Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500

The NASCAR Cup Series will run 334 laps at Texas to kick off the Round of 8. How do those two factors alter our approach for NASCAR DFS?

The lack of qualifying for NASCAR Cup Series races may be annoying. But this week, it's your best friend.

The playoffs have advanced to the Round of 8, and -- as with other rounds -- the remaining playoff drivers will occupy the top eight spots on the grid. It has been rare for non-playoff drivers to win during the playoff era, meaning these are your most likely contenders.

That group matters even more this week than usual. With 334 laps in Sunday's Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500, we've got 33.4 FanDuel points available for laps led. That's a massive number, and it's one that forces us to prioritize getting lap-leaders into our lineups.

We've got a good idea of who those guys are, and they're all bunched at the front of the pack. We don't have to do guesswork about how long it'll take them to get into the top five; they're already there.

That makes things relatively easy on us from a DFS perspective. Let's run through last year's race, outline key takeaways, and then discuss optimal approaches for DFS this weekend.

Playoff-Centric Even Amid Chaos

Kevin Harvick was the favorite entering last year's playoff race in Texas, and he led early. But the track got wet, and Harvick hit the wall before the race went under caution. It was a weird race, and it led to a non-playoff driver winning.

Even with that, there were still two drivers in the Round of 8 in the perfect FanDuel lineup.

Perfect LineupSalaryStartLaps Led
Martin Truex Jr.$12,000 6th53
Kyle Busch$11,300 9th90
Alex Bowman$10,000 5th43
Matt DiBenedetto$8,000 14th2
Christopher Bell$7,400 15th5

Kyle Busch broke up the party, but Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman were in the optimal because of the number of laps in the race.

That should tell us the importance of lap-leaders this week. Even when things got wonky, it was still a front-centric perfect lineup. We should go in expecting the same this week.

For this race, the most likely winners are all starting at the front. The top four drivers in my model's projected average running position are occupying the top four spots in the order. Drivers still in championship contention have won five of seven races on 1.5-mile tracks this year. We shouldn't expect that to change now.

As such, I'm going to have at least two playoff drivers in every lineup this weekend. I need lap-leaders, and those guys will likely come from this pool. I might not be able to squeeze in a third due to salary restrictions, but if I could, I would. It's that much of an emphasis here.

Because salaries are high on the likely lap-leaders (outside of Ryan Blaney at $11,000), it could mean I'll miss out on the mid-range. That group includes William Byron, who grades out excellently on this track type, and Kevin Harvick, who could scoop place-differential from back in 24th. Ideally, I'll be able to get back up there for the third driver in my lineup as both those guys are enticing. But if the choice is between a second playoff driver and someone in the mid-range, I'm going to go with the playoff guys each time.

Outside of Harvick, it will be hard to find good place-differential options this week. Of the top 19 drivers in my model's projected average running position, only 2 (Harvick and Aric Almirola) will start in the back half of the field. Those two have also had their issues using the 550-horsepower package this year, so you can easily nitpick them.

That means the value plays in last year's perfect lineup likely do serve as a good model for this weekend. We'll likely have to lean heavily on drivers starting in the teens who have the ability to crank out a top-10 finish. It's firmly the antithesis of the past two weeks where we were selling out for place-differential across the board.

Our goals this week are clear for both studs and value plays. For studs, we need guys who can lead laps and push for the win. For value plays, we need guys who can finish well, regardless of where they're starting. Based on the way the starting order broke, that's likely going to give us a more front-centric approach than we're used to in both buckets. It can make things uncomfortable for cash games, but it's necessary discomfort for a race this long on a track this fast.