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NASCAR DFS Race Preview: NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on DraftKings + FanDuel

Phillip Bennetzen

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A free NASCAR DFS preview for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix this week with DraftKings & FanDuel picks, projections & rankings

Following Alex Bowman‘s victory at Martinsville, the NASCAR Cup Series heads west to close out the season, and the championship, at Phoenix Raceway. Let’s wrap up a chaotic Sunday in Martinsville and DFS expectations for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix.

NASCAR DFS Race Preview: NASCAR Cup Series

Bowman Takes the Grandfather Clock

With the past two Martinsville races getting filled with cautions, plus three spots in the championship up for grabs, this past Sunday was bound to be filled with drama.

Drama was exactly what NASCAR fans and DFS players got, especially as the laps winded down in Virginia. For the first half of Sunday’s event, racing was fairly clean with just two actual incidents involving four total cars. During this time, the race was in full control of the front row starters of Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott who led every lap until lap 200 before yielding the top spot to Martin Truex Jr. for five laps before Elliott would rattle off another 137 straight laps led. Following the second segment break, Elliott locked himself into the Championship taking the second seat.

As the race went into the final stage, the lead would change hands a bit more, fueled by multiple wrecks — 10 in all from lap 311 through the end of the race. During this period, Denny Hamlin would finally race his way forward, after having to start at the rear due to failing technical inspection twice and lead 103 laps in total. However, his ascent to the front and leading the second-most laps were for not after getting spun by Alex Bowman on lap 495. Hamlin would go on to finish 24th, as Bowman went on to win his fourth race of the season, but Hamlin still managed to make the final four due to his points cushion entering this race.

After suffering right-front damage to his own Toyota, and then subsequently getting put into the wall by a loose Kurt Busch, Truex’s championship hopes seemed all but over. Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski had raced their way to the front, and if Truex did not find a way to storm forward he was going to lose his championship seat via points to Busch or a win by Keselowski. Yet, on the final restart, Truex was able to use the Choose rule to fall into the second row while several drivers in front of him opted to take the bottom lane. These positions gained, simply by taking the non-preferred top groove allowed Truex to take the final seat while neither Busch nor Keselowski could pass Bowman for the lead.

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The four drivers who will compete for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship will be Larson (+140), Elliott (+275), Hamlin (+350) and Truex (+450). Odds via BetMGM.


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Looking Back to 2020

As mentioned above, the race that will decide the championship amongst those four drivers will be Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship (yes, that is the actual name of Sunday’s race). This is the second straight year that Phoenix will have hosted the Championship race — a race that Elliott won. With all the chips on the table, it was a clean event. with just one real-life caution that day — a single-car accident involving James Davison on lap 162.

In that event, Elliott notably failed pre-race inspection and easily fought his way back to the front, leading 153 laps in the process. He first grabbed the lead, on lap 79, but this was more procedural than anything as Logano had the lead going into the stage break and held it for another 40 laps following the green flag stop. Through the first 119 laps, Logano had the car to beat leading all but two laps. However, after Elliott passed Logano for the lead on lap 120, Logano would not have the lead again (eight laps) until lap 262 during the final set of green-flag stops.

Despite not having the fastest car that afternoon, Elliott was able to lead the majority of the race from the second segment on, especially the final 100 laps leading all but nine of them. The question that arose that day and still rings today is what could have been for Brad Keselowski had his pit crew not stumbled all afternoon. Despite giving him the fastest car, per green flag speed rankings, the no. 2 team stumbled all afternoon yielding positions with seemingly every pit stop. These errors allowed Elliott to continue inheriting the lead and use clean air, as well as questionable horsepower, to keep Keselowski, Logano and Hamlin behind him as he won the race and the championship.

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Phoenix — Optimally Speaking

As Logano and Elliott combined to lead 278 laps, while also finishing in the top three, the optimal lineup from that day was a two-dominator build on both DraftKings and FanDuel. With 312 laps on tap, this race hovers on the fringes of two to three dominator lineups as both have been optimal here in the past in spring. Furthermore, a two dominator lineup featuring a third “partial” dominator ended up being the optimal build this past spring.

As per who to look out for as potential dominators, the prevailing wisdom would have been to just pick the final four championship drivers. It was the final four contenders who led the most laps last year and it was the final four contestants who led the most laps at Homestead in 2019 and 2018. If this were any typical 2021 race, the final four drivers would start in the first four positions, and it would be tough to bet against them as the drivers most likely to lead this race — past Phoenix trends and 750 horsepower package numbers considered. However, the fly in the ointment is the fact that there will be qualifying on Saturday evening. Potential lap leader expectations will have to be reserved for post-qualifying, on top of practice numbers from Friday. Regardless of what will not change is the amount of dominator points up for grabs, thus dependent on how salaries are structured, this should still be a minimum of two dominators and a maximum of three in a lineup build.


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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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