Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Pocono 400 Track Preview
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 Pennsylvania for the Pocono 400. It's a long, triangular track that will present some unique challenges for DFS. Let's take a look at what strategies we should deploy.
Pocono is weird as hell. There is no other way to put it.
Whereas most tracks on the schedule are ovals, Pocono is a triangle with three unique turns, each being modeled after a turn at another track. That's the first thing that differentiates it.
The other is that the track is just massive. At 2.5 miles long, it is tied for the second-longest track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, trailing only Talladega and tied with Daytona and Indianapolis. One of the turns is also modeled after Indianapolis, and Indy would be the most similar track to Pocono on the circuit.
Because it's a 2.5-mile track, and the race is just 400 miles, there are only 160 laps in the race. That leaves us with a mere 16 points available for laps led on FanDuel, which puts a dent in the upside a driver can reach.
Normally, this would lead us to targeting place-differential points for our lineups. But those are hard to come by, too.
One of the downsides of Pocono's unique configuration is that it is super hard to pass. Over the past four races at Pocono, only two drivers have logged top-five finishes after starting outside the top 17. Both of those came in a rain-shortened 2016 race that saw Chris Buescher win from 22nd and Regan Smith finish 3rd from 30th thanks to strategy. Only one other driver has gotten even a top-10 finish in this four-race sample after starting outside the top 17.
So, we can't count on a ton of laps led, and finding place-differential points is difficult. What, exactly, can we do strategically for this race? Let's look at some past scoring trends to find out.
Past Scoring Trends
The first thing you'll notice here is that scoring tends to be much lower in Pocono than it is at other races due to the lack of laps and place-differential upside. That does matter for DFS.
Over the past four races, the highest point total scored in a race was Buescher in 2016 when he scored 68.5 points with that win from the 22nd starting position. There have been just eight total instances (roughly two per race) in which a driver has scored more than 60 points.
Essentially, this means that scoring will be a bit more flat than it is most other places. The gap between Buescher's top score and the 20th-highest score in our sample is just 14.9 points.
This suggests that a more balanced approach to your rosters is going to be the ideal strategy. Not only is it hard to find value drivers who will rack up big scores (barring another rainout), but the gap between the studs and the middle tier will be smaller than usual. So a balanced lineup seems to be preferable to a stars-and-scrubs approach.
Something that can help further this point is visualizing FanDuel point totals by starting position over the past four races at Pocono.
Outside of two floating dots at the top -- the aforementioned Buescher and Smith -- no driver starting lower than 15th has topped the 60-point barrier here. So unless things get wonky, you're not finding high-quality drivers in the back of the field.
The one exception here could be if we have a situation similar to what happened to Kevin Harvick last week at Charlotte. If a quality car fails to get through inspection and must start at the back (or just has an abnormally poor qualifying run), then that car may be able to motor up on through the pack. In that instance, you'll likely want that driver on your roster because they will have higher upside than the others. We want place-differential points here when we can find them. But you have to make sure that car is fast by looking at practice speeds, or else they may struggle to work their way forward.
So, if we can't find high-upside cars at the back of the pack (outside of these exceptions), which starting positions should we be targeting, exactly?
In our four-race sample, there have been 33 drivers who have scored at least 50 points in a race. Here are the starting ranges for those 33 drivers.
|Starting Position||Drivers to Score 50+ Points|
|1st to 5th||9|
|6th to 10th||9|
|11th to 15th||7|
|16th to 20th||1|
|21st to 25th||6|
|26th to 30th||1|
|31st to 35th||0|
|36th to 40th||0|
Of these 33 drivers, 25 have started within the top 15 positions. At restrictor plate tracks, we'll often "stack the back" and load up on drivers with poor starting positions. We're largely doing the opposite in Pocono.
It is noteworthy, however, that there have been drivers starting 21st through 25th who have been able to have decent days. This is likely around the range where we'll want to find our cheapest driver. If a driver you like winds up sitting in this range, you can absolutely give them a yank, hoping they'll give you at least some place-differential points along with a good finish.
If you do decide to pay down with one of your drivers, ensure they are in equipment that will allow them to post a decent finish. Ty Dillon scored 46.4 points here last summer by starting 30th and finishing 17th, and Buescher scored 43 points last spring by moving from 29th to 19th. If there's a driver starting around 30th who you believe has the potential to post a top-20 finish, they can allow you to deviate from the balanced approach.