Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Quaker State 400 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 monitor for the Quaker State 400 in Kentucky.
Kyle Busch (FanDuel Price: $12,500): We know that Kyle Busch has the current form we want, having won five total races this year, three of which have been on 1.5-mile tracks, similar to Kentucky. But he has also been solid ever since the Cup series started venturing to this track.
In the seven races run here, Busch's worst finish is 12th in 2016. He has won twice, finished second another time, and been in the top five in five of seven races. This has come with a boatload of laps led as Busch has been out front for 29.3% of every lap ever run at the track in the series, including 112 last year.
Busch has won back-to-back races at 1.5-mile tracks even though he didn't have the fastest car in the field in Chicagoland. We'll have to keep an eye on practice times on Friday, but Busch will obviously be on our minds once again here.
Brad Keselowski ($10,700): Brad Keselowski's current form isn't on the same level as Busch's, and that matters more than history at a certain track. But we can't go through the history of Kentucky without touching on Keselowski.
Keselowski has won three of the seven races at Kentucky, and he has two other top-10 finishes. He crashed in the other two runnings. Like Busch, Keselowski's dominance has come with plenty of time out front as he has led at least 62 laps 5 times here.
The question with Keselowski is whether he can break up the big three of Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. Things have gone well for Keselowski at 1.5-mile tracks with 4 top-10 finishes in 6 races, but he has led just 56 laps in that time with only 2 top-5 finishes. If Keselowski starts on the front row -- a highly desirable spot at this track -- or shows a ton of speed in practice, we may be able to trust him to lead laps. But we need to see that before we can assume he's in the same tier as the elite racers of 2018.
Erik Jones ($9,700): Last week's winner, Erik Jones, has raced in Kentucky just once. Things went well in that one, though, and he may be able to ride the momentum from his first trip into victory lane.
In that 2017 race, Jones started 14th, had an average running position of 8th, and finished 6th. Jones was in his age-21 season, so that's absolutely noteworthy.
To make it all better, Jones has been fast at 1.5-mile tracks this year. He has 4 top-10 finishes at these tracks, and he has had an average running position of 11th or better in each of the past 5 such races. Jones' success last week means little for this week given how different this track is from Daytona, but Jones can be a great play, regardless, if he continues showing speed in practice.
Matt Kenseth ($7,900): Matt Kenseth is back in the seat this weekend after Trevor Bayne captained the Roush Fenway Racing car the past three races. Kenseth seemed to be improving before vacating the seat, and he knows how to get around Kentucky.
Kenseth finished eighth or better in each of the first six races in Kentucky, including a win in 2013. He finished 17th last year but had an average running position of 7th and ran 98.5% of the laps in the top 15.
Obviously, we can't trust Kenseth if he starts near the front because his current equipment is bordering on putrid. But he was 17th in Charlotte and 13th in Pocono, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 14th here last year while driving in similar equipment. If Kenseth starts deep in the pack, he could be a potential outlet for place-differential points.
Kevin Harvick ($12,500) and Martin Truex Jr. ($12,500): We dished on Kyle Busch in the section above, so let's cover the rest of the big three here. Which one should be the favorite entering the weekend?
Busch and Harvick have been the two dominators at 1.5-mile tracks, combining to split the victories in the six races. They have led 1,171 laps compared to just 20 for Truex. Advantage Busch and Harvick.
But that doesn't mean Truex is out of the discussion. He has finished in the top five in five of six races at 1.5-mile races, including a pair of runner-up outings. We do need to view him as being below Busch and Harvick due to the lack of dominance, but he's still in the same tier.
In the end, this discussion will likely come down to qualifying and practice. As outlined in the track preview, drivers starting at the extremes (toward the front or toward the back) carry the highest upside at Kentucky. Whichever drivers in this tier wind up qualifying where we want them will likely be the ones with the highest upside, and it'll help if they pair that with dominant practice times.
Kyle Larson ($11,500): Kyle Larson isn't commonly lumped into being in the contender discussion, but we know what he can do at 1.5-mile tracks.
Larson has logged a top-10 finish in each of the 1.5-mile races he has finished this year, and 3 of those have been top-5 finishes. That includes a runner-up showing and near victory two weeks ago in Chicagoland.
Larson is also the defending runner-up at this race, coming from a 40th-place starting position all the way up to 3rd by the end of the first stage. He's more volatile than Busch, Truex, and Harvick, and we must account for that, but Larson's upside is just as massive as that of the others.
Aric Almirola ($9,500): The last race at a 1.5-mile track, Aric Almirola's car was stupid fast. He led 70 laps, and none of them were the result of funkiness with pit strategy. He was a legit contender before he ran into issues with a loose wheel. That makes him interesting here.
Honestly, Almirola's success in Chicagoland shouldn't be a surprise. He had a top-10 average running position in both Charlotte and Kansas, 2 other 1.5-mile tracks, and he has churned out 7 top-10 finishes this year. Don't let Almirola's past struggles at Kentucky bother you; his equipment is better now that he's at Stewart-Haas Racing, and the current form is top notch. He's one of the better darkhorse contenders to lead laps this week.
Paul Menard ($8,700): Paul Menard's unlikely to lead laps like Almirola did, but he has a good shot at bringing home a solid finish. His cars have generally been pretty fast this year.
Menard has been impressive at 1.5-mile tracks this year, finishing ninth in Las Vegas and sixth in Kansas, the two tracks most similar to Kentucky. His average running positions in those two races were 10th and 12th, respectively. Menard was also on the pole in Chicagoland, meaning his car was fast.
Given how well Menard has qualified this year, he seems likely to start somewhere around 15th. If he does start there, he's in play, assuming he continues to show speed in practice. If qualifying issues shove him any lower in the order, he will be a tremendous option.
Alex Bowman ($8,500): Slowly but steadily, Alex Bowman's performance has been improving throughout the year. His price has gone up, as well, but he's still a fairly cheap option, and we should continue to buy him as it rises.
Bowman has recorded 3 straight top-10 finishes, including a 10th-place finish 2 weeks ago in Chicago. That's a 1.5-mile track, as is Charlotte, where Bowman finished ninth. Bowman has had a top-15 average running position in each of the past 3 races at 1.5-mile tracks.
Bowman's in the same discussion as Menard: if he starts around 15th, he can be in play at this price. But the deeper he starts, the more desirable he becomes.
William Byron ($7,200): The finishes for Bowman's teammate, William Byron, have not been as rosy. He was 10th in Fort Worth, but that's his lone finish better than 18th at a 1.5-mile track this year. He has still been running well enough to generate interest, though.
At Michigan -- which is a bit of a larger track -- Byron's average running position was 9th, and he wound up finishing 13th. He also had a top-15 average running position in Pocono and Phoenix, two flatter tracks, which is a common characteristic with Kentucky. Byron needs to start a bit deeper than Menard and Bowman to be in play, but he has the speed to contend for a top-10 finish, which works at this cheap price.