Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Bass Pro Shops Night Race 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 Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol.
Kyle Busch (FanDuel Price: $13,500), Kevin Harvick ($13,000), and Martin Truex Jr. ($11,500): At a track like Bristol, the elite equipment of "The Big Three" matters less than it did last week at Michigan. But -- not shockingly -- at least two of them tend to feast at Bristol. So who should be atop our list entering the weekend?
Truthfully, the answer is the guy who qualifies on the pole because they will have massive upside for laps led. But until we know that, Kyle Busch should be our favorite.
Busch leads all active drivers with seven career wins at Bristol, including each of the past two. He has led at least 100 laps in 4 of the past 6 races at the track, and he picked up a win at another short track in Richmond earlier in the year.
Kevin Harvick has been equally dominant this year at shorter tracks, including Bristol's larger sister track at Dover. There, Harvick led 201 of 400 laps en route to victory, one of three wins in six races at tracks 1.1 miles or shorter this year.
Those two should hold a decent edge over the third member of The Big Three, Martin Truex Jr. Truex has just 3 top-10 finishes in 25 starts at Bristol, and only 1 of those has come in his past 12 races at the track. Truex was fourth in Dover, so we don't need to write him off if he does show speed in practice and starts at a desirable spot, but Busch and Harvick have the definitive edge at the moment.
Kyle Larson ($12,000): Kyle Larson is yet to get a win at Bristol, but he has run at the front plenty and is seemingly knocking on the door of breaking through.
Larson has rattled off three straight top-10 finishes here, including a second-place finish in the spring. But more impressive is that he has led at least 70 laps in each of those races -- leading 200 laps twice -- and has had a top-4 average running position in all 3, as well.
Larson hasn't had the same speed as the top drivers recently, but again, that matters a bit less here. We saw Larson run well here this same season, so we can view him favorably, assuming his practice speeds are up to snuff.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,800): This has not been a memorable season for Jimmie Johnson, to say the least. He has just two top-five finishes, and his best finish in the past 9 races is 10th at New Hampshire. But a return to Bristol could get things clicking again in the right direction.
Johnson's best run of the season came in the series' first trip to Bristol when he turned a seventh-place average running position into a third-place finish. That third-place finish came after he won here in the 2017 spring race, the second-most-recent win for the seven-time champion. The other was in Dover, which shows that Johnson can still run well at these types of tracks.
In 6 races at tracks 1.1 miles or shorter this year, Johnson's average finish is 9.5, the 4th-best average among all drivers. With all of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers seemingly picking up steam the past few weeks, Johnson's worthy of our attention if he starts outside the top 10.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,500): The two track types where Ricky Stenhouse Jr. performs best -- restrictor plates and short tracks -- are the two where equipment matters least. That doesn't reflect well on his team at Roush-Fenway Racing. But as the series heads back to Bristol, we need to shift the way we view Stenhouse in DFS.
Of Stenhouse's 13 career top-5 finishes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 4 have come in Bristol, including a 4th-place finish back in the spring. Stenhouse has had a top-13 average running position in 3 straight Bristol races, and that streak doesn't include when he finished 2nd back in 2016.
Stenhouse also qualified well at Dover and led 24 laps, but wound up finishing 15th. He's not a driver we can trust if he starts too high in the order, but he's a tremendous option for place-differential points once he dips anywhere outside the top 10.
Trevor Bayne ($6,800): Stenhouse's teammate, Trevor Bayne, is another driver who notches up the performance at short tracks. Bayne has been in and out of the seat this year, trading off with Matt Kenseth, but this is a good spot for Bayne to prove he deserves a ride.
Bayne has finished 12th or better in 4 of the past 5 Bristol races, though the lone exception was this spring. It helps to know that Stenhouse ran well in that race, meaning the equipment doesn't seem to have fallen off too drastically. Bayne's a better play if he starts outside the top 20, but if he does so, he can be a solid source of value.
Truly, there are a lot of lower-priced drivers who could be viable if they start outside the top 20. Bubba Wallace ($6,500) led green-flag laps here in the spring, Kasey Kahne ($6,300) is a past winner whose current poor equipment matters less here, and Chris Buescher ($6,000) was fifth in Bristol in the 2016 night race. We should be willing to pay down to acquire more upside elsewhere, and these guys do provide us with the ability to do so.
Brad Keselowski ($10,000): The finishes for Brad Keselowski at Bristol and Dover this year -- 23rd and 6th, respectively -- won't knock your socks off. But finishing positions tell us only where a driver was on the final lap and can be a bit misleading.
At Bristol, Keselowski led 67 laps and had an 8th-place average running position, but a flat tire cut the run short. He ran up front again in Dover, leading 108 laps with a 3rd-place average running position. He has been running far better than his finishes would indicate, and that presents us with an edge in DFS if people focus just on where he was at the end of the race.
Keselowski's coming off a second-place finish at Michigan but is yet to find victory lane this year. Given how well Keselowski has run at Bristol and Dover, though, that's always a possibility here, meaning he could be a source of laps led if he qualifies at the front and shows speed in practice.
Ryan Blaney ($9,600): Ryan Blaney was the man early in this spring's Bristol race. He led 100 of the first 117 laps and seemed to be contending to pick up his 2nd career victory. And then this happened.
Blaney's day was done, and that dominance was erased. But it shouldn't be forgotten.
He followed up that run by finishing eighth at Dover with a seventh-place average running position. Prior to those two races, Blaney was dominant at another short track, leading 145 laps at Martinsville before finishing 3rd.
Because Blaney is Keselowski's teammate, we know his equipment here is good enough to lead a bunch of laps, and Blaney flexed that muscle back in the spring. If he starts on the pole, this is a guy who can jump out and snag you a ton of points even if someone like Busch or Harvick is starting up there, as well. That puts Blaney in consideration for tournaments, and he'd be a great cash-game play if he were to start further back.
Erik Jones ($9,200): At shorter tracks this year, Erik Jones hasn't been overly impressive. His only top-10 finish was a ninth in Phoenix, and he has finished off the lead lap three times. That may be masking a bit of the upside that Jones possesses.
Jones nearly won this race a year ago. He led more than half of the laps (260) and had the ever-rare 1st-place average running position. An early issue kept him out of contention in the spring, but Jones has laps-led upside here.
Jones is here in the current form section because of what he has been doing recently, though. Jones has finished seventh or better in six of the past eight races, including a pair of top-fives in his past three races. He and Blaney are two cheaper drivers who have the ability to snag a win, and if they qualify on the pole, we shouldn't be afraid of using them in tournaments.
Alex Bowman ($8,000): Truthfully, Alex Bowman could go in either the track history or current form section. He has a lot going for him, and it makes him look like a bargain entering the weekend at $8,000.
We'll start back in the spring when Bowman netted his first career top-five finish at this very same track. He finished the day in fifth place there, made even more impressive by the fact that it came with a ninth-place average running position.
Bowman had a bit of a lull after that Bristol race, but things have cranked back up recently. He was third a couple of weeks ago in Pocono, topping that Bristol race for the best finish of his career. We do still need to be cautious with Bowman because he's not likely to be a driver who will jump out and dominate, but if he starts outside the top 15, he'll be a great source of place-differential upside.
Paul Menard ($7,600): Everything discussed about Keselowski and finishing positions being deceptive applies to Paul Menard, as well. His best finish at a track 1.1 miles or shorter this year is 13th at Bristol. But don't let that fool you into thinking we should be off him on Saturday night.
In Bristol, Menard's 13th-place finish was despite a 9th-place average running position, his best mark of the entire year. He followed that up by flashing tons of speed in practice at Dover, but an early issue led to a poor finish. He has had speed at these tracks, but you won't see it by looking at the surface-level stats.
Menard's $7,600 salary is superb for this week, and unless he starts all the way at the back, ownership shouldn't be a major hurdle. If he starts 15th or lower, he'll be one of the better, cheaper place-differential candidates on the board.