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NASCAR DFS Race Preview: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway for DraftKings & FanDuel

Phillip Bennetzen

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NASCAR DFS DraftKings FanDuel Hollywood Casino 400 fantasy racing preview optimal lineup optimizer projections rankings ownership this week today tonight Ryan Blaney Kansas Speedway

Following Kyle Larson‘s eighth victory of the 2021 season, NASCAR heads north for more intermediate action at Kansas. Let’s wrap up action from this past Sunday at Texas, the playoff picture with three races remaining, and NASCAR DFS expectations for this Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. This is a first-look article to give us a baseline on where we might be wanting to go with our NASCAR DFS picks for the week on DraftKings and FanDuel.

NASCAR DFS Race Preview: Hollywood Casino 400

Larson Dominates at Texas

Predictions-wise, this past Sunday at Texas proved a terrible weekend for just expecting a typical Texas race. Following the competition caution, something that hopefully can be a bygone thought in 2022, on lap 30, the field was bunched back up together. As the field was going down the backstretch on lap 32, Bubba Wallace triggered a Talladega style “big one” that collected 12 drivers in total. With seven drivers removed from the race, due to this melee, this unexpected attrition opened the door for drivers like Timmy Hill, David Starr, Garrett Smithley, and B.J. McLeod to finally break through into the top 20 with their best finishes of the season in the 550-horsepower package. For what it is worth, both the Xfinity and Cup races were adversely affected by their competition cautions from this weekend as wrecks ensued. Without these cautions, for a track that has minimal tire wear, chances are these wrecks do not occur and the outcomes for nearly half of the field change.

Besides this wreck, Kyle Larson did what had not happened at Texas since it was repaved – one driver leading the majority of laps. Yes, William Byron did manage to lead 55 laps, but Larson’s 256 laps were the most any top lap leader had led in any Texas race since 2017. Up until lap 116, right after the second segment had begun, Larson had led just 38 laps. However, one of the hallmarks of No. 5 crew chief Cliff Daniels has been making in-race adjustments. Whatever setup changes were made on that pitstop, following the first segment caution, were dynamic because Larson went on to lead every single lap from lap-117 until the end of the race.

The Playoffs with Three Races Remaining

With Kansas next on the schedule, it is easy to see this performance from Sunday carrying over into the next race. However, Larson and the No. 5 team are in the unique position where their win has locked them into the championship race at Phoenix. They can just as easily start putting the bulk of their resources into preparing for the championship event. Or, at the very least, preparing for Martinsville and seeing what could or should not carry over into Martinsville the next weekend. Either way, Larson is locked in and just three spots remain open for Phoenix.

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Trailing Larson by 51 points, but with a 17-point lead over the cutoff mark, sits Ryan Blaney – a somewhat surprising name to see. Through the playoff stretch, Blaney’s best finish has been fourth, but he has also managed to not retire early from any race either. Blaney’s late-season surge at Michigan and Daytona set up Blaney to overcome what should have been a tumultuous first round of the playoffs, especially after finishing 22nd at Darlington. However, to Blaney’s credit, he has done the one thing every potential Championship winner does – not sabotage their own success.

Sitting in third is Denny Hamlin, nine points above the cutoff while Kyle Busch is eight points to the good in the final playoff spot for the championship. Both Hamlin and Busch ascended to the lead at Texas, but neither ended the race nearly as well as they could have. In fact, both drivers’ days could have been much worse as they both suffered damage in separate incidents. Currently sitting in fifth is Chase Elliott, trailing Kyle Busch by eight points. As a former Kansas winner in the fall, with four other top-six finishes since 2018, Elliott is primed to make a move on either Hamlin or Busch for a final playoff spot.

In sixth through eighth come the longshots all with double-digit gaps to close. Brad Keselowski, despite a stellar finish at Texas (fourth), trails the cutoff line by 15 points. Currently in seventh is Martin Truex Jr., down 22 points to teammate Kyle Busch following his Daniel Suarez aided 25th-place finish at Texas. Finally, down 43 points comes in Joey Logano who is already down so much he will inevitably need a victory at Kansas or Martinsville to earn his ticket to Phoenix. This, in turn, brings up the idea that both Truex and Logano may perform poorly this Sunday as both teams may turn their focus on preparing cars for Martinsville knowing that is the best shot for either team to earn a victory in this third round of the playoffs.

Looking Back to Kansas 1

Looking forward to this weekend inevitably brings DFS players to look backward to this year’s previous race at Kansas. In that race, the box score numbers paint a very different tale from the way the race unfolded towards the end.

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For the first 231 laps, this was a clean race with no real cautions, and it possibly could have ended that way had the caution flag not flown on lap 231. For those who cannot remember, this is the infamous “tire on pit road” race wherein during the final set of green-flag pit stops, Tyler Reddick‘s crew lost one of his tires and it casually stopped a few feet past the edge of the pavement, on the grass, near pit road. Instead of throwing the yellow flag during the pit stop cycle, NASCAR decided to wait until every car had come down pit road. Serious questions were raised about the ethics of NASCAR wanting to disrupt a race that was well in the grasp of Kyle Larson who had led 113 laps up until that point.

When the green flag waved, Denny Hamlin stormed out to the lead for six laps before cutting down a tire/hitting the turn-one wall on lap 246 after hitting the same wall four laps prior. With 18 laps remaining, Larson took off with the lead before another yellow flag came out on lap 254 when Austin Cindric and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made contact. With 11 laps to go, Kyle Busch beat Kyle Larson on the restart, but the green flag run only lasted so long, as Stenhouse, Christopher Bell and Ryan Preece were caught up in another incident.

With two laps remaining, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney started on the front row alongside one another. Trailing behind Blaney was Kyle Larson, who attempted to give Blaney a push past Busch into turn 1. This push, however, went haywire, as Blaney went to block Larson’s momentum. Larson ended up hitting the wall while Blaney got loose and the pack passed them both. Blaney, despite sitting in second with two laps to go, finished 21st, while Larson ended his day in 19th. While Kyle Busch as on the cusp of enjoying his first victory of 2021, second through fifth were shuffled as drivers with old tires and old tires fought for position.

Needless to say, the final 30 laps were so manipulated by caution flags that the final running order is not reflective of the day’s true contenders. For DFS purposes, it is better to dig into the loop data from that day and judge drivers by their averages instead of where they were when the race concluded. For example, Matt DiBenedetto may have finished this race in third but his average running position was 12th. If anyone took advantage of these late cautions it was DiBenedetto. On the flip side, both Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin had an average running position of eighth but finished in the 20s.

Hollywood Casino 400 DFS Implications for Sunday

With 400 laps on tap, this should be another two-dominator build for both DraftKings and FanDuel. That said, last week at Texas was supposed to be a three-dominator build, but Kyle Larson led 76% of the race that day. A two-dominator build (Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski) was what ended up optimal that day on DraftKings. Oddly enough though on FanDuel, despite scoring the second-most points, Larson’s salary did not allow him to be optimal as cheaper options with nearly as many points ended up in the top FanDuel lineup.


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Phill Bennetzen is a father, husband, and Catholic as well as a self-professed annoying fitness guy. Phill heads up NASCAR content at Awesemo.com. You can contact Phill by emailing [email protected].

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