The running order is set via random draw and we’re ready to dive into this Sunday’s top NASCAR DFS plays. As I highlighted in my preview article, we’re looking at a dual-dominator build on either DraftKings or FanDuel. However, should value present itself with cheap potential semi-dominators, we won’t hesitate to roster them as well.
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The Front Row
First, let’s begin with the driver who is not on the pole, Ryan Blaney. The driver of the No. 12 has been pretty fantastic at Texas in his short Cup career, especially since the repave. In Blaney’s past six starts at Texas, he owns five top-12 finishes, including second in the fall 2018 race. Furthermore, he is averaging 21.3 fastest laps and 38.8 laps led per race over the last three years.
When you look at Blaney’s numbers this season in the 550-HP package at 1 1/2- or two-mile ovals, you see a top-tier driver with four top-five finishes, 23 fastest laps and 23.6 laps led per race. He has track history, he has current form and he has track position. Blaney should be a staple of your DraftKings and FanDuel lineups.
The pole sitter, Aric Almirola, is an interesting study in form mattering more than track history. Ever since finishing 33rd at Martinsville, Almirola has rolled up six straight top-eight finishes, including fifth at Homestead and eighth at Kentucky last week. Speaking of Kentucky, Almirola wrangled the lead away early and led over 90 laps — a scenario not many of us saw coming. In this package over the year at intermediate ovals, his numbers are so-so, but I say we should continue to ride this hot streak. Even if he wasn’t rattling off high finishes and dominator points, he would still make a great play based on what he’s recently done at Texas.
In Almirola’s two seasons with SHR, he’s gotten considerably better, with consecutive finishes of eighth, seventh and second. The last time the Cup Series was here, Almirola led 62 laps from the sixth position. Now he has the preferred groove and clean air.
Other Potential Dominators
If Kevin Harvick is not paired with both or one of the drivers on the front row, you are playing with fire. First off, Harvick has been the king of Texas for quite some time. He’s won the fall Texas race for three years running now and hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 in the past five years. Since the 2016 repave, Harvick has led on average 83 laps while knocking down 53 fastest laps per race. The next closest driver in terms of average DraftKings points is Kyle Busch with 60 compared to Harvick’s 92.6.
As far as recency, Harvick has been a real threat to win nearly every race in the past month. The closest comparable track to Texas, shape and temperature-wise, is Atlanta where Harvick won after leading 151 laps. Don’t overthink the play, just play Harvick on either DraftKings or FanDuel.
Instead of talking up Denny Hamlin again, let’s discuss Martin Truex Jr. starting 10th. Truex has been a fairly consistent driver at Texas since the ’16 repave with five top-12 finishes. The lone blemish is from the spring 2018 race when he wrecked out after cutting down a tire. The case for Truex comes down to green flag speed. When you average out the six 1.5-mile tracks NASCAR has raced at this year, Truex ranks second in terms of fastest laps. Truex closed out Kentucky exceptionally well and could have won that race if not for the late cautions. Going back to the corollary of Atlanta, Truex finished third after leading 65 laps.
NASCAR DFS Place Differential – GPP
Is Erik Jones a trap? More often than not, he has been. In reverse order his finishes have gone; 22nd, 35th, third, 38th, fifth, 21st, 20th, 28th, fifth, 26th, 11th, fifth and eighth since the return to racing at Darlington. With Jones, you get a few spike weeks of top-five finishes but more often than not, he’s wrecking out or stuck in the 20s. At Texas, Jones has fared pretty well with no finish outside of the top 10 in the past two years. However, it’s his recent form that has me scared. Jones is better suited for tournaments at this point. In cash, he carries way too much variance for way too much salary.
On FanDuel, it makes no sense to play Jones at $10,000 when you can just go down $1,000 to Christopher Bell who starts 33rd. DraftKings has yet to release salaries. However, we have to assume his price will be above the $11,000 mark for the fourth straight week. I’ve been betting on Bell to finally not finish in the top 10 and it hasn’t worked. Should DraftKings keep Bell at astronomical numbers, he’s still a hard fade for me, especially when I want to fit in Harvick, Blaney and perhaps even Almirola.
NASCAR DFS Place Differential – Cash
At the current count, I have 13 drivers highlighted in green as place differential plays. Depending on who your cornerstone dominator plays are, you can go lots of different directions with your place differential drivers. Assuming salaries remain static on DraftKings, my favorite cash game play will be Michael McDowell once again. McDowell continues to show a high floor week in and week out. Now he starts 34th and is your best bet at cheap place differential.
McDowell should be a staple on FanDuel as well. However, if you need the extra money, I really don’t mind pivoting to Daniel Suarez at $4,500. If track conditions lend to Texas being a wreck-fest, we could see Suarez thrive. His best finishes in the 96 have come in attrition races. Plus, in his one season with SHR, he excelled at Texas with back-to-back third-place finishes. Perhaps whatever he picked up last season can carry over to the Gaunt Brothers on Sunday.
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