Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Drydene 400

Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race in Dover is 400 laps long, leading to a straightforward approach for DFS. How should we look to build rosters for the Drydene 400?

The past couple of weeks, we've had to hem and haw about whether to prioritize lap-leaders or place-differential options for NASCAR DFS. We had studs littered throughout the pack, leading to a fairly nuanced conversation.

This week, we know what to do. It's time to sell your soul for those front-runners, baby.

Sunday's Drydene 400 is 400 laps long, giving us 40.0 FanDuel points for laps led. Whether it's across one driver or three, we know the perfect lineup is going to have a bunch of time out front across the five slots. If we don't have them in our lineups, it's on to next week.

Let's run through past races at Dover to show why this is the case before detailing how extreme we have to be with this approach at Dover.

Lap-Leaders Always Pop at Dover

Both of last year's races at Dover were shorter. Due to the schedule-reshuffling with COVID-19, the races were run back-to-back and were just 311 laps in length. That's almost nine fewer FanDuel points for laps led, which is a decent deviation.

The lap-leaders still popped in perfect lineups, though.

In the first race -- when the starting order was set via a similar method to this weekend's race -- three drivers led at least 49 laps and made the perfect lineup.

Perfect LineupSalaryStartLaps Led
Martin Truex Jr.$13,500 3rd88
Denny Hamlin$13,000 2nd115
Kyle Busch$11,200 22nd3
Austin Dillon$7,000 32nd49
Ty Dillon$4,000 25th0

That adds up to 255 laps, or 82.0% of the full distance. The three highest-scoring drivers for the race scored 7.8 more points than everybody else, so if you didn't have at least two of them, you were toast.

For the second race, the finishing order from the first was inverted for the top 20 cars. That meant the best cars from the first race were starting in the middle of the pack. Still, more than 200 laps led wound up in the perfect lineup.

Perfect LineupSalaryStartLaps Led
Kevin Harvick$14,000 17th223
Alex Bowman$10,000 21st0
Jimmie Johnson$9,400 14th3
William Byron$8,900 23rd0
Austin Dillon$7,000 6th0

The route to getting those laps led was different than in the first race. However, the overall point remained: there were must-have plays in the field, and you weren't cashing without them. We should expect the same this weekend.

As we can see with Kevin Harvick here -- and with what Martin Truex Jr. did to the field last week -- it's possible to emphasize laps led and still have just one guy who dominates in your lineup. If that one driver leads the whole race, you're getting all the requisite upside and can get place-differential in your other four slots.

Here's why I'd still be inclined to get two potential lap-leaders in each lineup, even while acknowledging we could see a Harvick- or Truex-esque outing again this weekend. With every stud or potential lap-leader you roster, you're giving yourself another dart to throw. If you use one potential lap-leader, you get one dart. It's possible you'll hit with it. But the top driver in my win sims has 18.2% win odds, so at best, that's what you're giving yourself.

If you expand that to two drivers, suddenly your win odds across the lineup increase to 32.5%. Someone could dominate and not win, so it's not a direct parallel, but the overall point sticks: you want more swipes at identifying the can't-miss drivers for the race. The more you use drivers who aren't capable of dominating, the more precise you have to be. I'd rather have the wiggle room, myself.

The other implication is that a super top-heavy lineup with three potential lap-leaders is in play, too. That's what you saw in the first race last year, though that was in part because Kyle Busch was starting so deep in the pack. But the incentive to be top-heavy, even if it means taking some massive risks at the bottom of the player pool, is there.

Whenever you have races where a handful of drivers can truly separate from the pack in terms of FanDuel scoring, you have incentive to punt. Although the punt play is going to project worse than drivers with more middling salaries, the upside tradeoff you get by jamming in a third lower-end stud is worth it. We should be actively looking for mid-range plays with the upside to lead laps or snag a top-five even while jamming in two drivers at the top end of the player pool.

The other thing that stands out from the perfect lineups is that we can get place-differential from our value options. That should be true this week, as well.

Dover is a narrow, fast track, which can sometimes lead to a higher crash rate. That naturally pushes drivers running lower in the order up without having to make passes. That's a plus for place-differential.

Additionally, some of our value options ran into issues at Darlington and are now starting toward the back. If you like the speed of a driver deeper in the field, you can absolutely feel good about them for DFS as the track is conducive to those kinds of plays paying off.

That's not to say we should exclusively target value plays further back. The top 15 drives in my model -- the core group you expect to contend for a top-10 finish -- are all starting within the top 18 spots for the race. You will absolutely use value plays starting closer to the front. It's more so just pointing out that place-differential is a hyper-viable option if you like drivers starting further in the back, and there are some defensible plays back there.

Overall, it's a two-pronged approach this week: studs and mid-range plays at the front who can lead laps and value plays with upside, whether it be via place-differential or strictly finishing points. We've got a healthy number of options who fit in each bucket. It should lead to a pretty straightforward roster-building process, something we'll happily welcome after the past few weeks.