Following Kyle Larson‘s first career road course victory, NASCAR heads back to Texas — not for any ordinary race, but the 2021 All-Star Race. Let’s recap racing action from this past Sunday at Sonoma and what to expect for NASCAR DFS in Sunday evening’s All-Star Race.
Larson Takes Sonoma
The expectation going into Sunday was that a certain driver for Hendrick Motorsports was going to lead the majority of laps and win the race. Not many people though figured it would be Kyle Larson instead of Chase Elliott. Coming into Sunday, Larson had about as a lackluster record at a track as a driver could have. Especially on the cusp of three straight starting positions of first with no finish better than 10th. Yet Larson showed once more in this 2021 campaign that whatever he’s previously done just doesn’t matter.
From the initial green flag, it was apparent Larson had the fastest car in the field, as he drove away from the pack without any issue. In fact, he did this multiple times from the front row, regardless of the lane he chose. When Larson was forced to march through the field following pit stops, he did so with relative ease easily making his way back to the front. This performance showed that Larson’s second-place finish at COTA was more than a fluke. It was a sign of things to come at Sonoma.
Larson’s victory became his third of the season and is now the betting favorite to win the 2021 championship at +450. The great question to answer is, is Larson just on an other-worldly hot streak or is this the driver he’s always been, shrouded behind mid-tier or worse equipment for the majority of his career?
2021 NASCAR All-Star Race Preview
With 10 races remaining in the 2021 regular season schedule, NASCAR takes a break for its All-Star Race this Sunday. The point of the All-Star Race is simple: Put the Series’ best drivers against one another in modified vehicles with nothing but money on the line. With no points up for grabs, and thus no implication towards the playoffs or championship picture, drivers and their teams can go all out in the pursuit of $1 million.
With this being an “All-Star Race,” it naturally means not everyone gets to race on Sunday evening. Seventeen drivers have their positions locked into the race coming on the heels of either being a past All-Star Race champion (Ryan Newman) or race winner since the 2020 All-Star Race. Those 16 drivers are: Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney and William Byron. Three other spots will be awarded to “open” race winners that will be held before the All-Star event. A final spot will be given to the driver who wins the fan vote.
When the race finally starts at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, 21 drivers will compete for the grand prize. Not a full field but from a real-life NASCAR perspective, it is nice to have a one-off race where drivers with no realistic shot of winning are removed from the picture.
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Getting Weird in Fort Worth
It was mentioned above how these vehicles will be slightly modified. NASCAR will still run the low horsepower/high downforce, but a tapered spacer will be added reducing these machines down an additional 40 horsepower. NASCAR stands firmly committed to the idea that less horsepower equals more competition. What difference a tapered spacer makes in leveling the field is to be determined.
However, that tweak will not be the only thing getting manipulated by NASCAR on Sunday. Instead of just making this race at Texas a run-of-the-mill, 100-lap exhibition race, NASCAR has added the following stipulations to keep this race, fans and DFS players on their toes:
- 100 laps split into six different segments.
- Four segments consisting of 15 laps apiece, the fifth segment of 30 laps, and a final 10 lap shootout.
- The starting lineup for the first segment will be done via a random draw.
- The starting grid will be realigned once again in segment 2 via another random draw.
- Segment 3 will see the running order from segment 2 inverted to set this segment’s running order.
- The fourth segment will have its starting order inverted once again based on how drivers finished in segment 3.
- Where drivers start in segment 5 will be based on cumulative scores, i.e., how they finished in segments 1 through 4.
- During segment 5, everyone must pit. The fastest team will earn an extra $100,000 bonus.
- The running order of segment 5 will amazingly determine the running order of segment 6.
- Whoever is running first at the end of the 10-lap segment will be crowned the victor.
Confused yet? It sounds more convoluted than it actually is. Essentially, NASCAR is forcing drivers to do their best to race to the front from various starting positions in four 15-lap heat races. Then drivers have 30 laps to race to the front and a final 10 laps to fight for the crown.
DraftKings & FanDuel All-Star Race DFS Picks
With all of this madness, what does it mean for DFS? To begin with, projecting who leads, how much and when is going to be a headache. For example, Kyle Busch could start on the pole via the random draw for segment 1. However, following that segment, he could easily get randomly assigned the 20th starting position for segment 2. Assuming he races up to seventh by the end of that segment, his invert will place him back in the teens. Busch will repeat this feat again in segment 4 and wind up back in the single digits. However, the next invert will throw him once again into the back of the field.
After the final 40 laps, he will finish top five. Those are great finishing position fantasy points, but he ended up losing place differential. Furthermore, in this scenario, he led at most 15 laps. This could be a fantastic fantasy day, mediocre or even bad compared to someone who ends up with dominator points and place differential. Projecting fantasy points for this race is going to be a nightmare.
With so much up in the air about how this race plays out with all of its field resets, DFS players should fall back on the one thing that won’t change: Where drivers started the race (place differential). Plus, with just 100 laps, dominator points are going to be minimal, and chances are the event could see no one lead more than 20 laps with the field getting reshuffled. In the end, when making judgments about drivers on Sunday for DFS lineups, go with the two biggest determinants of fantasy scoring in such a short race, place differential and finishing position points.
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