Things are a little bit different this week. First, NBC is taking over the broadcasting, and they provided a very key top 10 during both practice sessions: overall average speed. This is calculated by taking the average of all laps ran during practice, and really gives you a true idea of who is fastest. NASCAR used to provide this data to players, but took it off a few years ago, and we haven’t seen it since. It’s something that’s always tracked, though, and thankfully NBC decided to post it his week. For those who didn’t watch the practice sessions, the top 10 in overall average speed in Practice #1 were: Blaney, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Logano, Menard, Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Hamlin, Suarez, Elliott, while the top 10 in overall average speed during Happy Hour were: Truex, Elliott, Harvick, Bowyer, Logano, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Larson, Kahne, Jones.

Qualifying ended much differently than expected this week thanks to NASCAR’s decision to run their “condensed” schedule. We had two practice sessions in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday (race conditions) and then qualifying at night after the Xfinity race. Most of the favorites are starting outside of the top 10 on Sunday, and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly they’ll be able to get to the front. Oh, and because of the condensed schedule and some teams unable to pass qualifying inspection the first time, we had several drivers with their qualifying time disallowed, so they’ll start from the rear. Welcome to Chalk City! Love these condensed schedules. The drivers that had their qualifying times disallowed are: Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Chris Buescher. There are 267 laps scheduled for Sunday’s Overton’s 400 (66.75 FPTS for laps led) and there will probably be around 225 green flag laps (so 112.5 FPTS for fastest laps).

GPP Driver I Love For The Chicagoland Overton’s 400

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kyle Larson ($10,400) – There’s so much chalk on the board this week that the winning lineup is probably going to come down to correctly staying away from the driver(s) that run into problems that are starting in the back. Part of that strategy is having a good pivot option. Enter Kyle Larson. With Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,900), Denny Hamlin ($9,300), and Jimmie Johnson ($8,700) all failing post-qualifying inspection, that’s going to make it very difficult for most people to afford Kyle Larson in their lineup. However, the #42 Chevrolet is going to roll off the grid from 18th when Sunday’s Overton’s 400 goes green, and the car looks to be good enough to at least challenge for a top 5 finish on Sunday. Larson was 3rd-fastest in Happy Hour on Saturday when it came to ten-lap average, and then he went out and dominated the Xfinity race, for whatever that’s worth to you. The NBC announcers mentioned the possibility of that giving Larson an advantage on Sunday, but it’s hard to say that it will have any effect at all. Still, Larson averages the 3rd-most fastest laps on 1.5-mile tracks this season, and with the track being so hot on Sunday, that could play into his hands with him running the high line.

Ryan Blaney ($8,300) – Look for Ryan Blaney to possibly throw a wrench in the top-dollar guys getting all of the dominator points on Sunday. Throughout his young career, one thing has been pretty much certain with Ryan Blaney: if he qualifies up front, he has a really good race car. This weekend, Paul Menard edged him out for the pole in his old ride, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Blaney led the first lap on Sunday. Let’s not forget that this #12 Ford was the class of the field for the first part of the Kansas race back in May, and Blaney has also had good runs here at Chicagoland (including a 4th-place finish in 2016). Looking at how this race will play out on Sunday, it’s going to take a while for guys like Truex, Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Larson to get to the front, and I’m expecting the #12 Ford to get those laps led and some fastest laps while those guys are making their moves. And who knows, maybe Blaney will be able to hold those guys off when they do get to the front as well. He did have the best overall average speed in Practice #1 on Saturday.

Erik Jones Fantasy NASCAR 2018
Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Erik Jones ($7,900) – Erik Jones starts a little higher than I’d like this weekend (9th) but that’s high enough to keep his ownership level extremely low on Sunday. However, if you take the high starting spot out of the equation, how many times can you count on a sub-$8,000 driver for a top 10 finish? Not very often. Jones has been one of the most consistent finishers at 1.5-mile tracks this season, and his average finish of 9.8 on this track type is 4th-best in the series. This weekend, the #20 Toyota hasn’t shown blazing fast speed, but Jones did lay down the 9th-fastest lap in Happy Hour and had a decent ten-lap average considering he made his long run later in the session than most. And for what it’s worth, Erik ranked 10th in overall average speed in that session. It’d hard to get away from the chalk this weekend, but Jones provides a decent option if you want to be different. Who knows, he may just be able to steal a top 5 finish on Sunday–he does have that Joe Gibbs speed on his pit crew…

Salary Cap Relief at Chicagoland

Matt DiBenedetto Fantasy NASCAR 2018Ty Dillon ($5,600) will probably be the highest-finishing low-dollar drive at Chicagoland. He’s also one of the must under-priced this weekend, which means he’s probably going to be the highest-owned. If you’re looking for a pivot option–or even if you want to double-dip into the “low-dollar” pool, Matt DiBenedetto ($5,400) is a good option under $6,000. I (regrettably) laid off of the #32 Ford at Sonoma last weekend because the team has been running into mechanical issue after mechanical issue, but let’s not forget how well this guy performs when he doesn’t run into trouble like that. As far as the 1.5-mile tracks this season, DiBenedetto’s adjusted average finish on them (removing the worst performance) is 22.8, which includes his 16th-place finish at Texas. For what it’s worth, DiBenedetto had the 19th-best ten-lap average in Happy Hour here on Saturday, and he starts 28th so a top 24 would be a pretty nice score for his price.

Corey LaJoie ($4,900) is projected to actually not be a very bad punt play on Sunday, but he’s also super risky because the guy just has a knack for blowing engines. Additionally, the #72 Chevrolet is unsponsored this weekend, and more often than not, it doesn’t finish the race with LaJoie behind the wheel and without a sponsor. Deadly combination.

Driver Point Projections for the Overton’s 400

The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.

DriverDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSStarting PositionAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedProj Fastest LapsDollar Per FPT
Martin Truex Jr$10,900104.73603.45334$104
Kevin Harvick$11,80090.61102.24754$130
Kyle Larson$10,40075.91804.82435$137
Denny Hamlin$9,30068.23708.8114$136
Ryan Blaney$8,30065.4205.04933$127
Kyle Busch$11,40062.01604.01811$184
Jimmie Johnson$8,70052.83814.600$165
Chase Elliott$8,50049.2305.82714$173
Joey Logano$9,50046.01206.023$207
Brad Keselowski$10,00039.0708.008$256
Kurt Busch$8,40038.7408.4129$217
Chris Buescher$6,30037.83922.600$167
Clint Bowyer$9,70037.7507.875$258
Erik Jones$7,90029.0912.000$272
Daniel Suarez$7,50028.91013.805$260
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$6,80027.62018.200$246
Aric Almirola$8,90027.6611.630$323
Paul Menard$7,00026.5113.0148$264
Alex Bowman$7,70026.21516.400$294
Jamie McMurray$8,10024.61316.200$329
Austin Dillon$7,10023.61417.200$301
Ryan Newman$7,30023.01719.000$317
Bubba Wallace$6,20022.42221.800$277
Ty Dillon$5,60022.22523.400$252
Kasey Kahne$6,90022.02423.000$314
William Byron$6,40020.6816.202$311
Corey Lajoie$4,90018.43228.800$266
AJ Allmendinger$6,60015.81923.600$418
Michael McDowell$6,00014.42627.800$417
Trevor Bayne$5,50014.22125.400$387
Matt DiBenedetto$5,40013.22829.400$409
David Ragan$5,80010.62328.200$547
Ross Chastain$5,00009.02731.000$556
Gray Gaulding$4,70008.62932.200$547
Landon Cassill$5,20008.63133.200$605
Reed Sorenson$4,80006.43435.800$750
Kyle Weatherman$4,50005.63034.200$804
Timmy Hill$4,60005.43536.800$852

As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.