Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400

Indianapolis is yet another big track where the NASCAR Cup Series won't run many laps. How does that impact our strategy for DFS in the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400?

The Indianapolis 500 is all about grace. Those masterfully tuned Indy cars zip around the track at upwards of 220 miles per hour, a marvel of engineering.

The Brickyard 400 is more like a demolition derby. There ain't nothing graceful about what we've seen out of the NASCAR Cup Series the past couple of years at the very same track.

Over the past three Cup Series races in Indianapolis, 30 cars have failed to finish as the result of a crash, a whopping 25.0% of the cars entered in that time. That doesn't even count the cars that sustained damage during the race and were able to limp to the finish. It has been a battle of attrition on par with what we often see at drafting tracks.

That's obviously a key for us as we plan our daily fantasy lineups for the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 this weekend. More crashes means increased volatility for the entire field, and it could make it easier on drivers trying to make up ground from where they start.

Let's take a look back at those recent Indianapolis races to see what our ideal strategy should be for this weekend on FanDuel.

Back to Place-Differential Again

For the fourth straight race, the main emphasis in our lineup-building on FanDuel is going to be finding drivers who will finish better than where they're starting.

Sunday's race is scheduled to be 160 laps. That's just 16.0 FanDuel points available for laps led. When that's the case, there's less upside available for drivers starting up front. Meanwhile, those starting further back have the same upside via place-differential as always because there are the same number of cars in the field.

The obvious complication here is that the field will -- once again -- be set by owner points. The top 12 cars in owner points will occupy the top 12 spots in the starting order, and the order of those 12 will be set by a draw (likely on Thursday night). Then the same procedure will be conducted for the drivers starting 13th through 24th and 25th through 36th.

This means the best drivers through the opening 15 races of the season will all start up front. That could make it tough to identify drivers who will claw their way forward as the race progresses, but as we saw on Saturday in Pocono, there are still opportunities to be had.

That race had a lot of parallels to Indianapolis. It was a race at a big track -- where speed is key, limiting the pool of drivers who can realistically compete -- and there weren't many laps to be run. That one saw two drivers from the back of the pack make the perfect lineup.

Perfect Lineup Salary Start Laps Led
Kevin Harvick $14,000 9th 17
Denny Hamlin $13,000 10th 10
Aric Almirola $9,000 1st 61
Christopher Bell $8,000 36th 0
Michael McDowell $5,000 26th 1

Yes, you had three drivers start in the top 12 and crack the perfect lineup. Those drivers finished in the top three spots and all led at least 10 laps. That could happen again this weekend. But the drivers who started in the back are also noteworthy.

We know -- at a bare minimum -- there will be competitive cars starting around the 20th position. Drivers in the cars ranked 13th through 24th in owner points may not have the elite consistency of the top drivers, but they have access to spike weeks. If they have a spike week while starting in the middle of the pack at Indianapolis, they're going to be in the perfect FanDuel lineup for the race.

We can also draw from the 2018 race at Indianapolis when trying to project this weekend. That's another where there was neither qualifying nor practice, so the field was set by owner points. Despite that, there were still awesome plays who started deep in the field.

Perfect Lineup Salary Start Laps Led
Brad Keselowski $11,700 6th 9
Denny Hamlin $11,500 10th 37
Erik Jones $10,200 13th 0
Matt Kenseth $8,200 29th 5
Jamie McMurray $8,100 21st 0

This makes our main objective pretty clear. Even with the field set by owner points, we still need to dig for drivers starting in the middle of the pack or lower who can jack up our scores via place-differential.

One key in this quest will be looking at last weekend's two races and seeing who excelled there. As mentioned, Pocono and Indy are both big, flat tracks, and they require top-end speed on the straightaways. As such, the drivers who were fast in those races are likely to be fast again this weekend.

Once the starting order is posted, look at drivers starting at the bottom end of their respective tiers and see what they did this past weekend. If they had enough speed to compete there, they'll likely be a high-quality DFS play this Sunday, as well.

We can lean on the same data when trying to pick our studs. That would normally lead us to locking in Kevin Harvick ($14,200) and Denny Hamlin ($13,700), who swept the top two spots in both Pocono races. That may be the optimal strategy again this week. There is a word of caution here, though.

Because Indianapolis requires so much speed, we want to try to avoid punting if possible. The drivers in the punting tier are likely there for a reason and may not have the requisite speed to keep up. It's great to get access to elite drivers, but if it leaves us with a black hole in one of our five roster slots, it may not be a worthwhile tradeoff.

The one crutch we get here is the aforementioned crash rate. Every time a driver crashes, each driver running behind them moves up one spot, which is worth 1.5 FanDuel points. If you get the high volume of crashes that we've had in recent years at Indianapolis, those 1.5-point jumps can add up in a hurry.

That's part of why both Harvick and Hamlin made the perfect lineup in last year's Indy race. Nine drivers failed to finish -- several of them with competitive cars -- and two drivers with salaries of $6,500 or lower finished in the top 10. If Indy continues to be as volatile as it has been, then we have some leeway to get top-heavy with our rosters. But if they run a cleaner race, we could be in some trouble.

This is why it's a good idea to differentiate your roster construction when multi-entering for tournaments. At times, you should assume the race will be clean. In that instance, you'll want to pick a driver you think can win the race (they'll likely be in the perfect lineup no matter where they start) and then go balanced from there. In the lineups where you assume things get a bit more out of hand, you can go hard at the studs and still field a competitive roster due to the artificial finishing bumps for the lower-salaried options.


Because Indy and Pocono are so similar, this Sunday's race is going to have a very similar feel to last Saturday's from a DFS perspective.

We want to start things off by looking for place-differential candidates who are starting deeper in the pack but have a path to a top-10 finish. This likely means getting plenty of exposure to drivers starting between 13th and 24th who draw toward the bottom end of their tier, and we should give a bump up to drivers starting between 25th and 36th, as well.

Our studs can come from anywhere as long as they have the upside to win the race. We'll just have to be mindful of going too hard at the studs in the event that this race is cleaner than past ones we've seen in Indianapolis.

Finally, in deciding which drivers to use in both of those scenarios, we'll want to draw our lessons from Pocono. Be careful not to cross off someone whose speed may have been masked due to issues during the races, but if a driver showed up last weekend, they likely belong in your lineup again on Sunday.