Daily Fantasy iRacing Helper: North Wilkesboro 160
Saturday night at North Wilkesboro will be the final race of the iRacing Pro Invitational Series before the Cup Series lights it back up next weekend in Darlington. It has been a fun distraction, especially if you're William Byron, winner of three of the six races the series has run.
But for the last race in the series, we've got a twist. Byron's not in the field.
It's the final weekend before the Cup Series begins a wicked scheduled where there'll have four races in 11 days, so Byron sitting out makes sense. But it also dramatically alters the field for daily fantasy on FanDuel.
Not only has Byron won races, but he has held a monopoly on laps led. You get 0.25 FanDuel points from laps led, and Byron has controlled a whopping 53.6% of those bonus points. Everything's up for grabs now.
With Byron gone, we'll have to alter our approach, both from a driver selection perspective (as he was basically a free space everywhere outside of Talladega) and from a roster construction perspective. Which drivers stand out in iRacing's final hurrah before we get back to normalcy? Let's check it out.
Byron's lone true rival the entire iRacing schedule has been Timmy Hill ($15,000). Saturday's race seems to be Hill's to lose as he's +275 to win at DraftKings Sportsbook, the only driver shorter than +650. He does have a decently major non-Byron obstacle to overcome, though, which impacts his DFS outlook.
Once again, NASCAR is sending the top three finishers from last week's event to the rear at the start. Byron would have been one of them, and the other two are Hill and Christopher Bell ($8,400). They'll be starting outside the top 25 and will have to work their way through the field. Hill is definitely capable of doing so, which means betting him to win certainly isn't out of the question. It does, though, put a cap on the number of laps he can lead.
One strategy you could deploy here is a double-stud approach. If you think Hill will still finish well despite the poor starting position, you can use him. However, you need to pair him with another driver with the potential to start up front and lead laps while Hill works his way through the field. The starting position prevents Hill from being a must-use driver in DFS, but he's still in play as long as you account for the starting spot by going with a top-heavy approach.
One driver who fits well in the Hill-centric build is Landon Cassill ($10,200). Cassill has started 12th or better in each race thus far, and he has started in the top six four times. He has turned that into quality results, too, with three top-five finishes. Cassill doesn't come with an overly restrictive salary, either, so he's likely your ideal target when you want to jam Hill in.
If you decide to fade Hill, you have more flexibility, and Cassill works for those builds, too. The other top contenders seem to be Ryan Preece ($12,000) and Garrett Smithley ($11,000).
Preece is one of the few drivers who has been able to control long chunks of a race out front, leading 59 laps in Richmond. His tires wore down, and he eventually fell to a 19th-place finish, but Preece has shown up well elsewhere with two top-fives and four top-10s. He's +650 to win, tied with Denny Hamlin ($11,500) for the second-shortest odds behind Hill.
Smithley is right behind them at 7/1, and he has been consistent throughout the iRacing schedule. He has three top-fives and just one finish outside the top 10. Smithley showed he can tick off laps led, playing pied piper for 24 circuits in Homestead and 11 in Dover. Neither he nor Preece has restrictions on where they'll start, putting both in a favorable position to rack up big upside.
For the mid-range, it's helpful to know some background on why iRacing is even going to North Wilkesboro in the first place.
The Cup Series hasn't been to the track since 1996, and it had gotten overgrown with brush. In order to scan the track and add it into iRacing, they had to weed whack the entire track over the winter.
The driver who spear-headed that mission? Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,000).
Clearly, Earnhardt's going to put in the work to make sure he has this track down pat, and he has been solid in iRacing to begin with. He nearly won the opener in Homestead and had two other top-10s. Earnhardt also added a third-place finish in an Indy Car iRace at Michigan. He has started in the top five in every Pro Invitational Series race, giving him laps-led upside, so this might be a good chance to buy into a narrative and lock in Earnhardt.
For cheaper options in this tier, we should consider Michael McDowell ($8,100) and Ross Chastain ($7,000).
McDowell has steadily improved as the iRacing calendar has progressed, finishing 14th in Texas, 10th in Bristol, and then 5th in Dover. Qualifying hasn't been his forte, but we're looking more for finishes than the ability to lead laps in this tier.
Chastain is yet to finish better than 14th, which is a pretty major concern. He has shown single-lap speed, though, starting in the front two rows in three of six races. He has also been fairly consistently in the teens with just two finishes outside the top 20. For $7,000, that'll at least get the job done.
At the top end of the value tier, Bobby Labonte ($6,500) continues to impress.
He logged a 13th-place finish last week in Dover, meaning he has now finished ether 13th or 14th in four of six races. As with McDowell, there's no chance for laps-led upside here due to poor starting positions, but if you're trying to maximize finishing points, Labonte has juice.
Cole Custer ($5,000) isn't an iRacing veteran by any means, but he seems to have caught on quickly. He made his debut at Talladega two races ago, and he already has a 12th-place finish to his name from last week in Dover. Custer likely brings more risk than Labonte because his track record is shorter, but there may be some upside here if he can duplicate what he did in the penultimate race.
One name to keep an eye on is Jon Wood ($4,500). Wood is making his Pro Invitational Series debut, but he has 24 career iRacing events under his belt. Although his record is more decent than spectacular, he likely holds an experience edge over a chunk of the field. Unfortunately, there was a death in Wood's family this week, so you'll have to double-check on Saturday to make sure Wood is scheduled to be in the field. If he does make the start, he could be a quality salary-saver likely to fly under the radar.
If Wood does withdraw, J.J. Yeley ($3,500) is the other intriguing value. He's similar to Custer in that he debuted at Talladega, and he has turned both of his races into top-20 finishes thus far. That's not much to go on, but if it helps you jam in multiple drivers with the ability to lead laps, the payoff can be worth it.