NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: M&M's Fan Appreciation 400
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 M&M's Fan Appreciation 400 from Pocono Raceway on FanDuel.
|Practice||Saturday, July 23rd
2:35 p.m. EST
|Qualifying||Saturday, July 23rd
3:20 p.m. EST
I'll be as open to practice and qualifying to build out my daily fantasy stable this week as I have been since the start of the season.
The 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway is so unique. It's a three-turn, triangle-shaped oval with different banking in each corner. With the longest straightaways in NASCAR, horsepower and track position (i.e. -- clean air) are worth absolutely everything.
You'd think passing would be difficult, but strategy jumbles the field constantly at Pocono because you can pit without losing a lap -- more like a road course.
This weekend's mix of tracks in my median lap rankings just isn't very good as a result. They're tracks from this season where equipment matters, but none have a great comparison to the shape, speed, layout, or tire wear we'll see at Pocono.
At this point, we're guessing which cars will be fast. We'll know much more Saturday after practice.
General Lineup Strategy
With just 160 laps (and 16 FanDuel points for laps led available) on Sunday, the natural lean has to be finding drivers that can score place-differential points.
In last year's doubleheader at Pocono, no driver led more than 31 laps. Dating back even further, only one driver has led more than 50 laps in the last four trips. That was Aric Almirola (61) in 2020.
The strategy element does shuffle the field quite a bit; 22 different drivers in those four races led at least 10 laps. As a result, you can't really assume a driver with track position at the start will keep it. Generally, the cars with speed find a way -- via long green-flag runs -- to gravitate towards the front.
Ideally, our daily fantasy plays this weekend will be cars that are fast in practice that started further back in the field. That way, they'll have upside from working their way to the front.
But, unlike larger drafting ovals, we can't sell out for place-differential points. Speed and pace will matter, so don't write off a driver starting in the first few rows if they were quick in practice.
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 weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend. The prior races in the sample this week are:
2022 Fontana (Spring) - 20%
2022 Kansas (Spring) - 20%
2022 Charlotte (Spring) - 20%
2022 Texas All-Star (Spring) - 20%
2022 Nashville (Spring) - 20%
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.
Don't let the median lap ranking of Ross Chastain ($11,500) fool you. It's bogged down by a 30th-place ranking in Fontana with crash damage.
He's largely been the fastest car on larger ovals, evidenced by leading 153 laps in Charlotte before crashing late. He's at the top of Jim Sannes' simulations for a reason.
However, Chase Elliott ($13,500) is a stout threat. His hot streak continued last week for a fourth straight top-two finish, and he led 86 laps in Charlotte before a broken toe link, as well. If Elliott shows speed in practice, he should be enormously popular.
Interestingly, Denny Hamlin ($12,500) is at the top of my median sample thanks to his consistency. He's posted a top-10 median time at every large oval this season. Hamlin is historically dominant here at Pocono. He's a six-time winner here with the most recent back in 2020. Hamlin's average finish in the last six Pocono races (4.7) also leads all active drivers.
With the 19th-best median time at Fontana and the 13th-best median time at Charlotte, Kyle Busch ($14,000) just hasn't been as strong at larger ovals this season. He's been generally fast, but the top salary in the driver pool is a bit high despite him being the last winner at Pocono. That came in an entirely different car.
William Byron ($10,000) is a solid plug in the mid-range. He's fifth in the median lap time blend, and he's run well historically here, posting five top-10 finishes in his last seven starts. Byron also led more than 10 laps in four of those. Eventually, the speed of Elliott and Kyle Larson ($13,000) has to trickle down to him as their teammate.
Hamlin's teammate, Christopher Bell ($9,500), has a higher salary this week fresh off the win at Loudon, but he's the only other driver besides Hamlin and Larson with a top-10 median time at every track in the sample.
Charlotte and Fontana are probably the two closest challenges to Pocono in the blended sample, so Tyler Reddick ($8,500) is in play by default. He had the second-best median time at both venues.
Chase Briscoe ($7,000) also fits that mold as a value play with success at those tracks. He posted a top-15 median time and finished 4th at both.
Jim is all over Erik Jones ($6,000) this week in his betting guide, and I'm not one to disagree. He's got the 18th-best sample of times at the 22nd-highest salary. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,200) shows an even more extreme split, though. He's salaried 21st in the driver pool, but he's got the 13th-best median time. We all know the downsides to Ricky, though.
The RFK cars have been split on speed, and it's worth remembering relative to their salaries. Brad Keselowski has been better at short, flat tracks, but Chris Buescher ($5,500) is the last value play I'm keeping a close eye on. He's got the 16th-best median lap sample. Keselowski, for comparison, is just 21st.