Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
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For all the excitement that the Daytona 500 provides, the wrecks and pack racing created by the restrictor plates make it a unique race from a DFS NASCAR standpoint.
There should be a bit of a return to normalcy for Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with the focus shifting from the place differential category back to finishing position and the dominator categories (laps led and fastest laps run).
Granted, NASCAR new, three-segment race format is going to have an impact on the dominator stats. The segments guarantee at least two caution periods, which could potentially lower the points available in the fastest laps run category. Meanwhile, teams will likely opt for a variety of pit strategies during and between segments, which could reduce the number of laps an otherwise dominant driver ends up leading.
While the full impact of the segments remains to be seen, I still expect a couple of drivers show up each week with the car to beat and spend a good chunk of time out front. Races at 1.5-mile tracks like Atlanta tend to be particularly susceptible to follow-the-leader racing. In eight of the last ten races at AMS, one driver has led more than 100 laps eight times.
With that in mind, I think the winning DFS lineup structure this weekend is likely to include a couple of expensive options which can pile up points in the dominator categories, and several value plays who can either deliver a solid finish for the price or can boost their score through the place differential category.
Make sure to check back for updated picks and DFS lineup tips following qualifying, and in the meantime, here is a closer look at the drivers who could help you cash in Sunday at Atlanta.
Harvick has been by far the most dominant driver at Atlanta in recent years. His 543 laps led over the last five races are 381 more than any other driver, and he has led 100-plus laps four times in that span. In three starts at AMS with Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick has never led less than 116 laps.
His career numbers at Atlanta are among the best in series history, and with back-to-back wins at the track, Johnson shows no signs of slowing down. He is a five-time winner at AMS overall, and he led 52 laps in his win in 2015 and 92 more in his win last year.
Logano is on the short list of drivers who can anchor a DFS lineup at any track. He ranked second in Top 5 finishes at 1.5-mile tracks last year, and he has led 75-plus laps in two of his four starts at Atlanta since joining Team Penske. You are going to want some exposure to Logano this weekend.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex offers the ideal combination of consistency and upside this weekend. His four Top 10s in the last five races at AMS are tied for the most in the series, and no driver more led more laps at 1.5-mile ovals last year. In fact, he led 30-plus laps in seven of the 11 races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2016, leading more than 140 laps three times.
Busch should be riding high after his Daytona 500 win, and the good times could keep rolling at Atlanta. His 9.3 average finish in the last ten races at AMS is tied for tops in the series, and over the last five races, he has gained an average of 9.3 spots for the race. Busch has Top 5 potential Sunday, and his value skyrockets if he has room to gain points through place differential.
He delivered an epic rookie season, and Elliott was often at his best at the 1.5-mile ovals. He finished 11th or better in seven of his 11 starts, finishing eighth at Atlanta. Equally as important, he got better as the year went on. Elliott led laps in four of the last five races at 1.5-mile tracks, leading 75-plus laps twice. He could be a contrarian option to build around Sunday.
Dillon has steadily improved as a driver, and the 1.5-mile ovals have become some of his best. He finished a career-best 11th at AMS last year, and he was a consistent Top 15 driver at intermediate ovals, showing occasional Top 5 upside. He is a guy to keep an eye on heading into practice and qualifying.
As irrelevant as Kahne has been for the better part of two seasons, he did close the 2016 season on a high note. He logged six Top 10s in the final ten races at 1.5-mile tracks, posting an average place differential of +7.5. With the potential to finish in the Top 10, Kahne could deserve a long look depending on how qualifying plays out.
Newman's value comes from his consistency. He has three Top 10s in his last four starts at Atlanta, and he ranked in the Top 10 in driver points scored at 1.5-mile tracks last season, averaging a 12th-place finish. A solid finish is likely on tap Sunday, so don't hesitate to roster him if he ends up with a mid-pack starting spot.
Atlanta has quietly been one of Almirola's better tracks. He has reeled off four straight Top 20s at AMS, including three straight Top 15s. More importantly, he has gained an average of 8.3 spots per race in that span. If he starts in the back half of the field, Almirola should be a great value pick.
After Todd Parrott came on board as crew chief last season, McDowell and the No. 95 team really stepped up. He finished 23rd or better in his final four races at 1.5-mile tracks, gaining a combined 40 spots in those races. If he qualifies outside the Top 25, he should be a great source of cap relief Sunday.