Impound races can be tricky. Inspection does not happen until after qualification, and that can be an obstacle to some drivers. On Saturday, it porved to be a big problem for two members of the Big 3. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch had their times disallowed after failing qualification and will have to start at the back of the pack based on owner points. Since this is their official starting position (meaning, they did not have to fall to the back for unapproved adjustments), place differential points will be awarded based on a position on the back row.
Whatever changes need to be made so that the cars are legal, those adjustments are unlikely to scrub a lot of speed from them - compared to the advantage they have each week.
Both practices and qualification were run on Saturday. Fantasy owners have to make their decisions very quickly with this schedule, but it also places a premium on momentum. When Harvick rolled off the hauler fast, it underscored just how much work and preparation goes into these cars before they leave the shop.
The front of the grid is dominated this week by teams that were also fast in practice and that underscores just how important qualification is – even during a two-day show. Since this is an impound race, one can also reasonably assume that the teams did not throw special setups on the car, so load your roster with drivers from the first five rows. Plus Harvic and Busch, of course.
There is still a lot of reason to highly regard the driver of the No. 4. Harvick posted the fastest lap in the first practice session. He was second-fastest in Happy Hour, which gave him consistently good times. The thing that makes him the best value of the weekend, however, is because he had the quickest 10-lap average in final practice. And he was not just a little bit quicker, he beat second-place Denny Hamlin by more than a second. That is a huge advantage that no one is going to make up on the track. Without an alternate strategy, no one is going to beat him.
Hamlin had one of the best records ever on this track before it was repaved in 2012. Since then, he has struggled, but as the asphalt slowly ages, one would suppose that he should begin to find that groove again. None of the driver other than the Big 3 have been able to get and sustain momentum, but Hamlin's second-quickest 10-lap session makes him a good choice to join The Dominators in the top five. He qualified fifth, which gives him good track position to start the race.
Clint Bowyer is another driver who deserves consideration. He posted the third-quickest time in Happy Hour, so it seems that he has good long run speed. He qualified poorly and will start the Gander 400 in hte middle of the pack. The good news is that he is going to earn substantial place-differential points and that could help win in a game like Draft Kings.
Busch might not have made a lot of noise before the final round of qualification and his time being disallowed would seem to put a higher premium on his practice than time trials. He is still one of the Big 3, however, and last summer's win in this race still looms large. Busch is going to challenge for the win regardless, and only thing that could impact him is a late race stop. He could lose a few positions with a bad pit stall. That might make the difference between first and fifth.
Two Young Guns qualified on the first two rows. Daniel Suarez will start from the pole after Harvick and Busch both failed inspection; William Byron lines up fourth. Byron had the fastest lap in the second round of qualification and raised a few eyebrows. Both Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have stellar records on this track. Both drivers are capable of scoring top-10s, but their crew chiefs are going to have to manage the race for them to get them to the front. Young Guns are inherently risky propositions, but they could also be good differentiators.
Along with Bowyer (noted in the practice segment), Martin Truex Jr. should earn positive place differential points. He missed advancing to the final round and starts 12th with the disqualification of his biggest rivals. No one questions his ability to get to the front of the pack before the checkers wave, however.