NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA

Ford got their first win of the season last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway when Joey Logano brought his No. 22 into Victory Lane for Logano's 32 career win and his first ever at the track. Logano lead 130 of the 260 laps and had to pass his former teammate, RFK Racing driver Brad Keselowski, to win. With the win, Logano takes the driver's standings lead for the second time this season.
This weekend's race comes with a few unknowns as we'll see the debut of the reduced downforce package and the choose rule at a road course as well as a new tire compound and no stage breaks. We just might see a lot of green flag runs, but it's doubtful that we won't see a caution or two. I'm going to keep my eye on the three drivers who did the tire test here in January -- Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric.

This Week's Pick Strategy:  
I'm going to resist the temptation of overthinking this weekend by trying to factor in the road course ringers and things like drivers who manage tires well. Instead I'm going to cross reference practice results with last year's race results and a dash of veteran drivers who can competently run a road course in their sleep.

      SOURCE: NASCAR Media

NASCAR Cup Series 2023 Top 12 in the Driver Standings at Circuit of The Americas
                       SOURCE: NASCAR Media
Last Year's Pole Winner: Ryan Blaney
Last Year's Race Winner: Ross Chastain
The Likely Suspects:  These drivers are well on their way to earning a reputation as COTA elites: Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, A.J. Allmendinger, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Michael McDowell, and Austin Cindric.
My 2 Cents: This race will be a good indicator of whether Tyler Reddick has successfully made the adjustment to his Chevy. His No. 45 topped the scoring pylon in practice, so it's looking good so far. My no-brainer pick is Ross Chastain. My next choices are Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Michael McDowell, and Kyle Busch. I will complete my team with Jimmie Johnson and A.J.Allmendinger.
My Final Four: Ross Chastain, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, and Michael McDowell.

Second-look driver: This week's sleeper is Chris Buescher, who currently sits 13th place in the standings. Although all eyes are on Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch this weekend, Buescher's accumen on road courses should not be underestimated. He'll be making his third start at COTA on Sunday. In 2021, he finished 13th is the debut rain-shortened race. Last year's he finished 21st. 
But don't let his COTA record fool you. In his Cup career, Buescher has seven Top 10s, three Top 5s and an average finish of 15.1 in road course racing. However, if you just look at the last two races at all the road courses on the Cup Series circuit, Buescher's average finishing position is 11.4, the second best among active drivers. The top slot is held by Chase Elliott at 7.1 and the third by Tyler Reddick with 12.0.

Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your initial picks by 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 25th, and your final picks by 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 26th.

Enjoy the race!
Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 16 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet. When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA NASCAR Fantasy Fusion:  EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Friday, March 24, 2023 Rating: 5