Weather permitting, NASCAR DFS is back again at Darlington with the Toyota 500K. The Lady in Black will once more be in the national spotlight as drivers tangle around the high banks for 228 laps.
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What Did We Learn Sunday?
The best place to begin our NASCAR DFS process for this short Wednesday night affair is to analyze Sunday’s race. The Real Heroes 400 was a big mystery as we had no current information to guide our research. While we still have no practice, what we do have is an actual race. Thus, let’s dig through Sunday’s event. Perhaps, we can find pertinent info to guide our expectations for Wednesday evening.
First, a green track showed its ugly head. Not only was it hard to pass the leader but it was easy to spin out. I will get to more on the passing later. We had six drivers lead 293 laps Sunday. However, just three of them led laps in the double digits. In fact, holding to past Darlington trends, the lap-leading hogs all came from the top-six starting positions. As far as cautions, we had eight real-life cautions. Seven of those were due to wrecks while the eighth was from debris. 19.5% of the race was run under the yellow flag and the average green flag run only lasted 21.5 laps. We should probably expect another race filled with yellow flags on Wednesday night.
Second, passing is tough at Darlington. I’m precisely looking at Kyle Busch. After being forced to the back after failing technical inspection twice, Busch couldn’t replicate his magic from last fall. He got mired in traffic and was stuck in the 15-25 range before ultimately finishing a lap down in 26th. If you look at the loop data from Sunday, you’ll see Busch made just 14 quality passes. Yes, there are outliers like Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch and John Hunter Nemechek who all picked up at least 19 positions. However, Kyle Busch made the advancements he could before tire wear made him equal to the field.
Passing has been an issue before at Darlington with the majority of spots picked up on pit road. With a return to a night venue, we may see place differential gains closer to Labor Day Weekend races and not this past Sunday.
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However, this could all be a moot point by race time because of the forecast. Not only did it rain on Monday but it’s projected to do the same today and tomorrow. Thus, if we even see a race, the track will be extremely green thanks to the rain. All of the rubber and grip laid on the Darlington asphalt will be gone. Once more we will be back to similar conditions we had when the green flag dropped on Sunday. Keep an eye on this as NASCAR may advance the start time by an hour to miss an evening shower. If it rains hard and long enough, we could see both Xfinity and Cup races moved to Thursday and Friday.
O’Donnell said yesterday that it could be possibly to have races Thursday and/or Friday in Darlington. But no contingency plans set. NASCAR policy of potentially starting races an hour earlier with 24-hour notice is still the policy as far as I know. Have heard of no updates yet. https://t.co/7WO42abiiZ
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) May 18, 2020
A Unique Situation for NASCAR DFS
Now let’s get down to the brass tacks for NASCAR DFS. Wednesday evening’s starting lineup was set by how the field finished on Sunday, save for NASCAR reversing the order of 1-20. Thus we have the odd pairing of Ryan Preece and Ty Dillon starting on the front row. However, the order in which drivers finished on Sunday is the order in which they pick their pit stalls. So Ryan Preece is on the pole but his team gets to make the 20th selection. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick starts 20th but gets to select the first pit box.
So let’s zoom out and look at the big picture of the starting grid. We have lots of drivers with 10, 15, 20 and 30 place differential to gain. Meanwhile, in the top-14 drivers, I only spot three likely dominators. Combine this with the fact that the race is only scheduled to run 228 laps and I think you only have two viable roster construction paths. This is relevant for both sites but perhaps more so on FanDuel.
NASCAR DFS Single Dominator Lineups
I mentioned three possible dominators from the top 14 above. Those include Joey Logano starting third, Ryan Blaney in fifth and Brad Keselowski in eighth. Outside of the Penske trio, it’s fairly easy to go down the grid and start marking names off. Are you really going to convince yourself Preece or Dillon can accrue enough dominator points to be worth rostering?
In tournaments, I would look to start with either Logano or Blaney as an early dominator. The first stage is scheduled to go 60 laps, an easy goal for either of them. Sunday showed us that with clean air, a driver can sit on the lead. These two are more than capable of taking the lead from this flotsam ahead. The added bonus of rostering any of these three is their discounted salaries. DraftKings wanted to make building lineups tough for Wednesday. They inflated the place differential drives and lowered this trio. Consequently, we need fewer points from Logano, Blaney and Keselowski for them to make value.
After that, it’s as simple as building around all of the place differential drivers.
NASCAR DFS Zero Dominator Lineups
With only 228 laps on tap, laps led/fastest lap points will be harder to come by. Instead of trying to figure out which driver earns the most dominator points, we chase place differential. Those points earned for gaining positions are there for a gaggle of drivers. If multi-entering, you should be able to come up with several different lineup combinations. If playing cash, this is probably your preferred lineup building method.
For the drivers starting 15th through 20th, you’re going to have to gauge their ceilings with nothing but place differential versus that of Logano, Blaney or Keselowski should they lead a large portion of the race. It’s all a matter of who’s value is easier to attain.
The math is relatively simple. Just for the sake of the argument let’s say they all earn 10 place differential spots. Well, that’s not going to be good enough. Logano could lead the first segment and outscore them by just laps led points. In order for these drivers to make value at their inflated salaries, you need them to garner dominator points as well. The most likely of this crew has to be Harvick and Alex Bowman. They have been the best in this package. They were the best two drivers this past Sunday. Furthermore, they get the first two pit stalls.
One more thing before we move on to actual plays: with the threat of rain, we could conceivably this race only go to lap 125. If that’s the case, then going after just place differential will end up being optimal.
Top NASCAR DFS Plays
Kurt Busch 18th ($9,400 FanDuel, $8,700 DraftKings) – Truex got a bump. Hamlin got a bump. Elliott got a bump. Bowman got a big bump. Harvick saw a minute increase. Yet, for some reason, both sites decided that Kurt Busch didn’t need a large salary bump to match his place differential upside. We saw him move with relative ease from 22nd to second on Sunday. There is no reason to expect any less under the lights on Wednesday.
Kyle Busch 26th ($13,000 FanDuel, $12,000 DraftKings) – What we witnessed on Sunday is not the Kyle Busch we know at this track. We know NASCAR failed Busch for his setup Sunday afternoon. Perhaps it was an aggressive setup or the traffic that hindered him. We’ve seen Busch thrive at Darlington under the lights. A scenario closer to last year’s Southern 500 is on the table as opposed to the mess we saw from the 18 team on Sunday.
Busch has the hardest salary to pay off but he also has the most place differential to gain among the likely winners.
Jimmie Johnson 38th/William Byron 34th – I’m not enamored with either Hendrick driver, this is simply a play on how many spots either driver can gain. Both saw their days end early on Sunday due to wrecks. Now they realistically have around 20 spots to gain and perhaps even more. Hopefully their crew chiefs will have learned something from Bowman’s Sunday setup and that will transfer over into tomorrow.
If you want to save some salary and opt for a driver with better track history than Johnson or Byron, Chris Buescher starts 32nd. Another salary saver with more place differential is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. starting 39th. I warned against playing Stenhouse multiple times and he rewarded everyone who rostered him with negative fantasy points, wrecking out on lap 2. However, now he has nowhere to go but up. Stenhouse is probably a 25th-place car. So do you want to pay $7,900 on DraftKings for roughly 33 points? Probably not.
Punt plays were easy on Sunday as they stuck out like sore thumbs. Now it’s really tough. Everyone priced below $6,000 on DraftKings either seems destined to lose tons of spots, i.e. Preece and Dillon, or not move at all. For me, the decision comes down to Michael McDowell in 23rd or Corey Lajoie in 31st.
McDowell is probably only capable of picking up a few more spots if any. However, he has the ability to actually hold his position. Lajoie has the most place differential to gain. With SHR funding, his 32 car is by far the best-equipped vehicle among the cheapies too. However, there’s a reason he starts 32nd. He has failed to make the SHR partnership actually look a tangible thing on the track.
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