Auto Club 400
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
The starting lineup is set and all practice sessions are in the books, and it is time to get your DFS NASCAR lineups set for Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway.
The Auto Club 400 will be the first race of the year at a 2.0-mile track, and the track's long straightaways and wide surface create some decent passing opportunities and tend to cause the dominator points to be spread between a couple of drivers.
Historically, drivers starting up front have had a decided advantage when it comes to leading laps. In fact, all 11 drivers who have led 30-plus laps in a race at Auto Club over the last five years have started inside the Top 10, and seven have started in the Top 5.
The trend is something to keep in mind when building tournament lineups this weekend, and I think you need to risk losing some points in the place differential category in order to increase your chances of maximizing your points in the dominator stats.
Cash games are a much different story. Pre-qualifying tech inspection proved to be a hurdle for several drivers, and as a result, multiple big names are starting outside the Top 30. These drivers are practically must-own options in cash games, and I think you need to build cash game lineups almost exclusively around the place differential category.
Check out all of my top cash game and GPP driver picks and favorite lineup combinations, and start building some winning DFS NASCAR lineups for Sunday's Auto Club 400.
Top Cash Game Plays
Joey Logano ($10,300)
Starting back in 35th, Logano is a must-own option in cash games. He has been one of the best in the series at 2.0-mile tracks, and he can post a huge score based solely on finishing position and place differential. Look for Logano to be one of the biggest movers and top scorers Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,800)
He has been the best in the business at Auto Club throughout his career, and Johnson has a high floor and even a higher ceiling this weekend. He starts 37th after electing not to qualify, but his 6.5 average finish and six wins here suggest he will be storming toward the front Sunday. Even if he doesn't score any points in the dominator categories, Johnson could still be a Top 3 scorer this weekend thanks to place differential.
Kyle Larson ($9,100)
After grabbing the pole, Larson is sure to be one of the most popular picks among the drivers starting up front. Drivers starting in the first couple of rows have typically owned the laps led category, and Larson has been excellent at two-mile tracks in his career. He is the best bet to win the dominator categories Sunday, and he is someone to build around in cash games.
Kurt Busch ($8,200)
Busch qualified 15th, but he has three Top 10s in his last five starts at Auto Club and three Top 5s in his last four starts. I don't think he will do much in the dominator categories, but Busch should be a safe, solid play for a middle-of-the-road price.
Trevor Bayne ($7,200)
He has been a Top 20 driver all year, and Bayne has plenty of room to take advantage of the place differential category after missing qualifying. He will roll off 36th, and as long as he finishes around the middle of the back, he will be well worth the price.
Aric Almirola ($6,500)
Almirola has been qualifying in the back all year, and he is starting 31st again this weekend. More importantly, he has been able to crack the Top 20 the last two races, and he has finished 21st or better in three of his last four starts at Auto Club. Almirola was decent in practice Saturday, and he should end up with a solid score for a cheap price after place differential points are factored in.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,500)
If you are looking for a punt play in cash games, DiBenedetto is worth a roll of the dice. He starts 38th, so at the very least, he isn't going to post a negative score. Meanwhile, he has been more of a 30th-place driver this season, so I expect him to gain a handful of spots. His score won't be huge, but positive points from one of the cheapest options available isn't a bad thing.
Top Tournament Plays
Kevin Harvick ($10,800)
With Larson on the pole and Logano and Johnson starting so deep, Harvick could actually be slightly overlooked this weekend. If there is anything I have learned playing DFS NASCAR, it is that forgetting about Harvick is a bad idea. He led 142 laps at Auto Club last year and has seven Top 5s and 350 laps led in nine starts at two-mile tracks since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. Make sure to have some exposure in tournament lineups.
Chase Elliott ($9,600)
Elliott got into the wall late in Happy Hour, and if the damage ends up forcing him to a backup car, I will be jumping off the Elliott bandwagon. However, he was the fastest car on the track prior to the accident, and if the damage isn't too bad, I think he has a chance to contend for the win Sunday. Elliott finished sixth, second and second in three starts at two-mile tracks last year, leading 30-plus laps in two of those three races. He has plenty of upside.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,400)
Truex doesn't have a history of dominant runs at Auto Club, but his upside has increased significantly since his team formed an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. He was excellent on the long runs in practice, and I love him as a contrarian candidate to win the dominator categories.
Ryan Blaney ($8,300)
Blaney can be boom-or-bust, but after posting strong practice times on short and long runs, there is little doubt that he could crack the Top 10 Sunday, if not challenge for a Top 5. Starting 19th, Blaney could end up gaining a chunk of spots and finishing as one of the best mid-priced plays.
Erik Jones ($7,700)
With so many decent options starting in the back half of the field, Jones is a definitely a riskier mid-priced play. However, he was a Top 5 car in practice Saturday, so the risk could be worth it. Jones could be a difference-maker in GPPs this weekend.
Paul Menard ($6,800)
With guys like Almirola and Bayne starting outside the Top 30, I think Menard could be underowned this weekend. He starts 23rd, so he still have some room to score point in the place differential category. He also has a solid record at Auto Club. Menard has an 11.0 average finish over his last five starts here, and he has cracked the Top 20 in ever race in that span.
Drivers to Fade
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,700)
His record at Auto Club is solid, but his price tag still hasn't dropped enough to fall in line with his current level of production. Yes, he has some upside in the place differential category after qualifying 18th, but he wasn't happy with his car in practice Saturday. I think you can find much better ways to spend $8,700.
Daniel Suarez ($7,100)
I thought he was a little pricey to begin with, and after qualifying 10th, I have a hard time taking a chance on Suarez in any of my lineups. He has been a 20th-place car for the most part this season, and I think he will end up losing spots Sunday. There are multiple cheaper options who have a much more favorable situation with place differential.
My Favorite DraftKings Cash Game Lineup
- Joey Logano ($10,300)
- Jimmie Johnson ($9,800)
- Kyle Larson ($9,100)
- Trevor Bayne ($7,200)
- Paul Menard ($6,800)
- Aric Almirola ($6,500)
Checkers-or-Wreckers GPP Lineup
- Chase Elliott ($9,600)
- Martin Truex Jr. ($9,400)
- Denny Hamlin ($8,500)
- Ryan Blaney ($8,300)
- Erik Jones ($7,700)
- Ty Dillon ($6,300)