Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Dixie Vodka 400

Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race in Homestead isn't the season finale for the first time in almost 20 years. What should we know about the track before filling out NASCAR DFS lineups?

For the first time since 2001, the NASCAR Cup Series is heading to Homestead for a race other than the final event of the season. That includes 2014 through 2019, where Homestead was the championship race, deciding who would snag the season-long trophy.

Now, it's just the 12th race of the 26-race regular season. Things will be at least a bit different this time around.

Most prominently, the winner of each winner-take-all race was one of the four drivers in contention for the crown. Those who weren't eligible for the championship would give more space to those who still had a chance, and the pool of drivers who were able to give it their all on every lap was smaller.

That's not to say this weekend's race is completely devoid of meaning. The winner gets five playoff points, and past years have proven the importance of that. So drivers aren't going to just roll over. We may actually see even more aggression as drivers don't need to give extra room for any drivers in the Championship Four.

That's why this weekend's race will have a different feel to it. But from a DFS perspective, many of the same elements are in place.

Let's dig into the makeup of Homestead to see how we should play things on Sunday when filling out lineups on FanDuel. Given the number of races we've seen recently on tracks like Homestead, even with the changes the race has undergone, we still have a good idea of what to expect.

Freedom With Studs

Sunday's race will be the eighth since the end of the COVID-19 layoff. Three of the first seven were 400 or more laps, and another was 325 laps. It meant we had to sell our souls to get access to drivers who would lead laps.

Sunday's race is 267 laps. It's not short enough where we should completely disregard laps led, but it does give us a more chilled-out approach.

With 267 laps, there are 26.7 FanDuel points available for laps led, a little more than half of what we had scheduled for Wednesday's race. That gives us less upside for drivers starting directly at the front.

Additionally, passing in Homestead isn't all that tough. It's a multi-groove track, meaning drivers don't have to hang out in dirty air behind cars running ahead of them. The new rules package also helps make passing a bit easier.

Homestead is a lower-banked 1.5-mile track, and that configuration has been especially conducive to passing under the new rules package. In the 14 races at 1.5-mile tracks with the new rules package, 17 drivers have led at least 25% of the laps in a race. Two of them did so after starting outside the top 20, and both of those drivers did so at tracks that would fit under the same classification as Homestead. As long as your car is fast enough, you can lead laps from anywhere in the pack.

That gives us a lot of freedom with our lineups. We don't have to utilize the "waves" strategy we discussed heading into Martinsville, Bristol, and the Coca-Cola 600, and we don't necessarily need a driver starting at the very front who can lead laps right away. That's a plus.

But with the way the qualifying order will be set, we're still going to naturally wind up rostering drivers starting at the front of the pack.

As with most other races since the end of the COVID-19 layoff, there will be no qualifying for Sunday's race, and the order will largely be set by owner points. The top 12 cars in owner points will occupy the top 12 spots in the order, and they will draw to determine the order of those 12. The same process will be conducted with the cars ranked 13th through 24th and so on.

This means that the 12 cars that have performed the best through the opening 11 races will occupy the top 12 spots in the order. They're the ones likely to run out front and lead laps, so if we want laps led in our lineups, we're going to have to dabble in these waters.

And yes, even with the race being shorter, laps led are still important. Since the start of last year, the Cup Series has run eight races at lower-banked, 1.5-mile tracks, all of which were scheduled for the same length as Sunday's Homestead race. On average, the perfect lineups from those eight races have included 139.25 laps led, and only one perfect lineup had less than 100. We still want them; we just don't need to go nutso for them as we have at times recently.

The big deviation for Homestead is that it matters less where in those top 12 spots a driver starts. If the driver you like most is starting first, sweet. Feel free to lock them in. If they're starting 12th, they'll have the ability to work their way through traffic in a hurry, and they can scoop some place-differential points along the way.

Basically, this is a week where you get to let speed dictate where you go. Find a pair of studs -- likely starting near the front -- who you think have the giddy-up to push for a win. Lock them in, and then go from there.

Place-Differential Elsewhere

Last year's championship race at Homestead was also set by owner points, meaning we can turn to it as a template for what to expect on Sunday. The perfect lineup there did include the two-stud approach mentioned in the previous section. The rest of the lineup was all drivers who made up ground as the race went along.

Perfect Lineup Salary Start Laps Led
Kyle Busch $14,000 4th 120
Martin Truex Jr. $14,000 3rd 103
Erik Jones $9,000 16th 0
Austin Dillon $7,000 22nd 0
Daniel Hemric $4,000 25th 0

The method for setting the starting order on Sunday should once again allow us to find gems like the ones in that lineup.

Just as the top cars from this season will start at the front, those with more mixed results will start 13th on back. That doesn't necessarily mean their cars haven't been competitive; it could just signal that they've been inconsistent, pushing them lower in the point standings.

In other words, we're going to have some fast cars starting potentially as far back as 24th. With how easy it is to pass on this track type, starting 24th will not prohibit them from finishing well. If we get that, we should take advantage.

The one thing we'll want to be careful of is using drivers in non-competitive equipment. With the speeds going back up, punting is less viable than it was at Bristol and Martinsville. Sure, Daniel Hemric made the perfect lineup last year in Homestead, but that was a car that consistently had speed. For some drivers starting further back, that won't be the case.

To determine who has enough speed to be in play for Sunday, we can lean on recent races at similar tracks. The best track to look at will be Las Vegas, which is the only other race at a lower-banked, 1.5-mile track so far this year.

However, that's just one race on the schedule, and it happened before the COVID-19 layoff. As such, we can also put weight into what happened in Atlanta and Charlotte. Both have different levels of tire wear, and they were higher-banked, but they are fast enough where you needed good equipment to compete. If a driver you're considering didn't make any noise in those races, you're likely best off looking elsewhere.


With all of this in mind, our optimal roster construction for Sunday should be pretty straightforward.

We likely want to lock two studs capable of winning into each lineup, and those studs will be starting up at the front. The qualifying procedures dictate that it winds up that way with the best drivers all located in the top 12 spots. But there are enough laps-led points available for those drivers to have sufficient upside, and we don't have to care too much about where within the top 12 they're starting.

After that, we should shoot for place-differential above all else. Passing here is relatively easy, and we could have cars with speed starting as far back as 24th. We don't have to ignore those starting at the higher end of this tier if they're fast enough, but value drivers starting further back (in a vacuum) have both a better floor and a better ceiling.

Finally, we should lean on what we've seen at other 1.5-mile tracks this year to determine who grades out best in both of those buckets. For the studs, we may want to put additional weight on Las Vegas as different teams tend to perform best at the flatter 1.5-mile tracks than the higher-banked ones. For the values, we just want to make sure they aren't in terrible equipment, which allows us to focus additional energy on the post-layoff races in Charlotte and Atlanta.