Another NASCAR weekend gone by, and another Toyota Racer goes to victory lane. Kyle Busch, from Joe Gibbs Racing, wins the New Hampshire short track race last week, punching his ticket into the 2nd round of the NASCAR playoffs. Martin Truex Jr. had already made the playoffs with his win at Chicagoland a few weeks ago. Only one more race remains in this first of four rounds of playoff elimination, where a win and “You’re In”.
Four drivers will be eliminated before the next round of playoffs. If the standings stay the same after the next race – Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne – will be eliminated from the playoffs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is on the bubble and is actually tied in points with Austin Dillon, but has the current tiebreaker over him.
The final race of round one of the playoffs will be hosted by Dover International Speedway in the Apache Warrior 400 race. Dover Speedway, also known as the Monster Mile, is a one-mile concrete oval with steep banking. The most similar track is Bristol Speedway, as Dover is also known as “Big Bristol”. I expect the race to be intense due to being the last race of the first round, and could result in above average number of cautions.
My Top 5 Drivers for the Apache Warrior 400
Martin Truex Jr($11,000): Truex is a cash lock every week. He always has a top performing car, which helps him qualify upfront, and he finishes well in every race. He wins at least one stage in each race if not all three stages. Start him in your Cash Lineup with conviction.
Kyle Busch($11,000): All Toyota cars have been dominating the last few months. When you put talented drivers behind these high performing cars like Truex and Kyle Busch, the Toyota race wins pile up. Kyle Busch won last week to qualify for the playoffs and he qualified 2nd for this race, behind Martin Truex Jr. (no surprise).
Kyle Larson($10,200): Larson had a great first half of the regular season, but was a bit inconsistent in the 2nd half of the season. But don’t get me wrong, he still won some races in the 2nd half, he was just not as consistent when compared to Kyle Busch and Truex. He qualified 3rd in this race, and had the second fastest speed in the first practice. In the Dover race in early June, Larson finished 2nd overall.
Matt Kenseth($9,500): No surprise that I am picking another fast Toyota to be in my Top 5. Kenseth had the fastest car in the first practice and qualified 4th for this race. Kenseth has been running in the Top 10 in the past five races(except in Richmond, where he was involved in a freak crash with a rescue vehicle, ending his day at 38th). Kenseth has won this race three times, with the most recent win coming in May of 2016.
Jimmie Johnson($9,400): The seven time champion dominates the Monster Mile. Johnson has won here a whooping eleven times, including winning four out of the last eight races. While he did not qualify well for this race(will start 17th), his car was 3rd fastest in the first practice. Johnson won the Dover race earlier this year in June.
Daniel Suarez($6,900): Suarez has been on a slight tear in the last three races finishing 7th, 12th, and 8th place respectively. It’s not surprising as he also drives a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. In his only race at Dover in June, he finished in 6th place. Suarez has a fast car this week, qualifying in the 5th position and had the 10th fastest car in the first practice. He is an excellent value at $6,900.
Ryan Newman($7,200): The savvy veteran Ryan Newman will start in the 8th position and had the 11th fastest car in the first practice. Newman is known for being difficult to pass, so he is a great pick at this price as he will probably hold onto his Top 10 position. Newman has won at Dover three times in his career, and finished 4th in the June Dover race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.($7,900): Earnhardt has been ice-cold, unlucky, and under-performed all year-long. In his last eight races, his best finish was 12th, but he has also logged finishes of 34th, 36th, and 37th. He has burned DFS players all year-long, so he will be very low owned in this race. He has won at Dover once before, but a long time again in 2001. Earnhardt qualified seventh for this race, and had a Top 15 car in the first practice. This may be more of a Deep Sleeper pick, rather than just a normal Sleeper pick.