Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Quaker State 400

Atlanta is the NASCAR Cup Series' first race at a 1.5-mile track since May, leading to an altered roster construction for DFS. What do we need to know before filling out lineups for the Quaker State 400?

For the past month, the grand majority of our focus in NASCAR DFS has been on place-differential. We've had a combination of shorter races and races where fast drivers -- whether via an invert or funkiness in qualifying -- were starting deeper in the pack.

This week, lap-leaders are back on the menu.

Although Atlanta's second race of the year is 100 miles shorter than its first, there are still 260 laps to be run in Sunday's Quaker State 400. That's 26.0 FanDuel points available for laps led, which is more than enough to incentivize us to seek out drivers who will run out front.

Let's dig deeper into this week's logistics, see what it means for roster construction on FanDuel, and outline our optimal build for Sunday's race.

A Front-Heavy Race

There are two factors that make us skew more heavily toward drivers starting in the front in NASCAR DFS:

1. A longer race with more upside for lap-leaders.

2. A race where most of the fast cars are starting toward the front.

Atlanta has elements of both.

The starting order for this week was set by a combination of performance in last week's race and owner points. There wasn't a ton of chaos at Road America, so most of the drivers we'd expect to contend this week are starting in the front half of the field.

None of the top 18 drivers in my model will start Sunday's race lower than 21st. The five most likely winners in my simulations are starting in the top six spots. There are some drivers starting in the teens who can contend for the win, but this is a very different situation than last week at Road America where we had multiple studs all the way in the back.

The biggest takeaway from that actually relates to the value plays rather than the studs. If you want a driver with quality finishing upside, they're likely going to come from the front half of the field. There are some fliers we can take starting deeper, but our core for the mid-range and value plays should likely be drivers starting in the teens or higher, even though that type of build does come with risk.

To get a good model of what we should expect this weekend, we can look back to the May race in Kansas.

That race was a similar length (267 laps) and also had some quality drivers starting in the teens. Here's the perfect FanDuel lineup from that race.

Perfect LineupSalaryStartLaps Led
Brad Keselowski$12,500 1st72
Chase Elliott$11,500 17th0
Kyle Busch$10,500 9th20
Matt DiBenedetto$8,500 5th0
Chris Buescher$6,300 13th0

As you can see, the value plays there were drivers who started higher in the order than we're used to. But we were able to squeeze out some place-differential from one of the studs without ignoring potential lap-leaders.

This point on value plays is not meant to be taken to mean that you must target low-salaried drivers at the front. If you find drivers you like starting further back, feel free to indulge. The logic behind targeting place-differential the past couple weeks is applicable to value plays on Sunday as the number of laps in the race doesn't factor into our analysis. It's more to say that you don't have to use value drivers starting further back if you don't like the finishing upside of anyone in that area.

The above is a solid blueprint of what we can do with our studs this week. We can afford to target potential contenders starting in the teens, but when doing so, we should pair them with someone starting closer to the front. That way, we're not sacrificing points for laps led during the opening stage while the second stud works their way through the pack.

The lineup also shows the appeal of getting a mid-range option in your third slot. We've had three 400-mile races on 1.5-mile tracks this year. All three of them had at least three drivers with a salary of $9,500 or higher, and the Las Vegas race had four. The increased number of laps better allows the studs to separate from the values, so if you have the chance to give yourself an extra swipe at a potential winner, you should take it.

Overall, this is a sizable shift from our strategy the past two weeks. Our main emphasis is on finding lap-leaders and finishing upside rather than place-differential outlets. The starting order meshes well with this mindset, meaning we should feel fairly confident with our builds for Atlanta.