Daily Fantasy NASCAR: AAA Texas 500 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 AAA Texas 500.
Kevin Harvick (FanDuel Price: $13,500), Kyle Busch ($13,000), and Martin Truex Jr. ($12,500): As we head back to a 1.5-mile track, the focus for DFS returns to "The Big Three." They've dominated these spots all year long, so who tops our lists entering the weekend?
To kick things off, it's hard to argue against Kevin Harvick. If you look at his results at 1.5-mile tracks, it appears a bit boom-or-bust-ish with more "bust" recently. But finishes can be deceptive. Although he finished 12th in Kansas, he led 76 laps there and had a 5th-place average running position. A wreck shoved him down to 39th in Las Vegas, but he led 14 laps there, too. Overall, Harvick has led 118 more laps at 1.5-mile tracks this year than any other driver, so it's hard to place anybody else above him.
Kyle Busch had the better finish than Martin Truex Jr. at Kansas -- the most recent race at a 1.5-mile track -- but Truex's overall current form is superior. Truex has had an average running position of ninth or better in six of seven playoff races, including a third-place average running position in Las Vegas. The larger view of the current form seems to favor Truex, meaning we can view him as being a hair above Busch prior to receiving practice data for the week.
Kurt Busch ($11,300): Kurt Busch doesn't have a flashy history at Texas, by any means. But he has been consistent here, which is in line with what he has done in 2018.
Busch has logged a top-10 finish in five of his past six races at this track, including a seventh-place finish this spring. More impressively, he led 40 laps there and had a 4th-place average running position, his best mark at Texas since 2009.
Although Busch doesn't have any top-fives on 1.5-mile tracks yet this year, he has been running far better than that. He had a fast car in Kansas but got stuck a lap down due to an early penalty and never recovered. That's the only race in his past 11 in which Busch has had an average running position outside the top 10, and he has been 6th or better in 3 of the past 4. Busch is a solid darkhorse candidate to lead some laps and pick up a win on Sunday.
Erik Jones ($9,800): This year's spring race at Texas was a wreckfest, so it's important not to put too much stock into where drivers finished. But Erik Jones' performance was at least noteworthy.
Despite starting 21st, Jones managed to lead 64 laps, post a 6th-place average running position, and finish 4th. He initially took the lead on lap 174, which was before guys like Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Aric Almirola all wrecked on lap 179, meaning the front-running for Jones wasn't a fluke.
Since then, Jones has continued to have solid runs. He finished 4th in Kansas a few weeks ago and has 6 top-5s in the past 13 races. With Jones, you're getting laps-led upside for a low price, meaning he's in play for tournaments no matter where he starts.
Jamie McMurray ($8,700): As mentioned with Jones, we have to view results from this year's spring race with some skepticism due to the number of crashes that occurred. That's absolutely going to taint Jamie McMurray's third-place finish. There are other reasons to buy into McMurray at this price, though.
The first thing to like is that the spring wasn't the first time we've seen McMurray pop at this track. He also pulled off a seventh-place finish last year and had a ninth-place average running position, the same as he had in this year's spring event.
Additionally, McMurray has had other decent runs at 1.5-mile tracks this year. He finished sixth in Charlotte (nearly a twin track to Texas) and was 12th in Chicago. Even once we throw up the necessary disclaimers about the first Texas race, McMurray does seem like he could be a solid play if he's in position to get place-differential points.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,200): The raw stats for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at this track aren't going to blow you away. He has never had a top-10 finish, and his average finish is 20.4 in 11 starts. Even with that being the case, though, he's more competitive here than he is at other stops on the circuit.
In the five races here since the start of the 2016 season, Stenhouse has had an average running position of 13th or better four times. That includes a ninth-place average running position back in the 2016 spring race, and he had a 12th-place average running position this year in the spring before a mechanical issue ended his day early.
Stenhouse has struggled in general at 1.5-mile tracks this year, so we can't enter assuming he's bound to dominate. But he did finish 11th in Kansas and 10th in Charlotte, so good runs are within his range of outcomes. If he shows speed in practice and starts in a spot to get some place-differential points, he's at least worthy of attention.
Joey Logano ($14,000): Given the win last week, it makes sense that Joey Logano is priced above "The Big Three." Although he's costly and hasn't been as stout as them at 1.5-mile tracks, there are still reasons to keep Logano on the radar.
Logano's performance at 1.5-mile tracks -- and everywhere -- has been on the upswing recently. He led 100 laps in Kansas before ultimately finishing eighth, and he tied teammate Ryan Blaney ($10,800) for the best average running position in the race (fourth). Logano turned a 4th-place average running position and 46 laps led into a 4th-place finish in Las Vegas earlier in the playoffs.
Before we get practice data for this week, we shouldn't view Logano as being as likely to dominate as Harvick, Busch, and Truex. But we've seen enough out of him to buy in if he shows speed in practice. That likely was not the case prior to the end of the summer.
Kyle Larson ($11,500): Kyle Larson's current form is at the other end of the spectrum, having just one top-10 in his past five races and no wins on the season. Should that be enough for us to overlook him at this lofty salary?
Based on what Larson has done at 1.5-mile tracks, the answer appears to be a resounding "no." Larson has five top-fives in nine races at 1.5-mile tracks, trailing only "The Big Three" in that department for the full season. He has just one finish outside the top 10, and that was when he crashed in the first Texas race.
The key for Larson is that two of those races have come recently. He finished third in Kansas and second in Las Vegas after starting both races outside the top 10. Larson's racing style is perfect for these types of tracks, so as the Cup Series heads back to his playground, it's totally fine to overlook the recent downtick.
Aric Almirola ($10,200): It's time for the weekly disclaimer around Aric Almirola: do not put stock into his track history. He was in poor equipment prior to this year, tainting all of his results, and his 2018 season has shown he's far better than that record indicates.
Almirola has finished in the top 10 in five of nine races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, and three of those top-10s have come at the past three 1.5-mile tracks. He was 8th in Kentucky, 6th in Las Vegas, and 10th in Kansas.
Even before that, Almirola was starting to flex some muscle. He was 10th in the first Las Vegas race and later followed that up with a 9th-place run in the first Kansas race. Then in Chicago, Almirola led 70 laps and could have gotten a win if not for a tire issue. He's the cheapest driver still alive in the playoffs, and he has shown all year that his contending is no fluke. If he shows life in practice yet again, Almirola could provide underpriced access to a good number of finishing points.
Alex Bowman ($8,000): It can be quite frustrating to crush on Alex Bowman in DFS because the finishes don't always align with how strong his cars can be. As a result, he has finished outside the top 15 in three of the past four races. Still, there are reasons to hold out hope.
In the past two races at 1.5-mile tracks, Bowman's average running position has been 11th both times. In Las Vegas, he had a tire violation, which led to an eventual 19th-place finish. That's the perfect example of why this season has been frustrating.
But in Kansas, Bowman put a full race together and turned that 11th-place average running position into a 9th-place finish. You'll take that at this price. Bowman has had a top-15 average running position in six of the seven playoff races, the lone exception being last week in Martinsville. It's going to be frustrating, and there's definitely risk in using Bowman, but the finishing-point upside he has makes him worth that gamble.
Chris Buescher ($5,900): If you decide you need to dip down beneath $7,000 for a driver this weekend, not many are driving better than Chris Buescher.
Buescher's coming off of a 13th-place finish in Martinsville, which doesn't move the needle much because of how different the tracks are. But before that, he was 16th in Kansas and 15th in Las Vegas, both 1.5-mile tracks where equipment does matter. They're not the most inspiring runs, but they can get the job done at this salary.
Buescher has had a top-20 average running position in three straight Texas races, including a 15th-place finish in this spring's wreckfest. Given the lack of appeal in the other drivers around him, Buescher may be the best salary-saving option on the board if he qualifies outside the top 20.