Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: O'Reilly Auto Parts 500

Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 is a long race with a bunch of laps to be led. How does that alter our strategies for NASCAR DFS?

For the past month or so, leading laps has been de-prioritized in NASCAR DFS. Outside of Kentucky, we've had a bunch of shorter races, sapping upside from drivers starting at the front of the pack. It has led to strategies that have largely revolved around identifying place-differential drivers.

That ends on Sunday.

The O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 in Texas is 500 miles and 334 laps long. That's more laps than the Cup Series runs at tracks like Phoenix and New Hampshire, and it leaves us 33.4 FanDuel points for laps led. We want as many of those points on our rosters as we can possibly get, and it's going to result in a shifting of our roster construction.

Let's dig into what exactly those changes are by looking at recent similar races to see how we should build rosters for Sunday's race.

A Front-Heavy Construction

Whether you look at last year's Texas races or others at 1.5-mile tracks since the end of the COVID-19 layoff, the takeaway here is the same: we need drivers starting near the front of the pack if we want to properly account for the number of laps in this race.

Let's start with the recent races as those will be more relevant due to the procedure used to set the starting order. We actually have a carbon copy of Texas from earlier this year in Atlanta if we want to see what our optimal roster construction will look like.

That was another 500-mile race at a 1.5-mile track where the starting order was set by a blend of owner points and a draw. This is the perfect lineup from that race.

Perfect Lineup Salary Start Laps Led
Kevin Harvick $14,000 9th 151
Martin Truex Jr. $12,200 11th 65
Ryan Blaney $10,500 7th 2
Austin Dillon $7,500 16th 0
Cole Custer $5,500 31st 0

Three of the five drivers in the perfect lineup started within the top 12 spots in the race. This makes complete sense, and it's something we should expect again this weekend.

The reason we can expect this to continue is that the top 12 teams in owner points will start in the top 12 spots for the race. If you're looking for cars that will be fast enough to lead laps, they're probably going to come from that group. So, in emphasizing laps led, we need to jack up our interest in those front-runners.

One big issue here is that those drivers are good, which means they'll also come with lofty salary tags on FanDuel. There are two ways to get around this.

The first is looking for drivers similar to Ryan Blaney in that Atlanta race; we want mid-tier drivers who can push for a good finish and potentially lead laps.

That mold was a key for this past Sunday's race in Kentucky. In that one, Aric Almirola started fourth and led 128 laps with a salary of $9,800. He made the perfect lineup despite finishing just eighth.

Matt DiBenedetto also made the perfect while starting near the front. He led just one lap, but at $8,600, you didn't need him to do a ton to pay off. He just ran up front and finished third, and that was enough even without a place-differential bump.

For Sunday, we're going to want to give long consideration to drivers with salaries near $10,000 who are starting near the front. If you think any of them can lead laps and get a good finish -- whether it's because of where they draw in the starting order or due to their speed -- you should be willing to use them. They'll be risky for sure, but if it gets you a third driver who could absorb that laps-led upside, it's worth it.

Outside of plucking drivers from the mid-range, the other way to jam in studs starting in the top 12 is peppering drivers with lower-end salaries. Again, this comes with risk, but it's a downside we need to accept in this format.

Thankfully, we're going to have lower-salaried drivers starting further back, which gives them more leeway to not crank out a top-10 finish.

Sunday's race will be the fourth at a 1.5-mile track using the same procedure for setting the starting order. In those races, six drivers have made the perfect lineup with a salary of $8,500 or lower. Here's that list along with where they started the race.

AtlantaAustin Dillon$7,50016th
AtlantaCole Custer$5,50031st
HomesteadAric Almirola$8,50021st
HomesteadTyler Reddick$8,30024th
HomesteadChristopher Bell$6,60036th
KentuckyCole Custer$7,70029th

Austin Dillon
in Atlanta was the only driver in that group to make it after starting inside the top 20. Someone who draws higher in the range from 13th to 24th can certainly work if they're fast enough, but the further back a value play draws, the higher their appeal will be. We just have to make sure they're fast enough to get the job done.

Thankfully, we have a lot of data to tell us whether or not they do. This is the seventh race of the season at a 1.5-mile track and the sixth since the end of the COVID-19 layoff. You can check out how drivers have performed previously in that sample by checking out Racing Reference's fantasy tool.

The races to emphasize most are the two in Charlotte right after the layoff ended. Charlotte is the same configuration and banking as Texas, and it has much more similar tire wear to Texas than Atlanta. Although Atlanta is worth considering after Charlotte, our closest parallels will come from Charlotte.

If a driver starting between 20th and 36th had speed in Charlotte, we should have a good amount of confidence in them on Sunday. We're going to have options in that range, and some of them are going to have low enough salaries to help us jam in potential lap-leaders. We should load up on those drivers and make them core plays for tournaments.

If we can find decent options there while pinpointing the drivers who dominate from the front, then our lineups are going to have the requisite upside to take down a tournament.