When our NASCAR (NAS) experts have important information or updates on individual players, injuries, match-ups, positions, or other specific aspects of a sport, they share it in a Spotlight. These articles provide in-depth analysis on how to reveal hidden value in the world of daily fantasy sports. This is where you will find key advantages that can launch your lineups to the top of your contests.
2017 Season Preview
With the end of the NFL season, Sundays now belong to NASCAR for the next few months. Whether you’re an avid race fan or just a daily fantasy player getting into another sport, it’s an exciting sport to watch on a weekly basis. From a fantasy standpoint, NASCAR can be one of the most profitable sports that DFS has to offer even if you know very little about the sport. It is very important to get a feel for the rules and scoring on DraftKings because in most cases we like to target certain categories more than others at certain tracks. Here at Daily Fantasy Insider, we’ll have articles explaining which drivers we like for each track in specific weeks, but this preview will help you get a feel for the most relevant drivers and their outlook for the season overall. We’ll be breaking down these drivers by the teams they are affiliated with and how they fit in their team schemes. While NASCAR doesn’t have an offseason quite like MLB, there were plenty of moves over the past few months that will take some getting used to for even the biggest NASCAR lovers.
In addition to this free Season Preview and all our free weekly content here on DFI, we have exclusive articles and personalized lineup construction advice in our NASCAR Chat Room over at DFIUniversity.com! If you want to get in on our DFIU NASCAR content, check out the end of this article for a special gift from us for the start of the season…
Jimmie Johnson: It just wouldn’t be right to not start this season preview out with the 2016 champion. Last season started off really well for HMS, with Johnson winning multiple times in the first handful of races, but the entire team drastically fell off in the middle part of the year. Johnson’s’ struggles had some people wondering if it was time to make a change at crew chief with Chad Knaus, but as soon as the playoffs began the number 48 team looked to be rounding into form (leading them to their record-tying seventh championship). Coming into the 2017 campaign, Johnson and the Lowes team will look to come out of the gate strong and build off the extra speed and balance they used to compete with the Toyotas late last year and eventually propel themselves to the title. From a DFS standpoint, Jimmie is about as well-rounded of a driver that we get. He owns an average finish of 10.6 at the intermediate tracks (1.5 mile), 11.9 at the large intermediate tracks (2.5 mile), 12.5 at short tracks and 13.9 at road courses. He can win at virtually any racetrack and always has the upside to lead a bunch of laps. With some of the best equipment in the garage, he can post big numbers in every category. Look for Johnson to be one of our favorite targets this season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: NASCAR is getting its most popular driver back for the 2017 season. Earnhardt Jr. missed the last 18 races last season due to a concussion suffered in a crash midway through the season last year. Before the crash, Jr. and most of the Chevrolet camp looked behind the eight ball compared to the Gibbs Toyotas. Since they didn’t have the speed they never really contended for any wins early on in the season, but the team was coming off two very strong seasons in 2014 and 2015. In recent years, Hendrick Motorsports was building chassis and motors for Stewart-Haas Racing, but with their move to Ford this year it seems that all the focus now is on this four-car team including Dale Jr.. With the increased horsepower and seemingly all hands on deck for this number 88 team, we expect Jr. to rebound in a big way this season. He is considered the best plate track driver in the series, but as of the last couple years, he is rounding into a better overall driver. He does better at most mile-and-a-half tracks and the two-mile ones that rely on strong horsepower, but has flashed the ability to win at the small, short tracks that require taking care of the equipment and driver skill. He isn’t a driver that usually dominates a track, but he is one that we like to target when he qualifies middle of the pack since he can easily climb to a top-five or ten most weeks. Look for Jr. to be a strong threat as he makes his return this season.
Chase Elliott: The reigning rookie of the year is coming off a season of close calls in which first place barely slipped away from him with disappointing frequency. He was a staple in our Must-Haves last year as he was always priced pretty fairly compared to the field and showed his upside multiple times by leading a bunch of laps and challenging for wins on a weekly basis. The idea of a “sophomore slump” gets thrown around in a lot of sports, but there is no need to worry about that with Chase Elliott. He is in a great spot this year in some of the best equipment the sport has to offer. Like his HMS teammates, his strong tracks last year were the ones that required high horsepower and tons of speed. Elliott showed he could challenge on the short tracks as well. This could be a huge year for Chase, because we’ve seen once that first breakthrough comes it’s like the floodgates are broken wide open. Chase will once again be a strong pick for our teams this year as his price is usually just under the top drivers, but still offers their upside. We expect to see a championship-caliber run from Elliott in his second full season.
Kasey Kahne: Sometimes the forgotten man at HMS looks to rebound after a very disappointing last couple of seasons with the camp. After missing the playoffs once again last year, Kahne’s team went through an overhaul in the offseason to make sure the team is ready to roll with his Hendrick teammates. Last year, Kahne never contended for any wins and struggled to even crack the top ten most weeks. However, late in the year once the camp found the extra speed, Kahne showed he still had it in him to be a contender and his ability to be a top-ten driver. This season the outlook is much brighter as the team looks to have all the makings to be back to the powerhouse status. When Kahne is on the top of his game he has shown the ability to run well at just about any track outside of road courses, but his skills are best fit for the 1.5-mile tracks. Kahne is usually one of the lower priced drivers on DraftKings which makes him a fairly popular pick, but we want to make sure the team is fully back before we go all in on him. He has the upside and the equipment to be really successful this season; don’t be surprised to see him in the playoffs.
Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch: Rowdy Busch is coming off a very strong campaign last year winning five races and having 26 top-ten finishes out of 36 races. After his 2015 championship, he returned to the championship four last year and came up just short behind Jimmie Johnson. Last season, this Toyota group was hands down the best group of cars on the track week in and week out. It has never been a question of if Kyle could drive a racecar, it was a question of if he could ever bring it home in one piece. Now he has seemed to put that question to rest as he is easily a top-three driver in the series. There is no weakness in his skill set as he can wheel just about any car in any circumstance. He will constantly be one of the higher-priced drivers every weekend, but if the opportunity is too good to pass up he could be a risky fade any given weekend since his upside is nearly unprecedented. Rowdy will look to build off a great 2016 season and get back to his championship form he showed in each of the last two seasons.
Matt Kenseth: One of the most underrated drivers in the series is Kenseth. Coming off just two wins last year, he showed his consistency all year long, somehow qualifying middle of the pack most of the year, but always making his way up into the top ten. This provided fantasy owners solid returns as he is usually priced in the middle tier of drivers. This season Kenseth is considered as one of the favorites to make a run for the title, as there really isn’t a weakness on his team. This makes him a hot commodity to DFS players because he can return value in all categories without breaking the bank to roster him. Expect to see him as our Must-Have multiple times this year as that price never seems to climb even though he is a well-rounded driver.
Denny Hamlin: The 2016 Daytona 500 champion had a decent year, but outside of the 500 was somewhat disappointing. Opening the year with a win in the biggest race of the year had many expecting him to have a breakout year, but quickly took a backseat to other Toyota drivers as he seemingly always played second fiddle. Pit road seemed to plague this team all season long as they would have strong cars, but always ruin track position with costly penalties. Over the offseason changes were made to help minimize mistakes and hopefully change the luck of Hamlin and his team. He’ll be required to take on more of the leadership role at Gibbs this year with the new rookie coming into the team so look for Hamlin to be a more consistent this season.
Daniel Suarez: One of the most shocking news to drop this offseason was the surprise retirement of Carl Edwards. Edwards led this team to a final four berth last season coming only a handful of laps away from winning the championship. Instead of coming back to make another run, he decided to pursue other opportunities outside of racing opening the door for the Xfinity series champion. Suarez was preparing to defend his title, but after the shocking news from Edwards is being thrown into a fantastic opportunity. He will go through a ton of learning curves this year, but is in championship caliber equipment that could speed up the learning process. For DFS we need to take the wait and see approach before we roster Suarez as this will be all new to the rookie of the year candidate.
Martin Truex Jr.: We’re grouping these next two in with JGR since they get most of their equipment from their team. Last year was the breakout year from Truex we’ve been waiting on for years as he was hands down the most successful driver from a real life standpoint and a gem in DFS as everyone remembers what he did in the Coca-Cola 600. It has been well documented that the Toyotas were in another league for most of the year last season, and Truex was one of the biggest beneficiaries from that rise in power. He showed his growth on every style of racetrack showing he could win just about anywhere throughout the year, if not for some bad luck in the playoffs he could have very well been holding the trophy at the end of the year. This season they will look to tie up some loose ends and become even more dominant to make another run at a title. For DFS terms it doesn’t get much better than Truex as he shown he could be consistently in the 40 to 50 point, but flashing crazy upside with 100+ in multiple races. Look for him to be a very popular option each week.
Erik Jones: The newest addition to the stable is the rookie from the JGR farm system. Jones has been highly touted as one of the best young drivers to make his way through the series and finally gets his chance to showcase his skills for his new team. In 2015 when Kyle Busch injured his leg and was forced to miss races we saw a few races from Jones as he filled in the number 18 car. Even in a limited number of races, he shown he is capable of battling for top tens if in the right equipment. He now gets his own ride in basically a satellite team to JGR that just had a monster year with teammate Truex Jr. to work with. For DFS it is the same thing as it is with Suarez, we need to see how this new team will do before we plug him in, but if his price stays down then his skill set should provide plenty of upside at that price.
Brad Keselowski: The Penske camp looks primed for a big year as Ford looks to take a bigger step toward the Chevrolet and Toyota teams. Paving that way will be Keselowski going for his second career title in NASCARs top series. Once considered as Dale Jrs protégé, Keselowski is making a name for himself, as he has become one of the best overall drivers in the series. He is known for pushing the limits and going for the win at all cost even if it means ruffling some feathers along the way. Last year that driving style led him to four wins and 24 top ten finishes in 36 races. He will once again come into the year as one of the favorites for the title and should continue to battle for wins regardless of the track. In DFS we will continue to see BK priced as one of the top overall drivers, but the price is usually justified by his potential upside and consistency.
Joey Logano: Much like his teammate, Logano will do anything for the win, which in turn makes him one of the more unpopular drivers in the sport. Regardless of his popularity there is no denying that Joey has taken his new role with Penske and made the most of it as he has become a big threat any given week. Last season was really his break-out year matching his teammate in wins with four total, but adding in a few more top ten finishes with 28 leading him to a final four berth. Eventually coming up a little short of the title, Joey and his team will look to carry that momentum they had all of last year into this season as they look to finish the job. Both of these drivers have shown massive upside at any track, which is why we will see their price tags as one of the top drivers. They are some of the best teammates in the sports and could be used as some of the best stacks in DFS.
Ryan Blaney: While he technically runs for the Wood Brothers, they get all of the cars and motors from Penske racing making him a teammate to Keselowski and Logano. Last season was Blaneys’ first full season in the cup series and he had his fair share of ups and downs, but occasionally showed his ability to be a very skilled driver. Th majority of his success came at the mile and a half tracks that required the speed and handle of the cars in which he has always been praised for doing so. This is the season he looks to take that next step with a year of experience under his belt and a more mature team around him. We could very well see a win or two this season from this team making him very valuable to DFS lineups as he is usually towards the lower priced drivers.
This is a team that had one of the biggest shake-ups in the offseason as they changed to Ford from Chevrolet and Tony Stewart rode off into the sunset opening the seat for Clint Boywer. Over the last few years this was a sister team to Hendrick Motorsports and showed their dominance nearly every year at just about every track. When this much changes we need to focus on early results after a few weeks into the season, but their driver lineup is one that could overcome any issues that might arise early.
Kevin Harvick: Happy Harvick has spent his entire racing career in a Chevrolet, but for the first time since coming into the cup series in 2001 he’ll be in a different manufacturer this season. Starting his career with RCR he was never considered a dominant force in the series, but the move to SHR catapulted his career to new heights. Winning the title cemented Harvick into being considered one of NASCARs’ top drivers, which showed in the next two seasons, as he was a threat literally every week. Last year, he had four wins with 27 top ten finishes showing his skill throughout the year as a DFS monster providing upside we only saw from Truex. However, after the news of HMS and SHR split we saw them not look as strong in the latter part of the year. We usually see him lead and dominate races at places like Phoenix, but that wasn’t the case in the chase as they faltered there and eventually missed the final four round for the first time since the new playoff system was implemented. For DFS we can expect to see Harvick as one of the top priced drivers once again this year, but we need to see how all these changes affect this team. On one hand, they could hit the ground running and not miss a beat, but just as easily they could be playing catch up to the other organizations. Out of the four SHR drivers, Harvick is by far the more talented and trustworthy play, but at his price we need to make sure how the team looks.
Kurt Busch: Older brother to Kyle Busch, Kurt was the 2004-cup champion. Since then he has jumped around from a few teams eventually landing him a spot at SHR. He hasn’t wowed much during his time with the team as last year he saw only one win, but was constantly a top 15 car all season long leading him to a playoff berth. With SHR he has never been a driver to go out and lead a ton of laps and dominate races like his brother, but he does hold consistency that in some races we look for if the price is right. Most of the time we won’t go out of our way to target him since his price always lies around better options in that mid-tier range. If there is one bright spot for Busch this season is that when he won the title in 2004 it was done in a Ford. This reunion might be was is needed to throw Busch back on track, but we’ll have to see it to believe it before we roll him out there.
Danica Patrick: If there wasn’t enough news around SHR already this offseason we get the sponsor dilemma with Patrick and her primary sponsor splitting up just weeks before the start of the season. While this might not have any effect on her performance, it is another issue that could be distracting in the long run for a driver and team that has underperformed ever year to date. Patrick seems to be a ways off in terms of performance on the track, but the price is always so tempting as she starts in the back nearly every race. Patrick is not someone we will want to build our core around any this year, but in some cases she could be the last driver to fill in even though it is scary to push that button. We don’t recommend going out of your way to get her into a lineup, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Clint Bowyer: The newest SHR driver is back to being relevant as a driver and DFS option once again. After spending last year with an underfunded team that could barely get Bowyer out of the deep twenties, he’s back with a full team and looks for a big bounce back year. If NASCAR had a comeback player of the year, my pick would easily be Bowyer this year as he has the capability to pay off for the salary he usually draws. He is a well-rounded driver that can run well at any track, but doesn’t have the upside the top drivers have. If his price stays down compared to the other drivers he will be a hot commodity this season for all DFS players and don’t be surprised to see him as a Must-Have a time or two this season.
Chip Ganassi Racing
Kyle Larson: One of the most talented young drivers in the sport finally broke through last season scoring his first career win and setting the ground work for a big 2017 campaign. The question on Larson was never if he could win, but it was when could he finally get it done. That finally came in the summer as he went on a stretch run that boosted him into the playoffs. Larson’s big problem was like Kyle Busch early in his career and it was just getting his car home in one piece. Countless times Larson had a winning car, but put the car in the fence to ruin any chance of winning the race. Larson is well known for his ability to run the high line where you can gain the most speed and momentum on the high-banked tracks that sometimes cost him the race, but eventually won him his first. With the confidence at an all time high and the momentum from last year at full force look for the more mature Larson to be focused and ready to roll in 2017.
Jamie McMurray: The former Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner falls in the category of being a good driver just not great. While he is very underrated as a plate driver he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet up on anything that excites DFS players. He is coming off a 2016 season that saw him make the playoffs based on points after not scoring a win all season. That pretty much sums up what kind of driver he is, he’ll finish the race in the top 15 sometimes challenging inside the top 10, but for the most part doesn’t hold the upside we like to see unless he starts way back to start a race. This season looks to be more of the same as he will always be a threat to win at places like Daytona and Talladega and occasionally some of the bigger mile and a half racetracks, but we’ll rarely go out of our way to get him at the shorter tracks. One positive note that can be said about McMurray is the consistency of his price on DraftKings. He is always at the lower end of the middle tier and makes for a good fifth or sixth driver for a line because you know what you will get from a driver like him and could return good value for any line.
Richard Childress Racing
Austin Dillon: Like Larson, Dillon had somewhat of a coming out party as well as he enjoyed a very successful season, complying for 14 top ten finishes out of 36 races. While it might not seem like the best driver in the world he made strides in the right direction to show what he could be in the near future. The majority of the races on the schedule favor the type of driver Dillon is and has shown in his growth over the last couple of seasons. The problem is he has yet to show he can put together an entire race and until he does that it’ll be tough to trust him if his price gets too high. While RCR showed promise late in the season, it’ll be important to see if they can keep up with the other powerhouse teams and take the next step forward with Dillon leading the charge.
Ryan Newman: There was a time when Newman was a DFS players dream driver, he would start on the pole and lead a ton of laps, but it seems those days are long gone. He is a strong driver, but lacks the excitement that we enjoy watching on a weekly basis. He will constantly do just enough to squeak out a top ten finish, but will never produce enough to just kill the competition. This could be factors of RCR not having the horsepower other teams have or that they’ve been playing catch-up for so long that they lost a little something along the way. Either way we just don’t need to expect too much from Newman this year, he might win a race or two, but the likelihood of him going out and dominating is very small. However, he is a well-rounded driver that can run well at any track, since he does just enough to get solid finishes which makes him an option for DFS players as long as the price stays down and he starts mid pack or further.
Paul Menard: If you take Ryan Newman and drop him a couple notches you land on Menard. He is one guy that is a better DFS option than a real NASCAR driver and even then it’ll make everyone nervous that plays him. Last season was a prime example of Menard and what type of driver he is, he recorded only four top tens on the year and was never in contention to do any damage to win. However he was a popular choice many weeks for DFS owners due to his lack of good qualifying efforts, but even then sometimes it wasn’t the prettiest results. We can expect more of the same this year as he will not post any jaw-dropping stats, but will always be in consideration anytime he starts deep in the field as he could get a top 25 any given week from his equipment alone.
Ty Dillon: We’ll go ahead and add in the other Dillon brother to the RCR stable, as both drivers are the grandsons to car owner Richard Childress. Ty landed his first full-time ride this season after Casey Mears departed the number 13 car after driving it the past few seasons. Dillon has run various races in the cup series with different teams and has always shown promise to match and sometimes better his brother in performances in his limited action. This hope and skill has a positive outlook on his performance this year as we can expect him to be a solid contributor to our lines as long as the price stays reasonable. Only time will tell if he can live up to expectations that others in the sport holds for him, but we like to take these type of drivers on a weekly basis.
Roush Fenway Racing
Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne: RFR will be downsizing to just two full-time teams this season and will roll with the pair of Bayne and Stenhouse Jr.. Greg Biffle was the third on the team last year, but decided to go in a different direction leaving the team with two of the younger guys in the garage. Both Bayne and Stenhouse are just about the same type of driver, they will not offer much upside in terms of leading laps or winning races, but they draw value from position differential as both aren’t considered very good at qualifying. These are two drivers that have had success at different points of their career as Stenhouse is a Xfinity series champion and Bayne is a former Daytona 500 winner, but both have yet to show much with RFR. We shouldn’t expect anything to change as they’ve shown to be behind these other teams in many different areas that have them at a steep disadvantage. As for a DFS standpoint, we’ll have to be very desperate to roster them this season outside of them starting near the rear of the field.
JTG Daugherty Racing
A.J. Allmendinger: The Dinger is one of the more fiery drivers in the garage and really outside of the road course races isn’t someone we like to target in DFS. Allmendinger is known as a road course ringer and usually is a top target on those two races every year. Outside of those tracks he falls into that area that doesn’t excite anyone and his price is usually around those that we like better for higher upside. Every year Allmendinger will have that one random race outside of a road course that surprises everyone, but as history has shown he cannot sustain the momentum. This is likely to be the same story this season as nothing has changed with the team to make anything drastically different. Once the road courses come around we can target him in every format, but until then just overlook him the majority of the time.
Chris Buescher: Coming into last season if you asked anyone who they thought would be the first rookie to win a race, most if not all would’ve said Chase Elliott. None would’ve said Chris Buescher who ended up winning a rain-shortened race at Pocono last summer. Outside of that win, it was sort of a letdown season as expected considering the underfunded team he raced for the entire year. Apparently, he did enough to warrant a new ride with the JTG team as they created a second car to pair with Allmendinger for the 2017 season. Chris is young enough to adjust and show potential to be a good driver in the series, but still has a long way to go compared to other young stars like Elliott and Larson. This season should be better than last season, but not drastic enough to consider his upside to be much more than it was last season. We probably won’t see him in victory lane this year, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we see him flirting with top 20s any given weekend. We’ll take the wait and see approach with him as well, but if they keep his price low enough and he starts way in the back we could see him as our sixth driver quite often.
Rest of the Field
The next group of guys will all be under the 6K mark for the majority of the year and are considered deep punts. Most of these guys will have the upside of getting a 25th place finish if that and you’re hoping your other drivers pull them up if they don’t get that high. They’ll qualify towards the back in just about every race so don’t be fooled if you see a guy qualify dead last because these guys could finish there or only move up one or two spots. The majority of them are in rides without the funds the bigger teams have and settle for starting and finishing, not worrying much about anything else. Throughout the year we might be forced to play a punt or two, but when those situations arise we’ll cross that bridge to decide which one is the best for that weekend.
NASCAR can be one of the more predictable sports DFS has to offer, but crazy crashes and other random disasters can change the entire outcome of a race. This season preview should be used as a guide to the drivers and their recent history. Throughout the season, we will have our Must-Haves and Spotlight articles here on DailyFantasyInsider.com. Over at DFIUniversity.com we will have exclusive articles that cover pressing topics each week, from track strategies to stacking to value plays and lineup construction. We also have our DFIU NASCAR Chat Room where our Insiders will help you with personal lineup construction. We’re so excited about this upcoming season and can’t wait for all our NASCAR resources to lead you to the checkered flag.
We’re so excited, in fact, that we’re giving away a FREE first month of DFIU NASCAR Access! Use code “DFIUNAS17” at checkout on DFIU NAS Access for your first month on us!
This weekend we head back to Daytona International Speedway for the first time since the beginning of the 2016 season. It’s been a fun first half with the new aerodynamic rules package that has significantly decreased downforce on the cars. We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, including 11 different race winners, stellar rookie seasons, and photo finishes. We even had an 8 week period where 6 races were won by Joe Gibbs drivers and one was won by their affiliate, the Martin Truex Jr. (DK: $9,500) team, who is our first spotlighted driver. Truex has seen consistent success this season, which is more than many of the usual stars, such as Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr. can say about their performances. Let’s look at why the 78 car has some characteristics to set him up for a win. During his last race at Daytona in February, he climbed from 28th to 4th in 40 laps, and spent the rest of the day in the top six, finishing 2nd in that dramatic finish we all remember. During the weeks to come, he would continue his success, although the result was not always what he wanted. He would come close to wins, but penalties, pit issues and bad luck would keep him out of victory lane until his dominant performance at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. He has been able to maintain a fast car throughout most of the season, which was displayed during that record-breaking night race. Which brings us to the final reason Truex could be set up for a win: this week is a night race. This will be the fourth night race of the season, with the first three taking place at Texas, Kansas, and Charlotte. During those races, his average running positions were 2, 4, and 1, respectively. He led 705 of the 1001 laps run at those three tracks, which is just over 70%. When the sun goes down, the 78 seems to wake up.
Our next spotlight is Dale Earnhardt Jr. (DK: $10,600), the most expensive driver on the slate this weekend, even more expensive than the dominant Kevin Harvick (DK: $10,300). Let’s look at the Most Popular Driver in NASCAR for the last 13 years, and his less than stellar season. In the 16 races this season, Dale has no wins, five top-5s and only six top-10 finishes while leading 53 laps, and not finishing four times. The silver lining: he has four 2nd-place finishes this season, so he’s right on the cusp of his first 2016 victory. Why, you may ask, is he the most expensive driver on the slate? Well, he is tied with Tony Stewart among active drivers for the most wins at Daytona (4), his average finish at Daytona is higher than any other active driver who has run more than six races there, and he has finished in the top five almost 40% of the time. Furthermore, he has the second most laps led among active drivers at Daytona at 593. This very well could be the week that Dale Jr. and his 88 car take home their first win of the season.
The last driver on the spotlight is Denny Hamlin (DK: $9,800). His price has slowly dropped over the course of the season, but now he’s back at the site of his only win in 2016. In his last five trips to Daytona, he’s finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 2nd. He has six top 5s in his 21 Daytona appearances with 362 total laps led. His performance waned since the first few weeks of the season, but we saw a resurgence from him last week in his battle with Tony Stewart at the end of the race at Sonoma. We’ll be keeping our eye on him this weekend to possibly continue his string of Daytona success.
When it comes to value for the Go Bowling 400 race at Kansas, our research has led us to believe there are five drivers ranging from $8,200 and below that could separate themselves from the rest.
Our top rated driver in this range would have to be the 47 of AJ Allmendinger (DK: $6,900). He’s had some up and down success in his past four trips to Kansas, with two of them resulting in top-15 finishes. With the way his 2016 has started off, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to repeat these results once more. Starting 29th puts Allmendinger in cash and tournament range.
Our next two guys seem to be fairly even, so we suggest to play them according with your remaining salary.
Kasey Kahne (DK: $8,200) and Kyle Larson (DK: $7,500) both carry some risk, but also are two of our favorite tournament plays on Saturday. With Kahne starting 27th, it allows for some nice place differential points based on his history at Kansas. He has two top-5 finishes in his previous four starts. Earlier in his career, he strung together four-straight top 10’s from 2011-2013. Larson, starting in 18th, might not allow for as much place differential points as Kahne. However, in four trips to Kansas, he’s had three top-15 finishes which included a 2nd place finish. We aren’t predicting a top-5 finish for Larson, but could very will finish in the top-10 and would easily pay dividends at his price tag.
Our final two drivers that we will be targeting as values will be Aric Almirola (DK: $6,500) and Casey Mears (DK: $6,200).
Almirola has had two top-11 finishes during his last four starts at Kansas. Additionally, his last three Spring race attempts in Kansas have resulted in 11th or better finishes. Again, we might not suggest he’s going to finish inside the top 10, but at his price point he doesn’t necessarily need to in order to meet or exceed value.
Lastly, Mears doesn’t have near the upside as the other four drivers mentioned above. However, if you need salary relief for a cash lineup or even potentially a tournament team, he could be worth the gamble. A few things trend in his direction that he could be in play. Over his past four races in Kansas, he’s gained positive place differential in three of them, while owning a 24 average finishing position over these races. In the two practice sessions Friday afternoon, he finished in 21st and 22nd respectively. With Mears starting 31st, at top-25 or possible top-20 could go a long way to benefit your lineup. We feel confident in saying that you can roster these drivers in all formats.
On a superspeedway like this, “luck” comes into play more so than other tracks. Certain drivers could run up front all day and by no fault of their own be included into potentially “The Big One” and have their day ruined very quickly. While we believe that Dale Earnhardt Jr (DK: $10,300) and Jimmie Johnson (DK: $9,800) are the favorites heading into the race, by starting in 3rd and 5th place respectively, most likely the only way either of them would end up paying off their price tags would be that they would have to lead approximately a much higher % of the race and by doing so even then there isn’t a guarantee they’d be accumulating “fast laps” as they most likely will be spreading throughout the pack. There is a strong chance that they could lead a majority of this race but with the limited number of “dominator points” this week we believe there are better potential values on the board and would likely carry a much lower ownership which, in turn, could especially go a long way in large tournaments. A few of the higher priced drivers we will be targeting along with our must-have Kevin Harvick (DK: $9,400) will include the Joe Gibbs Racing group, as well as an affiliate of JGR, Martin Truex Jr. (DK: $8,900) especially in these large field tourneys. It may be a smart idea to go with either Earnhardt Jr or Johnson in your cash games but we are confident in saying that both aren’t necessary, especially in your GPP lineups. Our favorites of the group of JGR would have to be Matt Kenseth (DK: $9,100), who is starting 4th, and Kyle Busch (DK: $9,200), who is starting 17th, as well as Truex, who is starting 12th. JGR has been on fire of late winning the past 4 races coming into Talladega so they have a lot of momentum on their side. While 3 of the 4 JGR drivers have all won at least a single race at the superspeedway, Edwards is the lone driver who has not, but with him coming in having won back to back races; he’s never had this much momentum heading to Talladega. Truex has yet to win at the superspeedway either, but he’s never been in as good as equipment as he has this year and he’s contended in many races and more specifically Daytona. He very possibly might be up front majority of the day as well with the JGR guys as well. Kenseth should carry the lowest ownership of all of the guys mentioned above and his poor finishes so far in 2016 could very easily be put to an end in the Geico 500. Kenseth has been in position to come home with the win and have had bad luck go his way in 3 or 4 races this year and it all started off at the season opener at Daytona. He’s considered one of the best plate drivers, so regardless of his recent finishes we aren’t afraid of his string of bad luck, it should only affect his ownership, which makes him even more of attractive of a GPP play for us. One of our value plays this week is Danica Patrick (DK: $6,400), who is starting 37th. She could very possibly be a nice source of place differential at a cheap price tag. She has the 19th best driver rating over the past 4 races and an average finish of 22.25, so if she finishes anywhere near that then she’ll be an exceptional value play especially in your cash games and should provide enough upside for large tournaments as well. Avoiding “The Big One” could be the key to finding success in today’s race, so hopefully luck is on both of our sides when the checkered flag is waved this afternoon.
This week we head to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500. The drivers will go 500 laps at this .533 mile asphalt bowl with steep, progressive banking. Speeds will be high for such a short track, and multi-car wrecks are the norm. As with other short tracks, one needs to look at the laps led statistic as a main source of points. This season, those starting in the top five starting positions have led 40.4% of the laps. In the last 10 races at Bristol, those starting in the top five have led about 55% of the total laps. This is a significant difference to consider when picking drivers who will stay out front for a while.
Carl Edwards (DK: $9,900): Last week at Texas we saw the 19 car lead 124 laps after starting on the pole, finishing 7th with 49 fastest laps for 86.5 total fantasy points. Edwards’ average 2016 finish is 7.14 with six top 10 finishes, including three in the top five. During his career at Bristol, he has won two poles and finished 1st and 2nd at those races. Watch out for Edwards as has five career top five finishes at Bristol including three wins.
Matt Kenseth (DK: $10,000): Starting on the outside pole, the number 20 car has gone through a string of bad luck this season. Between pit road penalties, accidents, and tough breaks, Kenseth has only cracked the top 10 once this season. Our research suggests that this race might be his slump-buster. He has four career wins at Bristol, including two in the last five races. His last 10 finishes are: 42, 1, 3, 13, 1, 35, 24, 2, 6, and 4 from most to least recent. The 42 was due to engine failure, and the 35 and 24 were both due to wrecks, one of which ended his race. He has also averaged over 76 laps led per race at Bristol, not including the most recent race. Look for Kenseth to spend some time at the front of the field tomorrow.
Joey Logano (DK: $10,300): Logano comes to Bristol seeking that ever-elusive trip to victory lane. His finishes this season include 2, 3, 4, and 6. In his last three races at Bristol, Logano has won twice and finished 40 due to a wreck. When he won last year, he led 176 laps, and he led 76 in 2014 and 139 laps in 2012. He could be a real danger if he gets out front.
Denny Hamlin (DK: $9,600): The Daytona 500 photo-finish winner will start on the outside of the second row on Sunday. He hasn’t quite been able to put it together much since 2009, cracking the top 10 only four times in 12 races with one win. This weekend might add to Hamlin’s lone victory since 2009 as he has had the fastest lap in both the first and third practice. He’s not our first pick to win, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he stuck around the front of the pack.
Kyle Busch (DK: $10,700): Rounding out the top five is the most dominant driver in NASCAR right now. Not only is he driving well this season, he also has 5 career wins with an average finish of 11.95. See our Must-Haves article for more on why we think you should have him in your lineup.
In the last 10 races at Bristol, the winner has come from the top five 60% of the time, and a driver has not won starting outside of the top 12 in the last 10 years. We recommend you look really hard at these five when building your lineups for Sunday.