Daily Fantasy NASCAR Driver Preview: Digital Ally 400
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 Digital Ally 400 at Kansas.
Kyle Busch (FanDuel Salary: $15,000): Kansas never used to be a fun place for Kyle Busch to visit. He finished outside the top 20 in eight of his first 14 trips here, never finishing better than seventh. But he has been outstanding since then, and his 2019 form says we should expect that to continue.
Over the past eight Kansas races, Busch has been in the top 10 each time, and he has been outside the top five just twice in that span. That includes a win in 2016 and a runner-up in last year's fall race. His average running position has been ninth or better in all of those races.
Busch's main appeal, though, comes from his current form, specifically in races where the full new aero package has been used (Las Vegas, Fontana, and Texas, excluding the unique beast that is Talladega). Busch's average running position has been seventh or better in all three of those races, winning in Fontana and leading at least 60 laps both in Fontana and Texas. As the Cup Series transitions back into this full package, expect Busch to return to the front of the field.
Martin Truex Jr. ($13,500): Martin Truex Jr. has won two of the past three Cup races in 2019 in dominant fashion, and he has won two of the past four at Kansas. That's broadly a good thing. But there may still be some questions that Truex needs to answer this weekend.
If we assume Truex leaps back into his past form at Kansas, he'll be hard to top. He won both races here in 2017 and was second and fifth at Kansas last year. And as mentioned, he won at both Richmond and Dover while leading more than 100 laps each time. So what possible questions could remain around Truex?
It's all about his performance in this package during 2019. His best finish with the full package is eighth, and he has led 10 total laps in those three key races. That's a hurdle for sure.
One reason to not exclude Truex despite that is the performance of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. As mentioned, Busch won at Fontana, and Denny Hamlin ($12,400) won in Texas. We know Truex's equipment can compete in this package even if his finishes haven't backed that up yet. Pay close attention to Truex's practice times, and if he grades out well there, it's fine to put less emphasis on how he has done in this rules package this year.
Ryan Blaney ($12,200): Ryan Blaney ran well in Kansas even before moving into the top-end equipment at Penske Racing. He showed last year that getting those extra horses under the hood makes him a legit contender for a win at this track.
Overall, Blaney has three top-fives and five top-10s in eight races at Kansas. That's solid, but the results also sell Blaney a bit short. One of his non-top-10s came in last year's spring race when he led 54 laps but ran into trouble while at the front of the pack.
Including that race, Blaney's average running position has been seventh or better in four straight races here, meaning the expectation should be that he'll run at the front of the pack.
Blaney has hit some bad luck in 2019, as well, but his speed has been evident at tracks using the new package. In Fontana, he had a seventh-place average running position en route to a fifth-place finish, and he led 45 laps in Texas before an equipment failure. Using Blaney means you're taking some variance onto your roster, but given the upside he has shown both at Kansas and in 2019, he's worth that in tournaments.
Alex Bowman ($8,600): Alex Bowman enters Kansas with back-to-back runner-up finishes at Talladega and Dover, showing immense speed in both races. Given Bowman's recent history at Kansas, it's possible his good runs don't stop there.
When looking back at Bowman's history, you have to ignore what he did prior to 2016 because he was in much lesser equipment. But he has raced at Kansas three times with Hendrick Motorsports (once filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and twice since joining the team full-time in 2018). In those three races, Bowman has a pair of top-10 finishes, one in 2016 and the other in last year's fall race. His average running position was 11th in that fall 2018 race, so the finish was far from being fluky.
Bowman didn't have a top-10 finish in 2019 prior to his second-place run at Talladega, so the new package hasn't been his biggest ally. However, he did turn a 13th-place average running position into an 11th-place finish in Las Vegas, indicating that there is at least some speed in the Hendrick camp. We'll need Bowman to show life in practice to fully buy in, but there's reason to believe that Bowman could be a name to watch again this weekend.
Chris Buescher ($6,700): Chris Buescher has shown some life in the reduced-horsepower package this year, finishing ninth in Atlanta and in the top 20 at Las Vegas, Fontana, and Texas. He also seems to know Kansas pretty well.
In his career, Buescher has just nine career top-10s, and three have come in Daytona. One of the exceptions came in Kansas back in 2017 when he finished sixth, tied for the fifth-best finish he has had in the Cup Series. Buescher has had a top-20 average running position in four straight races here, which is perfect for someone in his salary tier.
Because Buescher's unlikely to duplicate that sixth-place finish this weekend, we likely need to back off of him if he qualifies well. But he is a solid option if he qualifies outside the top 20, and our desire to use him should just increase the further back he starts. With his combination of current form and track history, he's shaping up to be a high-quality value play here.
Joey Logano ($14,500): Joey Logano has performed well everywhere this year, posting an average running position of 9th or better in 8 of 11 races and never sitting worse than 12th in that stat. That strength was especially apparent at tracks similar to what we'll see in Kansas on Saturday night.
Logano kicked off the new package with a bang, leading 86 laps and winning in Las Vegas. He followed that up with a runner-up finish in Fontana with a fourth-place average running position. He's the only driver with a top-five average running position in multiple races with this package, and Busch and Kevin Harvick ($14,000) are the only others who have done so even once.
Logano has been solid in Kansas in the past, too, finishing third last year in the spring and then leading 100 laps in the fall. Busch likely deserves to be the favorite entering the weekend, but Logano needs to be right on his heels.
Daniel Suarez ($9,400): Outside of a seventh-place finish in his first trip to Kansas, Daniel Suarez's results here have been disappointing at best. Thankfully for him, his current form says we should be willing to overlook that.
Suarez has been running near the front of the pack all year long, recording four top-10s and finishing 13th or better three additional times. He has done this at all different track types, including a mighty impressive run in this package in Texas. There, Suarez qualified fourth, had an eighth-place average running position, and finished third, the second-best finish of his Cup Series career.
Suarez's salary has risen accordingly, but he has shown multiple times this year that he's still worth this elevated cost. He's someone we shouldn't cross off entirely even if he does manage to qualify in the top 10.
Austin Dillon ($9,000): The Richard Childress Racing cars of Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric ($5,500) got off to a rough start in the new package, finishing 20th and 23rd, respectively, in Las Vegas despite being fast in practice. Dillon's team has made big gains since then, though, putting him on the map entering Kansas.
Dillon had speed in Fontana, too, winning the pole there. He carried that speed into the race with an 11th-place average running position and a 10th-place finish. He had a similar run in Texas with another 11th-place average running position, showing that a top-10 run is well within his range of outcomes.
Dillon has shown similar potential at Kansas in the past. He finished sixth in both races here in 2016 and brought home an 11th-place finish in 2018. Because Dillon hasn't been busting out top-fives recently, he's not someone we should trust if he qualifies well, but we can look his way should he start outside the top 10.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,400): Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hasn't had a top-15 finish since before MLB opening day, so his inclusion in a section about current form likely seems a bit odd. But we've also been on a hiatus from the reduced-horsepower package, coinciding with Stenhouse's dip, and his runs while using this package are noteworthy.
In the first race under the new package, Stenhouse pumped out a sixth-place finish in Las Vegas with an eighth-place average running position. He followed that up with a 14th-place run in Fontana, and he has had a top-16 average running position in all three of our most relevant races. With Vegas being the closest analog to Kansas, Stenhouse's appeal should go up even a bit more.
Although Stenhouse has never had a top-10 in Kansas, he has flirted with that honor several times. He has three 11th-place finishes (including one in each of the past two seasons) and has been 13th two additional times. Given how much the new package seems to play to Stenhouse's strengths, we'd be wise not to let his recent poor runs stop us from using him if he's fast in practice.
William Byron ($7,200): William Byron's teammates, Bowman and Chase Elliott ($13,200) are -- justifiably -- getting all the hype in the Hendrick camp right now. But Byron continued a trend last week that should inspire confidence as he heads into Kansas.
Byron ran up front for most of the race at Dover, posting a 12th-place average running position with an eighth-place finish. It was his third consecutive race with a top-13 average running position and his fourth in the past five races. He has had a top-13 average running position in two of the three races with this aero package, and he cashed one of them in for a sixth-place finish in Texas.
It took a while for Byron to mesh with his new crew chief, Chad Knaus, as they finished 15th or worse in each of the first six races. But things have been considerably better since then, and Byron's salary has remained low. Assuming Byron doesn't qualify too well, we should be actively trying to get up to him at $7,200 rather than settling for the drivers with less finishing-position upside below $7,000.