Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Go Bowling 235
Hold onto your butts, everybody. Things are gonna get wild this weekend.
Due to quarantine laws in New York state, the NASCAR Cup Series has shifted this year's Watkins Glen date down to the road course in Daytona. Road courses tend to produce excitement, and Daytona always carries an extra aura around it. The race on Sunday is going to be fun.
At the same time, you are lying if you think you know how this thing is going to play out.
Although it's a thrill to see NASCAR on a new road course, it's one most of the drivers have never driven before, and none of them have driven it in these cars or with the configuration it'll have this weekend. Their first true look at it will come when the green flag drops on Sunday with practice sessions cancelled due to COVID-19.
Again, this will be a delight to watch. It's just going to be hard to predict how things will play out, and that's something we have to account for within our lineups.
Additionally, NASCAR is rolling out a new method for setting the starting order. It's a wee bit more complicated than the draw system, so get out your calculators and slide rules.
NASCAR set the starting order based on a weighted formula. Here are the three factors included and the weight put on them.
|Previous Race Finish||50%|
|Owner Point Ranking||35%|
|Previous Race Fastest Lap||15%|
Is it confusing? Sure! Does that matter? No! You don't have to calculate it, and it means we already know who's starting where. Increased time to fill out lineups is never a bad thing, especially when the starting order is as important as it is in this race.
But which starting ranges should we emphasize now that we know the grid? Let's get into that and break down some strategy for what should be a bonkers affair.
Hunt for Place-Differential
If you're a long-time DFS player, you know that shorter races push you toward targeting drivers starting further back. The shorter the race, the less upside available for drivers starting at the front.
We're taking that to an extreme on Sunday.
The Daytona roval race is just 65 laps. That's the shortest of the season by 44 laps. We've got just 6.5 FanDuel points available for drivers leading laps, meaning scores this weekend are going to be crazy low.
With the lower scores, we do need to put an emphasis on where drivers finish as that will dictate a large chunk of the scoring. But more important than even that is finding place-differential.
Even though the race is shorter, the place-differential points available for drivers starting further back are the same as always. This means the relative upside of place-differential relative to laps led just shot to the moon.
Let's say Kevin Harvick -- who is starting on the pole -- leads all 65 laps and wins the race. He would score 56 FanDuel points for that outing. That's the maximum points he can score in the race, unless it goes into overtime, giving him additional laps to lead. Even if he blows the field away, that's his cap.
In that situation, Harvick's probably going to be in the perfect lineup. But you have no room for error for him to slip in that scenario. Even if we just lower his laps led to 30, his output falls to 52.5 FanDuel points. Ryan Blaney -- who is starting 24th -- could equal that total by finishing fourth and leading zero laps. Alex Bowman would need to finish fifth from 27th to tie Harvick. You just have a lot more room for error out of the drivers starting deeper in the order than you have with those at the front.
As a result, the core plays within our lineups should be those who are starting further back. For the most part, those will be drivers who are lower in points or who had poor finishes in the second Michigan race. You've actually got a decent number to choose from, so this isn't as tough as it may seem.
There are two things to note with that, though. The first is that this could lead to your leaving salary on the table.
Although some studs like Blaney and Brad Keselowski are starting further back, most of the high-salaried drivers are up at the front. If you want to load up on place-differential, you're probably not going to hit the $50,000 salary cap. That's more than okay, and it's likely going to be the optimal play this weekend.
The other note is that we can still use drivers starting at the front if we think they'll win. As shown in the Harvick example, those drivers can pay off if things break their way, and it's very likely the winner will come from that group. The 43 points for a win are a lot, and we should try to get them in our roster.
This is a situation where we'll want to play the assumption game. For each tournament lineup, you have the leeway to pick one driver you are assuming will win the race. They can start anywhere in the lineup. After that, you want to gun for place-differential because it's hard for multiple front-starters to pay off in this situation. But you can justify having one driver at the front in each lineup.
For cash games, you'll want to stack the back, similar to a drafting race. There's going to be some chaos here, and the length is short. Those are scenarios that lend themselves to stacking the back, so look for drivers starting deeper than where they'll finish and build around them. They should be your core plays for tournaments, too.
As far as data goes, there is obviously nothing to look at from a track history perspective. Thankfully, though, with the Cup Series' schedule generally including three road-course races per year, we have a good idea of who will run well on this track type. The Racing Reference fantasy tool can show you which drivers have done well recently on this track type, and we shouldn't be surprised if they keep that up on Sunday, as well.
There are tons of unknowns entering this weekend. But for DFS, our roster construction isn't one of them. We know how to optimally attack races in this mold, and we have outlets for doing so with how the starting order was set. As long as we stick to the process, we should put ourselves in position to take advantage of whatever madness ensues on Sunday.