Kyle Larson will start from the Busch Pole in Sunday‚Äôs Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the third straight year at the California road course. Does he merit a spot in your Fantasy Live lineup? We‚Äôve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration.
RJ Kraft‚Äôs Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Sonoma:
1. William Byron
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Kurt Busch
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Chris Buescher
Garage: Martin Truex Jr.
To the rear: Daniel Suarez (engine change), Erik Jones (unapproved adjustments) and Ross Chastain (driver change).
Analysis: I made no secret on the podcast that I am valuing drivers that should be after stage points more than others for this race. That means, by in large, I am going after drivers without wins that need a good points day to improve their position in the standings. So with that said, I‚Äôm taking Byron, who‚Äôs starting second, and I think the No. 24 camp will play this like they did Pocono where he gobbled up stage points. Bowyer, Busch and Johnson are all winless and have strong Sonoma histories so they make the lineup. Buescher has been a favorite of mine all week and I‚Äôve seen no reason to move away from that as I think he‚Äôll benefit from running 12th-15th when the leaders pit and he can score some stage points.
Among the drivers with wins, I like Truex, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin the most here for combination of history and where I stand with usages. I‚Äôm going to plug Truex ‚ÄĒ the defending race winner ‚ÄĒ in the garage for now. Based on last year and the way crew chief Cole Pearn talked about strategy in general on the podcast, I don‚Äôt expect the No. 19 to score stage points so I will need to be confident that they can score a top five to activate him out of the garage.
Larson has looked strong this weekend, but I don‚Äôt trust the Sonoma history with him. He generally qualifies well ‚ÄĒ thanks for the five bonus points, Kyle¬† ‚ÄĒ but he has never finished better than 12th at the California road course and that scares me away from the play. I also gave consideration to Alex Bowman as well based on his solid 10- and 15-lap averages and the fact that he should chase the points.
For the bonus picks, I‚Äôm going with Joey Logano in Stage 1 ‚ÄĒ I think Penske will follow its Pocono playbook and try to nab playoff points ‚ÄĒ and Bowyer in Stage 2 with Truex taking the victory.
Each week in this space, we‚Äôll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. Will the polesitter lead the first eight laps of the race? Larson has a history of burning up his tires early in runs at Sonoma. In last year‚Äôs race, he led just two laps out of the gate. In 2017, he led the first nine. A split decision on past performance, but my gut leans toward the more recent result and so I say ‚ÄúNo‚ÄĚ to this one.
2. O/U 27.5 race points for Jimmie Johnson. I‚Äôm over on this one and not just because he‚Äôs in my lineup. If I was managing the 48 strategy, given his position in the points, I‚Äôd be looking to gather as much as I could in the stages and then let the chips fall wherever they do. I think Johnson should be able to grab at least nine stage points, so even a 15th-place finish would cover the over here. Count me in for that, especially when you consider he‚Äôs hit the over the past three years and finished between 11th and 13th in those races.