The 2017 NASCAR season got off to a thrilling start, which wasn’t a particularly good thing for fantasy purposes.
With such a high number of wrecks forcing top-tier drivers to pack up early, lots of fans likely got less than they wanted from their fantasy lineups. Maybe a trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 will help settle things down a bit — though we’re not counting on it.
You might have a budget, or you might have a limit to the amount of times you can pick a given driver. Whatever your league’s format, we’ve got you covered in determining who to ride with Sunday, and who to stay away from.
Must pick: Jimmie Johnson
Johnson has won the last two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races at Atlanta, and you should do everything you can to get him into your lineup. Over the last two seasons, the seven-time Cup champion has the second-most laps led during races at Atlanta. Moreover, his average starting position was 28th in his last two races at Atlanta, which is great for leagues that grant points for positions gained.
Sometimes the most important thing to do in all fantasy sports is to not overthink things. Johnson might seem like too safe and obvious of a play, but he’s the best available.
Stay away: Daniel Suarez
Suarez is a C-list play in many fantasy leagues this week, which we think is appropriate. Sometimes it can be tempting to pick a driver you’re rooting for or who you think has great potential, but until he proves it, it’s best to stay away.
Suarez had an up-and-down Daytona 500, ultimately joining the many drivers who weren’t able to complete the race. And while he looked good at times, he had moments where his inexperience was evident, such as his penalty during the first stage for driving too fast on pit road.
Sleeper pick: Kurt Busch
The reigning Daytona 500 champion might be a B-list driver in fantasy, but he’s an A-lister in Atlanta. The last driver to win the first two races of the Cup season was Matt Kenseth in 2009, but Busch doesn’t have to win to be valuable in fantasy lineups.
Busch started on the pole last year Atlanta and wound up finishing fourth, and has three career victories at the track. It wouldn’t surprise us one bit for him to finish in the top 10 this weekend.
Value pick: Ty Dillon
The rookie is a C-list driver in pretty much all leagues, but he has sneaky value this weekend. Although considered a rookie, Dillon has two career starts at Atlanta for Cup series races, finishing 25th in 2014 and 17th last season.
Dillon has shown plenty of flashes of talent on the track, and we wouldn’t be shocked if had a big day Sunday.
Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images