This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
FINISH LINE 150
Dover International Speedway (1.0-mile oval)
One 150-Lap Main Event
Alex Bowman captured the fifth round of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational series by edging out Corey Lajoie in the final feet of Sunday's GEICO 150 at Talladega Superspeedway last Sunday. The race featured many of the same highlights we're used to seeing at Talladega, including strategic pack racing, massive accidents, too close to call finishes and an overtime finish. It was an exciting afternoon in the virtual world as multiple drivers spent time out front and strategy calls opened opportunities for track position gains. There were 27 lead changes among 14 drivers, which is not what we've become accustomed to seeing with one or two drivers dominating much of the first four online races. Instead, Talladega again lived up to the hype that has defined its reputation despite it being the virtual version.
This week, with in-person racing on the horizon in just a few weeks, the virtual series turns its attention to Dover International Speedway. The 1.0-mile oval will present a fresh challenge to competitors as this configuration of circuit has not yet appeared on the schedule. While Jimmie Johnson leads the active driver list with 11 wins at the circuit, it would be shock to see him triumph under this format. Instead, fantasy players will have the usual iRacing suspects in mind as they build their rosters, and we look at some of the names to consider this week.
Alex Bowman ($10,000) - Bowman earned Hendrick Motorsports its third-consecutive eNASCAR win with a three-wise finish last week at Talladega. Unlike previous weeks, the Talladega round of the virtual series didn't have a single dominant driver. The draft enabled a number of names to run toward the front of the field throughout the distance, bu it was Bowman who led eight laps and won by less than 1/10th of a second. Bowman started the Pro Invitational series with sixth- and fifth-place finishes but missed the top 10 in the next two. His triumph at Talladega shows that he still has what it takes to run up front, just maybe not on the short tracks. Fortunately for him, this week features the 1.0-mile oval of Dover International Speedway.
Corey Lajoie ($8,400) - Finishing a close second to Bowman last week was Lajoie. His best Talladega finish in the Cup series came last fall when he finished seventh. So, it should not have come as a surprise that he was able to finish up front in the virtual race at the track, too. It was Lajoie's first outing in the Pro Invitational series, and when you add the fact that he started from pole position it becomes an even more impressive result. Lajoie's five Cup starts at Dover have produced a best finish of 28th (also last fall), but based on his debut in the virtual series it seems entirely plausible that Lajoie could easily top that and maybe even grab another top-10.
Garrett Smithley ($11,300) - Smithley returned to the sharp end of the finishing order again last week at Talladega. His fourth-place finish from the 11th starting position gave him his fourth top-10 finish in the series in the five races held. In fact, that result was his third top-5 in the first five races. He continues to be one of the more reliable fantasy options in this format, and showed that he can bounce back to top finishes after having an off week at Richmond, where he finished 17th. Smithley has just one start at Dover in the Cup series, but he should easily surpass that 33rd-place result in this weekend's virtual event. As long as NASCAR is running online, Smithley should be a driver in which fantasy owners should have confidence.
Daniel Suarez ($5,700) - After putting his disqualifications behind him, Daniel Suarez has finally started to achieve his potential in the Pro Invitational series. Fantasy owners will remember that he was parked by NASCAR twice in his first two series outings. The first race he actually finished was his third, which gave him a finish of 18th place. Last week he continued his climb upward by finishing 10th at Talladega. Suarez occasionally raced in the top 10 in those first few outings, but his ability to make it to the race finish was what was in question. Now that he has a few finishes under his belt, and a top-10 to boot, he is a driver fantasy owners should take a bit more seriously. Suarez has shown pace to run up front in this format and should do so again this week at Dover.
Clint Bowyer ($8,200) - Bowyer again presented an inconsistent performance in the virtual world. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver spent some time at the front of the field at Talladega, but suffered overheating issues that either forced him out of the draft or sent him to pit road. Managing his equipment wisely is something he still has to come to grips with as the virtual races continue. Bowyer led one lap but finished 33rd at Talladega, his worst finish in the series and the second week in a row he finished no better than 30th. He has 16 top-10 finishes from 28 Dover starts in real life, though. Still, his lack of consistency makes him a bit risky for fantasy owners this week.
Joey Logano ($7,000) - Despite being one of the better restrictor-plate racers in the real world, Joey Logano faltered again online in the virtual version of his profession. He crashed out of last week's race and finished 36th, which was his worst finish in the Pro Invitational series. With a best finish of 15th in the Miami round he hasn't inspired much confidence for fantasy owners. His average finish in four series starts is 23.3. Even the weight of the Penske Racing organization and its meticulous preparation for these events hasn't helped him move up inside the top 10. For Logano to become one of the driver fantasy owners rely on he will have to spend some time running in the top five and grabbing his first top-10.
Chase Elliott ($6,800) - While Elliott may be used to having chances to win in the Cup series, his opportunities to do the same in the virtual series have yet to materialize. He has taken part in every round of the series to date and only has a best finish of 11th from Richmond. His average finish from the five races is 22.6. He was 28th at Talladega and has only finished in the top 20 twice so far. Elliott won at Dover in fall 2018, and that success could give him a bit of a boost when looking at his potential this weekend. However, his recent results in the format suggest it would be a stretch to think he would be one of the top driver selections this week. Elliott's downside still overshadows his upside for fantasy rosters this week.
Jimmie Johnson ($6,000) - Johnson must be thrilled to hear that cars will be hitting the track again this month because he has not been able to find his footing in the virtual world. He raced to a 32nd-place finish at Talladega with a qualifying effort of just 25th. His best finish since the pandemic started remains his 12th-place result in IndyCar's Alabama round. His best finish in the last three eNASCAR events was 21st at Bristol. He also has yet to even start one of these races inside the top 20. While fantasy players would expect Johnson to perform at his best this week at the virtual version of the track he has 11 Cup series wins at, the wiser move may be to expect more of the same from the veteran.