NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Chase Elliott will likely have significant competition to defend his title in Phoenix on Sunday. Which drivers are priorities on FanDuel for NASCAR's season finale?

If you are looking for an action-packed way to get your sports fix, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America. NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, of course!

numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes has you covered with his betting odds and form breakdown as well as his track preview to spotlight this week's venue. For driver picks and a full preview of the event, he also discussed this weekend's race on the latest NASCAR episode of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.

With all of this in mind, let's preview the Season Finale 500 in Phoenix on FanDuel.

Race Preview

It all comes down to this. Four drivers will run for the championship at Phoenix Raceway this weekend. Located in Arizona, this unique one-mile oval is a tremendous test for NASCAR's best. The four drivers eligible for the crown are objectively the best four drivers in the series this season, and the competition is as tight as the odds would indicate.

Practice was held for this season finale on Friday. The starting lineup was also set by time trials instead of the qualifying formula. That will allow for some speed-based opportunities to look for place-differential points among the value plays.

As for the front runners, two playoff drivers in each lineup feels like a must. A final-four participant has won each of the six races that have been "winner take all" for the championship. Another playoff participant finished second in five of those six contests. Last year, all four finished in the top four.

There are no comparable resumes or motivation for other drivers to lead substantial laps, so any high-salary options outside of the playoffs would be rolling the dice for a solid finish.

High-Salaried Drivers

Kyle Larson ($14,500): Larson has arguably the weakest resume on 750-horsepower ovals just looking at results. However, Larson's average median lap time ranking in my relevant track sample (Phoenix's spring race, both Martinsville races, and New Hampshire) is 5.8, which is the third-best among all drivers. Larson was also second in practice overall on Friday, and his five-lap average time was the best in the entire field. Larson is fast this weekend, and with all the marbles on the line, it's hard to turn down motorsports' winningest driver across all formats in 2021. He's your polesitter, too.

Denny Hamlin ($13,500): Hamlin has had two close encounters with a championship, and this might be his best shot. Hamlin's 4.0 average median lap time ranking in my relevant track sample is the best of all drivers in the field. He was also sixth in practice Friday in the five-lap average category. In short, he has the speed and equipment to win this race. Starting sixth, Hamlin has a tiny bit of place-differential juice, but he's one of the best nominees to take the checkered flag.

As for the other two, Chase Elliott ($14,000) is right in the mix as last year's winner, but the one playoff driver I'm lowest on is Martin Truex Jr. ($13,000). His fifth-place standing in my median lap time ranking was already concerning, and he followed it up with a 16th-place five-lap average time in practice. Even though he won the spring race at this track and is worth tournament exposure, his speed seems to be lacking overall at this second.

Mid-Salaried Drivers

Brad Keselowski ($9,800): When it comes to the "others," Keselowski is by far the standout. He is the disruptor in my relevant track sample in terms of median lap time; Keselowski's 6.3 average ranking is fourth amongst all drivers, and he is the only driver inside the top-five who is not contending for the title on Sunday. Keselowski had the opportunity to win at Martinsville last week and the championship race here at Phoenix one year ago. His poor time trial only enhances his fantasy appeal by giving him place-differential upside. He will start 11th but probably won't stay there for long.

Aric Almirola ($8,000): Fading Almirola last weekend on poor Martinsville history was a mistake. He posted the fifth-fastest median lap time and finished sixth. There's no doubt that Almirola's only bright spot in a horrid 2021 is his performance has been on these short, flat ovals. He won at New Hampshire (with the fifth-fastest median lap time), and his only other three top-10 finishes this season have come on this track type. His showing of 21st in practice on the five-lap chart isn't great, but he has place-differential upside from 18th and is worth using given his performance on these types of tracks.

Others to Consider: Joey Logano ($11,000), Christopher Bell ($10,000), Alex Bowman ($9,000), Tyler Reddick ($8,000)

Low-Salaried Drivers

Austin Dillon ($7,300): Dillon's salary likely factored in a better starting spot. That's been the story on Dillon most of the year without qualifying, but he was forced to earn his spot this weekend. He failed to do so. Dillon will start 23rd, but his long-term form suggests he'll be better than that. His worst median lap time in the four relevant tracks in the sample was 17th at Phoenix in the spring, and he finished in the same spot that day. His seventh-place median lap time last week in Martinsville suggests he's made some improvements and will look to end 2021 with his ninth top-10 finish of the season.

Bubba Wallace ($7,000): Wallace was on the front row for the final restart at Phoenix in the spring -- and it ended up ruining his day. The poor tire strategy in that spot soiled his surprising 16th-place median lap time given the newness of his team back in March. Qualifying on Saturday suited Wallace well for DFS purposes, as a below-average time trial leaves him starting 25th. In the spring race at Phoenix as well as the two Martinsville races this season, Wallace had a top-20 median lap time, and he should have the speed to turn in a solid final run in his first campaign with 23XII Racing.

Others to Consider: Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700), Ross Chastain ($7,500), Chris Buescher ($6,300), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,200), Ryan Preece ($4,500)