Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 400 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 closing out the second round of the playoffs at Kansas, trimming the field from 12 championship contenders down to 8. We'll talk about the implications of that later on. But what do we need to know about Kansas before filling out lineups for the Hollywood Casino 400? Let's check it out.
With Sunday being the sixth race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, we've hit another important marker: the cutoff for the second round. After this race, the field will be trimmed to 8 contenders from 12, meaning 4 drivers will see their championship hopes come to a premature end.
We enter this cutline race with some big names on the bubble. Martin Truex Jr. sits in the last transfer spot in eighth, and Brad Keselowski is on the outside looking in, trailing Truex by 18 points. Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, and Alex Bowman are the others needing to make up ground, and for Bowman and potentially the others, a win may be their only path for advancing.
That's going to make for some interesting strategies on Sunday. With several drivers knowing they may need a win to advance -- and with all of Keselowski, Blaney, and Larson being legit candidates to get a win -- the racing could be a bit wild. It's probably good to give the playoff standings a peep before filling out lineups so you know which drivers may be a bit more high-variance than usual.
From a DFS perspective, Kansas provides a little bit of everything. You want to target drivers at the front to get some laps led? You got it. You want to rack up place-differential points from the back? Feel free, my friend. You can score from anywhere here.
Let's start with the laps led, as there are 267 laps in Sunday's race, giving us 26.7 points available for laps led on FanDuel. That's enough to move the needle, and it often has in the past.
Over the past 5 Kansas races, 5 drivers have led more than 100 laps, including a whopping 172 by Martin Truex Jr. back in 2016. That's a whole lotta upside. A total of 13 drivers have led at least 50 laps in this 5-race sample, meaning we can't afford to leave those potential points on the table.
That said, passing here isn't overly difficult, giving us two potential sources of upside.
A pair of the 5 drivers to lead 100 or more laps in our sample actually started the race outside the top five. One was Kyle Busch from seventh place in 2017, and the other was Kyle Larson in this year's spring race.
Larson's official starting spot in that one was 22nd, but he was actually even deeper than that. Larson had to start at the rear after changing tires post-qualifying. Even with that, Larson managed to finish 5th in stage one, hold a 5th-place average running position, and lead 101 laps. Passing isn't as easy here as it was last week in Talladega, but the multiple grooves on the track make it far more viable than most places on the circuit.
In that race, Larson restarted 13th with 9 laps to go. He was up to 8th just a lap later. Keep an eye on the green 42 car restarting on the inside that bobs and weaves in and out of traffic.
Larson wound up finishing 4th there, illustrating how quickly you can make up ground if your car has some giddy-up in it.
As for identifying which cars possess said giddy-up, practice times here are pretty crucial. In the spring race, the correlation between each driver's single-lap speed in the first (and only) practice and their average running position was 0.830. That's the 14th-highest mark for any practice this whole year, which is solid for this point in the season. The high speeds at Kansas mean practice times can tell you which cars will have the speed necessary to compete on Sunday.
On top of that, because we're at the tail end of the year, we've got a good sample on which drivers should compete at this type of track. This is the ninth race on a 1.5-mile track (including the second at Kansas), and you can see who has done well in those spots previously with Racing Reference's fantasy tool. You'll want to give extra weight to the Las Vegas race a few weeks ago as it is easily the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track, but all of this data should be helpful in identifying who will be fast.
So, we know that you can get upside via two different outlets in Kansas. What does that mean for roster construction, and are there certain starting spots we should target more heavily? Let's take a deeper look at the data to find out.
Historic Scoring Trends
Let's start things off here by just looking at the big picture for this track. The chart below shows the FanDuel-point output for each driver over the past five Kansas races based on where they started the race. It backs up the point above that you can have a high-upside day from anywhere.
The three highest scores all came from drivers starting outside the top 10. Two of those drivers -- Kevin Harvick starting 11th and Larson starting 22nd -- managed to lead 74 or more laps. The other was Ryan Blaney, finishing 3rd after starting 40th in last year's fall race.
After that, you get into the drivers who started at the front and led a bunch of laps. But overall, the high-end leaderboard is a good mixture of drivers starting all over the map.
What this does is gives us a good amount of flexibility. If we love Kyle Busch this weekend based on his record on 1.5-mile tracks and his practice times, we can use him whether he starts 1st or 21st. Qualifying will still certainly impact our rosters (you shouldn't fade a fast driver starting in the back here), but we don't have to stick to some hard-and-fast strategy based on where drivers start.
Once we plug in our high-upside drivers -- wherever they may start -- then we'll likely want to focus on finding drivers capable of getting place-differential points.
In our 5-race sample, there have been 29 drivers who have scored at least 65 FanDuel points at Kansas. Here's where those 29 drivers started.
|Starting Position||Drivers to Score 65+ FD Points|
|1st to 5th||8|
|6th to 10th||6|
|11th to 15th||3|
|16th to 20th||4|
|21st to 25th||3|
|26th to 30th||3|
|31st to 35th||1|
|36th to 40th||1|
The drivers who have started up front and scored a bunch of points will generally be the more expensive assets, meaning we'll have hopefully covered them with our high-upside assets. The cheaper options tend to come from the back.
A.J. Allmendinger scored 70.2 points after starting 29th and finishing 8th in 2016. Chris Buescher scooted up to 6th from 20th in 2017, netting him 68.7 points. Michael McDowell made the list above by finishing 13th from a 35th-place starting spot in last year's spring race. This is the archetype of driver we can target in order to afford the studs: low-cost drivers starting in the back who possess the upside to snag a top-15 finish.
This year's spring race had one such driver in the perfect lineup. That was David Ragan, who started 20th and finished 13th at $6,000. If you can find a similar driver this weekend who allows you to splurge a bit more at other spots, feel free to take advantage.
The other cheaper driver to land in the perfect lineup for that race was Paul Menard at $7,900, but he got there through a bit of a different route. Menard started 11th, so he wasn't an obvious place-differential stud. But he had finished ninth in Las Vegas earlier in the year, so he was someone with the ability to finish well for a low price. Those are the types of drivers worthy of consideration in tournaments in the 10th to 15th range as the negatives of their variance aren't as impactful there as in cash games.
The overall thread of this weekend's race is that you have flexibility. You don't have to stick to just one roster construction.
If qualifying presents you with a bunch of fast drivers starting in the back, you can focus on them. Drivers can lead laps even if they don't start right as the front, giving those top-end guys multiple sources of upside if they have drivers to pass along the way.
However, if qualifying puts most of the fast drivers in the front, we can live with that, too. The number of laps to be led still gives them upside, meaning we can snag a pair of those faster drivers at the front before soaking up place-differential points with the rest of our roster.
This flexibility is great, but it will also make it critical that we focus on what happens in practice. Two practices will take place on Saturday after qualifying, meaning cars will be in race trim. The first practice on Friday will also take place roughly around the same time as the green flag on Sunday, meaning track conditions then should be similar to what they'll be like during the race.
If you can carve out the time to watch those practices and see which drivers the broadcasters pinpoint as being favorites, that will likely give you a bit of an edge. But even if you can't tune in, it will be wise to study as much as you can to identify who's primed to run well as Sunday's daily fantasy difference-maker could come from anywhere in the pack.