NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Ross Chastain's daring move at Martinsville catapulted him into this weekend's Championship 4 at Phoenix. How should we rank the title contenders in daily fantasy?

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 discusses 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 NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on FanDuel.

Weekend Primer

Event Time
Practice Friday, November 4th
5:05 p.m. EST
Qualifying Saturday, November 5th
12:30 p.m. EST

It all comes down to this, and the schedule is a bit odd. We'll get practice on Friday around the end time of Sunday's race, and qualifying will be early Saturday morning.

Phoenix Raceway's unique layout and perfect weather are going to be the title race for years to come. Drivers will actually shift at this one-mile, short, flat oval, which makes it a really supreme test for the modern NASCAR schedule with plenty of flat tracks and road courses.

We've seen the four drivers eligible for the championship dominate this race since we shifted to this venue in 2020. That isn't likely to change this weekend -- except we have a defacto fifth challenger.

General Lineup Strategy

As mentioned above, this race is all about the title challengers.

They led 294 of 312 laps in 2020's season finale, and they combined to lead 306 of 312 laps last year. If you're not jamming at least two (and optimally three or four) playoff drivers into every lineup, you're banking on something totally unprecedented at this track in these circumstances.

Plus, all five title challengers have a top-eight average median lap time ranking in my blended sample this week. They're largely here because they're fast, elite on this track type, or they're willing to send that bleep into the corner as hard as it takes.

There are a few value plays that have shined on short, flat ovals that we can target as well. You're playing those guys as usual -- the best combination of finishing potential and place-differential points we can find.

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 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 Martinsville (Fall) - 50%
2022 New Hampshire (Fall) - 25%
2022 Phoenix (Spring) - 25%

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 of leading the race at any point.

For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale of potentially finishing 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 Chase
1 13.42% 10 10
2 Christopher
4 7.04% 10 10
3 Ross
8 6.22% 10 10
4 Joey
5 13.04% 10 10
5 Kyle
3 7.30% 10 10
6 Ryan
7 14.64% 8 10
7 Denny
2 4.56% 7 9
8 Kevin
6 8.66% 6 9
9 William
10 5.46% 5 8
10 Chase
14 1.30% 4 8
11 Martin
Truex, Jr.
12 5.66% 3 7
12 Kyle
19 2.16% 3 7
13 Aric
18 3.42% 2 7
14 Brad
16 1.40% 1 6
15 Cole
11 0.82% 1 6
16 Tyler
17 0.88% 1 5
17 Alex
24 0.58% 0 5
18 Daniel
12 1.08% 0 5
19 Bubba
9 0.42% 0 5
20 Erik
20 0.48% 0 4
21 Austin
15 0.16% 0 4
22 Ty
31 0.16% 0 3
23 Austin
22 0.46% 0 3
24 Chris
28 0.44% 0 2
25 Harrison
21 0.16% 0 2
26 A.J.
27 0.02% 0 2
27 Justin
32 0.02% 0 1
28 Michael
29 0.00% 0 1
29 Ricky
Stenhouse, Jr.
30 0.02% 0 0
30 Ty
24 0.00% 0 0
31 Corey
23 0.00% 0 0
32 Todd
26 0.02% 0 0

The five championship drivers are your five dominators to watch, so let's look at each.

Chase Elliott ($14,000) heads the driver pool, is favored to win the title, and is the fastest in my median lap rankings. It's really hard to turn anywhere else to start considering he also led 50 laps here in March. The lone concern is Elliott's current form. He hasn't finished better than 10th since his Talladega win, but he flashed enough speed last week (54 laps led) to not be overly worried.

Next, I have Christopher Bell ($13,500). Bell has won two straight must-win events, so what's a third? Realistically, he's the best bet at a short, flat track considering he's won the past two at Loudon and Martinsville. This track is just a bit different than those, and he finished 26th here in the spring. The question is if he's the horse for this course.

I'm going with Ross Chastain ($13,000) next despite not grading out super well from the sample. He was in a position to have to pull off the "Hail Melon" for a reason last week -- he wasn't super fast. Still, why I'm optimistic is he finished second here in March with the sixth-best median lap time. That reminds me of Kyle Larson ($12,000) last year, who underwhelmed on short flats except for this particular one. He won it all.

Last, I'd put Joey Logano ($12,500). It's not for lack of success on short, flat tracks. He won at Gateway and the L.A. Colesium earlier this year on flats. Logano's three median times in this sample are just ninth, ninth, and sixth, though. I just don't know if he currently has that next gear to dominate over an Elliott or Bell.

Now, I teased there is a "fifth" playoff driver, and it's the aforementioned Kyle Larson. He's in the owner's championship four by way of his win in Miami. It's actually more financially beneficial to Hendrick Motorsports, Larson and Elliott's team, to have Larson win the owner's title. It's what actually funds the team for winning. With the third-best average median lap time ranking in my sample, Larson's motivation is supreme, as well.

Ryan Blaney ($10,500) actually tops Jim's simulations, which don't account for motivation. He's absolutely the best of the rest, leading 143 of 312 laps here in the spring. March winner Chase Briscoe ($9,500) also led 101 laps, and his salary works easier into a title-driver build than Blaney's.

Briscoe's teammates at Stewart-Haas Racing are key value plays with speed, too. Aric Almirola ($8,200) kept his short, flat track magic rolling with the 12th-best median time last week, but it was actually teammate Cole Custer ($5,500) that had the 6th-best median time in a 15th-place effort.

Alex Bowman ($8,000) is back from concussion protocol, and sharing equipment with Larson, Elliott, and William Byron ($10,000) is pretty solid for his salary.

I'll be happy to pair my title drivers with any other top-20 average-median-ranking guys that don't qualify tremendously.

That includes Bubba Wallace ($7,800), Brad Keselowski ($7,500), Daniel Suarez ($7,200), Erik Jones ($6,500), and Austin Dillon ($6,200). These guys should show top-20 speed in practice before we blindly roster any of them, though. After all, it's the last day of school, and motivations and internal bonuses are different all throughout the field.