NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Pennzoil 400

William Byron had the fastest car in Fontana before an on-track incident. Which drivers are priorities to watch entering this weekend's event in Las Vegas?

If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, 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, though!

numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide. 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 Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on FanDuel.

Weekend Primer

Event Time
Practice Saturday, March 5th
1:30 p.m. EST
Qualifying Saturday, March 5th
2:05 p.m. EST

The quick practice-to-qualifying turnaround will happen again this week (and most weeks).

Notably, practice times were surprisingly indicative of the best cars last weekend in Fontana. Tyler Reddick dominated and posted the third-best practice time. Joey Logano, Erik Jones, and William Byron were top-10 practice cars and ran up front, as well. The winner, Kyle Larson, was 11th. Therefore, it's pretty safe to say fast cars in practice should be amongst the best on Sunday.

Qualifying also had plenty of single-car spins and incidents, so the fastest cars during the session didn't always merit the best results.

So, watch if you can. There could be hidden gems from fast cars in the sessions that encounter trouble.

General Lineup Strategy

Early returns on this next-generation car were solid.

Last week, 7 of the top-10 finishers started outside of the top-15 spots in the running order. There were 9 different leaders and 32 lead changes. There were also 6 drivers above $8,000 on FanDuel who suffered an issue during the race and finished outside the top-20 spots.

Overall, I'm going to have a tendency to stack the back of the pack whenever humanly possible -- but not at the risk of finishing potential. Right now, drivers are spinning out often, accruing a flat tire, and in the next-gen car, that's a multi-lap penalty due to the lack of an inner lining of the tire.

Obviously, there will be a dominant car or two. Reddick led 90 of the 200 laps before his tire issue. I will still take swings at cars that are fast in practice and qualifying that appear to have that type of upside. In lower-salary flex spots, though, I'm just not sure how you can trust a driver starting near the front to stay problem-free.

With 267 laps on deck, the ideal tournament lineup will likely be comprised of one-to-two dominant cars -- potentially starting anywhere in the field -- and other flex plays that likely started closer to the very back than the very front.

Driver Rankings

Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level in that order. Only drivers from Jim Sannes' win simulations above a 0% probability were included.

As a great indicator of overall speed, MLT Rank is the driver's average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend's. For this race, it includes just last week's race at California (the only non-drafting oval in the next-gen car).

For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 1-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is amongst the favorites to win the race, and a "1" is a total, unforeseen longshot.

For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 1-10 on a scale to finish in terms of potential to finish inside the top-15 spots. These drivers will be better daily fantasy plays the further back in the field they start for optimal place-differential points.

Driver Swaim's

1 19.76% 6 10 10
2 6.74% 5 10 10
3 7.86% 1 10 10
4 8.48% 4 10 10
5 10.34% 8 9 10
6 3.66% 2 9 10
Truex, Jr.
7 7.16% 10 8 10
8 5.98% 19 8 10
9 8.04% 26 8 10
10 1.32% 9 7 9
11 3.96% 13 7 9
12 0.48% 21 6 8
13 1.98% 23 5 8
14 1.62% 3 5 7
15 1.82% 11 5 7
16 1.24% 18 5 7
17 5.74% 25 5 6
Stenhouse, Jr.
18 0.70% 7 4 6
19 0.12% 14 4 6
20 0.20% 15 4 6
21 1.18% 12 3 5
22 0.10% 17 3 5
23 0.26% 16 2 5
24 0.28% 30 2 5
25 0.18% 24 2 5
26 0.12% 31 1 4
27 0.16% 32 0 3
28 0.32% 20 0 3
29 0.04% 27 0 2
30 0.10% 22 0 2
31 0.02% 28 0 1
31 0.04% 29 0 1

As someone who has Kyle Larson ($14,000) ranked first overall, I will say he's likely to be over-rostered due to a process that probably isn't optimal. While Larson did win last week in Fontana, he led just 28 laps late after incidents to other lead cars. He had just the sixth-best median lap time. Last year's win at Las Vegas was also in a different style of car. He's more than solid, but he'll be rostered like a must-have dominant favorite. Underweight in tournaments might be the optimal way to go.

Las Vegas is a non-drafting oval with some tire wear, so there are decent compatibilities to Fontana. There are at least enough to keep an eye on William Byron ($11,000). Byron was faster than his teammate Larson in Fontana, and he'll likely be far less rostered. Now, I'll be malleable if Larson is fast in practice and Byron isn't, but that's my general disposition entering the weekend.

The pair of Penske veterans Joey Logano ($13,000) and Ryan Blaney ($12,500) were fast at Fontana, and the organization has 13 top-10 finishes in their last 18 entries in Las Vegas. Logano also has a pair of wins. They should be strong throughout the weekend.

The way Earnhardt-Childress Racing-affiliated cars have started this season has me firmly prepared to loft Tyler Reddick ($10,000) into a dominator role if he's fast again. Reddick led 90 laps at Fontana before a flat tire cratered his afternoon. Hopefully, those not watching the race weren't quite as keen on how much better he was than a majority of the competition.

Toyota struggled with overheating issues across the board in Fontana. The only one fast enough last week (for their salary) that I'd be willing to roll the dice on is Christopher Bell ($8,700). Bell posted the ninth-best median lap time before said issues took him out of the event. Toyota believes they've resolved the issue, but a lot of their top-end targets weren't quite fast enough for their salary anyway.

I will have to get more data on Erik Jones ($8,500) to make a decision by Sunday. Petty-GMS Racing is not a well-funded team, but with more ability in the driver's hands with the next-gen car, the former star prospect was a solid, undeniable top-five runner in Fontana. If that continues in practice on Saturday, this salary might even be too low.

Keeping with the theme of ECR-affiliated machines, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,800) is a terrifying driver to roster with a number of spins and crashes to start the season. He's called Wrecky Spinhouse for a reason. At his salary, though, his speed was tremendous. He posted the 7th-fastest median lap time in Fontana and finished 10th. I still can't do it in cash, though.

Chase Briscoe ($7,000) and Cole Custer ($6,000) continue to work for buying into a Stewart-Haas Racing revival. Both posted top-15 median lap times and top-16 finishes in California.

Concerningly, teammate Kevin Harvick ($9,500) was one of few incident-free cars on the day and posted just the 25th-fastest median time. Harvick's general downward trend of speed has been pronounced the last two years as he's aged. I'll probably look to actively avoid the popularity attached to him if he starts further back again on Sunday. He may just stay there with fewer incidents; those greatly contributed to his 7th-place finish at Fontana.

Another driver I'll hope to avoid is Daniel Suarez ($7,500). Suarez is an ECR machine, but like Harvick, he shuffled to the front and scored a fourth-place finish after staying problem-free. He had the 16th-fastest median lap time and he's the 17th-highest salaried driver on FanDuel. He'll probably be more popular than he deserves, and I'd love pivoting to his teammate Ross Chastain ($5,500) at a lower salary. Chastain had eight top-10 finishes last year compared to just four for Suarez.