Daily Fantasy NASCAR: GoBowling at the Glen 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 GoBowling at the Glen at Watkins Glen.
Kyle Busch (FanDuel Price: $12,300), Martin Truex Jr. ($12,700), and Kevin Harvick ($12,500): As we have for the past few weeks, let's lump all of "The Big Three" together. Current form matters at road courses, too, and all of these guys excel at these types of tracks. So, who should sit atop our lists entering the weekend?
It's hard not to love Martin Truex Jr. out of the gate. He has won each of the past two road-course races, leading 24 of 90 laps in Watkins Glen last year. He also had a great car in the 2017 Sonoma race, winning the first segment before his car ran into mechanical issues.
Kevin Harvick did give Truex a good fight in Sonoma with a 4th-place average running position while leading 35 laps. Harvick, though, has traditionally been much better in Sonoma than Watkins Glen as he has just 1 top-5 finish here in his past 11 races.
Kyle Busch had a plethora of issues in Watkins Glen last year, but he still fought his way back for a seventh-place finish. Busch has led 216 laps in his career at Watkins Glen, almost twice as many as any other active driver. His last finish outside the top 10 at a road course was at Watkins Glen in 2014.
In other words, all three of these guys are appealing once again. This allows us to be flexible based on who excels in practice and who starts deepest to add place-differential points, but with all else equal, Truex is likely the favorite here followed closely by Busch.
Brad Keselowski ($11,000): Brad Keselowski has never won at Watkins Glen, but he has been close plenty of times, logging three runner-up finishes. He has also run at the front plenty, meaning a win may not be too far down the line.
Keselowski has led at least 20 laps in each of the past 3 Watkins Glen races and 4 of the past 6. His average running position has been seventh or better in five of the past seven, as well.
Keselowski's appeal may be weighed down a bit, too, by some rough runs recently. He has had issues in 3 of the past 4 races, finishing outside the top 30 in each of those. But in the other race in that span, Keselowski took home a third-place finish at Kentucky. If Keselowski flashes speed in practice, he deserves to be on our radar in the second tier of pricing.
Daniel Suarez ($9,200): Last week, Daniel Suarez posted a career-best second-place finish in Pocono after sitting on the pole. Prior to that, his best finishes were a pair of third-place runs, one of which came in Watkins Glen last year.
Suarez was impressive throughout that race, leading 14 laps and holding a 6th-place average running position. The previous year, Suarez finished fourth in an Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen en route to winning the championship.
Given Suarez's stout run last week and impressive run at Watkins Glen in 2017, he could be in play for tournaments even if he starts near the front. But if Suarez qualifies poorly, he'll be a tremendous option for place-differential points.
Erik Jones ($8,700): Erik Jones is not known for being an elite racer on road courses. In fact, he's running a K&N Series race in Watkins Glen on Friday in order to gain more experience at the track, which is generally not a great sign. But Jones' finishes on these tracks have been better than you may think, and he may get a chance to flash his abilities on Sunday.
This started for Jones back when he was in the Camping World Truck Series, racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He finished third in Bowmanville in 2014 -- his age-18 season -- before following it up with a win there the following year.
After moving up to the Xfinity Series in 2016, Jones was 12th in Watkins Glen and 6th in mid-Ohio. He ran last year's Xfinity Series race in Watkins Glen, as well, and finished eighth.
Jones has now done three races on road courses in the Cup series, and his finishes have improved each time. He was 25th in Sonoma last year, followed by a 10th-place finish in Watkins Glen and then a 7th-place finish in the 2018 Sonoma race. Jones' average running position last year in Watkins Glen was 10th, meaning he's a driver we can absolutely trust if he's in position to pick up place-differential points.
Chris Buescher ($7,000): Chris Buescher's in the "punt" pricing tier, but he doesn't generally drive as such on road courses. He finished 11th in Watkins Glen last year and was 12th in Sonoma in June. This is all just a continuation of what he did on these tracks in the Xfinity Series.
Back in 2014, Buescher won at Mid-Ohio, leading 25 of 90 laps. He followed that up in 2015 by finishing third at Watkins Glen, fourth at Mid-Ohio, and ninth in Elkhart Lake. Buescher's a talented driver who does well on tracks that emphasize driving abilities, and road courses seem to flesh that out.
Buescher's out of play if he starts near the front of the pack, but he's a good candidate for place-differential points if we can get him somewhere around 20th or lower.
Michael McDowell ($6,800): Michael McDowell is another recent winner in the Xfinity Series, winning at Elkhart Lake in 2016, leading 24 of 48 laps in that one. He also had a pair of runner-up finishes, one at Mid-Ohio in 2013 and the other at Elkhart Lake in 2012. He hasn't been bad recently in the Cup series, either.
In the past three Watkins Glen races, McDowell's finishes are 20th, 17th, and 12th, respectively, all of which are fully acceptable at this price. He finished 21st in Sonoma this June but had a top-10 car in both practices, so his equipment doesn't hold him down as much here as at other spots.
McDowell's similar to Buescher where we need him to start around 20th to be viable and pick up some place-differential spots. But if either of these two guys do start in this range, they'll give us the flexibility to pay up for The Big Three.
Chase Elliott ($9,800): Chase Elliott has had a top-five average running position just twice this entire season. But when both of those have come within the past two races, you know the tides of current form are shifting in his favor.
Elliott wasn't able to notch a top-end finish in either race, but he did finish fifth in New Hampshire and seventh in Pocono. He also managed to lead green-flag laps in both without the benefit of trickery. The dude has just flat out had good race cars.
And Elliott hasn't been bad at road courses, including a fourth-place finish and sixth-place average running position in Sonoma. It's possible that all of the Hendrick Motorsports cars are finally turning things around, in which case we can finally buy back into Elliott when he shows speed in practice.
Alex Bowman ($8,200): Elliott's teammate, Alex Bowman, had a good run last week, too, taking home a third-place finish, his second top-five of the season. Even outside of that, Bowman has been running well recently.
Pocono was the 5th time in the past 6 races in which Bowman has finished 11th or better. One of those races was at Sonoma, where he finished 9th had had a 14th-place average running position, amping up the interest here at Watkins Glen.
The one issue with Bowman is that his runs in the Xfinity Series on road courses weren't as impressive as those of Buescher and McDowell. Bowman finished outside the top 10 in each of the road-course races when he ran the series full time back in 2013. But that was also a long time ago when Bowman was in his age-20 season, so we can absolutely give him a tug here if he starts outside the top 15 and shows some giddy up in practice.
Matt Kenseth ($7,900): It seems as if every track the Cup series has gone to for the past month has been one at which Matt Kenseth has excelled in the past. Watkins Glen is no different as he almost won here last year.
But that doesn't matter. Kenseth's in new equipment, so we have to ask whether he's capable of conjuring up another good finish with Roush-Fenway Racing.
On the down side, Kenseth is yet to log a finish better than 13th in his 7 races with the team. We need a bit more than that from our DFS assets even if they're starting at the back and can gain place-differential points.
But on the other side, Kenseth seems to have found some consistency of late. He has finished in the top 20 in 3 straight races, including a 15th-place finish in New Hampshire 2 weeks ago, another track at which he has historically excelled.
It's also hard to judge Kenseth based on his equipment as neither teammate in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. nor Trevor Bayne is known for his accumen on road courses. As such, we should enter the weekend with skepticism around Kenseth, even if he starts toward the back, until he can prove via fast speeds in practice that he's capable of being competitive and finishing in the top 10.
Aric Almirola ($9,000): Aric Almirola is the anti-Kenseth in that he has not been a great road-course driver. He has just 1 career top 10 in 14 total races. But with his new equipment at Stewart-Haas Racing, he's forcing us to look at him in a different light.
Almirola has already set a career-high in top-10s this season with 9, and we're not even two-thirds of the way done with the year. He has also contended for victories in 2 of the past 5 races, leading a combined 112 laps between Chicago and New Hampshire. Almirola has already achieved career-best finishes this year at Las Vegas, Phoenix, Pocono, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and -- yes -- Sonoma, that aforementioned lone top-10 finish on a road course.
Because Almirola ran well in Sonoma, we need to watch him closely in practice. If he again shows speed there, it means we need to throw out his past record at road courses and focus more on the current form. It may not be enough to trust him if he starts in the top 10, but if he slips to somewhere around 15th, he could be a sneaky-awesome play.