Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard 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 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis.
Kyle Busch (FanDuel Price: $14,000), Kevin Harvick ($13,700), and Martin Truex Jr. ($12,300): The focus of this week will be -- and should be -- the hunt for the playoffs with Indianapolis being the final time for drivers currently on the outside looking in to win and qualify. We'll touch more on that in a bit. But that won't change the dynamics at the top end of the pricing pool. "The Big Three" are still the favorites to capture the flag.
As far as ranking these top guns, it's hard not to put Kyle Busch in the top slot to start. Busch has won two of the past three races in Indy and was second the year before that. He appeared to be on his way to another win last year, but a wreck with Martin Truex Jr. dashed those hopes after Busch had led 87 of 110 laps. That -- paired with Busch's elite current form -- puts him at the top of this tier.
Kevin Harvick's likely second on that totem pole again as his track record at Indy is also impressive. He has had an average running position of sixth or better in three of the past four races (and was ninth in the other). On top of Harvick's overall dominance this year, he finished fourth in both Pocono races, and Pocono bears plenty of resemblance to Indianapolis, making Harvick an elite option while trailing Busch by a hair.
As mentioned, Truex almost won here last year, and he had a fifth-place average running position the year before that. His overall disappointing track record at Indianapolis does not matter as he has run well here when he has had plus equipment.
The current form, though, is a bit more dull than that of Busch and Harvick, putting Truex a firm third in this tier. He has just one top-10 in his past five races, and that came on a road course. He did win in Pocono, but that was back in June, and he had a lackluster 15th-place run in the second trip to the track. Truex is in play if he shows speed in practice, but he definitely enters the weekend ranked third of this top tier.
Joey Logano ($12,500): Penske Racing had a big week in Darlington with Brad Keselowski ($11,700) and Joey Logano sweeping the top two spots. Now, Logano goes to a track where he has excelled in the past, potentially positioning him to get a second win -- and five playoff points -- before the first round gets underway.
Logano enters this weekend having finished eighth or better in Indianapolis in each of the past five trips here. He has also had a top-10 average running position in each of those, including a 5th-place mark in 2015 as he led 28 laps and finished 2nd.
The runner-up finish in Darlington gives Logano back-to-back top-fives, and he had a top-six average running position in both. Given that Keselowski finished second three races ago in Michigan, it's fair to assume that this team is trending up heading into Indianapolis.
Austin Dillon ($9,100): Last year's wreckfest pushed a lot of normal non-contenders up the finishing board, so we need to be careful about drawing conclusions from track history as a result. But Austin Dillon was one of the casualties of the calamity rather than the benfactors, and his track history seems more legit.
In five career races at Indianapolis, Dillon has logged a pair of top-10 finishes, one in 2014 and the other in 2016. He had a top-13 average running position for both of those races, so he didn't fluke his way into those finishes, either.
On top of this, Dillon is running well entering this race. He has had a top-16 average running position in three straight and finished fourth in Michigan. Add in finishes of 13th and 12th, respectively, in the two Pocono races, and Dillon's a good candidate for place-differential points if he starts 15th or lower.
Paul Menard ($7,300): Paul Menard is a former winner at Indianapolis, kissing the bricks back in 2011. Because that was so long ago, we can discount it when preparing for this week, but Menard hasn't been bad here since then, either.
There have been 6 races at Indy since Menard's win, and he has finished 14th or better in 4 of them, including a 10th-place finish just 2 years ago. That type of consistency can play at a price of $7,300.
There has been at least some speed in 2018 for Menard, as well, with a 16th-place average running position at Michigan three races ago. He was also 5th in the first Michigan race and 11th in the first Pocono race. Menard's not likely to contend for a win, but at $7,300, you don't need him to, making him a strong play for place-differential points if he starts in the middle of the pack.
Chris Buescher ($6,700): Chris Buescher was one of the benefactors of that aforementioned carnage in last year's race, working his way forward for a ninth-place finish. We shouldn't expect that again from him. But it wasn't his only solid run here.
Buescher made his Indianapolis debut in 2016, and he finished 14th in that one after starting 22nd. This is akin to some of the runs Buescher has had recently with 5 top-20 finishes in his past 6 races, including a 13th-place run last week in Darlington.
As mentioned in this week's track preview, we likely want to avoid punting this week if at all possible. This is a track where equipment matters, and these cheaper drivers aren't likely to push for a top-10 finish unless we get a repeat of last year's demo derby. But if you do find yourself needing to pay down, Buescher's in play if he starts outside the top 20.
Chase Elliott ($11,200): We know that Chase Elliott has been on the up-swing recently, netting his first career Cup series win four races ago and logging four top-fives in his past six races. But Elliott has been mopping up on flat tracks all year long, and that may position him to be one of the favorites in Indy.
In total, Elliott has eight top-five finishes this year. They have come in Phoenix, Richmond, Talladega, Sonoma, Loudon, Watkins Glen, Bristol, and Darlington. Three of those tracks are certifiably flat, and two others are road courses, where there is clearly less banking. Elliott also logged top-10 finishes in both Pocono races with a top-eight average running position in each. Even before this recent spurt, Elliott was running at the front of the pack on flat tracks.
Indianapolis has never been a strong track for Elliott as his best Cup finish here was a 15th-place run in 2016. But that shouldn't matter. Elliott's current form is crazy strong, especially at tracks with similar characteristics to Indy. That's more than enough to put him on our radar at $11,200.
Clint Bowyer ($11,000): If we continue with the thought that Pocono is a similar track to Indianapolis, then Clint Bowyer is a driver we need to have our eyes on at $11,000.
The finishes for Bowyer at Pocono are unimpressive as he was 20th in the first and 11th in the second. But he had one of the fastest cars of the weekend in June and had a seventh-place average running position before fading at the end. In July, he started the race back in 31st and still managed to hold a 12th-place average running position. Finishes show you where a driver was on only the last lap, and for Bowyer, they seem to undersell how solid his cars were in those races.
Bowyer won in Michigan -- another big, fast track -- and had top-10 runs in both Phoenix and Richmond, checking off the "flat track" box on the current form resume. Even with just 3 career top-10s in 12 starts at Indy, Bowyer's worth his price tag.
Daniel Suarez ($8,700): Daniel Suarez isn't on the same level as Elliott, but they do have some similarities. Suarez's performance has been ticking up of late, and some of the most impressive runs have come on flatter tracks.
Suarez notched a career-best second-place finish in the second Pocono race, a run backed up by his sixth-place average running position. He followed that up with top-15 average running positions in both Watkins Glen and Michigan. Early in the year, he had top-10 runs in both Phoenix and Richmond, flexing some muscle on these flat tracks like Indy.
In Suarez's lone Cup series run at this track, he had a 15th-place average running position before finishing 7th. He finished third here in the Xfinity Series in 2015, as well. Suarez needs a win to make the playoffs, and this race is his last chance to get that. We might want to give him a sniff to see if he can build on the strong run at Pocono and leverage this narrative into a trip to the postseason.
Jamie McMurray ($8,100): Along with Suarez, the aforementioned Menard and the soon-to-be-mentioned Jamie McMurray and William Byron are all in need of a win this weekend to make the playoffs. They can't all get it, so we can't base our decisions around that. But all of them have at least some cause for hope. Let's go through McMurray next before wrapping up with Byron.
McMurray -- like Menard -- is a former winner here, the 2010 Brickyard 400 champion. He has had average running positions of 12th and 10th here the past two years, but those have turned into disappointing finishes (19th and 15th, respectively). The speed, at least, has been there.
The same thing is largely true with McMurray in 2018. Although he had a 14th-place average running position in both Pocono races, he turned it into finishes of just 15th and 20th. He did capitalize on a good run last week, though, by finishing ninth, and with McMurray showing his equipment is up to the task, we can feel pretty good about him if he's in a spot to pick up place-differential points.
William Byron ($7,900): This will be Byron's Cup series debut at Indianapolis, but he's not a total stranger to the track. He won the Xfinity Series race here last year, beating out Kyle Busch and others for the victory. That race was with a restrictor-plate package, meaning it doesn't matter much in evaluating Byron, but his current form by itself is enough to make him a value.
Although Byron has just three top-10s in his rookie season, two of them have come in the past five races. He was eighth in Watkins Glen and sixth in Pocono, which, again, is a slight parallel to Indianapolis. Byron posted a 14th-place average running position in both Pocono races this year, which is a stout mark for this pricing range.
Byron had a strong car last week in Darlington, too, before his engine expired with 38 laps to go. His 13th-place average running position illustrates that, and he was running seventh at the halfway point. Byron's lack of experience doesn't seem to be hurting him, so now's a good time to start buying while the price is still low.