Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Overton's 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 Chicagoland for the Overton's 400. After a week of turning right, the Cup series is back to a 1.5-mile tri-oval, and we'll have to do a full reset on our strategies from last week. Let's take a look at what we need to know entering the weekend.
If you played daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel last week, it's time to do a mental reset. Everything you learned for Sonoma is now out the window as the Cup series gets back to a more normal format.
This past Sunday's race in Sonoma featured just 110 laps, the second-shortest race on the schedule. This week, they'll run 267 laps at Chicagoland in Joliet, Ill., giving us 26.7 points available for laps led on FanDuel. That's going to weigh heavily on our decision-making.
Still, though, Chicago is far from being a short track where we need to jam in as many drivers at the front as we can in search of laps led. There are fewer laps available here than at those types of tracks, and you don't have to start out front to finish there.
Over the past four races at Chicago, the winners have started the race in 3rd, 6th, 29th, and 25th place, respectively. The driver who started 25th and won -- Brad Keselowski in 2014 -- managed to lead 62 laps, as well. Starting in the back isn't as necessary as it was last week in Sonoma, but it's also not a disadvantage.
Keselowski isn't the only driver to do this, either. Of the 8 drivers who have led at least 50 laps in Chicago over the past 4 races, only 3 started in the top 5, and 3 started outside the top 10. As long as you have a fast car, you can work your way up front here.
Although this is a freeing notion, it also complicates strategy a bit. As seen above, drivers can get a good chunk of points via laps led, but it's not easy to pinpoint where you'll find them. The two drivers who have led at least 100 laps here in the past 4 races have started 7th and 8th, not places you typically find drivers who dominate.
This is where practice times will come into play. In last year's race, Kyle Busch was fastest in the first and third practices, and Martin Truex Jr. was fastest in the second. Busch led 85 laps and won the first stage before running into problems in the pits, and Truex won the race. Both of the weekend's practices will take place during the day on Saturday, and they'll be crucial elements in helping decide which drivers are capable of posting a big score.
After those practices, qualifying will take place on Saturday night. That won't be nearly as crucial as it was last week in Sonoma, but we can still learn something by looking at historic scoring trends at this track based on starting position.
Historic Scoring Trends
Before we get too far into this, it's worth noting that we're looking at the past four races in Chicago. Because there's only one race here each year, that means we'll be including the 2014 and 2015 runnings. Those races included 43 drivers instead of the current max of 40, which can have an effect on scoring. As a result, any driver starting or finishing 41st or worse had those numbers adjusted to be a max of 40.
Based on what we saw in the first section with drivers being able to lead laps even after starting deep in the pack, it shouldn't be surprising to learn that scoring is similar. You can put up a big number from pretty much anywhere.
Over the past 4 Chicagoland races, 6 drivers have scored at least 75 FanDuel points. Only 2 of them started in the top 10, and 3 drivers started 25th or worse. The other driver started 14th. Again, it's super spread out.
If we lower that number to look at the 16 drivers who have scored at least 70 FanDuel points, things are a bit friendlier to those starting up front. Eight of the 16 drivers started in the top 10, but only 2 of them started in the top 5.
|Starting Position||Drivers With 70+ FD Points|
|1st to 5th||2|
|6th to 10th||6|
|11th to 15th||3|
|16th to 20th||0|
|21st to 25th||3|
|26th to 30th||2|
|31st to 35th||0|
|36th to 40th||0|
The lack of 70-point days from drivers starting 16th to 20th seems to just be the result of a small sample and randomness. The true lesson to take away from this is that qualifying matters less here than it does elsewhere.
As such, it shouldn't be surprising to see that a chart of the FanDuel points by starting position will have a bit of a different shape than we've grown used to.
There is still a downward trend as you get deeper in the pack, but there are multiple paths to upside here. That gives us a lot of flexibility in our rosters.
This does, however, mean we have to be reactive based on qualifying, and we can see that by looking at the top-five scorers in each race here over the past four seasons. In some races, it was the back that dominated scoring. In others, it was the opposite.
In last year's race, each of the five highest-scoring drivers started within the top eight positions. But in 2014, there wasn't a single driver who started in the top seven who cracked the top five. What, exactly, can we take away from this?
It means that we can't enter the weekend with a definitive strategy saying that you must play it one way or another. If multiple strong cars qualify deep in the pack, then you absolutely should plug them in. But if those drivers are unavailable, we need to adapt. In last year's race, 9 of the top-10 starters were in the playoffs, as were 14 of the top 17. The strongest cars in the pack were already at the front when the race started. It's entirely possible we don't see that this time around now that the race is no longer part of the playoffs, which would change the way we view things.
The simplest way to sum everything up is this: if place-differential points are available, take them. Don't fade a high-priced driver just because they're starting in the back. That person brings both a high floor and a high ceiling, and we should get heavy exposure to them as a result.
We should also, though, get drivers who we think will lead laps. They could come from 11th on back, but they'll most likely be drivers starting somewhere near the front. Drivers can dominate this race, and we don't want to miss out if that winds up happening.
Depending on how qualifying shakes out, this could lead to a stars-and-scrubs-esque approach. If there is a stud in the back and another on the pole, you'll likely want both even if it forces you to get a bit creative with the rest of that lineup. We want as many paths to upside as we can get on our rosters, and fast cars provide that no matter where they start.