Coverage

Fantasy Live: Pennzoil 400
Four to Watch: Martin Truex Jr.
Four to Watch: Joey Logano
Power Rankings after Daytona 1

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.