NASCAR Picks for Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is taking the weekend off, but the first road course event of 2019 season is waiting after the break. Sonoma Raceway will be the site of next Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, and in addition to challenging drivers with elevation changes, combination turns and hard braking and shifting zones, Sonoma also puts pressure on crew chiefs to have the right strategy to keep their drivers at the front when it matters most.
The Toyota-Save Mart 350 will be the first of three road course races this season, and while certain drivers excel at the discipline, the pit strategy variable can make things a little tricky for fantasy owners. Yes, you will probably still see many of the same big names finish near the front of the field, but there are a few midrange drivers who enjoy a significant jump in their values.
You may be able to get a Top 5 out of a driver who normally contends for Top 10s, and you might be able to steal a Top 20 or even a Top 15 out of a couple of drivers who hang toward the back of the pack most weeks. These are the drivers you need to target in the Driver Group Game, and in the end, Sonoma could end up being a great opportunity to save starts from some of the bigger names in that contest.
Where the problems could come into play is Fantasy Live. Earning stage points and picking the stage winners is critical in this game's scoring system, but since you can pit under caution at Sonoma without losing a lap, you will see a lot of the top cars short pit and forfeit stage points in order to best position themselves for the race win.
Even if guys like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick end up finishing at the front, they still aren't going to be smart plays in Fantasy Live if they don't also earn stage points along the way. In fact, you are essentially wasting a start from a driver the caliber of Kyle Busch if you roster him and he logs zero stage points. Even if he ends up winning the race, you aren't going to come close to maximizing his potential without those stage points.
It's something you have to keep in mind, and it is the main reason why I will be targeting road course studs like Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch in this format Yes, they are still good options with high ceilings, but they aren't elite options week in and week out like a Kyle Busch or Harvick.
Road courses are different than ovals, and the change can be fun to watch. You just need to make sure you are smart when setting your fantasy lineups for Sonoma.
Kyle Busch, #18 M&M's, Joe Gibbs Racing
Martin Truex, Jr., #19 Bass Pro Shops, Joe Gibbs Racing
Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
Chase Elliott, #9 NAPA Auto Parts, Hendrick Motorsports
Clint Bowyer, #14 Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing
Kurt Busch, #1 Monster Energy, Chip Ganassi Racing
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
Erik Jones, #20 DeWalt, Joe Gibbs Racing
Ryan Blaney, #12 Menards/PPG, Team Penske
Alex Bowman, #88 Nationwide Insurance, Hendrick Motorsports
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