Camping World 500
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Phoenix International Raceway is the next stop for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but before the green flag waves for the Camping World 500, it's time to build some winning DFS NASCAR lineups.
There are 312 laps on tap Sunday, so the laps led and fastest laps run categories are going to be important for both cash and tournament lineups. Recent history suggests that the laps led category is going to be dominated by drivers starting in the Top 5, so you are going to want to own at least one strong qualifier in every lineup.
In cash games, the place differential category plays a much bigger role, but you won't want to overdo it on drivers starting way back in the field. Passing is tough at Phoenix, and drivers who start toward the front usually do well. Instead, I recommend targeting reliable, higher-priced drivers who are starting in the middle of the pack.
In GPPs, I think you have a lot of roster flexibility this week, and you might not need much exposure to place differential. I think stacking a couple of studs starting up front and pairing them with a couple of punt plays could work out. I also think you could go with a more balanced approach, using one stud and five midrange drivers who are starting in the top half. Track position is big at Phoenix, and I think you can build a winning lineup simply through the dominator categories and solid finishes.
To help make sure you have a profitable weekend playing DFS NASCAR, check out one last look at my top picks and favorite lineup combinations for the Camping World 500.
Top Cash Game Plays
Kevin Harvick ($11,100)
He was already going to be the most popular play thanks to his ridiculous record at Phoenix, and now that he is starting 23rd, he is practically a must-own in cash games. He has a 2.7 average finish in his last 10 starts at Phoenix, and his worst finish in that stretch is 13th. In six starts with Stewart-Haas Racing, his worst finish at PIR is fourth, and he has owned the dominator categories. Fade him in a few GPP lineup, but you need to lock him up in cash.
Joey Logano ($10,500)
The dominator stats are still important in cash games, and Logano is going to be the popular picks to dominate Sunday's race after claiming the pole. He won at Phoenix last fall, and over the last three years, he ranks second at the track in laps led, leading 30-plus laps in two starts from the front row in that span. Logano could run away with the race, and at the very least, he should be out front early.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200)
He will have to start at the rear of the field after a tire issue in practice, but I don't think it changes his value much in cash games. He was starting 19th already, so his value was always coming from place differential. He has seven Top 10s in his last 10 starts at PIR, including four in his last five. Hamlin is one of the top flat track drivers around, and I'm confident he will get near the front by the end of the race.
Ryan Newman ($8,200)
Newman has been a Top 15 machine at Phoenix, finishing 12th or better in six of his last seven starts at the track. Starting 22nd, he is in perfect position to take advantage of place differential, and his track record at PIR suggest she will do just that. Pencil him in for a solid score.
Aric Almirola ($6,900)
He qualified back in 28th, but Almirola was a borderline Top 20 car in practice Saturday. He has also been consistent at Phoenix, logging nine Top 20s and a 15.9 average finish in his last 10 starts here. His starting spot gives him a safe floor in the place differential category, so don't hesitate to use him to free up some cap space in cash games.
Chris Buescher ($5,800)
His biggest appeal is his price tag, and since he is starting 33rd, you don't need him to do a whole lot in the race to end up with a useful point total. He snuck into the Top 25 in practice, and if he can do the same in the race, he will be a decent punt play thanks to the place differential category. If you are dropping below $6,000, Buescher is your safest option.
Top Tournament Plays
Kyle Larson ($9,100)
If you are looking for a contrarian candidate to win the dominator categories, I think Larson is the smart bet. He starts fourth, so he is in prime position to get out front and lead laps. He has also been one of the strongest drivers to start the season, and he has been fast again in practice. Larson finished third at Phoenix last fall, and a breakout performance at the track could be on tap Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,500)
A slow start to the season combined with a third-place qualifying effort should keep Junior's ownership down a bit, but I think he could be a sleeping giant this weekend. He has six Top 10s, including five Top 5s, in his last seven starts at Phoenix, and he has was fast on short and long runs in practice. I think he is someone you will want to take a chance on in a few lineups.
Ryan Blaney ($8,000)
Blaney's strong start to 2017 continued at Phoenix as he grabbed a spot on the front row in qualifying. Now, the question becomes whether he can be a major factor for the win. Based on the speed he has shown this weekend, I think he can. Blaney has already had success at Phoenix, picking up a pair of Top 10s in two starts here last year. I think he can score a few points in the dominator categories while finishing in the Top 5, giving him serious upside for the price.
Erik Jones ($7,500)
I expect his Top 10 qualifying run to scare off most people, which could end up making him a real difference-maker GPPs. He has shown the last two weeks that he can already contend for the Top 10s at the Cup level, and his record at Phoenix in the XFINITY Series is impeccable. Don't be surprised when he ends up logging a career-best finish Sunday.
Trevor Bayne ($6,800)
His record at Phoenix leaves a lot to be desired, but Bayne is off to a strong start in 2017, opening the season with three straight Top 15s. He isn't starting quite as deep as some other cheaper options, but he still has a decent amount of upside in the place differential category after qualifying 24th. Bayne could be an overlooked gem this weekend.
Paul Menard ($6,200)
Starting in the Top 20, I think Menard will be overlooked this weekend in favor of drivers starting deeper in the field. However, he has three Top 15s in his last four starts at Phoenix, and he is one of the cheapest options among drivers from bigger teams. Granted, he doesn't have as much upside through place differential as other sleepers, but passing is tough at Phoenix, and there is no guarantee the drivers starting in the back will be able to move up. If Menard can just hang in the top half of the field all afternoon, he will be a great value at this price.
Drivers to Fade
Jimmie Johnson ($9,000)
It never hurts to throw Johnson in a GPP lineup, but I don't expect him to be one of the top scorers. He is off to a slow start in 2017, and since he qualified 14th, he doesn't have a ton of upside through place differential. He hasn't been dominant at Phoenix recently either, leading just 59 laps combined over his last nine starts and finishing outside the Top 10 in four of his last five. You can find a better way to spend $9,000.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,200)
Stenhouse's numbers at Phoenix have been average overall, and he has really struggled here his past three starts. Yes, he has some upside through place differential after qualifying 21st, but he is by no means a guarantee to take advantage of it. For the price, I'd rather drop down to a cheaper option starting even deeper in the field or pay a little more for a driver starting up front who has a better chance of delivering a solid finish.
My Favorite DraftKings Cash Game Lineup
- Kevin Harvick ($11,100)
- Joey Logano ($10,500)
- Denny Hamlin ($9,200)
- Aric Almirola ($6,900)
- Daniel Suarez ($6,400)
- Chris Buescher ($5,800)
Checkers-or-Wreckers GPP Lineup
- Joey Logano ($10,500)
- Martin Truex Jr. ($9,400)
- Kyle Larson ($9,100)
- Ryan Blaney ($8,000)
- Trevor Bayne ($6,800)
- Paul Menard ($6,200)