NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Gander Outdoors 400
It may feel like deja vu all over again, but we're back at Pocono Raceway this weekend in Long Pond, Pennsylvania for the Gander Outdoors 400. We were at Pocono just last month on June 3rd, which is nothing new, as this racetrack holds a notoriously small gap between its two race dates.
For fantasy purposes, the information from a race just seven weeks ago is a tremendous help when researching and preparing for this race, but teams are constantly making improvements and adjustments, so rarely does this second race completely hold serve to the June edition. A definite wrench was added, as once again a Saturday qualifying session led to a zero tolerance post-qualifying inspection, and a whopping 13 cars failed post-race tech. All of them will start from the back, and most are extremely competitive drivers and teams. Every driver mentioned in this article will be a guy who failed inspection and is starting from the back, as it will maximize their pass-differential points while we are still seeking great finish contenders.
Here at numberFire, we've always got you covered for everything NASCAR DFS. Our track preview gives you more information about this track, our driver preview helps bring you up to speed on drivers' recent history here and elsewhere, and our Heat Check Podcast with Jim Sannes gives you insight how he is approaching this weekend's slate.
Kevin Harvick ($12,500 on FanDuel): Harvick dominated final practice and sped to an insanely fast qualifying run that netted him the pole, but that seems like ages ago now. A sparkling day for Harvick took a dark turn as he took four attempts to pass post-qualifying inspection, which cost him his car chief and 10 season-long points. Morals aside, the 4 car is, we can safely assume, somewhere close to as fast as it was Saturday, and that is a scary proposition for the rest of the field. He'll start 28th after the reshuffling of the order, and it still should be expected of him to contend for a Stage 1 win given the strength of the car. Harvick is great for cash, and it could even be a differentiating strategy to lock him in similar fashion in GPPs, as the qualifying failures will make for a plethora of GPP strategies on all sites.
Kyle Busch ($12,500): Busch failed inspection only once, but since his time was also disallowed, he will start 27th, the first of the cars that failed. Busch actually challenged Harvick's qualifying time, coming within a tenth of a second from the pole-sitter, and he also had a great Saturday, winning the Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono. The same logic behind Harvick applies to Busch, but it is just a matter of preference of car and driver, but the optimal strategy will probably not include both, as there are plenty of mid-tier drivers starting in the 30s who are capable of tremendous value, so still the goal of this choice is to find the dominator points.
Now, this section has been reserved for the "Big Three" for weeks, which, in addition to the two above, also includes Martin Truex Jr ($12,500). Truex won the June race here, indicating he has plenty of speed at this track. But in some situations, there is only so much salary to go around. With this being only a 160-lap race, there are not enough fantasy points out there to make Truex a viable play, and he has not shown elite speed this weekend before the times were disallowed. It sounds crazy, but the 78 may be a total fade in cash on Sunday at one of his best tracks.
Ryan Blaney ($10,700): Ryan Blaney had a tough run in qualifying to begin with, as he had to run twice in Round 1, and that ultimately cost him, but he matters made worse by having his time disallowed, as well. He is starting 33rd and comes at a price point that is possible to pair with Harvick or Busch. Here in June, Blaney started on the pole, led 11 laps, and finished sixth, and to this day, his only career win is a victory at Pocono last year. Blaney is a tremendous option out back, and there are several to choose from.
Clint Bowyer ($10,000): Another such option is Bowyer, who has shown tremendous speed this weekend outside of a lackluster time trial effort. He also had his effort trashed, so he'll start 31st on owner points. Bowyer was in the top six in both practices on Saturday and was running in the top five before missing a shift on the final restart at Pocono in June. All of that is not nearly as important as this -- Bowyer is a championship-level driver with a championship-level team who is starting in the 30s, and he comes at a much lower cost than Busch and Harvick. That alone justifies playing Bowyer.
Aric Almirola ($9,700): How about Aric Almirola this season? He is having a career year in 2018. He was dominating at Chicago before a loose wheel, and he forcibly grabbed the lead from the "Big Three" last weekend before a poor pit stop cost him the race. Almirola will find victory lane soon, and if he's going to do it Sunday, it will have to be from the back as he starts 34th. Almirola finished seventh at Pocono in June, his personal-best at the track, and his form has been even better since. Almirola and Bowyer makes sense together as a stack, as the fast Stewart-Haas Racing Fords should thunder toward the front.
Paul Menard ($8,100): The discount on Menard is not as high on FanDuel as it is on some other sites, but now starting 36th, he is certainly worthy of a shot. He's got the manufacture right, as Ford held 11 of the Top 20 spots here in June. It is worth noting that this Wood Brothers 21 team was behind Blaney when he won in June 2017. For DFS purposes, Menard has caused some headaches in the past when put in prime spots like this one, but he's unlikely to devastate your lineup even with a lackluster effort here.
William Byron ($7,400): When someone knocked Harvick off the top of the leaderboard in Round 2, all fans were stunned. They were even more stunned to learn it was the young rookie, William Byron in the 24 car. Byron has actually put together a nice stretch, rattling off three Top 20s in his last four races, but the problem for fantasy was that Byron was actually qualifying far too well to finish 20th. No issues this week, as his disallowed time leaves him 38th on the grid. This car was extremely fast before the infraction, and it is reasonable to assume it still will be tomorrow. At $7,400, Byron appears to be the best play of this bunch when it comes to actually acquiring a solid finish.
Kasey Kahne ($7,100): I must admit, there was no way I was dialing up Kasey Kahne when qualifying ended on Saturday. He was starting 24th, going to the back for an engine change, and had a part failure here in June. While he's no match for Harvick on speed, he did match Harvick with four failed inspections, likely related to the engine change. That results in Kahne starting tail-end charlie in 40th position, and it's extremely rare in NASCAR to get a two-time winner at a track starting dead last, but that is the case with Kahne, who won at Pocono in 2008 and 2013. We shouldn't expect a world-beating day from Kahne, but in cash, which is all about risk management, Kahne is as safe as they come. He was 11th in the final practice and should be able to make up some ground. Fire up Kahne in all formats to help fit in some of the other studs.
For the purposes of trying to cover all the bases, let's touch on two more guys. Austin Dillon ($7,300) will be extremely popular, as he was the fastest of these cheap drivers before the post-qualifying saga began. If you have the cash, Dillon is a tremendous play. The one driver who failed inspection that I "don't like" (in quotations as there are no definitive wrong answers among the 13 drivers) would be Bubba Wallace ($6,500), who ground up a transmission here in June and has struggled at tracks requiring shifting. He is in the same vicinity as Kahne on speed but with much less success at the track.
Overall, correctly selecting and balancing these 13 drivers who failed inspection will be vital for this race, and pairing them with drivers who could dominate the race toward the front will likely be the secret sauce for taking down a GPP.
Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.