Toyota/Save Mart 350
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Sunday's Toyota Save/Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway is the first road course race of the season, and building a winning lineup at DraftKings is going to require a break from the typical strategy used at the intermediate ovals and short tracks.
It takes quite a while to navigate the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course, and as a result, the race is only 110 laps. The shorter distance means that there are fewer points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories, and these categories also tend to be tough to predict at a road course because of the variety of fuel strategies teams will use.
With that in mind, I recommend building a well-balanced lineup that places added emphasis on the place differential category. While not as extreme as Daytona or Talladega, you can almost think of Sunday's race as a restrictor-plate event. Yes, you should still try to score some points in the laps led and fastest laps run categories, but don't put all your eggs in those baskets. Every driver on your roster should be realistically capable of providing 30 or more fantasy points this weekend.
Make sure to get your lineups locked in at DraftKings, and make sure to check out the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET on FS1.
Kurt Busch ($10,700): Busch has dominated Sonoma both historically and in recent years. His 5.4 average finish over the last five races here is the best in the series, and he ranks first in laps led and second in fastest laps run for his career. Starting fourth, Busch is in prime position to add to his impressive resume at Sonoma on his way to being one of the top scorers.
Kevin Harvick ($10,400): In a shorter race, I value the place differential category even more than usual. Starting 25th, Harvick has a chance to pile up 20 or more bonus points in the category when all is said and done. He finished in the top five in both road course races last year, and he has the safest floor and one of the highest ceilings of any driver. He is a must-own in cash games and a great GPP option, as well.
Carl Edwards (9,100): He is no stranger to running up front at road courses. Edwards has three top-three finishes in his last five starts at Sonoma, including a win, and four top-five finishes in his last six road course starts overall. Starting from the pole, he could dominate the laps led and fastest laps run categories on his way to being the high scorer.
Jimmie Johnson ($10,100): Few drivers have been able to match Johnson's consistency at Sonoma, and he brings a streak of seven straight top 10s at the track into Sunday's race. He has also shown some serious upside on the track, winning in 2010 and leading the most laps in last year's race. Starting 15th, Johnson has some room to earn points through place differential, and he is still close enough to the front that he could lead some laps. Johnson could end up being an all-around stud in DraftKings scoring system.
A.J. Allmendinger ($9,600): Allmendinger is a road course ace, and he knows that winning at Sonoma or Watkins Glen is his chance to make the Chase. As a result, he is going to have a checkers-or-wreckers attitude Sunday, making him an all-or-nothing fantasy option. Still, he is a former winner at Watkins Glen, and he has led more than 20 laps in three of the last four road course events. He starts Sunday, and he could easily dominate the race on his way to being the high scorer. On the flip side, he could also crash and burn.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,100): Road racing isn’t his strength, but starting 27th, Stenhouse does have some potential. He has three top 20s in six road course starts, and while he doesn't have a high ceiling, he could be a relatively cheap source of 30-plus fantasy points. If you are looking for a contrarian sleeper for GPP games, Stenhouse is worth a roll of the dice.
Aric Almirola ($6,500): Almirola isn’t known as a road racer, but he has managed a pair of top 20s in his last three starts at Sonoma. He also has an average place differential of +6.3 in the last ten road course events. He starts 29th, so he could quickly gain 10-plus spots and finish with 30-plus fantasy points. Almirola could be a sneaky sleeper in GPPs this weekend.
Chris Buescher ($5,100): If you are looking for a serious sleeper, Buescher could be worth a flier. He starts 36th, so he has almost nothing to lose and lots to gain through place differential. He also has a road course win under his belt in the XFINITY Series. For almost the minimum price, Buescher could post a solid score and open up a ton of cap space.
Drivers to Fade
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,700): He has been enjoying the best stretch of his career at road courses, logging five finishes of 12th or better in his last six starts. However, Junior hasn't led a single lap during that stretch, and after qualifying 13th, his ceiling is only so high through place differential. You can do better for the price.
Denny Hamlin ($8,000): Hamlin has had his share of bad luck at Sonoma. He has finished outside the top 15 in six straight starts here, leading just 12 total laps and finishing outside the top 25 four times. Hamlin qualified sixth, so he will lose a ton of points through place differential if his bad luck continues. I don't think the risk is worth the potential reward.
My Favorite DraftKings Lineup
Kevin Harvick ($10,400)
Jimmie Johnson ($10,100)
Carl Edwards ($9,100)
Ryan Blaney ($7,200)
Greg Biffle ($6,700)
Aric Almirola ($6,500)
Harvick and Johnson have both been dependable options at Sonoma, and both have upside through place differential with the potential to log points in other categories. Edwards starts from the pole, and he is my pick to dominate the laps led and fastest laps run categories.
The three drivers rounding out my lineup all start outside the top 25, giving them plenty to gain and not much to lose through place differential. Biffle is sure to be a popular pick, but Almirola and Blaney should have a smaller ownership and almost as much upside.
Kyle Busch ($9,800)
A.J. Allmendinger ($9,600)
Brad Keselowski ($8,100)
Jamie McMurray ($7,800)
Austin Dillon ($7,300)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,100)
Busch is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and when he is dialed in at a road course, he can be dominant. After all, no driver has led more laps over the last ten road course events than Busch. Allmendinger is an all-or-nothing play, but starting second, he could dominate the laps led and fastest laps run categories on his way to a win. If both have banner days, this lineup will be in business.
Keselowski has great upside for a mid-priced pick. Sure, he has a lackluster record at Sonoma, but his record at the other road course, Watkins Glen, is excellent. I'm banking that the success finally carries over.
The rest of my lineup is loaded with drivers starting outside the top 20. McMurray is probably the safest pick, and I'm counting on Stenhouse being an X-factor. He starts back in 27th, so the potential through place differential is there. More importantly, I don’t expect him to be highly owned.