Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 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 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas.
Kevin Harvick (FanDuel Price: $14,200), Kyle Busch ($13,800), and Martin Truex Jr. ($13,400): Since the start of 2016, there have been five races at Kansas. "The Big Three" have won all 5 of those races and combined for 10 top-5s and 13 top-10s out of a possible 15. So, yes, they're going to sit atop our lists coming into the weekend.
As far as ranking these three goes, we likely need to start with Harvick. He has finished in the top five in every race at a 1.5-mile track that he has finished this year, winning half of them. He has also led 614 laps at these tracks, including 79 on his way to a win in the first Kansas race earlier this year.
The second slot is a bit tougher, but the edge belongs to Truex. Since the start of the playoffs, Truex has had a better average running position than Busch in four of five races, the lone exception being last week in Talladega. At Las Vegas -- a track with plenty of similarities to Kansas -- Truex led 96 laps and had a 3rd-place average running position. He was runner-up behind Harvick at the first Kansas race and won both the events here last year.
Busch is third on this list, and he seems to be in a bit of a funk. He has just one top-five in his past eight races, and he hasn't had an average running position better than eighth in any of those. He has been dominant at 1.5-mile tracks this year, leading 572 laps, but his average running position in Las Vegas was 12th. He has been solid enough for the full season to still rank third overall entering the weekend, but it seems -- for now -- as if he has fallen a hair behind Harvick and Truex as the playoffs have heated up.
Ryan Blaney ($11,500): Ryan Blaney is 22 points behind the cutline to advance to the round of eight for the playoffs with Kansas representing the final race before the cutoff. Blaney needs either a win or some chaos in front of him to move on. Thankfully, the former is fully in play for Blaney at this track.
In five career Kansas races, Blaney has three top-five finishes, all of which came while he was still with Wood Brothers Racing. In his Penske Racing debut at the track this spring, Blaney had a great car, leading 54 laps with a 4th-place average running position. Then that all went up in sparks.
Using Blaney means you're accepting an extra bit of volatility, but with that volatility comes upside. He has four top-five finishes in eight races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, and that's not including his strong run at Kansas. There will likely be some extra desperation with a playoff spot on the line, making Blaney -- as always -- a high-risk, high-reward option.
Austin Dillon ($8,800): Kansas will be the ninth race this year at a 1.5-mile track. Austin Dillon hasn't cracked the top 10 in any of the previous eight. But with his team's current form on the upswing and Dillon's record at this track, that could certainly change on Sunday.
In his career at Kansas, Dillon has 3 top-10s in 10 total starts, 9 of which have come with Richard Childress Racing. The two most recent ones were both in 2016, but he has finished between 14th and 17th in each race since, which is far from terrible.
It wasn't enough to help Dillon advance to the second round of the playoffs, but it does seem like he and this team have figured something out recently. Half of Dillon's 6 top-10 finishes this year have come in the past 9 races, and he was 11th in another. That 11th-place run was in Las Vegas, the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track. Dillon's not a guy we can trust at the front, but if he's in position to get place-differential points, he has proven in the past he's capable of logging a solid finish here.
Chris Buescher ($6,500): Chris Buescher's a driver we tend to target at tracks where the driver matters more than the equipment, and Kansas is not one of those. But even in lesser cars, Buescher has still managed to perform well.
In Buescher's five career Kansas races, he has finished outside the top 25 just once. That one down race came this spring when he finished 34th due to a late-race wreck. But Buescher actually qualified 10th in that one, showing top-end speed, and had a 20th-place average running position. This is after he posted finishes of 18th and 6th in the 2 Kansas races in 2017.
Buescher has struggled at times at 1.5-mile tracks this year, which is understandable given the lack of speed in his cars. Even with that said, he has finished 15th in 3 of those 8 races, and if he qualifies poorly, you'll take that at this price. Keep an eye on Buescher this weekend, and if he starts somewhere around 20th, he could be someone we can count on in order to squeeze in higher-priced studs elsewhere.
Kurt Busch ($11,000): If not for fuel troubles at the end of this past Sunday's race, Kurt Busch may have gotten his second win of the season in Talladega. He wound up finishing 14th, and that race is similar to how a bunch of runs have gone for him recently.
On the full season, Busch has just six top-five finishes, which isn't as high as you'd expect for someone with a shot to win the title. But a lot of those finishes are deceptive, and he has been running much better than that. Busch has had a top-10 average running position in nine straight races, the longest active streak on the circuit. Harvick is second on that list all the way down at four straight.
This has been true for Busch at 1.5-mile tracks, too, as he is yet to post a top-five finish despite leading the fifth-most laps at this track type, trailing "The Big Three" and Brad Keselowski ($12,700). Busch's price is still reasonable because he doesn't have all the results to back up these strong showings, but those should come eventually. Busch is in play for tournaments no matter where he may qualify.
Aric Almirola ($10,100): After coming close so many times this year, Aric Almirola finally got himself a win in Talladega last week, punching his ticket for the round of eight in the playoffs. That means he can take it a bit easier in Kansas if he wants. But with Almirola's current form and track history, another win is certainly not out of the question.
Almirola started to show himself as being a championship contender back in July at Chicagoland, another 1.5-mile track with similarities to Kansas. He led 70 laps in that race before running into issues. Almirola has led 40 or more laps twice since then, and he pulled out a 6th-place finish in Las Vegas.
Kansas has at times been brutal to Almirola as he broke several bones in his back here last year, forcing him to miss a stretch of races. But in general, he has done well. While driving for Richard Petty Motorsports -- far worse equipment than he currently has with Stewart-Haas Racing -- Almirola had 4 top-10s in 12 starts at Kansas. He carried that over to his debut with Stewart-Haas in the spring, finishing ninth with an eighth-place average running position. Given how well Almirola has run since then, it's fair to view him as being underpriced at $10,100.
Alex Bowman ($8,400): When you click on a driver's FanDuel player card, you're going to see where they have finished in each race recently. A finish is -- at the end of the day -- what matters for DFS. But it's also a snapshot that shows you only where a driver was on one lap during the race. Average running position, on the other hand, tells you how well they ran overall, and this will paint Alex Bowman in a much more favorable light.
Kansas will be the sixth race during this year's playoffs. In the first five, Bowman has just 2 finishes better than 19th and 1 better than 12th. He has been 28th or lower in both races during this current round. That's what people will see when they click on his name.
But in all 5 of those races, Bowman has had an average running position of 15th or better, which is tremendous for someone at this price point. For one reason or another, that just hasn't resulted in great finishes.
As a result, some may wind up being afraid to use Bowman even if he qualifies in a spot to get some place-differential points. That could very well be a mistake. He has been running well recently and desperately needs a win in order to advance to the next round of the playoffs. If Bowman qualifies anywhere outside the top 15, he immediately becomes a driver we can trust to pick up some place-differential points.
Jamie McMurray ($8,000): With how well Kyle Larson ($12,000) runs at tracks like this, you know he'll get plenty of buzz this weekend. But his teammate, Jamie McMurray, is another driver we have to keep an eye on.
Since the late summer, McMurray has been busting out some really impressive runs. He was ninth in Darlington, seventh in Indianapolis, and second at the Charlotte roval, all within the past seven races.
You'll notice, though, that none of those are 1.5-mile tracks, forcing you to wonder whether he can carry that into Kansas. McMurray seemed to answer that question earlier in the year, finishing 3rd in Texas, 6th in Charlotte, and 12th in Chicagoland. He also had a 16th-place average running position in Las Vegas before a wreck ended his day. McMurray -- like Larson -- is fully willing to run any line, and it means he'd be able to pick up some spots if he were to qualify outside the top 15.
Trevor Bayne ($7,000): Roush-Fenway Racing brought Matt Kenseth to this team in an attempt to figure out what was wrong with the cars. Based on their recent performances, it seems like he found something, and Trevor Bayne is benefitting from it.
In Bayne's first 15 races this year, he had just 2 top-15 finishes, a 13th in Daytona and a 12th in Texas. But over his past 4 races, Bayne has finished 13th or better 3 times, including an impressive 13th-place run at the 1.5-mile track in Las Vegas. Kenseth had a ton of speed in Indianapolis right before the playoffs started, and it seemed to signal a turnaround for this whole team.
Bayne brings this seemingly-improved current form to a spot where he has done well in the past. He pulled out a 10th-place finish here in last year's spring race and has been 20th or better in 4 of his past 5 races. If Bayne qualifies poorly, we're finally at the point where we can start to depend on him to pull out a respectable finish.
Regan Smith ($6,200): Regan Smith's reputation as a super sub continues to grow as he fills the seat for Kasey Kahne, who has been forced into retirement early due to chronic dehydration issues. The team hasn't missed a step with the driver change.
Smith has run six races total, and there has been just one dud in the bunch. He has finished 21st or better five times, including a 12th-place run in Las Vegas. That's the team's best run at a non-restrictor-plate race this year, and it's the most recent sample we have of them on 1.5-mile tracks.
We've also seen Smith jump in the seat and excel at Kansas in the past. He was subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Kansas in 2012, and Smith piloted that car to a seventh-place finish. We certainly can't expect that because his equipment now is a far cry from what he had then at Hendrick Motorsports, but if Smith qualifies in a spot to get place-differential points, we can buy into him as a value option.