With NASCAR DFS at DraftKings taking a break this weekend for the Monster Energy All-Star Race, it is a perfect time to take a closer look at the season to date to try to notice any trends and patterns that can be helpful going forward.
Since the series returns to action next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I decided to examine how drivers have been performing at the 1.5-mile ovals. Charlotte is one of several tracks on the schedule that feature a 1.5-mile layout. In fact, 11 of the 36 races this season will be run at 1.5-mile tracks, and there are still seven left on the schedule.
Perhaps more importantly, drivers tend to show similar results at all 1.5-mile tracks throughout a given year, so there is a good chance that the results from the first four races at mile-and-a-half ovals are going to be a good indication of what to expect the rest of the year.
With that in mind, I took a look back at the races at Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas and Kansas, focusing on how drivers have performed in the scoring categories used by DraftKings. After looking at the data, I have highlighted the drivers that have been getting the job done in the dominator categories and a few that have quietly been exploiting the place differential category.
I also highlighted a couple of drivers who are having strong years but are actually a little overrated based on the scoring categories being used at DraftKings.
Check out the top NASCAR DFS options at the 1.5-mile ovals so far in 2017, enjoy the All-Star Race this weekend, and get ready to get back to cashing next weekend at the Coca-Cola 600.
Martin Truex Jr.
His dominance at the 1.5-mile ovals started last year, and it has carried over into 2017. After four races, he currently ranks second with 303 laps led and first with 156 fastest laps run. Truex has also finished eighth or better in all four races, winning twice and compiling a 4.5 average finish. His consistency in the dominator categories is particularly impressive. Truex has led at least 49 laps in three of the four races at mile-and-a-half tracks, and he has 28 or more fastest laps in three of the four. Whenever the series visits a 1.5-mile track, Truex should be anchoring plenty of your lineups.
Despite cutting a tire and crashing early at Las Vegas, Harvick still leads all drivers with 379 laps led at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, and he also ranks fourth with 98 fastest laps run. Yes, his overall numbers are driven up by an absolutely dominating showing at Atlanta when he led 292 laps, but Harvick has led 10-plus laps and recorded 15-plus fastest laps in three of the four races at mile-and-a-half tracks. He is almost always going to give you some points in the dominator categories, and he has top-scorer potential. The combination of the high floor and higher ceiling makes him an ideal option to build around, especially in cash games.
He hasn’t gone out and dominated races like Kevin Harvick or Martin Truex Jr., but don’t sleep on Keselowski. He has finished sixth or better in all four races at 1.5-mile tracks, and he does rank fourth with 114 laps led. More importantly, his 143 fastest laps run rank second, and he is the only driver to record double-digit fastest laps in all every race at the mile-and-a-half tracks, logging 18-plus in all four events. When in doubt, you can count on Keselowski for an excellent finish and solid exposure to points in the dominator categories.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the leap Blaney had made in his sophomore campaign. He has been at his best at the 1.5-mile ovals, compiling a 10.2 average finish and ranking third in both dominator stats. Blaney has led a combined 231 laps in the last two races at 1.5-mile tracks, and he has topped 20 fastest laps run in three of the four. The speed has been there all year for Blaney, and he appears to be getting better. His price tag still hasn’t caught up to his performance, and he should make an excellent contrarian option to build around in GPPs for at least a few more trips to mile-and-a-half tracks.
At this point, I’m not sure Kahne is ever going to be a consistent Top 10 driver again, but he still shows occasional flashes at the 1.5-mile ovals. He has three Top 15s in four starts this year to go along with an average place differential of +8.3. In fact, Kahne has gained 16-plus spots in two of the four races at mile-and-a-half tracks. His value is entirely dependent on his starting spot, but if he starts in the back half of the field, Kahne is typically a mid-priced gem at the 1.5-mile tracks.
I’ll be the first to admit that I overvalued Chris Buescher to start the year. His move to JTG Daugherty Racing has only resulted in a slight upgrade from his performance last year with Front Row Motorsports. On the plus side, his salary has remained cheap. He also has a respectable 21.5 average finish at the 1.5-mile ovals, and he has cracked the Top 25 in all four races. Buescher also has an average place differential of +6.3 in these events. You have to wait until after qualifying, but if Buescher starts outside the Top 30, he should be a cheap source of 20-plus fantasy points at the mile-and-a-half tracks.
It often takes a really cheap sleeper to win a large GPP, and McDowell has been deceptively effective at the 1.5-mile tracks, especially for a guy usually priced below $6,000 at DraftKings. He has a 20.8 average finish in four starts, gaining seven or more spots three times. His floor at the 1.5-mile tracks is right around a Top 25, and McDowell is proving that Top 20 runs aren’t unrealistic. If he starts 30th or worse at the mile-and-a-half ovals, he is a great option for opening up a large amount of cap space.
I don’t want to bash on Larson too much. He is having an impressive year overall, and his 3.0 average finish at the 1.5-mile tracks is actually the best in the series. However, he hasn’t really provided much in the dominator categories at these tracks. He has led just seven laps in four races, and he has reached double-digit fastest laps run just once. Meanwhile, his strong results this year have caused his price tag to balloon, and despite the excellent finishes, I’d much rather commit a big chunk of my cap space to Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. or Brad Keselowski. Obviously, you make an exception if Larson happens to have a ton of upside through place differential, but be cautious about mistaking great finishes for dominating performances.
There is no denying the consistency Elliott has shown at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, and in the four races, he has notched three Top 10s and a pair of Top 5s. The issue is that he has not led a single lap in those races, and while he has averaged about 13 fastest laps per race, he has not recorded more than 19 fastest laps in any of them. When he is priced in the low $9,000s at DraftKings, you can easily justify using Elliott in a heartbeat. However, there have been times when he creeps over $10,000, and for someone who has yet to show significant upside in the dominator categories at the 1.5-mile ovals, that is just too much.