There is no tomorrow.
If you have a stud in reserve, use him in allocation management games.
The level of aggression this week will be determined by the ranking in your league. If you have a lead, play it safe with the picks suggested below, but if you do not have a chance to win by running in the pack, swing wildly for the fence.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, AJ Allmendinger, or Jimmie Johnson could get you a top-15 and if there is enough attrition – especially if it affects Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. – they could be the greatest differentiator in the lineup. After all, last week the rookies William Byron and Bubba Wallace both managed to score top-10s, which was a rare occurrence in 2018.
Las Vegas odds makers have Harvick and Kyle Busch set at 2/1. Who are we to disagree?
Harvick has been as close to perfect as possible at Homestead. In 15 races there on the current configuration, he has 14 top-10s. Nine of these were top-fives, including the last four. He won in 2014 with a car that he says was not the best that evening. The only negative thing to be said of him is that in the last four races, he has trended down the grid with his 2014 win followed by a second in 2015, third in 2016, and fourth last year. If the trend continues, he could score a fifth this week.
Busch has not been quite as strong as Harvick at Homestead, but he definitely deserves to be on the radar. Five of his last six races on this track ended in top-10 finishes with a victory and championship in 2015 plus a runner-up finish last year in what even the champion Martin Truex Jr. says was the better car. Picking a winner is difficult in the best of situations, but with the Championship 4 all going for broke this week, it will exponentially harder. That won’t matter so long as your picks continue to score top-fives and earn near maximum fantasy points.
Garage Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
It is difficult to overlook Truex this week. He was so incredibly dominant on 1.5-mile tracks last year and picked up where he left off in 2018 with top-fives in eight of the first nine races on this track type. An accident at Texas was his only black mark until the series came back to that track two weeks ago. Truex was less than perfect in the Texas 500, however, and that is what makes him a garage pick this week instead of the favorite.
Red Flag: Joey Logano
Logano will take some comfort in the 2016 playoffs. That year, Johnson was not the strongest driver all year by a long shot. He narrowly advanced through the playoffs to be part of the final four and entered Miami with a three-race streak of ninth-place finishes – hardly enough to make one think of him as a favorite. He didn’t have the fastest car in that race either, but he kept out of trouble, and when everyone else experienced trouble and he got one great restart, Johnson was crowned champion.
Logano enters the Ford 400 with a worst finish of sixth in his last three attempts there.
Never underestimate the value of a driver with a chip on his shoulder. In his heart, Elliott knows he should have been part of this year’s championship. If the Chevrolet teams had been able to work out their problems earlier and keep the Big 3 from amassing such a bonus points’ lead, Elliott would almost certainly have entered Phoenix with a different set of circumstances that might have led to different outcome. It didn’t, but that does not diminish his strength or determination. Elliott finished fifth in this race last year, but more importantly he has become a threat on 1.5-mile tracks with his Kansas win and Texas fifth-place finish in the last two races on this track type.
In the past year and half, Keselowski has been somewhat uneven on 1.5-mile tracks. From Texas last fall through Vegas this spring, he scored four consecutive results of seventh or better. He stumbled at Texas this spring and Kansas, then rattled off five straight top-10s that included a dominant performance at Vegas. He bobbled again a couple of weeks ago, but managed to finish 12th in the Texas 500. At Homestead, four of his last five races ended seventh or better.
Garage Pick: Matt Kenseth
It has been a while since we were willing to go out on a limb for Kenseth. His stellar records in the last few years with Joe Gibbs Racing were not enough to carry him to top-10s in the beleaguered No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Until last week, that is. Kenseth finally broke into the top 10 at Phoenix and that may have restored his and the team’s confidence. Kenseth enters the Ford 400 with five straight top-10s and seven single digit results in his last eight races there.
Red Flag: Kurt Busch
Busch was deflated after last week’s accident in Arizona. There was a feeling of finality to his interaction with car owner Tony Stewart after the checkers that underscores the likelihood he will be with another team in 2018. The fact that he has not yet announced his plans for 2019 is of a little concern to fantasy owners because uncertainty is the bane of our existence. It is time to simply sit back and wait for this to play itself out.