Following William Byron‘s victory at Homestead, NASCAR heads West to Nevada and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It will be a total of 267 laps that commence around the oval track of Las Vegas at the Pennzoil 400 this Sunday. Without further ado, let’s jump into this week’s preview highlighting everything you need to know for NASCAR DFS on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Pennzoil 400 DratKings & FanDuel NASCAR DFS Preview
What’s Up With 2021?
Before we look at Las Vegas, let’s take a quick step back and look at this short season already. Why, you ask? Well, people seem pretty alarmed at the “parity” in the sport through three weeks. We have three different winners at three different tracks for three different teams and three different manufacturers.
Thus far, only two drivers have finished in the Top-10 of all three races: Kevin Harvick and the surprise of 2021 – Michael McDowell. People are losing their minds and wondering if this final season of the Generation-Six car is going to be one of the wilder seasons in recent memory.
I just wonder what we’re freaking out about. A driver with a demonstrated positive history in superspeedway races (McDowell) happened to be running third when Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano crossed paths for the lead. In the second race of the season, Christopher Bell won as a result of a questionable caution thrown by NASCAR for intermittent rain while Chase Elliott was in firm control of the race. Last weekend, Byron led over 100 laps and ran away with the third stage when the sun went down and the track cooled down.
Now, let’s recap these last three weeks: A solid superspeedway driver won a superspeedway race. A driver for Joe Gibbs, with former Kyle Busch crew chief Adam Stevens, won at the Daytona Road Course. Finally, a Hendrick driver won with the crew chief (Randy Fugle) that he won the Trucks championship with. Yeah, this sounds like things that should be expected. In fact, this feels like a lot of unnecessary hand-wringing.
But what about Michael McDowell? His average finishing position through only three weeks is fifth place; that’s tied for best in the Series with Kevin Harvick. However, his average running position sits in 15th, making that 10-spot difference even more important. Chances are that his finishing position will start mirroring his average running position as the season goes on. You say, what about Chris Buescher leading 57 laps? You mean to tell me you’re losing your mind because a Roush-Fenway Ford led some laps, and that driver once got stuck in traffic, he couldn’t advance any further?
Yeah, we’re moving on to Las Vegas…
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Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is your prototypical, intermediate mile-and-a-half venue. This D-shaped oval has an asphalt surface with progressive banking (12-20 degrees) in the corners. It is much more akin to tracks like Kansas, Texas and Charlotte than what we saw last week at Homestead. Although the pavement is older (2006), it is still newer than the tire-consuming track of Homestead.
Ever since the 2018 season, Las Vegas has been home to two races. The first one was an early-Spring race that we’re witnessing this weekend. Las Vegas has always had an early spot on the calendar to coincide with the West Coast swing that NASCAR goes on. Plus, it provided the best avenue for NASCAR to have racing at this track without the sultry conditions that accompany most days in Sin City.
Pennzoil 400 Dominator Scenario
Dating back to 2013, there has been nothing static about how the laps led shake out at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We’ve seen everything from five drivers leading at least 10% of the race in 2014 to a lone dominator in 2018 when Kevin Harvick led 214 out of the 267 laps. If you’d like to try to isolate these numbers from the laps led data page to races with stage breaks, there hasn’t been a static pattern there either.
As you can see from this chart, the number of drivers that lead 10% or more of the race is quite random over these last six races. You can’t really isolate it by years, summer versus winter, or anything else of value.
However, what we consistently see is at least two main dominators. In our main 11-race data set, our top lap leader is leading 118 laps per race with a low of 53 in 2014 and the previously-mentioned high of 214 in 2018. If you narrow this range to just the last three years then the top dominator is leading 127 laps per race.
In that same data set, our second dominator is leading 67 laps per race with a high of 89 in 2017 and a low of 47 (15, 19). Likewise, if you look at just Las Vegas races since 2018, then the second dominator sees an incremental increase to 70 laps led per event.
Thus, whether you look at races since 2018, or all Las Vegas races since the introduction of the Generation Six car, it’s a safe bet to project that our top two dominators will lead nearly 200 out of the 267 laps. We may see a third driver approach 10% or more of the laps led, as we have in the past three races. Yet, those laps led totals have only amounted to 32, 54 and 29 laps. Numbers not even worth worrying about for DFS, unless they come paired with place differential.
NASCAR DFS DraftKings & FanDuel Lineup Construction
In the Race Sheets, you’ll find data from both of the 2020 races at Las Vegas. Paired with that data are the optimal lineups for DraftKings and FanDuel. For our purposes, I want to focus on last year’s Pennzoil 400 as our best corollary to this year’s edition of that race. However, you will see in the summer race (South Point 400) that the same general lineup construction won out.
|Driver Name||Start||Finish||Actual||Salary||Driver Name||Start||Finish||Actual||Salary|
|Kevin Harvick||3||8||69.5||12000||Joey Logano||5||1||77.1||13000|
|Joey Logano||5||1||69.5||10700||Matt DiBenedetto||19||2||75.2||7800|
|Ricky Stenhouse||26||3||71.5||7600||Austin Dillon||21||4||72.3||7600|
|Matt DiBenedetto||19||2||59||7400||Ricky Stenhouse||26||3||79.2||6000|
|Bubba Wallace Jr||27||6||59||6300||Bubba Wallace Jr||27||6||72.2||5000|
Last year’s optimal lineup for DraftKings followed the guideline I just laid out above, focusing on two dominators, even though we had four drivers lead 10% or more of the race. Besides our dominators who led 92 and 70 laps, the rest of the lineup was focused around place differential drivers. In fact, this lineup has a very cash-style look to it with the dominators and no other driver starting further forward than Matt Dibenedetto in 19th. Imagine entering this lineup in your head-to-head games, and not in tournaments.
What led to this cash lineup being optimal were some goofy scenarios at the end when a late caution forced drivers to pit or try and win on old tires. As you can guess, the above drivers made the gamble to stay out and it paid off. Thus, when looking over the Super Sheet take into consideration this late caution before reading the box scores as Gospel. Regardless, based on what this week’s starting order should look like, it’s going to be tough to get away from dual-dominator lineup construction again.
Something to note on the FanDuel side is how much salary cap was leftover. Once again, the FanDuel optimal looks like it came from Daytona and not an intermediate track. Despite leading 92 laps that afternoon, Harvick finished with just the ninth-highest score and was not in the FanDuel optimal. In fact, the second dominator that day, Joey Logano, barely made the optimal with the fifth-highest score. That wonky finish propelled a bunch of cars forward giving them premium place differential. Thus, this lineup looks like a cash build as well. If you had that much salary cap left over, you would probably start again with your build.
This week for FanDuel, I’m advocating for a duel dominator build as well. Eventually, we’re going to slowly lose all the appealing place differential like we had last week. As this happens, optimal lineups should return to normal with emphasis on dominators and not just place differential and finishing position.
Looking for more Pennzoil 400 NASCAR DFS picks content? We have loads of NASCAR DFS articles, data, DraftKings and FanDuel cheat sheets and more on the Awesemo NASCAR home page. Just click HERE.
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