Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Bass Pro Shops Night Race 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 Bristol, a high-banked, fast-paced, action-packed short track where anything can happen. What do we need to know about it from a DFS perspective? Here are things to keep in mind while filling out lineups for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race.
Back in the 2000s, Bristol Motor Speedway got itself a mascot. And I'm not talking about Dover's "Miles the Monster" or Charlotte's "Lug Nut". Their mascot was a real-life member of their groundscrew named George "The Painter" Wilson.
If you're unfamiliar with Bristol, all this fanfare for one hard-working employee may seem a bit odd. But George's job was to paint the walls of the track after tire marks scuffed them up during accidents. And that's a full-time job at a track like this.
Bristol is a tumbling clothes dryer that pretends to be a track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit. The cars buzz along at fast speeds, and when calamity happens, there's not much real estate to weave your way around it. Ryan Blaney was the leader of the race before wrecking in that clip above. You can run, but you can't hide here.
From a viewing perspective, this makes Bristol exciting because there's never truly a dull moment throughout the race. But all of the elements that make Bristol great for a consumer also make it an absolute thrill for daily fantasy.
On Saturday night, the cars will run 500 laps, tying this race for the longest of the season, at least for our purposes where laps matter more than miles. That means there are a whopping 50 FanDuel points on the line for laps led, and we're going to want as many of them as we can muster.
A lap at Bristol can take less than 15 seconds, which means if you can get your car out front, you can rack up laps led -- and DFS points -- in a hurry. Over the past 5 Bristol races, 11 drivers have led at least 100 laps in a single race. Five drivers have topped the 200-laps-led barrier, which equates to 20 FanDuel points. If you're left without that big-time lap-leader on your roster, your lineups will be hung out to dry.
Thankfully, predicting who will lead those laps isn't overly difficult, as you may have imagined. Of those 11 drivers to lead at least 100 laps, 4 of them started on the pole. The only pole-sitter to lead fewer laps than that in our five-race sample was Carl Edwards in 2016, running out front for just 31 laps. If you sit on the pole, you have massive upside for DFS.
The other lap-leaders tend to start up front, as well, which isn't a surprise. Only 2 of our 11 drivers to lead 100 laps started outside the top 6, and those 2 drivers were among the best in the sport (Kyle Busch in 2017 and Kevin Harvick in 2016). For the most part, you're getting these laps led from drivers within the first three rows, and they are a must-have asset for DFS.
But just because you run up front doesn't mean you'll finish there. Going back to that sample of 11 drivers to lead 100 laps, 3 of them wound up finishing outside the top 30, including the aforementioned Blaney. Anybody can wreck at this track, and it can happen at any time. This track is about as high-variance as you can get outside of Daytona and Talladega.
This has a couple of implications for DFS. First, we do need to put a lower lid on our exposure levels than we would at other tracks. Yes, that driver starting on the pole has a great chance to lead a bunch of laps, but if he has a problem, he's going to sink every roster he's on. You should still be aggressive, but be mindful that nobody here is a safe bet.
Second, "punting" -- or using cheaper drivers in lesser equipment -- is more viable here than at other tracks. Not only does equipment matter less because it's a short track, but every crash pushes those other drivers up in the finishing order. David Ragan finished 12th here in the spring, Trevor Bayne was 11th in the 2017 spring race, and Matt DiBenedetto finished 6th here back in 2016. These drivers can finish high in the order, which means we're not taking as big of a blow to our upside by having them on our rosters.
That part of the equation fits right into the other aspect of what makes Bristol exciting. Not only can you get upside via laps led, but you can get it via place differential, as well.
Because Bristol is such a small track, it means that cars tend to be bunched up throughout the entire race. As such, you may not need to spend 15 minutes chasing down the car one spot ahead of you, allowing you to pass cars for position regularly throughout the night. It's not easy to pass, by any means, but the lack of spacing between cars means drivers can make up ground.
The past 5 winners at Bristol have started the race -- in order -- 1st, 18th, 11th, 24th, and 1st. In a 5-race span, 6 drivers have taken home a top-5 finish despite starting 20th or lower.
Clearly, the drivers who can pull off such runs are going to carry big upside for DFS. This means we have multiple sources of upside at Bristol, both via laps led and place differential. That makes for an exciting weekend.
The big dilemma is how we balance those two. How many drivers should we roster toward the front, searching for laps led, and which positions should we target to find drivers who will net us big place-differential points? Let's look back at past Bristol races to find out.
Historic Scoring Trends
Based on the discussion above, we know we can get big point totals from a number of different spots in the field. The graph below provides visual evidence of this.
As you can see, we've got dots near the top of the graph from the pole position and from as far back as 24th. But there's a big gap between those top dots and the rest of the pack.
This means it is essential that we have the top-end drivers on our rosters, whether they're at the front or starting mid-pack. If we don't, we're not sniffing the cash line in a tournament, and we'll have a ton of ground to make up in cash games. It is critical to identify these drivers and pay whatever it costs to get them, even if it means sacrificing a bit in our other slots. This is not a week for balanced rosters.
These "can't-miss" drivers for a given race tend to be the ones who are able to top 100 FanDuel points. There have been at least two drivers to hit that mark in each of the past five races. Here's where those guys started the race.
|Starting Position||Drivers With 100+ FD Points|
|1st to 5th||4|
|6th to 10th||1|
|11th to 15th||1|
|16th to 20th||1|
|21st to 25th||2|
|26th to 30th||1|
|31st to 35th||0|
|36th to 40th||1|
All four of the top-five starters began the race on the pole and led at least 117 laps. Only two drivers managed to hit this mark without leading at least 40 laps. One was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., moving from 25th to 2nd in 2016, and the other was Harvick with his 7th-place finish after starting 39th this spring.
If you want to notch a slate-busting score -- which two drivers will likely do on Saturday night -- you need to do one of two things. You must either lead a ton of laps and finish up front, or you must start outside the top 20 and push for a top-5 finish. If you see a driver this weekend capable of achieving either of these feats, you need them on your roster.
But there are just two drivers each race who do this, and we need to fill in five total slots. As such, we have to figure out where we can get the other drivers, the ones who may not have 100-point upside but can still help the move the needle.
As such, let's lower the bar to the drivers who have scored at least 90 points within the past 5 Bristol races. When we do so, we're left with 29 total drivers who started in these ranges.
|Starting Position||Drivers With 90+ FD Points|
|1st to 5th||6|
|6th to 10th||4|
|11th to 15th||2|
|16th to 20th||6|
|21st to 25th||4|
|26th to 30th||5|
|31st to 35th||0|
|36th to 40th||2|
There were as many drivers who hit 90 points after starting between 26th and 30th as those who started between 6th and 15th in this 5-race sample. In total, more drivers scored 90 points after starting outside the top 15 (17) than inside the top 15 (12). This gives us a pretty clear idea of how we need to build our rosters.
First, we need to find our lap-leaders. These will likely be drivers starting near the front with cars strong enough to jump out and lead 100 or more laps. At least two drivers have led 100 or more laps in each of the past five Bristol races.
Then, we dive down the totem pole and search for drivers who are starting poorly but have the strength to finish well. Historically, these drivers have come from 16th on back, and the deeper the driver starts, the more upside they will have. If a great car misses inspection and has to start in the rear, they will have tremendous place-differential potential.
It is worth noting a word of caution with the drivers starting way in the back, though. Because Bristol is such a short track, drivers in the rear can fall a lap behind the leader fairly quickly. As such, we do need to make sure the cars we choose in the back are strong enough to avoid that, or else they could get pinned behind and ruin otherwise-spicy lineups.
If everything were to go according to plan, this would be the ideal route for roster construction. But as mentioned at the top, things don't always go the way you'd wish at Bristol. And that does mean we have to be a bit flexible when building lineups.
The table below shows the starting positions of the five highest-scoring drivers from each of the past five Bristol races. The "1st" column shows the starting spot of the driver who scored the most points in that specific race.
This year's spring race went according to the plan laid out above. But the 2016 summer race didn't have any drivers starting better than 13th crack the top five in scoring, and the 2016 spring race was filled with place-differential drivers. What gives?
This goes back to the calamity mentioned in the opening section. Drivers -- such as Blaney this spring -- can have dominant cars and still get caught up in a wreck after leading a bunch of laps. When that happens, they finish poorly, and the pool of available laps led for contenders shrinks. That changes the scoring dynamic for the entire race.
Because of this, we can't have one single roster construction for all of our lineups. Yes, we do want to focus on the one discussed above with two lap leaders followed by place-differential candidates, but we need to mix it up, as well.
Part of this will be determined by qualifying. If several fast cars wind up starting toward the back, then we can potentially gravitate toward more rosters that focus on just one "anchor" toward the start of the field. But if the best cars are grouped toward the front, then we should be getting at least two anchors on each roster.
This -- combined with what we discussed above about exposure levels -- shows that our key word to remember at Bristol is flexibility. We have to enter with a gameplan around which drivers to use and which starting spots to target, but we also have to make sure we are flexible in these approaches. We can never go all-in on any certain driver, and we should have some rosters that are built differently than others. By doing so, we'll be prepared for all the wonkiness that can go down at this half-mile hellhole and position ourselves to capitalize when the brown stuff hits the fan.