NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
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 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on FanDuel.
|Practice||Friday, March 18th
5:05 p.m. EST
|Qualifying||Saturday, March 19th
12:30 p.m. EST
All three of NASCAR's national series are in action, and that bumps practice to Friday rather than immediately before qualifying on Saturday.
Practice may not be a must-watch for daily fantasy given that NASCAR is hoping that a drafting-oval environment is in place at the reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend. Single-lap times aren't just very indicative of speed in drafting situations.
Qualifying will also be less important than normal since it's less about identifying the fast cars as much as seeing which drivers are starting closer to the back.
General Lineup Strategy
We have no idea what's in store this weekend.
Atlanta has been repaved and reconfigured in what NASCAR hopes is now a 1.5-mile drafting oval like we see at the 2.5-mile-or-bigger tracks like Daytona and Talladega. Drivers that tested here in previous months aren't exactly sure that's a slam dunk.
Still, the drafting-oval aero package is in play this weekend, so a good guess to our default strategy will mirror that of Daytona and Talladega. There are 325 laps up for grab to lead, but it's hard to envision a bulk of them in one driver's hands if a drafting environment is on deck.
In that case, we'll tend to stack toward the back of the field to maximize place-differential points and reduce the risk of group accidents in close proximity.
However, practice could tell a different story. The key to that strategy is that it's easy to pass at Daytona and Talladega. If passing proves to be brutally difficult in practice or Saturday's Xfinity Series race, then we may want to revert closer to a strategy from Las Vegas two weeks ago.
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:
2022 Daytona Spring Race
2022 Las Vegas Spring Race
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.
I'm kind of using a hybrid approach to ranking drivers this weekend.
Half of the factor comes from their prowess at the two drafting tracks, Daytona and Talladega. The other half comes from Las Vegas two weeks ago and general performance at 1.5-mile tracks last year. Our ideal candidates are proficient at both. That takes away the guessing game.
With that being the case, Ryan Blaney ($13,500) easily rises to the top, and he got a salary increase to prove it. Blaney is the defending winner of this race at Atlanta, but that was in a different car on a different surface. But he also won at an intermediate oval with some drafting (Michigan) and a drafting superspeedway (Daytona) last season. Any way you slice it, it would be surprising to not see Blaney contend on Sunday. Hopefully, he'll start deeper in the pack for upside.
Surprisingly, Kyle Larson ($14,000) rose to the top of a median lap time rank that included Daytona. Larson wrecked at Daytona in February but had the second-fastest median lap time there. The defending champ has never won at a drafting oval, so he would benefit from a track environment that is closer to a 1.5-mile track with less horsepower. That would be a racing style similar to what was in place when Larson won the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race in Texas.
I'm mostly open to a majority of the contenders entering the weekend, but I likely have Martin Truex Jr. ($10,000) lower than consensus. Truex Jr. actually had the fastest median lap time in Las Vegas two weeks ago -- a stark improvement from his 2021 performance on 1.5-mile tracks. However, a drafting environment would not be MTJ's friend. He has just a single top-10 finish in his last 13 points-paying starts at Daytona and Talladega.
Both Austin Cindric ($9,000) and Bubba Wallace ($8,500) saw huge bumps in salary as top finishers at Daytona, but I am a bit concerned about Wallace. Wallace has finishes of 34th, 17th, and 27th in three races since the Daytona 500, and that's a large salary to pay for that production unless practice is a clear indication we'll have pack-style racing on Sunday.
Brad Keselowski ($7,500) has been lacking speed most of the year, but Daytona was the lone exception. He won his qualifying race and posted a top-10 finish and median lap time. He'll be one of the drivers I'm most closely watching. Though on a different surface, Keselowski is a two-time Atlanta winner with a history of success on other 1.5-mile tracks as well.
Two value plays we know can get it done in potential drafting environments are Michael McDowell ($5,000) and Justin Haley ($4,000). McDowell, of course, won the 2021 Daytona 500, and Haley is a five-time winner across the Cup Series and Xfinity Series at Daytona and Talladega.
The high "flex-play viability" rankings across the board are there for a reason. I'll be open to most drivers starting further back if a pack-style racing environment is on tap.