NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: United Rentals Work United 500

Ryan Blaney led more laps than any Cup Series driver last year at Phoenix Raceway. Which other drivers might deserve a roster spot on FanDuel this weekend?

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.

With all of this in mind, let's preview the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on FanDuel.

Weekend Primer

Event Time
Practice Friday, March 10th
6:35 p.m. EST
Qualifying Saturday, March 11th
2:00 p.m. EST

Races at Phoenix will always feel big. This track holds the championship race every November, and as a result, this is the early season's best measuring stick for potential title contenders.

This year's race comes with a twist. NASCAR has implemented a new aerodynamic package on short, flat ovals like Phoenix to -- hopefully in their mind -- aid passing. That'll change our approach to daily fantasy quite a bit.

The new package should make us lean harder on this weekend's practice times, which will still take place in daylight at 3:35 p.m. local on Friday. Qualifying will be exactly at race time.

General Lineup Strategy

From a DFS perspective, the last aero package was awesome. It was easy to build lineups knowing what we knew; laps led were going to be extremely concentrated.

Two drivers combined to lead 244 of 312 laps in the spring, and two others combined to lead 296 of 312 laps in last fall's title race. From an entertainment perspective, there's a reason the package is changing.

From a finishing position standpoint, the field shuffled enough. Of the 20 top-10 finishers last year, 8 started outside the top-15 spots. You'd have to only ratchet up variance and passing if the package aims to do what NASCAR intends. It likely couldn't get worse.

With 312 laps (and 31.2 FanDuel points for laps led), we will need the dominant cars of the race. It might be best to still forgo an all-in approach at place-differential points for a third (or fourth) driver with the ability to lead laps based on our rankings and what we see in 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 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 Phoenix (Fall) - 50%
2022 Phoenix (Spring) - 25%
2022 New Hampshire (Fall) - 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 Sannes'

1 Joey
13.08% 3 9 10
2 Ryan
16.82% 7 9 10
3 Kevin
6.58% 2 8 10
4 Martin
Truex, Jr.
13.50% 5 8 10
5 Christopher
6.42% 8 8 10
6 William
5.14% 1 8 10
7 Denny
8.68% 11 7 9
8 Kyle
6.36% 8 7 9
9 Ross
4.10% 6 6 9
10 Kyle
3.80% 12 5 9
11 Chase
2.02% 4 5 8
12 Alex
1.06% 10 4 8
13 Austin
1.52% 14 3 7
14 Aric
2.98% 19 2 7
15 Tyler
2.16% 16 2 7
16 Bubba
0.66% 17 2 7
17 Austin
0.58% 15 1 7
18 Brad
1.48% 23 1 6
19 Ryan
0.34% 28 0 5
20 Josh
0.76% 28 0 5
21 Ty
1.06% 28 0 5
22 Erik
0.30% 17 0 5
23 Daniel
0.18% 20 0 4
24 A.J.
0.00% 13 0 3
25 Chris
0.30% 22 0 3
26 Noah
0.04% 28 0 3
27 Harrison
0.08% 23 0 2
28 Justin
0.00% 25 0 1
29 Michael
0.00% 26 0 1
30 Zane
0.00% 28 0 0
31 Ricky
Stenhouse, Jr.
0.00% 27 0 0
32 Corey
0.00% 21 0 0

Joey Logano ($14,000) likely isn't the dominant car this week with so much unknown, but he's absolutely got the strongest profile for our process.

Logano finished eighth last March, and he earned the NASCAR Cup Series title by leading 187 laps in his November win at this venue. To no surprise, he's third in our median lap blend and second in Jim's sims. He may not end up dominating the race, but he'll almost certainly be a factor.

Jim's stuff is in love with last fall's runner-up, Ryan Blaney ($13,500). After all, Blaney led 109 laps in November after leading 143 laps in March. He's had a knack for this track since winning the pole and leading 94 laps here back in 2019, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Blaney's first dominant run of 2023 in the desert.

Nine-time Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick ($11,500) will likely have two swipes at a swan-song victory here if last year's speed was any indication. He's on an absurd streak of 19 straight top-10 finishes at this venue across a half-dozen aero packages. I'd need disastrous practice and qualifying sessions to avoid "The Closer" on Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr. ($12,000) is also a former Phoenix winner, and his pair of 2022 efforts were derailed by accidents and mistakes. He still holds the fifth-best average median lap time ranking in this weekend's blend, so his speed is there.

Last week's winner William Byron ($9,500) has the fastest median lap blend, and Hendrick Motorsports has shown tremendous speed in 2023 so far. He could be in line to contend again.

The spring race last year was won by Chase Briscoe ($9,000), and Briscoe followed that with a fourth-place run in the fall. His lack of speed on the larger tracks so far isn't too concerning when his SHR team was off in speed entering this race last year, but it'd be nice to see him flash on the practice charts.

Briscoe's teammate Aric Almirola ($7,500) chewed up short, flat ovals last year. With an average finish of 16.0, Phoenix wasn't the best one for him, but he's got a top-20 median time in this weekend's blend, too.

We'll really get to see potential advancements of RFK Racing with Brad Keselowski ($7,000) this weekend. After returning to victory lane in 2022, the organization -- heavily focused on analytics -- likely is prioritizing short, flat ovals this year. Kes was a top-five finisher eight separate times here with Penske Racing.

Ty Gibbs ($6,500) is in really elite equipment as a team car to Truex, and he won the Xfinity Series title on this track last November. I'd also add Ryan Preece ($6,000) as a great dark horse this weekend as a teammate to Briscoe and Almirola. Preece's last Cup Series stint was with an underfunded JTG Daughterty Racing machine, but the modified short-track racer still scored six top-20 finishes on shorter ovals.

One final name to watch here could be Noah Gragson ($4,500). The rookie scored top-two finishes in both Xfinity Series races at Phoenix last year, and he won four races on shorter ovals. This is the first short oval of the year, so new names like Gibbs, Preece, and Gragson could emerge on this track type.