Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Gander RV 400
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 heads to the Monster Mile in Dover for the Gander RV 400. What do we need to know about the track before filling out our NASCAR DFS lineups? Let's check it out.
Three weeks ago, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was in Bristol to run 500 laps at NASCAR's version of the Roman Colosseum. It's a short track, but the banking is high, the speeds are fast, and action happens in a hurry.
This Sunday, they go to Bristol's big brother in Dover.
Dover earned the nickname "The Monster Mile" because of its ability to mercilessly chew up cars and spit them out, ending days and dreams in a hurry. It's a mile long track, so it is almost twice the size of Bristol, but the two concrete, high-banked tracks share plenty of overlap.
The same is true with how we'll want to attack them in daily fantasy NASCAR.
Entering Bristol, we were putting a major emphasis on finding laps led to generate upside in DFS. Although there are 100 fewer laps in Dover than there were in Bristol, it's still clearly going to be an emphasis in our process.
Over the past six Dover races, 10 drivers have led at least 100 laps, and 12 have led at least 85. That means 12 drivers have gotten a bump of at least 8.5 points on FanDuel, and that makes a major difference.
That may also sell the importance of laps led a bit short. In each of the six races, there has been a single driver who has run out front and dominated the race from a DFS perspective. Here's a look at the driver who led the most laps in each of those events.
|2018 Fall||Kevin Harvick||286|
|2018 Spring||Kevin Harvick||201|
|2017 Fall||Chase Elliott||138|
|2017 Spring||Kyle Larson||241|
|2016 Fall||Martin Truex Jr.||187|
|2016 Spring||Kevin Harvick||117|
The guy leading the most laps has averaged being out front for 195 laps, which is 19.5 FanDuel points. If you miss out on that, and the driver converts the time out front into a good finish, you're playing from behind.
Clearly, we're back to emphasizing laps led, especially netting that top-end driver who dominates the race. Most often, those drivers will come from the front.
Of the drivers to lead at least 85 laps, only two have started worse than eighth. One was Kyle Larson, who was at the bottom end of the cutoff at 85 laps led after starting 23rd, and the other was Chase Elliott leading 138 laps from 12th in 2017. Five of our 12 drivers started on the front row, and 8 of the 12 started in the top five. It's good to target drivers starting close to the front if you think they're capable of leading laps.
With that said, in the past, passes have been very possible at Dover, and passing wasn't all that difficult (relative to other tracks this year) at Bristol, either. The top two finishers there started 17th and 27th, respectively. It's fine to nab place-differential points, but our big emphasis needs to be on finding laps led first.
We'll circle back to more of that in the section on historic scoring trends. But first, it's worth noting that we can lean on Bristol for more than just strategies.
Because Bristol and Dover share so much overlap in the way they're constructed, it'll often lead to similar drivers performing well at both tracks. There hasn't been another track on the schedule this year that better aligns with Dover than the Bristol race, and, frankly, none of the other tracks are even close. When you're identifying which drivers will run well this weekend, feel free to take a look back at what happened a few weeks ago.
The other thing you can lean on is practice data. There will be two post-qualifying practices this weekend, both taking place on Saturday. The second Saturday session (final practice) will take place closer to the start time of Sunday's race (meaning track temperatures will be more representative of what the drivers will see on Sunday), so you'll want to put more weight there, but broadly, practice data here is valuable.
In last year's fall race, Kevin Harvick was starting second, had elite current form, and was in the top four in 10-lap averages for both practices. He went on to lead 286 laps. Three other drivers in the top five in 10-lap averages in the first practice -- Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- wound up in the perfect FanDuel lineup for the race. Practice times can help you identify both potential lap-leaders and place-differential candidates, and you would be wise to weigh it heavily in your process this weekend.
Historic Scoring Trends
We know we want to get some laps led into our lineups, and we know that place-differential points are at least in play for other roster slots. What's the proper balance to strike between the two?
To find this out, we can go back to last year and look at the optimal roster you could have constructed on FanDuel for each race. Here's that perfect lineup for the spring race.
|Perfect Lineup||Salary||Starting Position||Laps Led|
And here's the one for the fall, referenced above when discussing the importance of practice times.
|Perfect Lineup||Salary||Starting Position||Laps Led|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||$7,000||21st||7|
As you can see, salary structures on FanDuel changed between the spring and the fall, and it may have had an impact on the way things played out. But Harvick's domination in the fall race also altered the ideal roster construction.
Because Harvick led 286 laps all by himself, it sapped upside from other drivers starting closer to the front. There were just 114 laps left for other drivers to lead, and unless someone hogged them all to themselves, it would be hard for them to accumulate a difference-making total.
The spring race played out a bit differently. There, the laps led were more spread out, and there were three drivers who got a noteworthy bump in that department in the perfect lineup. As a result, the starting positions of the drivers in the perfect lineup skewed more toward the front than they did in the fall.
Both of these outcomes are very much possible in any given race at Dover. Our roster construction if multi-entering in tournaments should reflect that.
When we're doing multiple lineups, we have to make some where we assume a single driver jumps out and leads a bunch of laps. There, we'll want to pick one dominant driver starting closer to the front and then four drivers capable of getting place-differential points, as shown during last year's fall race.
That should represent some of our lineups. But most of them should likely follow a similar model to what we saw in the spring.
That 2018 fall race was the only one within the past three years in which only one driver led more than 85 laps. In all the others, at least two drivers hit that mark, and there were three drivers who did so in the 2016 fall race. In those scenarios, we're going to want multiple lap-leaders in our lineup, and most of those lap-leaders will come from near the front of the pack.
It's worth accounting for both scenarios when building lineups as -- clearly -- both are possible. But the multi-lap-leader outcome seems to be the best bet.
That answers how we should look to build the top ends of our rosters. But we'll need to find value, as well. And those drivers aren't likely to lead laps.
This is where we can look back to last fall's race for a template. In that one, Stenhouse, Jones, and Austin Dillon were all value plays who started between 14th and 21st and moved up as the race went along. That allowed all three to wind up in the perfect lineup. This seems to be a good range to target for our value.
Over the past six races at Dover, 15 drivers have scored at least 80 FanDuel points while leading fewer than 10 laps. Here are the starting ranges for those drivers.
|Starting Range||80+ FanDuel Points|
|1st to 5th||0|
|6th to 10th||3|
|11th to 15th||5|
|16th to 20th||5|
|21st to 25th||0|
|26th to 30th||1|
|31st to 35th||1|
|36th to 40th||0|
If we lower the threshold to be those who scored at least 70 FanDuel points, then we'll squeeze in a few more who started further back. But in general, the highest-upside drivers who don't lead laps tend to come from the range between 11th and 20th.
There will be drivers like Daniel Suarez last year who start in the top 10 and pay off despite a low salary. Finishing points are likely to make up a good chunk of the scoring, so that's fully within play, and we should be willing to use drivers there occasionally.
The one change there would be if there are competitive drivers starting closer to the back. If someone qualifies poorly but then turns around with fast practice speeds on Saturday, we're going to want to target them. Their upside -- and their floor -- will be better than the value plays starting up front, so we will absolutely want to favor them if we're given that opportunity.
But as we've seen in the data above, that doesn't happen all that often at Dover. Usually, the drivers with fast cars are going to qualify in the top half of the field, forcing us to look there for even our lower-salaried plays. We just have to be willing to adapt if things play out differently this weekend.
This is the other area in which Dover is a hair different from Bristol. In Bristol, we were dipping a bit further back in the pack because the high number of crashes there would push those running poorly forward. There will still be crashes in Dover, but they're not necessarily as plentiful as in Bristol. Additionally, the higher speeds in Dover make it harder for underfunded teams to compete, another factor making it more difficult to find top-end value plays toward the back of the pack.
Overall, this is a good race to trust what practice tells you. If it says one driver is bound to mop up this weekend, you can build a roster around that assumption. If it says that drivers who qualified poorly have speedy vehicles, plug them into your roster. The broad strategy is to get two lap-leaders and three place-differential drivers starting between 11th and 20th, but if practice times tell us a different story, we should be willing to alter our strategies to adhere to what the data says.