Sunday’s field is set via random draw with Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin on the front row. Without further ado, let’s get into this week’s top NASCAR DFS plays for DraftKings and FanDuel.
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Lineup Construction Guidelines
With just 301 laps, our need for lap leaders decreases to just 2 with only 30.1 laps led points on the board for FanDuel. There might have been a discussion for a third but Christopher Bell‘s starting position has taken a 3rd lap leader off the board. Bell has also become a fly in the ointment for DraftKings as well. Whether cash or tournaments, I believe the optimal path to lineups involves 2 dominators or just 1 plus Bell. However, I’m too deep in the weeds on Bell at this point so let’s begin with dominator selections.
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The Front Row
Aric Almirola 1st ($10,500 FanDuel, $8,500 DraftKings) – Almirola finds himself on the front row yet again. However, the $100,000 question is can we trust him to actually lead enough laps to consider rostering? If this were yet another intermediate track the answer wouldn’t be that tough. Yet, what Almirola looks like as a polesitter in the 750 horsepower package is a mystery.
On momentum alone, Almirola has been a model of consistency with no finish outside of the top-10 since Homestead. He is literally the only driver who can boast that title. On the other hand, in the limited races we’ve seen Almirola in this package, his finishes have gone 8th, 29th, and 33rd. With Phoenix being the closest corollary to New Hampshire, it gives me a little bit of hope as that was his best finish in this package.
Denny Hamlin 2nd ($13,400 FanDuel, $10,400 DraftKings) – Last week’s winner at Kansas finds himself on the outside of the front row. Ever since the temperatures turned up, Hamlin has seen his performance tail off with finishes of 12th at Kentucky and 20th at Texas. The forecast at Loudon is calling for a high of 87 tomorrow. Thus, Hamlin shouldn’t be dealing with a hot-slick track.
If you look at this year’s corollary tracks, it doesn’t look appealing for Hamlin at the boxscore level. 20th at Phoenix. 17th at Bristol. 24th at Martinsville. However, Hamlin was less than 10 laps away from winning at Bristol after leading a majority of the race. Martinsville was a crapshoot at the beginning. Sadly, Hamlin never recovered after losing several laps. The upside for Hamlin is his track history at Loudon. Since 2017, he owns a win, a 2nd place finish last season in this package, and is averaging 41.8 laps led with 22.8 fastest laps.
Other Potential Lap Leaders
Kevin Harvick 7th ($14,200 FanDuel, $11,600 DraftKings) – the name at the top of everyone’s dominator list and for good reason. When it comes to summertime in New Hampshire, Harvick has been the lobster king with finishes of 1st, 1st, and 5th. At our closest corollary track of Phoenix, Harvick finished 2nd after leading 67 laps. Simply, its wheels up for Harvick as he looks to make it a 3rd straight victory at New Hampshire.
Joey Logano 9th ($11,000 FanDuel, $9,800 DraftKings) – this name may feel like it’s coming out of left field as Logano has basically been a non-factor since Martinsville. However, that is the key to me. The last time we saw the 750 horsepower package in utilization was at Martinsville where Logano led nearly half of the 500 laps. If you go back to Phoenix, Logano won after leading 60 laps. If you want to add Bristol to the discussion, though not leading many laps at all, Logano was leading with 3 to go before Chase Elliott wrecked them both.
Others to consider; Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Junior, Ryan Blaney. Over the years, this has been a strong track for JGR and it’s hard not to want to buy in after seeing them excel at Kansas last Thursday.
Christopher Bell’s NASCAR DFS Conundrum
After getting priced down for consecutive weeks, Bell has found his salary north of $10,000 on DK once again. If Bell were to get a starting spot in the mid-20s there would have been a reason to make him a tournament only play. However, he finds himself in 35th and has become a smash play at Loudon.
Yes, this is predicated on place differential. On the other hand, Bell has the history and vehicle to actually capitalize on this place differential upside and turn it into a top-5 fantasy day. To begin with, Bell won back to back Xfinity races at Loudon leading 279/400 combined laps. Furthermore, he’s driving the 95, which when piloted by Matt Dibenedetto last year, finished 5th. Like most shorter tracks, Joe Gibbs Racing always seems to have an upper hand. I expect to see that upper hand propel Bell into the top-10 by the end of the 301 laps.
At $9,000 on FanDuel, Bell’s salary is a non-issue and should probably be the third driver you add in after your 2 lap leader selections. Yet, on DraftKings, Bell comes in at $10,100 which gives us a jumping-off point. Do you roster 2 dominators plus Bell or just use Bell in lieu of 1? If you go the 2 (1 being Harvick) +Bell route, it really constricts your roster decisions to a 3 punt build. Not optimal, especially for a race with just 301 laps. Bell’s fantasy production is more predictive but his ownership will be out of control.
Place Differential in a Pickle
The way the field fell via the random draw has put is in a pickle of sorts. Our reliable cash game cornerstones all found their way up too high up the board for my taste. There is no way you can safely roster Tyler Reddick (13th), Cole Custer (14th), or Michael McDowell (18th) in cash this week. The very thing we roster these 3 for, place differential, is gone.
Thankfully, we have lots of other options this weekend, and they’re not named Ryan Preece or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Despite both drivers starting in the 30s, I trust neither in a cash game format. Heck, at the rate both are wrecking out, I can’t trust them in tournaments either.
Regardless, the easy choice on both DK and FD will be Corey Lajoie starting 33rd. Lajoie has a fair amount of place differential he can gain and I see at least 8 spots he should pick off within the first 10 laps. If you need to save some salary on DraftKings, I don’t mind going down to Daniel Suarez at $5,900. As I always say with Suarez, if this becomes an attrition race then Suarez can sneak into the top-20. John Hunter Nemechek has appeal starting 36th, however, it feels like you’re weighing his floor/ ceiling versus that of Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon who come in at similar price points.
Whether you go 2 dominators or 1 plus Bell, you’ll find yourself in the mid-range on DraftKings. In tournaments, my favorite play from this range for tournaments is William Byron rolling off the grid 16th. Of all the drivers starting 11th or worse, Byron is the only driver to finish in the top-10 in both Phoenix and Martinsville races.
As far as cash goes in this range, Matt Dibenedetto will probably be a staple of my lineups as he starts 19th. In this race last year, he came home 5th in his best equipment to date, and now he’s in an even better car. To boot, Matty D has an average finish of 10th at Phoenix/ Martinsville. We’ve seen Penske drivers run well at Loudon in the past, we should see that carry over to Dibenedetto in the Penske-affiliated #21.
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