Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 Driver Preview
Two of the biggest pillars of driver selection in daily fantasy NASCAR are track history and current form. Knowing where drivers sit on both of those spectrums is going to make our lineups look a whole lot nicer at the end of the race.
By looking at which drivers have excelled at this week's track in the past and those who are currently racing well, we can know which drivers are in line to be good plays for the slate. That's what we're going to try to do today, dividing drivers into those two buckets with noteworthy track history or noteworthy current form.
Clearly, this isn't to say that all of these drivers will be great plays in this race. A lot of that will be dictated by where they start and the scoring history at that track. To read more about what strategies we need to deploy based on starting position, check out this week's track preview.
Later in the week, once qualifying is in the books, we'll go through the top plays for the race based on all of these factors. But which drivers should we be keying on for the time being? Let's check it out. Here are drivers we should be monitoring for the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte.
Martin Treux Jr. (FanDuel Price: $12,500): Ever since Martin Truex Jr. started to consistently contend for victories on the Monster Energy Cup Series circuit, he has been fully dominant in Charlotte. There's just nobody else on his level right now at this track.
Truex has logged a top-five finish in five of the past six races in Charlotte, two of which have resulted in trips to victory lane. But it's not just the finishes that are impressive; he has led a whopping 847 laps in those 6 races, 392 of which came in one race. No other driver has led more than 248 laps in this same time frame.
Truex has logged back-to-back top-five finishes, ending a streak of four straight races outside the top 10. He's the only guy who can give Kevin Harvick a run this week for being dubbed the pre-weekend "favorite" to win.
Kyle Busch ($11,700): There is only one active Cup series track at which Kyle Busch has never won. That would be this one in Charlotte. But don't let that trick you into thinking he's not good here.
In 28 career starts at Charlotte, Busch has logged 11 top-5 finishes. He has been runner-up three times, including last year's Coke 600, which he would have won had Austin Dillon run out of fuel, having passed Truex for second on the last lap. Busch's average running position in that race was third.
To make it even better, Busch has been in the same tier as Harvick this season. Busch has had an average running position of 7th or better in 9 of 12 races, and he led 116 laps at a very similar Texas track en route to a victory. If Busch shows speed again in practice, don't let his track history push you away from putting him on your rosters.
Kurt Busch ($11,000): Kurt Busch very well could have gone in the section on current form as well, but we'll slide him up here and then gush over all of his teammates down there. Regardless, Busch will need to be on our wishlists heading into Thursday.
Starting with the track history, Busch has finished in the top 10 at Charlotte in 5 of the past 6 races. He finished 22nd last fall, but even in that one, his average running position was 7th.
Busch has been impressive in 2018 on tracks similar to this, too. He led at least 40 laps in both Atlanta and Texas -- the two tracks most similar to Charlotte -- holding average running positions of fifth in Atlanta and fourth in Texas. Potentially because Busch has yet to get a win, his salary of $11,000 sells his abilities a bit short. He's fully capable of jumping out and getting you points for laps led this weekend, so don't overlook Kurt when gushing over Truex, Harvick, and Busch's brother, Kyle.
Erik Jones ($10,000): Erik Jones won't knock your socks off with finishes of 7th and 17th last year at Charlotte, his lone two Cup series races here. But he does quite a bit that should grab your attention in this price range.
In the Coke 600 last year, Jones started in the top five, and he stayed near the front the entire race. His average running position was 11th, and he turned in a 7th-place finish.
The fall race was a bit more of a grind after Jones started 38th. But he steadily worked his way forward and came away with a top-20 finish.
Now with Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones has had some interesting results this year at 1.5-mile tracks. His worst finish at a track this length in 2018 is 11th, and he led 64 laps on his way to a 4th-place finish in Texas. If Jones flashes more speed and starts somewhere outside the top 10 or so, he's a pretty fun asset at $10,000.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,600): The discussion around Jimmie Johnson this week is the exact same we had about him last month in Dover: is he good enough at this track to overcome what has thus far been a disappointing season?
Johnson's abilities here are unquestioned. He has won eight races in Charlotte, twice as many as any other active driver. These solid runs have been recent, too, with average running positions of second, third, fifth, and ninth, respectively, over his past four Charlotte races.
But nothing has clicked for Johnson in 2018. He has just 4 top-10 finishes and one top-5. His average running positions in Atlanta and Texas were 24th and 26th, respectively. His average finish over the past 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks is 21.3, worse than that of Chris Buescher. Johnson's car just hasn't been on.
If Johnson flashes speed in practice and is starting at a spot where he can snag some place-differential points, then we can give him a sniff. But if he continues to lack top-end speed prior to Sunday and isn't starting near the back, we'd be wise to look elsewhere.
Jamie McMurray ($9,200) and Kasey Kahne ($8,600): We're lumping Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne into the same grouping because the advice for the two will be the same, and it's right in line with the thought process for Johnson. Yes, they have good track history, but they need to show speed in practice to justify a roster slot.
Kahne has won here four times in his career, and McMurray has done so twice (one of which was in just his second start ever in the Cup series). They know how to get around this track. But as with so many other Chevrolets, success has been fleeting in 2018.
The two have combined for just 1 top-10 finish and 3 laps led. The positive is that the 1 top-10 finish was a 3rd-place finish for McMurray in Texas, which gives reason for hope this weekend. But both drivers need to prove what they can do in practice.
The one exception here would be if either driver were to qualify poorly and start near the back. Because both drivers are fairly cheap, we don't need to squeeze laps led out of them. So, if they do start toward the back and show some sign of life in practice, they could wind up being decent plays thanks to their lengthy and successful histories in Charlotte.
Kevin Harvick ($13,500): If you've been playing NASCAR DFS recently or just paying attention to the sport, you don't need us to tell you that Harvick is racing out of his gosh darn mind right now. The dude has won five points races this year (two in a row), and he won the All-Star race here in Charlotte on Saturday. The debate is where we should view him relative to Truex entering the weekend.
Because of how dominant he has been during 2018, the edge should likely reside in Harvick's corner for now. Harvick's finishes at Atlanta and Texas have been first and second. Truex started 35th in Atlanta and still managed a 5th-place finish, which is impressive, but it still can't quite hold a candle to Harvick's performances.
Clearly, you'll need to see how things shake out in practices on Thursday and Saturday. If Truex flashes a ton of speed there, then we can revisit this discussion. But if they wind up on equal footing, Harvick should hold the edge in our minds.
Clint Bowyer ($10,600): The refrain for Clint Bowyer has been consistent for a while now. We must take his recent track history with a meaty grain of salt. Bowyer's team has completely turned things around this year, and they've done so at tracks similar to Charlotte.
Bowyer has finished in the top 10 at both Atlanta and Texas this year, checking in all the way up in 3rd place in Atlanta. His average running positions in those races were 6th and 7th, respectively, making him 1 of only 5 drivers to have a top-10 average running position in both races. Don't worry about the fact that Bowyer has 9 straight finishes outside the top 10 at this track. As long as he keeps sitting near the top of the practice charts, we should keep shoveling him onto our rosters.
Aric Almirola ($9,000): Aric Almirola is the only Stewart Haas Racing driver we haven't touched on yet, so we might as well knock him out here. He's yet another guy who has simply stepped up his game in his first year with the team.
Almirola's already up to 5 top-10 finishes this year after getting just 6 the entire season in 2017. Three of those have been recent, including a ninth-place finish two weeks ago in Kansas.
Almirola crashed in Fort Worth but ran 171 of his 178 laps within the top 15. In Atlanta, his average running position was 12th, and he ran 302 of 325 laps in the top 15. Almirola's not likely to lead laps, but if he starts somewhere around 15th or lower, he's absolutely a candidate to pick up place-differential points.
Chris Buescher ($6,500): As mentioned in the blurb on Johnson, Chris Buescher's average finish at 1.5-mile tracks over the past 10 races is better than that of Johnson. That is largely meant to shed light on Johnson's struggles, but it shouldn't be seen as a slight of Buescher.
Specifically focusing on the 1.5-mile tracks, Buescher has churned out some solid finishes this year. He was 15th in Las Vegas, 15th in Texas, and he had an average running position of 20th in Kansas before a crash ended his night early. With 3 straight top-20 finishes to his credit here in Charlotte, the dude can drive a race car.
If Buescher qualifies somewhere around 30th, he's an easy way to save a ton of salary at $6,500. You can entertain the thought of using him if he's around 25th and is fast in practice. But once he inches higher than that, you may have to find a different value play or just spend down somewhere else. Regardless, keep an eye on Buescher this weekend to see if he's in position to snag some place-differential points.