NASCAR heads West to Kansas following Brad Keselowski‘s first victory of the 2021 Cup Season. Let’s dive into this week’s DraftKings and FanDuel NASCAR DFS picks and preview for the Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Overtime in Talladega
It took a few extra laps to crown this past Sunday’s victor, but just one lap was all Keselowski needed to grab his first victory of 2021 and get the Talladega monkey off his back. Results at superspeedways like Talladega can largely be reduced to randomness. However, for a multi-time winner at Talladega, Keselowski had been just plain bad in Alabama of late. Sunday was Keselowski’s first finish of better than 13th at Talladega since his win there seven races ago. Keselowski’s win also gave team owner Roger Penske his seventh straight year at Talladega with at least one win.
It is not worth dwelling too much on what happened Sunday since so little of it pertains to anything NASCAR DFS related until the regular-season finale in August. However, one thing it has done has cemented another driver into the playoffs after 11 races. With just one repeat winner in 2021, 10 of the possible 16 spots are locked up, including drivers like William Byron and Alex Bowman. At this rate, just winning may not be good enough to make this year’s playoffs. Furthermore, fringe teams that banked on fighting for a final spot via points will need to start adjusting strategies for wins instead of just playing it safe with points.
Buschy McBusch Race 400 NASCAR DFS Preview & Picks
NASCAR is back at Kansas Speedway, the 1.5-mile, intermediate, asphalt tri-oval. As corollaries, gamers can easily compare this track to Las Vegas, Kentucky, Charlotte and Texas due to its size and shape. However, with a fairly recent re-pavement, it is safer to not compare this venue to Homestead or Atlanta. During green-flag pitstops this Sunday, it won’t be uncommon for drivers to just change out two tires because the fall-off is negligible. This should create some interesting pit strategies, especially for drivers on the outside looking into the playoffs.
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Looking Back to 2019
Due to the way the 2020 NASCAR schedule was shuffled to accommodate tracks and the rate/way their states were reopening, the first Kansas race did not happen until July on a Thursday night. If you never been to Kansas in mid-July, basically you can wear the humidity like a shirt. Fast forward to the fall, and the playoff race at Kansas was brutally cold. It was one of the coldest races in recent Cup history. This is all to say, neither weather scenario is anywhere close to what is expected for this Sunday. According to forecasts, it’s going to be warm but not like last July.
Because of this, looking back to either race at Kansas last season is not a great hint of what to expect this year. Instead, go back to 2019 for a better idea of race expectations, specifically that fall playoff race — not only because of the weather but that starting grid looks a lot like the grid for this Sunday. This Sunday’s starting lineup is mixed up due to the formula relying on the fastest laps (random) and finishing position from Talladega. That fall-2019 Kansas starting lineup was all discombobulated due to one of the more random qualifying sessions in recent history.
Let’s go back to the 2019 Hollywood Casino 400 to find any parallels to help guide decisions for this Sunday.
Hollywood Casino 400
The wonkiness of this race can be summarized by Daniel Hemric and David Ragan starting on the front row. Nobody in the final top five started better than Kurt Busch in 11th. Nobody in the final top 10 started better than Martin Truex Jr. in 11th. The average starting position of those drivers in the top 10 was 26.2. However, dropping down to the drivers starting 30th or worse, just one of them managed to finish better than 27th. That driver was Kevin Harvick starting in 40th. The race had superspeedway elements but was by no means a Talladega-esque race. The punts still did exactly what one would presume them doing.
By the end of the 277 laps, extended an extra 10 laps due to two fairly massive wrecks, there were two dominators. The top lap leader was Denny Hamlin, who led 153 laps, followed by Kyle Larson, who led 60 laps. After starting 23rd, it took until lap 50 before Hamlin led his first lap — a nine-lap stretch in which Larson overtook him and led the majority of his laps (40 of 60) early on when no other real competition was around him to fight for the lead. Hamlin picked up large chunks of his laps-led totals on two longer green flag runs — 93 during a ran that spanned segments 1 and 2. His final 51-lap run started at lap 227 until the conclusion of the race.
Hollywood Casino 400 Optimal Lineups
So what happens when combining a traditional two dominator build with tons of place differential?
|Player Name||Start||Finish||Actual||Salary||Player Name||Start||Finish||Actual||Salary|
|Denny Hamlin||23||1||116.95||10,500||Kevin Harvick||40||9||75.2||14,500|
|Kyle Larson||5||14||56.25||9,400||Denny Hamlin||23||1||97||11,500|
|Erik Jones||20||7||61.25||8,400||William Byron||25||5||73.8||9,400|
|William Byron||25||5||65.55||8,200||Kurt Busch||15||4||70.2||9,200|
|Chris Buescher||26||13||44||6,700||Ryan Preece||28||12||64.7||4,500|
On DraftKings, gamers needed both of the top lap leaders along with those place differential drivers. On FanDuel, due to the smaller bonus for laps led and negative place differential, Larson gets kicked out, and the remaining four drivers are place differential-finishing position studs.
Now look at the starting grid for this Sunday’s race. Alex Bowman starts 25th, Hamlin starts 20th, and Larson starts 32nd. Meanwhile, look who starts upfront; Keselowski and Harvick are the only legitimate potential dominators with cases for the top 10. Yeah, this race looks like it could play out eerily similar to the Hollywood Casino 400 of 2019, both in real results and DFS.
The biggest question is, does anyone starting upfront lead enough laps to compensate for the place differential Hamlin, Larson, Logano all have? How drivers get priced by the sites is going to dictate lineup construction and how much place differential is too much.
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