NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Food City Dirt Race

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 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on FanDuel.

Weekend Primer

Event Time
First Practice Friday, April 15th
4:05 p.m. EST
Second Practice Friday, April 15th
6:35 p.m. EST
Qualifying Races Saturday, April 16th
6:00 p.m. EST

This section was built for this weekend.

With a dirt race on tap, a dirt-track style schedule is on tap as well. Two practice sessions should be very helpful on Friday to see which drivers have speed early in the weekend.

However, this race is so unique -- a new car on a new dirt configuration -- that some drivers will likely get stronger throughout the weekend as they learn the track. So, while practice will be helpful, I'm not necessarily considering it gospel.

The qualifying format is also different this weekend. Teams will be randomly drawn into one of four qualifying heat races on Saturday. Some heats will be stronger than others, so strong cars will be starting further back from some races than weaker cars that just drew an easier set of competitors.

Personally, the qualifying races -- in a racing environment -- are the can't-miss event of the weekend. Those cars that perform well should be strong on Sunday.

General Lineup Strategy

The strategy will vary for many this weekend.

With 250 laps on the board, there are still plenty of laps-led points available to want cars that lead. In fact, three drivers led 245 of the 253 laps in last year's event. That's the ultimate goal in fantasy NASCAR this weekend.

Last year, Joey Logano won the race and led 61 laps, and Martin Truex Jr. led a race-high 126 laps. Both started in the top-10 spots and were top-6 cars in final practice single-lap speeds. That gives us a general hint to use cars at the front to find these points.

However, for my value options, I want to stack the back. 12 cars were involved in an incident that left them multiple laps down last year. Even with this race at night and not subject to last year's glare issues, it's a chaotic race on a small dirt track.

Last year, Erik Jones started 24th, posted 32nd in final practice, and survived the chaos to finish 9th. There is some randomness in which cars rise to the front; only 5 of last year's top-10 finishers were top-15 cars in final practice.

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 with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations 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. The prior races in the sample this week are:

2022 Richmond (Spring)
2022 Martinsville (Spring)

For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is among the favorites to win the race, and a "0" has no realistic chance to lead the race at any point.

For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 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 MLT

1 Joey
6 10.48% 8 10
2 William
4 7.58% 8 10
3 Martin
Truex, Jr.
12 5.44% 8 10
4 Chase
2 7.92% 8 10
5 Ryan
3 7.28% 8 10
6 Kyle
16 8.08% 8 10
7 Kyle
1 3.30% 8 10
8 Christopher
6 4.86% 8 10
9 Denny
18 4.40% 8 10
10 Tyler
15 4.62% 7 10
11 Chase
17 3.48% 7 10
12 Alex
10 4.00% 6 10
13 Kevin
5 7.04% 6 9
14 Ross
13 2.72% 6 9
15 Brad
8 0.86% 6 9
16 Kurt
19 0.68% 5 8
17 Ricky
Stenhouse, Jr.
28 1.46% 5 8
18 Daniel
27 3.06% 5 7
19 Bubba
23 1.36% 4 6
20 Austin
20 2.04% 4 6
21 Austin
9 2.24% 4 6
22 Erik
24 1.42% 3 5
23 Cole
21 0.32% 2 5
24 Aric
14 2.02% 1 5
25 Chris
10 1.08% 1 4
26 Noah
32 0.80% 0 3
27 Justin
25 0.30% 0 3
28 Todd
30 0.26% 0 2
29 Harrison
21 0.36% 0 1
30 Ty
25 0.24% 0 1
31 Justin
32 0.10% 0 0
32 Michael
29 0.16% 0 0

The angle I'm generally taking this weekend is that the "dirt background" drivers are generally overvalued. Dirt guys like Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick, and Chase Briscoe won't stop complaining about the race format, and last year's three dominant drivers all did not rise to NASCAR on dirt.

Look no further than last year's winner, Joey Logano ($13,500). Logano tops Jim's simulations and my rankings, but it's not because he's a bargain at this salary. With strong runs at the three shorter ovals this season (not including a win at the quarter-mile track in the L.A. Coliseum), he has the best floor at the top. Hopefully, he's quick in practice and qualifying like last year to justify this top spot.

Martin Truex Jr. ($11,000) didn't finish last year's race well, but he won the Truck Series race here on dirt before leading 126 laps in the Cup Series event last season. Given Truex Jr. was so strong at Richmond on a short, slick oval two weeks ago, he's still in tremendous form to run well Sunday as he did one year ago.

With no dirt background, I wouldn't be shocked to see William Byron ($12,000) continue his strong season after dominating at Martinsville last weekend. He was a top-10 car in practice and finished 6th one year ago.

Sitting in the mid-range, Ryan Blaney ($9,500) and Kyle Busch ($9,300) seem incredibly undervalued due to their lack of a dirt background. Blaney has led 276 laps on short ovals this season and posted a strong 8th-place finish on dirt last season. Busch has the fastest median lap time average in the two short-track races this season and should not carry much popularity at all.

Jim's simulations give Kevin Harvick ($8,000) the sixth-best win odds in the field. He told me he doesn't believe in that figure, but I like it. Harvick's best run of the season came on the short, flat track at Richmond; he finished 2nd. I'd love him as a flex play if he starts deeper in the field.

I'm out on Daniel Suarez ($8,500). From seemingly nowhere, he was stellar last season in this event, finishing 4th and leading 58 laps. With the 27th-ranked median lap time in my sample, he's way over-salaried off of last year's run.

Despite no dirt background, Bubba Wallace ($7,500) won a Truck Series event on dirt at Eldora Speedway back in 2014, holding off Kyle Larson for that trophy. I'm interested in value plays with good equipment that lack a dirt background, including Kurt Busch ($7,000), Ross Chastain ($6,800), Austin Dillon ($6,300), Chris Buescher ($5,500), and Cole Custer ($4,000).

Generally, the guys less comfortable on dirt should be more conservative. They'll start further back and not take as many chances, and that should help them survive some of the chaos.

This is a truly unique event, and the low "dominator" scores across the board reflect that. I have very little confidence identifying drivers to watch for the win before practice. However, I'm also much more receptive to anyone that's fast and starting closer to the rear.

The only driver inside the top-25 of my rankings that I'll probably exclude due to extreme discomfort on dirt last season is Aric Almirola ($6,000), but even with him, quick practice times and a fair starting spot could change my tune.

You shouldn't have to punt salary to drivers outside the top-25 spots this week. Like the unique "Busch Clash" in L.A. earlier this season, the odds that high-salaried drivers are the dominant ones in practice and qualifying are relatively low.