The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Bristol, Tennessee, this week for the Irwin Tools 500.
This will be the second trip to Thunder Valley for the Sprint Cup Series this season. The race in April was delayed by rain and as soon as it began teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano wrecked each other. Denny Hamlin had to leave his car do to neck spasms after a four-hour rain delay. Matt Kenseth won the pole and led 47 laps on his way to Victory Lane.
There are only three races until the Chase begins. Drivers without a spot in the playoffs will take many risks to get a win Saturday night. Do not be surprised to see Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon or Clint Bowyer in the winner’s circle. Each driver needs a win and it may be worth a gamble to select them for your team Saturday night.
Here are my picks for the Irwin Tools 500.
Yahoo Group A Picks
Finding a good driver in Group A of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing will not be difficult this week. Every driver in this group has a win at Bristol and most of them grew up racing on the short tracks. Joe Gibbs Racing seems to be the team to beat and their drivers are worth consideration Saturday night.
Jeff Gordon is my sleeper pick in Group A. He has five wins at Bristol and almost made it six in the April race in Thunder Valley. Gordon has a series-high average finish position at the track. He needs a win to secure his spot in the Chase and I would not be surprised to see him win the Irwin Tools 500.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A.
Matt Kenseth (9)
Kenseth is the safest pick in the field this week. He has a series-best driver rating and the fourth-best average finish position in the last five races at Bristol. Kenseth scored the most points in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing in April and he could do it again Saturday night. He will have a lot of momentum coming off his win at Michigan.
Kyle Busch (6)
The best way to describe Busch at Bristol is checkers or wreckers. When he is running well he usually wins, but win he runs bad he finishes near the back of the pack. I will take a shot with Busch this week because he has never been as good as he is now.
Busch has five wins at Bristol. He grew up racing in the Bull Ring in Las Vegas which is similar to this track. Busch needs another win to earn three more bonus points for the Chase. Do not bet against Busch Saturday night.
Other good choices: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick
Yahoo Group B Picks
There are two ways to go this week with your Group B drivers. Fantasy teams can select the drivers with the most success at Bristol (Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne), or they can save these drivers for the Chase and use drivers they may have many allocations left on their team. I decided to take the favorites instead of risking points on the longshots (Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, and Jamie McMurray).
My sleeper pick in Group B is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He has a series-best average finish position in the last five races at Bristol. Stenhouse has finished in the top six in the last three races in Thunder Valley. He is a good pick for your team Saturday night.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B.
Kyle Larson (4)
Larson needs a win to make the Chase and it could come Saturday night at Bristol. Larson has the second-best average finish position and the fourth-best driver rating in the last five races at the track. In April he started 14th, led 90 laps and finished seventh. Fantasy teams will have a hard time finding a better track then Bristol to use Larson at.
Carl Edwards (3)
The days of “Concrete Carl” dominating races at Bristol may be over, but he is starting to run well with his new team at Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards qualified third, led 86 laps and finished a disappointing 24th in the April race. He was running second on the last lap when Jeff Gordon put him in the wall. Edwards will be one of the drivers to beat this week.
Kasey Kahne (5)
Kahne is another driver who needs a win to make the Chase. He has a habit of waiting until the last race to secure his playoff spot, so do not be surprised to see Kahne run well this week.
Kahne has the second-highest driver rating at Bristol, but he has crashed in his last two races at the track. When he keeps his car in one piece he usually finishes up front. It is a good idea to have Kahne on your team and see how fast his car is in Happy Hour practice before you decide to use him in the race.
Austin Dillon (8)
Dillon has proved the last month that he can be one of the best drivers for your team in Group B. He started 12th and finished 10th in the last race at Bristol. Dillon has competed in three races in the Sprint Cup Series at the track and finished two of them in the top 11. He also has had success in the Xfinity Series at in Thunder Valley. Dillon is a good pick for your team this week.
Other Good Choices: Kurt Busch,Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Greg Biffle
Yahoo Group C Picks
There are many good choices in Group C this week. Bristol is as unpredictable as the two superspeedway tracks. One wreck could take out many cars. This is the week to use the lesser known drivers for your Group C selections.
My sleeper pick in Group C is David Gilliland. He has finished the last five races at Bristol inside the top 25. Fantasy teams who are running low on allocations with David Ragan and Danica Patrick should consider Gilliland for their team. He probably will not finish worse than 25th Saturday night.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Justin Allgaier (8)
Allgaier is a great pick this week. He has been very good at the short tracks in his career. Allgaier started 15th and finished eighth in the last race at Bristol. He has started three races at the track and has never finished outside the top 20. Allgaier is the best choice in Group C this week.
Ryan Blaney (5)
Blaney will be back in the No. 21 Wood Brother’s Ford this week. Although he has never competed in a Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol, he has had a lot of success in the lower series. Blaney started three races in the Xfinity Series at the track and he finished all three races in the top seven, including a win last season. He is a good choice for your team Saturday night.
Other Good Choices: David Ragan, Danica Patrick and David Gilliland
Fantasy Live Picks
The strategy for Fantasy Live this week is to pick drivers who start the race upfront. Track position is very important at Bristol and the only way to finish at the top of your league standings is to have drivers who lead laps. There are 500 laps and 250 bonus points available for leading laps. Fantasy teams need as many of these points as possible.
Three drivers to watch this week are Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards. The three drivers combined to lead 368 laps in the last race at Bristol. They will be the favorites to lead laps again Saturday night.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Bristol:
Driver 1: Kevin Harvick $28.75
Driver 2: Kurt Busch $27.75
Driver 3: Carl Edwards $21.25
Driver 4: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. $11.25
Driver 5: Justin Allgaier $10.00
Pick to Win: Kurt Busch
* Driver prices based on prices at Michigan
Fox Fantasy Racing
The strategy for Fox Fantasy Racing will be a little different than Fantasy Live. This game only rewards one point for leading laps in the race. It will be more important to choose drivers who start deeper in the field with a chance to make their way to the front. Be sure to select two drivers who start up front since it is so hard to move through the field at Bristol and the rest of the drivers should start outside the top 10.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Bristol:
Driver 1: Kevin Harvick $13,300
Driver 2: Kurt Busch $10,600
Driver 3: Kyle Larson $8,000
Driver 4: Carl Edwards $8,900
Driver 5: Kyle Busch $8,400
* Driver prices based on prices at Michigan