NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Toyota Owners 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.
With all of this in mind, let's preview the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on FanDuel.
|Practice||Saturday, April 1st
10:00 a.m. EST
|Qualifying||Saturday, April 1st
10:45 a.m. EST
Though not always the most entertaining race for fans, many drivers say the three-quarter-mile short track in Richmond, VA is their favorite on the circuit.
It's the rare short track with multiple viable grooves, which should lend itself to passing. This surface, last paved in 2004, will chew tires up and spit them out. That makes the strategy under caution easy -- pit for tires. For long. green-flag runs, there's actually a fine balance between an extra stop (and new tires) being worth pitting before fuel is required in some cases.
This is NASCAR's second trial of its new short-track package, and Phoenix was largely a dud. That could mean plenty of laps led in the same hands, and passing could be more difficult than with previous aero packages here.
Because this layout is fairly unique, I'm willing to move off my current positions if practice times show us an entirely different mix. However, with two short flats already completed in 2023, we have a general idea of who should be quick.
General Lineup Strategy
On short tracks, laps-led points are no longer optional. To win a tournament, you'll need a bunch of the 40.0 FanDuel points available for the 400 projected laps on Sunday.
At Richmond last April, three different drivers led at least 80 laps, and all three finished in the top-seven spots. To no one's surprise, they all made the perfect FanDuel lineup. In August, only two drivers met the criteria, but that's because Joey Logano hogged 222 laps led to himself.
Drivers as far back as $8,000 in salary do have a realistic shot to lead this race, so a balanced approach to take as many swipes at who leads them might be optimal.
Be careful chasing place-differential points here. A deep starter can easily be lapped quickly and put behind the ball from the start.
However, of last year's 20 top-10 finishers at Richmond, 9 did start outside the top 15. As I said, you can pass here, but don't sell out for place differential unless the car shows speed in practice, or the driver and team have run well at similar tracks historically. The incident rate has been quite low here in recent years.
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 or a top-20 finish this season were included.
MLT Rank is the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend as a great indicator of overall speed. The prior races in the sample (with weight percentage) this week are:
2023 Phoenix (Spring) - 50%
2022 Richmond (Spring) - 20%
2022 Richmond (Fall) - 20%
2023 L.A. Clash (Spring) - 10%
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.
If not for yet another phantom debris caution that has plagued the Cup Series in 2023, Kevin Harvick ($13,500) was coasting to victory earlier this year at Phoenix. Considering he also won the last race at Richmond, Harvick checks too many boxes to not be the weekend's top overall driver.
However, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin ($12,500) and Christopher Bell ($11,500) were quick enough in Phoenix to buy at a track they've historically dominated. Hamlin's win here last April was one of 10 top-five finishes in his last 12 races at Richmond. Bell won three of his five Xfinity Series starts here.
William Byron ($14,000) has been the best car week-to-week all year, so his salary isn't unjustified. He led 64 laps and did nip Harvick at Phoenix just weeks ago. I'm a bit bearish on teammate Kyle Larson ($13,500) despite his 201 laps led at Phoenix. Larson has always run well at Phoenix, but he's led just 11 laps here in his last eight starts while showing excellent speed at other tracks.
I've included the L.A. Clash in this week's sample as one of two short tracks in 2023, and Martin Truex Jr. ($12,000) kicked butt there. Truex has finished no worse than seventh in his last eight Richmond starts, leading at least 80 laps in six of those. If he's got the horse, I know he can get it done.
Jim's model loves Joey Logano ($10,500) and Ryan Blaney ($9,500), but Logano's 16th-place median time at Phoenix and forgettable L.A. Clash bid are two bad omens for his 2023 on short tracks. Blaney is easier to justify given the salary, a third-place finish at Phoenix, and a top-10 median lap time at both Richmond races last year.
If there's a team that's worth watching this weekend, it's RFK Racing. Brad Keselowski ($8,200) and Chris Buescher ($8,000) showed tremendous speed at Richmond last year, the organization -- heavy on analytics -- nailed the pit strategy in both of them. Buescher nearly nipped Harvick for the win in August. Both have top-seven median blends this week from decent showings at Phoenix, too.
Hendrick Motorsports' speed at Phoenix has me intrigued by both Alex Bowman ($8,500) and Josh Berry ($7,800) in the value range. Bowman is a former Richmond winner, and Berry is a short-track ace with two top-10s in three Xfinity Series tries here.
Harvick's teammates Aric Almirola ($7,500) and Ryan Preece ($5,200) are other intriguing looks down here. Almirola has top-10 finishes in three of his last five Richmond starts, and Preece was in contention to defeat Bowman and Truex Jr. at the L.A. Clash. Preece will be a name to monitor at short tracks the rest of the year if people stop running him over.
If high-salaried drivers dominate practice, we'll need a value punt with speed. Michael McDowell ($4,500) appears to be the man for the job entering the weekend with a top-15 median time at Phoenix earlier this year, but Justin Haley ($3,500) had two top-25 median times at Richmond last year and was stellar at this track in the Xfinity Series.