Best Bets – Bristol
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS heads east to Thunder Valley, or Bristol Motor Speedway, for the Food City 500. The race is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET.
When it comes to short-track driving, there aren't many better than Kyle Busch (3/1). He is the overwhelming favorite in Thunder Valley this weekend, and rightly so. He leads all drivers with six career victories at the short track, and he has managed nine Top 5s, 14 Tops 10s and 2,115 laps led in 25 career starts while posting an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 14.6. He has crashed out of four Bristol races in his time, paying his dues early. However, he has really picked up the pace lately, and NASCAR's Loop Data shows him fifth in Driver Rating (103.4) over the past five starts at Bristol, leading 604 laps. No other driver has more than 290 laps led during the five-race span. He won the most recent stop in the night race back in Aug. 2017. Rowdy is on the pole for Sunday's race, so he should log plenty more laps led.
Kevin Harvick (9/2) (surprise, surprise) is among the favorites at Bristol, too. He leads all drivers over the past five Bristol races (min. three starts) with a 112.6 Driver Rating. He has run a ridiculous 92.5 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 while posting an AFP of 4.2 during the past five at the track. Those numbers are rather staggering considering the high potential for incidents. He has also recorded 235 fastest laps during the span, a number DFS players love to see. Harvick won the night race in Aug. 2016, winning from the 24th position. He crashed in practice at Bristol and will be forced to his backup car, starting 39th. While that might not be terribly attractive from a betting perspective, it is nice for DFS players who should see plenty of Place Differential Points, since all he can do is go up.
Erik Jones (12/1) is drawing a lot of headlines this week, being called the heir apparent to Busch in the Joe Gibbs Racing family. He did nothing to quiet down all of the chatter with a decent qualifying and practice effort, as he'll go off 13th on Sunday in his DeWalt Toyota. Jones has just two Cup starts under his belt for JGR, but he did well. He posted a runner-up finish in the night race last August, and a respectable 17th in his first time tackling the track in a Cup car. Another young gun, Alex Bowman (100/1) is also an intriguing play. He qualified eighth, and will go off on the outside of Row 4 on Sunday. He has had his issues at Bristol before, as is usual for young drivers learning the ropes. In four career starts he has a dismal 29.0 AFP, and his best finish is 20th. Bowman looks to put all of that bad history in the rear-view mirror, and he has looked good so far this weekend.
Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (60/1) has been stuck in neutral so far this season. Qualifying hasn't been a problem, it's finishing. In five of his seven races this season he has finished in a worse position than he has qualified, which is a problem for fantasy players in terms of Place Differential Points. For betters, he hasn't finished higher than 14th, so that's obviously no good, either. All of that could turn around this weekend in Bristol, as he has been a master at the track, perhaps his best of any stop on the circuit. Danica's ex-boyfriend has made 10 starts in a Cup car, posting three Top 5s, five Top 10s and nine Top 20 finishes, with one outlier. His worst start is a 21st-place finish, and he never has had a DNF. If you're looking for a sleeper, Stenhouse is very attractive.
Penske Racing looked like they might be headed for a big 2018 when Brad Keselowski (12/1) rolled to checkers at The Clash in Daytona back on Feb. 11, but it has been downhill since. Hope springs eternal, however, as Joey Logano (12/1) could end the team's 2018 drought. Loop Data shows Logano third in Driver Rating (106.7) over the past five starts, posting 290 laps led, second only to the No. 18. Logano has posted a 7.8 AFP while running in the back of the pack early on in Bristol races before coming up through the field to the front of the pack later. It has been a recipe for success, as Logano has two Bristol wins in his 18 starts with a 16.6 AFP. Keselowski has two wins at the track, too, popsting 10 Top 20s in 16 career starts with a 17.9 AFP. The next lap he turns at the front of the pack at Bristol will be his 500th in front.
Hendrick Motorsports continues to look for some consistency, as the results have been hit or miss. Seven-time champ Jimmy Johnson (15/1) is always a threat to make noise at any track, but it's the young guns at Hendrick who might be front and center on Sunday. Chase Elliott (15/1) didn't qualify particularly well, as he'll go off 16th on Sunday. But it hasn't mattered in his brief history at the place. He has posted a Top 5, two Top 10s and four Top 20s in his four Cup races, posting an AFP of 11.0 while leading 16 laps. William Byron (Field - 40/1) is someone to keep an eye on, as he is set to start from the 11th position. He posted a best speed of 127.470 mph in qualifying, and he is someone who really seems to be getting comfortable in his new surroundings after appearing a big fazed early on.
While everyone is talking about Kyle, what about Stewart-Haas Racing's Kurt Busch (12/1)? He'll start on the outside of Row 1 with his brother, and he too has had success at the track. The elder Busch has five victories at Bristol with 10 Top 5s and 17 Top 10s, or exactly half of his 34 career starts. He also has 1,062 laps led under his belt with a 14.85 AFP, right behind the 14.56 AFP of his younger sibling. SHR teammate Clint Bowyer (20/1) has never won at the track, but he won in the most recent short track stop in Martinville in March. Bowyer also has a solid 15.3 AFP in 24 career starts, with 11 races at the track resulting in a Top 10 finish.
If you're looking for a cheaper DFS play to fill out one of your final spots, Trevor Bayne (100/1) really has stepped up his game recently in what amounts to his home track. He has seven Cup starts under his belt at BMS, posting five Top 20s with a solid 16.0 AFP. Daniel Suarez (75/1) could also make some waves finally. He qualified well, going off 12th on Sunday. And last season he posted solid results with a 15th- and 18th-place showing.
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