Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Things to Know for the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race
Whenever a sport has its respective All-Star Game, we tend to sit on Twitter and complain about the quality of competition. Players don't want to get hurt in an exhibition -- nor should they -- and their play on the field reflects that mindset.
NASCAR's a different beast.
When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars hit the track in Charlotte Saturday night, they'll be racing for a $1 million check to the winner. There are no points on the line, so it's a checkers-or-wreckers mentality that often leads to some wild racing.
Even with a smaller field of just 19 cars (15 of which will be available for selection), you can still play DFS for the event on FanDuel. Your selection will be smaller, and you won't be able to use cars that advance from The Open or the fan vote, but who doesn't want a little Saturday-night sweat?
Because the format for this event is far different than what we'll see at any other race this year, we do need to go through some notes about the All-Star Race and what it all means for your daily fantasy lineups. Let's do that now with three things you need to know about Saturday's shootout.
1. There are only 85 laps in the event
For points-paying events, the shortest races from a laps perspective are 90 laps (in Sonoma and Watkins Glen). The All-Star Race is even shorter, which clearly has big implications for DFS.
Let's say that Kyle Busch starts on the pole and leads the entire race. If he were to do that, he would net just 8.5 FanDuel points for laps led, assuming the race stops at just 85 laps (caution laps don't count in the final stage, and there could be multiple attempts at a green-flag finish). Although you'd happily take those 8.5 points, it's still not a major bump.
It's also not overly likely that one driver scoops up all those laps led for several reasons (we'll dive into some in the following sections). During last year's All-Star Race, Kevin Harvick was the only driver to lead more than 20 laps, running out front for 36 of them. The last time a driver led more than 40 laps in an All-Star Race was 2015 when Brad Keselowski led 49, and that was not while running a package that is tailored to encourage passing.
You do want to use drivers who will finish well, and the finishing points alone can be enough for them to pay off in DFS even if they start at the front. But most of the time, this is going to lead to us targeting drivers starting further back.
In last year's All-Star Race, seven of the top eight finishers started the race 10th or lower. The lone exception was Harvick, who won the race from fourth position.
Because it's a small field, it's easier for someone to move from the back to the front. This package also further makes that an easier endeavor. And -- as we'll discuss later on -- the format of the event is conducive to making up spots in a hurry. All of these things combine to make targeting drivers starting further back our most fruitful strategy.
2. The cars will be different than they are for regular-season races
Last year, NASCAR used the All-Star Race as an avenue for experimenting with aspects of the rules package they wound up implementing for larger tracks during 2019. They're doing something similar for Saturday with an eye on 2021.
The cars will include some elements of the Gen-7 car, which is expected to debut in the Cup Series two seasons from now. That likely sounds like jibberish if you're not a NASCAR fan, but it has a couple of implications.
One of the intended consequences here is to make cars race better in traffic. Under the current aero package -- most of which will be in place at Charlotte -- we've seen plenty of passing in the middle of the pack, but cars have had issues getting past the leader. These slight alterations would have the potential to alter that, though it's certainly not a given.
If this were to happen, it could potentially make the laps led more evenly distributed than they've already been in 2019. If passes for the lead are easier, we'll see more drivers at the front, preventing one driver from monopolizing all those points for themself.
This would largely just reiterate what we discussed above: you want to target drivers starting further back with place-differential upside. Making passing easier and evening the distribution of laps led are both things that will make it advantageous from a DFS perspective to start in the back, necessitating that we concentrate most of our exposure there. Drivers starting up front have upside via finishing points, so we shouldn't completely dismiss them, but we will need to limit how many front-starters we have in each lineup.
3. The All-Star Race has a unique format.
We mentioned before that the All-Star Race is just 85 laps, which matters a lot. The way those laps are distributed is also significant.
We're used to stage racing during the regular season, and that's in place for this race, as well. The first stage is 30 laps long, the second and third are both 20, and the final stage is 15 laps. There are a couple of implications there.
First, it means we're going to have at least four starts and restarts during the race. Restarts have been wild under the new aero package.
Erik Jones restarted in the eighth spot there and was up to fourth before they got back to the start/finish line. Drivers are going to get at least four cracks at that type of quick movement on Saturday night.
That means -- you guessed it -- we want to target drivers starting further back. Hopefully you're picking up on the thread here because it will be the key guiding principle to our strategy on Saturday night. If place-differential points are up for grabs, you're going to want them on your roster.
The second implication is that it will be even harder for a single driver to dominate the entire race. With those four starts/restarts, it means the field is going to be bunched together a good number of times. That's additional opportunities for others to make passes, and it gives more times where the running order can be shuffled in the pits. Once again, we should expect that the laps led for this race will be spread out among a couple of drivers, lowering the upside in targeting that stat category.
Hopefully this was heavy-handed enough in the above to make the conclusion fairly obvious: you want to stack the back in Charlotte on Saturday night.
Outside of finishing points, our only significant, reliable scoring outlet for the race will be place differential. It's hard to generate that from the front, giving a big DFS edge to the drivers starting further back.
You will want to see how those back-dwelling drivers have performed while using this package in 2019 to make sure they can actually give you quality finishing points, as well. We've seen four races this year use this package -- Las Vegas, Fontana, Texas, and Kansas -- giving us a pretty good sample of what to expect. Given that these drivers all qualified for the All-Star Race, you should be pretty safe, but these races will show you which of those drivers starting in the back is the top target.
This is not to say you should flat out ignore those drivers starting at the front. The 43 finishing points tied to a win are significant, and you'll want to get them on your roster.
But finishing points fall off after that, down to 40 for second place, 38 for third, and then down one additional point for each spot after that. We can't have all five drivers start up front and bathe in finishing points because there simply aren't enough to go around.
What you'll want to do is limit yourself to one or two drivers starting closer to the front per lineup. These are the drivers you expect to push for a win and maybe pick up some laps led along the way. But it's unlikely that more than two front-starters wind up scoring a ton of points for DFS, so you'll want to keep things in check there and focus the rest of your roster on searching for place-differential upside.
Saturday's race is setting up to be an exciting one with lots of lead changes and passes throughout the pack. That type of racing is ideal for a strategy of targeting drivers who fail to qualify well. If you implement this strategy while filling out rosters on Saturday, you should at least be setting yourself up for success in a unique event.