Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 Track Preview

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is heading to Charlotte for its longest race of the entire season, the Coca-Cola 600. What do we need to know about the event from a DFS perspective?

One of the unique challenges with daily fantasy NASCAR is that every track is different. Not only does this mean that certain drivers will perform better at one place than another, but each track will have different scoring tendencies than the previous one. That means we need to alter our strategies pretty drastically.

Each week here on numberFire, we're going to dig into the track that's hosting the upcoming weekend's race to see what all we need to know when we're setting our lineups. We'll have a separate piece that looks at drivers who have excelled there in the past; here, we just want to know about the track itself. Once qualifying has been completed, we'll also have a primer detailing which drivers fit this strategy and should be in your lineup for that week.

This week, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is heading to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600. This is the longest race on the Cup series schedule as the drivers will log 400 laps around the track on Sunday night. Let's take a look at what strategies we should deploy.

Track Overview

This week's track preview's going to be a bit different than what we've had previously. That's because the Coca-Cola 600 is a unique beast.

No other race on the schedule is longer than 500 miles. This race goes 600 miles and 400 laps, meaning we get a 1.5-mile track that will flash tendencies similar to what we see at short tracks. It's a fun little challenge for daily fantasy.

This also means we can't look at what has happened here -- from a scoring perspective -- during the past fall races at Charlotte. Those are only 500 miles and 334 laps, making them a pretty decent deviation from this specific race. We can look at those when searching for drivers with plus track history in the driver preview, but we'll focus just on the 600 here.

With the 400 laps, there are 40 points available for laps led, the same that we had earlier this month in Dover. The big difference is that Charlotte is a longer track, meaning it's easier to pass here, similar to what we had two weeks ago in Kansas. Our strategies here for DFS will be a blend of the two tracks as a result.

The similarity to Dover is that we must find laps led. Failure to do so will leave your lineups sorely lacking in upside.

However, those laps led don't always come from a top-five starting position. Over the past four Coca-Cola 600s, six drivers have led at least 100 laps; only two of them started higher than 8th. The deepest starting position was 14th, but you can get laps led from drivers starting in that second tier.

So, without being able to lean on qualifying position, how do we identify the drivers who will lead those laps? Just look for cars that are fast in practice.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch had the best cars at last year's 600 for the entire night, leading 233 and 63 laps, respectively. Truex had the best 10-lap average in the second practice that weekend, and Busch was second in that practice. They also had track history and current form on their side, so these performances didn't come out of nowhere.

The one-lap speeds in practice will be the most accessible data, but make sure you track down 10-lap averages, as well. Most drivers should make at least one 10-lap run at some point over the weekend, giving us a glimpse at how fast their cars are beyond that one lap. Given the length of the race, this is going to be more actionable data than what we'll get from the single-lap runs.

Historic Scoring Trends

As mentioned, we need to find laps led at this race, but they don't necessarily have to come from cars starting at the front of the pack. So which starting positions should we target?

The chart below shows the FanDuel points scored by starting position over the past four Coca-Cola 600s. Because this pushes us back to before fields were shortened to a maximum of 40 drivers, scoring rules get a bit funky for the races in 2014 and 2015. As a result, any driver starting 41st through 43rd was classified as having started 40th, and anyone who finished 41st through 43rd was given one finishing point, the equivalent of having finished 40th. This should not make a noticeable difference on the outcome.

FanDuel Points by Starting Position at the Coca-Cola 600, 2014 to 2017

That tiny dot waaaay at the top is Truex in the 2016 race when he led 392 of a possible 400 laps. Dude's a cyborg here.

After that speck, it does seem pretty clear that we can get high-upside day from drivers who start in the middle of the pack. Of the 20 drivers to score at least 80 points in the past 4 races here, 8 started 15th or lower, and 5 were outside the top 20. If you see a driver there capable of snagging place-differential points and getting a good finish, you can absolutely plug them in.

But with that said, we do have to keep in mind the importance of laps led. Outside of that one crazy night from Truex, each of the other three races here in the past four years has featured at least two drivers who led 50 or more laps. There were actually three drivers who hit that mark in the 2015 race. That forces us to look at the optimal balance between laps led and place-differential points.

The chart below shows the five highest-scoring drivers for each of the past four races here and where they started. In the parenthesis is the number of laps that that driver led. This can give us a bit of a guide in knowing how many drivers we need on our roster who will lead laps.

Race 1 2 3 4 5
2017 8 (233) 22 (2) 2 (63) 12 (1) 6 (10)
2016 1 (392) 27 (0) 8 (0) 7 (5) 13 (0)
2015 10 (131) 3 (25) 14 (118) 15 (0) 19 (0)
2014 1 (164) 11 (100) 26 (34) 22 (4) 12 (33)

The top-scoring driver here in the race is going to be somebody who leads a lot of laps. That's inevitable, and you want that driver on your roster. But you also can't stop there.

Outside of Truex's romping, each of the other races had another top-five scorer lead at least 63 laps. Those drivers didn't always start near the front, but they still needed the ability to lead the pack.

One interesting note from that table above is that six drivers starting from 11th through 15th wound up as top-five scorers. That was more than any other five-spot starting interval in the field. This reiterates that we can select drivers starting outside the top 10 if we think they'll log a solid finish.

The basic thread here is that we need to get two drivers who will lead laps, but they can come pretty much anywhere within the top 15 positions. So, get your two studs and build from there.

The next step would be finding value plays who will help you afford the studs. More often than not, value plays won't contribute in the laps-led department, so we'll have to figure out a different plan for finding them.

Over the past four Coca-Cola 600s, there have been 17 drivers who have scored at least 75 FanDuel points without leading a single lap. Here's where those 17 drivers have started.

Starting Position 75+ Points, 0 Laps Led
1st to 5th 4
6th to 10th 1
11th to 15th 3
16th to 20th 4
21st to 25th 1
26th to 30th 2
31st to 35th 1
36th to 40th 1

The biggest grouping here seems to be the drivers starting 11th through 20th. Anecdotally, this makes sense. These are more mid-tier drivers who happen to have fast cars, can make up a few spots, and log a good finish. Those drivers have appeal for DFS.

Overall, the average starting position for these 17 drivers was 16.8, and their average finish was 7.0. That seems to be the type of profile you want to target in the middle range.

One thing to be wary of is the extreme value plays. Because the race is 400 laps long, it's going to take a bigger toll on equipment than other races do. If your driver can't go the distance, not only will they finish poorly, but you'll miss the points on FanDuel for laps completed. Neither of those is ideal.

As such, you may want to increase your pricing threshold for consideration just a tad. Last year, Chris Buescher started 29th and finished 20th to score 65.4 FanDuel points, and Casey Mears started 34th and finished 23rd to score 63.3 points in 2015. Those are the types of cars we want: ones that will start near the back but are still capable of running the entire race.