Daily Fantasy NASCAR: South Point 400 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 South Point 400 in Las Vegas.
Kevin Harvick (FanDuel Price: $14,200), Kyle Busch ($13,800), and Martin Truex Jr. ($13,000): With the playoffs now here, it's time for the stars to kick things up a notch. "The Big Three" haven't won any of the past three races, so who sits atop the heap entering Las Vegas?
The best option is likely Kevin Harvick, both due to his history at Vegas and his current form. Harvick has won three of seven races at 1.5-mile tracks this year and has been in the top five for each of those races he has finished. He also dominated the spring race in Vegas, leading 214 of of 267 laps en route to victory. He's close to being in a tier of his own before practices.
Kyle Busch is the only thing keeping Harvick from being the runaway favorite. He also has three wins at 1.5-mile tracks this year, including two of the past three in Charlotte and Chicago. Busch -- who is a Las Vegas native -- finished second behind Harvick in the first race here this year.
Martin Truex Jr.'s string of poor finishes continued on Monday as he finished dead last, giving him just one top-10 in his past six races. But Truex has finished in the top five in all but one race at a 1.5-mile track this year, and he won the most recent one in Kentucky. He's a tier below both Harvick and Busch, but Truex does still belong in "The Big Three."
Joey Logano ($12,000): Joey Logano has never won in Las Vegas, but he has been up front a bunch. Given how strong Penske Racing has looked of late, that's absolutely worth noting.
Logano has logged a top-10 finish in five straight Las Vegas races. At this price, that should be expected. But he has also had a top-6 average running position in 3 straight, and he has led 25 or more laps in 4 of the past 5 Las Vegas races (including earlier this year). Having that lap-led upside is huge if you're going to be in this pricing bracket.
It's a bit interesting to compare Logano to someone like Kyle Larson ($12,400) for this week. Larson has much shorter win odds and a higher price tag, and he has also had strong runs at Las Vegas in the past. But with no laps led to his credit here, it's possible he and Logano are in the same tier whereas oddsmakers and salaries view them as being split. Don't sleep on Logano for this weekend just because markets are lower on him than others.
Ryan Blaney ($11,000): Ryan Blaney is a bit of a volatile driver from a results perspective, which can make him hard to trust in DFS. But his highs can be really high, and he has had a few of them in Las Vegas in the past.
In Blaney's four career Vegas races, he has three finishes of seventh or better, and he has had a top-seven average running position in each of those. That includes this spring when he started from the pole, had a third-place average running position, and finished fifth.
The 1.5-mile tracks this year have perfectly exemplified what makes Blaney so frustrating. He has either finished in the top five (three times) or outside the top 11 (four times) in each of them. But in two of his poor finishes, he managed to lead 19 or more laps, and he was runner-up in Kentucky, the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track. If Blaney starts on the pole, he has enough speed to be in play for tournaments, and he can be cash-game viable -- despite the frustrations -- if he starts further back. The upsides here seem to be worth the risks.
Paul Menard ($8,100): Paul Menard's cars have speed, so he has a tendency to qualify himself out of consideration in DFS by starting too close to the front of the pack. But if he starts 15th or lower, he could be a big bargain this weekend.
To start, Menard has a solid history in Las Vegas. He has finished in the top 20 in nine straight at the track with four top-10s sprinkled in during that span. One of those top-10 runs was in the spring when Menard had a 10th-place average running position and finished 9th.
That speed has carried over to other 1.5-mile tracks this year, too, as Menard was 6th in Kansas and most recently 11th in Kentucky. Menard rallied late for a ninth-place finish on Monday in Indianapolis, meaning he has a good blend of current form and track history. We'll just have to hope he sits more toward the middle of the pack in qualifying, allowing us to take advantage of this juicy price tag.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,200): In general, you'll likely want to avoid this pricing range this week because the speed of Las Vegas makes it difficult for teams in lesser equipment to compete. But if Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualifies in the middle of the pack or lower, that edict could change.
Overall, Stenhouse's record in Las Vegas is underwhelming with no top-10 finishes in six starts. But he was 12th here in 2016 and 14th in the spring with an 18th-place average running position. Those are numbers that are far better than you'd expect from drivers this cheap.
Stenhouse has had some decent runs at 1.5-mile tracks this year, too, with additional top-15 finishes in Kansas and Charlotte. Given the speed that teammate Matt Kenseth (who is not racing this week with Trevor Bayne ($6,700) in the seat) showed last week in Indianapolis, we should be willing to save some money with Stenhouse as long as he doesn't qualify at the front.
Brad Keselowski ($12,600): Brad Keselowski enters Vegas on a heater, having one two straight races at two wildly different tracks. With that in mind, can we now view him as being on par with "The Big Three?" The answer there is likely no, but it comes with a caveat.
Although Keselowski won both of those races, he wasn't dominant in either. He was aided by some late-race pit strategy in Indy, and a sweet pit stop in Darlington put him in front of Kyle Larson. Keselowski led just 33 laps in the two races combined, which lacks the soul-stomping speed we've seen out of guys like Busch and Harvick.
That's not to say that Keselowski's wins were flukes, and he should contend again this week. Keselowski had a sixth-place average running position in the first Vegas race, and he has three top-five finishes at 1.5-mile tracks this year. So while he's not quite in that top tier yet, he's still a viable candidate to lead laps this week if he starts up front.
Erik Jones ($10,400): Erik Jones hasn't been as stout as Keselowski on 1.5-mile tracks this year (just one top-five and five top-10s in seven races), but his form right now is just as saucy.
Jones finished as the runner-up in Indianapolis, giving him four top-fives in the past six races. Those have come at a wide variety of track types -- two big, flat tracks, a short track, and a road course -- meaning it's possible he's just fast overall. It has been eight races since the Cup series was last at a 1.5-mile track, so it's fair to wonder if Jones and his team have unlocked more speed in that time.
In Jones' two career Cup series races in Las Vegas, his average running position has been in the top 11 both times, and he won here in the Camping World Truck Series back in 2014 (his age-18 season). This guy's a legit championship contender, and he could put the field on notice on Sunday.
Ryan Newman ($9,000) and Austin Dillon ($9,500): The Richard Childress Racing cars of Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon have struggled at 1.5-mile tracks this year with both drivers holding an average finish of 23rd for the season. But the past few races have provided hope that the team may have turned a corner.
For Newman, there has been new-found consistency. The run started with back-to-back top-10s in Loudon and Pocono, and he has finished outside the top 15 just twice in the past seven races. Newman was 11th in Vegas this spring, so things could continue to trend in the right direction.
Dillon hasn't had the same consistency, but his highs have been better of late. Dillon finished 13th in Pocono, 4th in Michigan, and 13th in Bristol, three very different tracks. He also ran well in Las Vegas this spring, finishing 13th with a 15th-place average running position. Given these recent runs, it's fair to start to view the Childress cars more favorably than we have the rest of the season, though their salaries do reflect the recent spike.
William Byron ($8,000): William Byron has not run well at 1.5-mile tracks in his rookie season. He has just one finish better than 18th, and he has been outside the top 25 three times. But he seems to be on the verge of a breakthrough, even if the recent finishes don't show it.
In the past two races, Byron's average running positions have been 13th and 14th, respectively. That's impressive for a guy at his price.
But in Darlington, Byron's engine expired, and he finished 35th. In Indianapolis, some late-race trickery backfired, and he wound up in 19th spot. Based on the finishes, it would seem that Byron's just a non-contender, but the average running positions tell a different tale.
We saw the upside on Byron earlier this summer as he finished sixth in Pocono and eighth in Watkins Glen. He just needs to put together a full race, free of the pressure of trying to make the playoffs, and then he may start to pay off with his salary still held down by his results.