Daily Fantasy NASCAR Driver Preview: Federated Auto Parts 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 Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond.
Martin Truex Jr. (FanDuel Salary: $13,500): Martin Truex Jr. has already punched his ticket to the second round of the playoffs by notching a win Las Vegas, so the pressure's off here. But Richmond is another track where he mops up.
Truex won the April race in Richmond, his first at the track, but it was a long time coming. Including that race, he has led 121 or more laps in five of the past six Richmond races, and he had a seventh-place average running position in the one race where he didn't hit that threshold. It's wild that it took up until this year for Truex to get his first career short-track victory.
In addition to the win in Richmond, Truex was runner-up in Phoenix and sixth in New Hampshire, showing that he's a top-tier contender on this track type. We should expect his impressive summer to continue this weekend.
Kyle Busch ($14,500): As mentioned, Truex didn't always capitalize on those impressive runs and convert them into wins. Instead, it was the guy who is now his teammate, Kyle Busch, who wound up in victory lane most often.
Busch enters this weekend with six career wins at Richmond, two of which have come within the past three races. He swept the season here last year, winning in the spring after starting 32nd and in the fall after dropping to the rear at the start due to unapproved adjustments after qualifying. He also led 101 laps in the spring race this year.
If you're looking for a reason to potentially ride with Truex over Busch, you can look at Busch's current form. He hasn't won since the first Pocono race, and his average running position has been 12th or worse in five of the past six. Plenty of those issues have been outside of Busch's control, though, so he's still very much worthy of this lofty salary.
Aric Almirola ($8,500): If you were to look at Aric Almirola's finishes at Richmond since joining Stewart-Haas Racing -- 17th, 5th, and 23rd -- you'd probably wonder why were' talking about him here. But finishes aren't always the best indicator of strength, and Almirola's better than those numbers let on.
This is actually a track where Almirola ran well even before getting into his improved ride. He had four top-10s and a top-5 at Richmond while with Richard Petty Motorsports, which should raise some eyebrows. Then in his first year with SHR, in addition to that fifth-place finish, he had a ninth-place average running position in the other race. This has been a plus track for him for a long time, and getting better equipment has made that even more apparent.
That 23rd-place run this year wasn't great, but he has been stout in other tracks similar to Richmond. The other flat, short tracks on the schedule are in Phoenix, Martinsville, and New Hampshire, and Almirola's worst finish in those three races is 11th, including a fourth-place run in Phoenix, Richmond's closest analog. At $8,500, he's a cheap source of respectable finishing upside.
Ryan Newman ($7,500): Ryan Newman is the cheapest driver in the playoffs, which means motivation will not be an issue. This is also a track where Newman has had success even in the recent past.
Newman has three top-10s in the past five Richmond races, including a third-place run with Richard Childress Racing back in 2017. He has since moved on to Roush-Fenway Racing, but in his first race there with the team, he notched a ninth-place finish this spring. His average running position has been 15th or better in five straight races at the track.
The other perk is that Newman doesn't tend to qualify well, starting 14th or lower in 19 straight races. He was also seventh in New Hampshire and 12th in Phoenix, so Newman appears to be one of the top values on the board.
Austin Dillon ($7,000): Newman's old team, RCR, still has a driver who can wheel his way around Richmond, and that's Austin Dillon. He's another potential solid value option.
Dillon enters this weekend with back-to-back sixth-place finishes at the track, and in both, he was at the front the whole time. His average running positions in those two races were 10th and 9th, respectively, so they were far from being flukes.
A reason to be less into Dillon than Newman and Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700) (more on him later) is that Dillon's incident rate has been crazy high this year, meaning the odds he completely busts are significant. It happened in New Hampshire -- the most recent race at a track like Richmond -- and a good number of other tracks where the driver matters extra. But Dillon has cobbled together finishes of 10th, 12th, and 12th over the past three, and he ran well at Richmond in the spring, so he still deserves to be on our lists.
Kevin Harvick ($14,500): Kevin Harvick's last Richmond win came all the way back in 2013, so he's not going to pop as much here as guys like Truex and Busch. But Harvick's current form is good enough to put him in the top tier with those two.
Harvick was winless this year through the first 19 races. That's when he went to New Hampshire, was fast all weekend, and took home the checkered flag. And -- as mentioned -- New Hampshire is one of the tracks we're keying in on because it is the most recent race at a short, flat track. Since then, he has picked up wins in Michigan and Indianapolis while adding top-fives in both Darlington and Las Vegas. Harvick has been the hottest driver in the sport ever since that New Hampshire win.
Despite not getting wins in Richmond recently, Harvick does enter with three straight top-fives and eight in his past 10 races here, so he clearly knows how to get around the track. Between the trio of Busch, Truex, and Harvick, it's Harvick who has the best current form, and he's at least close to their level at this specific track. Each of the top six drivers in FanDuel salary should be viewed as a tier above the rest, but we can feel good about putting Harvick as one of the top guys in that upper tier prior to practice and qualifying.
Clint Bowyer ($10,200): Toward the end of the regular season, Clint Bowyer had to hustle. He was right on the playoff cutline, requiring some fast runs down the stretch to make the 16-driver field. Bowyer seemed to develop some upside in this time, and it makes him interesting this weekend.
Prior to a 25th-place finish in Las Vegas, Bowyer was 7th in Bristol, 6th in Darlington, and 5th in Indianapolis. Two of those three are tracks that emphasize the driver, which bodes well for this weekend. He also legitimized all those runs with top-10 average running positions in each.
Bowyer was a threat in the first Richmond race, as well, finishing third after holding a fifth-place average running position. That was his second race in the past three at Richmond with a top-five average running position, showing that he has a bit of win equity in him, as well. Bowyer seems to be over his summer slump, and for $10,200, he's certainly on the map here.
William Byron ($9,500): William Byron is going to win a race some time, in the not-terribly-distant future. He has put himself in good positions late in races too often recently for us to say it's outside his range of outcomes.
Byron's season started to turn around in Dover back in May where he logged just his second top-10 in 11 races. He then added two more top-10s in Charlotte and Pocono to legitimize that run.
But netting top-10s doesn't demonstrate the ability to win a race. Some runs since then have, though.
In Chicago, Byron started at the tail end of the field but wound up leading laps under green-flag conditions. He was then second in Daytona, got fourth-place finishes in both Pocono and Indianapolis, and added other top-10s in both Michigan and Las Vegas. Those are all equipment-heavy tracks, and Richmond is not, but those runs are very much noteworthy.
Although Byron hasn't had a top-10 at any of the tracks similar to Richmond this year, he did have a 13th-place average running position here in the spring, and he had a ninth-place average running position in last year's spring Richmond race. A win's going to come eventually. It may not happen in Richmond, but it's probably not a bad idea to start buying speculative shares of Byron both on the betting market and in DFS to get ahead of it before it does.
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700): At first glance, Matt DiBenedetto may seem inconsistent. He has 6 top-10s in his past 12 races, but in that 12-race span, he has never finished between 9th and 15th. There are no middling runs. But "inconsistency" isn't a bad thing when it's predictable, and that's the case with DiBenedetto.
The common thread at each track where DiBenedetto has gotten a top-10 finish is that they're all spots where the driver matters more. There's extra off-throttle time, allowing talent behind the wheel to shine through a bit more. All of the tracks where he has finished outside the top 15 are ones where speed is more necessary, and DiBenedetto's team just doesn't have that yet. And I'm not cherry-picking here; he has followed the trend of top-10s at every driver-friendly track and non-top-10s at all the others.
This week, it's back to a track where the driver does matter. One of DiBenedetto's three top-fives in this stretch came in New Hampshire, showing that he knows how to work his way around a flat, short track. This means we've got to throw out DiBenedetto's history at this track and largely ignore a lot of his current form and view him as being a driver with top-10 upside once again this weekend.
Daniel Hemric ($4,500): Daniel Hemric got news this week that he's officially out of this ride for 2020, meaning he's entering audition mode for the rest of the year, trying to land another Cup ride or a role with a quality Xfinity Series team. Clearly, that means his performance hasn't been up to snuff this season, but he's still too cheap at $4,500.
For a driver to pay off at $4,500, they basically need a top-20 or top-15 finish without starting too close to the front. Hemric is coming off a 17th-place finish in Las Vegas, and he was 12th in Bristol two races before that. Bristol is a track that emphasizes the driver, which bodes well for Hemric, who has largely struggled at those spots this year.
Hemric was 19th in the first Richmond race, and he was 18th in Phoenix. Neither is great, but it's also not terrible for his salary. He also had three top-fives in four races at Richmond in the Xfinity Series, leading at least 10 laps in all four of them. He's not a true threat for a top-10 finish, but as long as he's not starting near the front, he'll be a low-dollar way to jam in extra pricey studs.