Following Kurt Busch‘s victory in Atlanta, NASCAR heads back to the northeast for 301 laps around New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This NASCAR DFS preview will analyze the fallout of that Atlanta race, how the 2021 playoffs look and what to expect for NASCAR DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel this Sunday in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.
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Kurt Busch Finds the Winner’s Circle
Just a few months ago there was serious concern with Kurt Busch and his performance. By the end of the Coke 600, Busch was facing his third DNF of the season and a grand total of three laps led through 15 events. With 13 weeks since his last top-10 finish, serious doubt crept around the industry about just how viable Busch still was. Outside of a miraculous win, 2021 looked like a year that the No. 1 car would not be racing for a championship.
However, following that busted engine at Charlotte, Busch started a hot streak that culminated in Sunday’s win at Atlanta. Since his sixth-place finish at Sonoma, he has only finished outside of the top 10 in one of six races. This recent run helped propel him into the final playoff spot over Chris Buescher. Sunday’s win guaranteed him a spot in the playoffs, as he now sits in eighth place.
Busch’s victory was not the only story emerging from Atlanta, especially in the Chip Ganassi camp. Call it a block, or just sheer refusal to yield to the leader who was about to pass Ross Chastain, a perfect storm was created for Busch to carry his momentum from Turn 4 and pass his younger brother down the front stretch. Kyle Busch was able to reel in Kurt later on, nearly pulling up beside him, but Kyle’s tires were so used up at that point that he could not make the pass.
Farewell Old Friend
The conclusion to the Quaker State 400 saw the end of an era in Atlanta. No sooner had Kurt Busch take his car to victory lane and Kyle Busch put out a death notice for Chastain did the crew at Atlanta start taking down the safer barrier. Following 25 years of fantastic racing, Atlanta is in the process of reshaping itself from a standard intermediate oval into what can only be called “mini-Daytona.” Click here for more info on this transformation, but to sum it up, Atlanta is getting its long-awaited repave, along with added banking and narrowing of the track.
In all, this new version of Atlanta should race more like a superspeedway. However, race fans will not really know until next season when NASCAR returns to Atlanta and cars set out for practice. Atlanta officials have a strong idea of what they think fans want to see in Atlanta. Oddly enough, that picture does not seem to match what the actual drivers want from this venue. As the drivers continue to lament these full-scale changes, it is unknown just how strict Atlanta will stick to its original overhaul plans.
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The Playoffs with Five Races Remaining
As NASCAR makes the final turn before the regular season concludes at Daytona, the playoff picture has gotten pretty clear. Via Kurt Busch’s victory, 12 drivers have their spots all but guaranteed in the playoffs. The four remaining spots belong to Denny Hamlin (+369), Kevin Harvick (+159), Austin Dillon (+104), and Tyler Reddick (+96). This near 100-point chasm between Reddick and 17th place Chris Buescher feels nearly insurmountable. Yet, this same argument was made about Buescher and his 100-point lead over Matt DiBenedetto back at Sonoma. Fast-forward a month and Buescher is out of the playoff picture while Kurt Busch rose from obscurity to not only take that seat via points but guarantee a spot with his win.
This final homestretch includes New Hampshire, two road courses, Michigan, and Daytona. The only viable path for anyone below the cutoff line is to either string together top-10 finishes, as Kurt Busch did, or go out and win at Daytona. Considering this gaggle of drivers (Bubba Wallace, Matt DiBenedetto, Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ross Chastain) the path via Daytona feels the likelier route we could see.
Living on Loudon Time
As previously mentioned, NASCAR makes its annual trip to New England for 301 laps around New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Digging into research for New Hampshire is a little tough, albeit for two reasons. First off, New Hampshire only gets one race a year and it has been that way since 2018. In this week’s Race Sheets, DFS players will notice a grand total of three races to gauge for research purposes.
Second, there are few tracks to accurately correlate to New Hampshire. NASCAR has raced the high-horsepower package at six tracks in 2021: Phoenix, Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington, Dover, and Nashville. Fantastic, six races, but just how many of those tracks race or even look like New Hampshire? Phoenix is a yes as they are both a mile in length. Martinsville has no banking and is half a mile long, so no. Richmond, similarly to New Hampshire has progressive banking but is 3/4 of a mile, so sort of yes. Darlington, Dover, and Nashville are all either at a mile or longer and or have so much banking it makes New Hampshire look flat.
One could add Nashville to this discussion, but adding the Cup Series’ first race there to this equation might not be wise. At the very least, it will make DFS players discount a slew of drivers who failed simply because of undersized brake rotors.
Regardless, the best corollary is going to be Phoenix – a race that took place back on March 14th. For the sake of data, in the Race Sheets the numbers from Richmond were included to give DFS players more than one race to weigh past New Hampshire numbers against. Even then, that Richmond race took place on April 18th. In the end, two races spaced a month apart and neither has taken place since mid-April. Not perfect by any means but for the sake of establishing the best corollaries and not adding unnecessary noise from dissimilar tracks, this is the best there is. If anyone wants to dig into these race-specific numbers, or just the 750-horsepower package, they can check out those numbers here.
Final NASCAR DFS Notes
If there was a theme to both Phoenix and Richmond it would be Martin Truex Jr. After Joey Logano led much of the race at Phoenix, Truex made a late run to grab the lead and win the race. Jump ahead a month and Truex led the majority of the race at Richmond before losing the lead late to Alex Bowman. So, by this logic, it is natural to assume someone is going to lead the bulk of this race and then lose it late? Perhaps, but that is not the point. It is that Truex ran strong at both races, in fact, he is one of only three drivers that finished in the top five at both events. The other two include Denny Hamlin and the aforementioned Joey Logano. These three should be at the top of everyone’s list as potential dominators on Sunday.
As per dominators, this tweet thread summarizes everything pertinent for Sunday:
Dominator facts for New Hampshire, since 2013:
– Average Starting Position of the top two lap leaders: 5.16
– Number of top lap leaders to start outside of the top-10: 2 out of 25.
– Average number of laps led & fastest laps by top dominator: 135.38 laps led/ 62.84 fast laps
— It’s Philllllll (@RaceSheetsDFS) July 13, 2021
Speaking of dominators, with just 301 laps on tap, this will be a two dominator build in cash and tournaments. Without any knowledge of salaries, lineups should be based around two drivers that are expected to lead the bulk of laps – most likely from the front seven. This starting grid looks like a typical race, unlike last week that made DFS players decide of paying up for place differential was better than paying for a second dominator.
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