The Championship 4 will start in spots one through four for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The race will crown a champion in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Which playoff drivers should you use? Do you garage a non-playoff driver since the Championship 4 won’t get stage points? How should you navigate the playoff game format? We‘ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration.
RJ Kraft’s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Miami
Playoff driver 1: Martin Truex Jr.
Playoff driver 2: Denny Hamlin
Non-playoff driver 1: Brad Keselowski
Non-playoff driver 2: Kyle Larson
Garage: Kevin Harvick
Analysis: This one is a little tricky in that we have one practice to go off of. That said, the 19 car of Truex looks to be the class of the field in practice and is a must-start for me. In addition, day to night races are right in the wheelhouse of crew chief Cole Pearn. Hamlin has solid lap averages and a strong Miami history.
On the non-playoff side, I like the combination of Keselowski’s recent Miami results with five top-seven finishes in the last six races there. I’m also taking Larson because he is one of the best here and will be ripping the high line in no time.
The garage is a really interesting consideration. Do you go for a playoff play or a non-playoff play? I’m inclined to think this way: If I am trying to protect a lead, I’d like the playoff insurance. If I’m trying to gain ground, I’m inclined to go after more stage points with a non-playoff driver. With that said, I have been big on Kevin Harvick entering this weekend and while he wasn’t as strong as I expected in practice, I still think when the lights are bright the 4 will come to play. I am hesitant to go with Kyle Busch given the inconsistency he has had all postseason. If I went the non-playoff route, Ryan Blaney’s and William Byron’s lap averages are particularly intriguing.
For the bonus picks, I’m going with Hamlin in Stage 1 and then Truex the rest of the way for Stage 2 and the race win with Toyota as the manufacturer.
Each week in this space, we‘ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. Will the Championship 4 all finish in the top seven: Yes or No? This has happened the last two years with all four Championship 4 drivers placing 1-4 in the 2018 title race and I believe it will happen again. The cream always seem to rise to the top, and I expect all four title contending drivers to be in the top seven at night’s end.
2. The race winner will lead O/U 70.5. The first three title races saw the winner and champion lead under this mark. The last two have seen the winner and champion go over that mark. Maybe its recency bias, but I like that trend especially since I expect Truex to get a Stage 2 win and win the race and that will likely see him lead a significant volume of laps.