Daily Fantasy NASCAR 2017 Season Review & 2018 Outlook - Joe Gibbs Racing & Furniture Row Racing
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Welcome back to another exciting season of daily fantasy NASCAR. We are now just 36 days from the 60th running of the Daytona 500 so I wanted to put together a season preview series looking at each team and driver and their average fantasy production on each track type from 2017 and their outlook going into the 2018 season. If you are new to fantasy NASCAR, especially on DraftKings, be sure to check out my strategy article coming out soon covering some basic strategy for cash games and GPP formats.
Joe Gibbs Racing & Furniture Row Racing
Like any step brother, u can be annoying at times: taking our toys, upstaging us, & acting like some kind of tough guy.
But in the end, no matter how often we wonder why our parents got together, we’re truly happy for your success & friendship.
— Joe Gibbs Racing 🚗🏁 (@JoeGibbsRacing) November 20, 2017
It was a heck of a year for the Toyota "Super Group" in 2017. Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch both made the Final Four in the Monster Energy Cup Series Playoffs with Truex taking home his first Championship with Busch coming in second. Between the two drivers, they picked up 13 wins(36% of the 36 races) and when looking at fantasy dominators, were #1 and #2 on the season as Truex led 2,253 laps and Busch with 2,023. They were two of just three drivers(Kyle Larson - 1,352) to lead over 1,00 laps last season and if you weren't using one of these drivers in lineups week in and week out, you were probably not profitable on a consistent basis.
Let's now jump in and take a look at each driver on these teams and break down their success on each track type last season and their outlooks for 2018.
Kyle Busch #18
Busch led the way for JGR in 2017 with five wins(Pocono, Bristol, New Hampshire, Dover, Martinsville) and eight poles. He made it all the way to the final four in the first year of the Monster Energy Cup Series Playoffs and came up one position short of picking up his second Championship title.
The story early in 2017 for Kyle Busch was how close he came to winning several races but just couldn't get the #18 into Victory Lane. He experienced his longest winless streak of career going 36 straight races without a win and the last was an incident involving Furniture Row teammate Martin Truex Jr. at the Brickyard 400 in July. After leading 87 of the first 110 laps he ended up wrecking for the lead with Truex.
It led to a pit road altercation between crew members and an eventual suspension to a couple of the Furniture Row Racing guys. It proved to be more motivation for Kyle as he went out the next week at Pocono led 74 laps and picked up his first victory of the season. He followed the win up with five straight Top 10 finishes and after a 15th place finish at the Playoff opener in Chicago, grabbed back to back wins at New Hampshire and Dover and one more at Martinsville to lock up his spot in the final. While it was a season of ups and downs, the #18 team has to be optimistic going into 2018 as they were a team that overcame diversity early in the season and became a dominant player in the overall scheme of things right up until the final lap of the season.
From a fantasy perspective, here is a look at his average DraftKings points per race on each type of track:
- Short Tracks(81.5)
- One-Mile Intermediate Tracks(77.5)
- 2.5 Mile Intermediate Tracks(56.8)
- Intermediate Tracks(52.8)
- Two-Mile Intermediate Track(48.8)
- Road Courses(43.0)
- Restrictor Plate Tracks(21.0)
Kyle led all drivers in the Cup series with 81.5 DraftKings per race thanks to two wins and he also finished four of the six races inside the Top 10. This was no surprise at all seeing as he sits tied with teammate Denny Hamlin with a career 11.7 average finish among active drivers and with those two wins now has 12 and sits just two behind Jimmie Johnson. The competition on the one-mile intermediate tracks was very close but with his back to back wins in the playoffs at Dover and New Hampshire, Busch led the way with 77.5 DraftKings points per race and finished inside the Top 10 in four of the six races on this track type. The 2.5-mile intermediate track type is a smaller sample size(3 races, 2 tracks) but Kyle led the way with 56.8 DraftKings points per race with two Top 10's at Pocono including a win at the end of July. He was also well on his way to three-peat at Indy before getting in that wreck with Truex near the end of the race. Another small sample size with the two-mile intermediate tracks(3 races, 2 tracks) and although he finished all three races inside the Top 10, finished well behind Truex and Larson with an average of 48.8 DraftKings points per race. The road course leaderboard ended up extremely close with seven drivers within 10 average DraftKings points per race with Kyle finishing 7th although he finished both races inside the Top 10. While he was successful on all other track types, he struggled on restrictor plate tracks with just one Top 10 and three finishes of 20th or worse in four races and ended up with a poor 25.5 average DraftKings points per race.
2018 Outlook: I feel finishing 2nd at Homestead and in the Championship will leave a bad taste in Kyle's mouth and expect him to come out flying in 2018. I am projecting six wins and another appearance in the final four at Homestead. Get the #18 into your fantasy lineups early and often this season as he leads a ton of laps which really help him hit value at his high price(average salary of $10,325 in 2017).
Denny Hamlin #11
Hamlin ended up with two wins(New Hampshire, Darlington) and tied with the second-most Top 10's(15) in 2017 but will enter the 2018 season as NASCAR's biggest villain after his Playoff altercations with Chase Elliot. It started at Martinsville to open the Round of 8 as Hamlin and Elliott battled for the win in the closing laps with Hamlin "dumping" Elliott.
This all but eliminated Elliott from the Playoffs but he got his revenge two races later at Phoenix in the elimination race.
Now let's take a look at Hamlin's average DraftKings points per race on each track type:
- Road Courses(51.1)
- Short Tracks(45.9)
- Intermediate Tracks(41.8)
- One-Mile Intermediate Tracks(37.8)
- 2.5-Mile Intermediate Tracks(33.9)
- Two-Mile Intermediate Tracks(31.8)
- Restrictor Plate Tracks(31.4)
Denny was very consistent on road courses last season finishing 4th in both races and trailed only Clint Bowyer in average DraftKings points per race. After going 12 straight races without a Top 10 on a road course, Hamlin has gone four straight with a Top 10 including a win at Watkins Glen in 2016. Going into 2018, the #11 is definitely at the top of my list for fantasy going into the road courses. I mentioned above that Hamlin is tied with teammate Kyle Busch with an 11.7 average finish on short tracks and although he didn't pick up a win on one in 2017 he was very consistent. It didn't start off well with a 30th place finish at Martinsville but he went on to finish each of the next five races inside the Top 10 with three Top 5's for an average of 45.9 DraftKings points per race. After Martin Truex Jr. at the top of the intermediate ranks, the field was fairly close and Hamlin ended up 6th overall in average DK points per race and closed out the season with eight straight Top 10 finishes including a win Darlington. All the Toyota's were strong on intermediates and I don't expect that to change in 2018 even with the new body styles. Hamlin started the year out strong on one-mile intermediates with three straight Top 10's, one at each track(Phoenix-10th, Dover-8th, New Hampshire-win) but tailed off at the end of the season with DNF's at Dover and Phoenix(see above video). He was nothing more than average at Pocono(12th, 4th) and Indianapolis(17th) this season and ended up 11th overall with an average of 33.9 DK points per race on 2.5-mile intermediate tracks. His struggles on two-mile intermediates continued as he hasn't picked up a win on this track type since Michigan back in 2011. He finished 14th at Fontana and 4th and 16th at Michigan last season and averaged just 31.8 DK points per race. Finally, like the entire JGR/Furniture Row Racing team, Denny somewhat struggled on restrictor plate tracks with finishes of 17th and 24th at Daytona and was a bit better at Talladega with finishes of 11th and 6th. He is a former Daytona 500 winner(2016) and before last year had three straight Top 5 finishes so expect him to be a factor to start the season.
2018 Outlook: I honestly don't see much changing for Hamlin in 2018 and project 2-3 wins and another playoff appearance but he is not in my final four going to Homestead(stay tuned for predictions on the final article of this series). For fantasy, he doesn't lead enough laps for the price we normally have to pay for him(average $9,200 last season) and for the overall production(average 39.7 DK points per race on the season). Like I mentioned above, however, I will be targeting him on the road courses.
Daniel Suarez #19
After Carl Edwards shocked the NASCAR world and announced his retirement in January, Daniel Suarez was thrust into a Cup Series role probably a year earlier than Joe Gibbs had planned. With the adjustment, the expectations were not too terribly high but overall he impressed finishing 20th in the standings just outside the Playoff bubble. He picked up just one Top 5(Watkins Glen) but finished with at least one Top 10 at every track type besides the restrictor plate tracks. Let's take a look at his average DraftKings points per race at each of those track types.
- One-Mile Intermediate Tracks(41.1)
- 2.5 Mile Intermediate Tracks(37.6)
- Road Courses(35.3)
- Short Tracks(30.1)
- Intermediate Tracks(20.7)
- Restrictor Plate Tracks(21.9)
- Two-Mile Intermediate Tracks(15.1)
Suarez was most impressive on the one-mile intermediate tracks in 2017 as he picked up five straight Top 10 finishes in six races for an excellent 8.8 average finish. In those five Top 10's, he qualified outside the Top 20 twice and picked up positive place differential in three of them. Pretty darn good considering his average salary of $7,150 in those races. He also had success at the 2.5-mile intermediates with a 15th and 7th at Pocono and 7th at Indianapolis for an average finish of 9.7 and average of 37.6 DK points per race. Place differential was not nearly as good as the #19 team had an average starting position of 12.3 on the season but again he provided us a value price. The road courses also didn't prove to be much of a challenge in the Cup car in 2017 as he finished 16th at Sonoma and then 3rd at Watkins Glen for the 9th best average DK points per race. Outside of a 32nd place finish at Martinsville in April, Suarez was consistent on the short tracks with five Top 20's and one Top 10 finish but again his average starting position(16.0) hurt his overall DK points per race average. Suarez only picked up one Top 10 on the intermediate tracks but finished all but two of the races and ended up with a 19.7 average finish but again the issue was the awesome qualifying(13.6) from the #19 team which limited his fantasy value. The two tracks where Suarez struggled the most were the plate tracks(20.0 average finish) and two-mile intermediate Tracks(22.7 average finish). He did not record a Top 10 at either Talladega or Daytona and while he finished 7th at Fontana, had tons of trouble at Michigan with finishes of 37th and 24th.
2018 Outlook: Suarez is stilling learning on the fly and I am not expecting a huge jump in performance. I can see an improvement when it comes to intermediate tracks as Toyota has been producing some of the best speed in the series over the last two years. I will also continue to target him heavily when the series heads to New Hampshire, Dover, and Phoenix(one-mile intermediates tracks). For Suarez, his value will almost always be based on his qualifying efforts. I don't think he gets a win but do think he once again gets double-digit Top 10 finishes with a few more Top 5's.
Erik Jones #20
Jones spent his rookie season in the #77 for Furniture Row Racing which is a satellite team for Joe Gibbs Racing. While his teammate, Martin Truex Jr, commanded the spotlight in 2017, Jones had a tremendous rookie year with five Top 5's and 14 Top 10 finishes anding up 19th in the points just ahead of Daniel Suarez. While he did experience a ton of ups and downs throughout the season, he did pick up at least one Top 10 finish on every track type so the future is most definitely bright. Joe Gibbs thinks so as well as he has promoted Jones up to the #20 car which was vacated when Matt Kenseth was not re-signed by the team. Let's have a look at how Jones did fantasy-wise on each type of track.
- Two-Mile Intermediate Tracks(41.4)
- Short Tracks(41.3)
- 2.5-Mile Intermediate Tracks(33.8)
- One-Mile Intermediate Tracks(30.5)
- Intermediate Tracks(29.6)
- Road Courses(27.0)
- Restrictor Plate Tracks(9.2)
The only track type where Jones had an average finish under 10 was the two-mile intermediate's where he finished 12th at Fontana and 13th and 3rd at Michigan while picking up positive place differential in all three races. His success on short track was the definition of a roller coaster ride as he tallied two Top 10's and also led 260 laps at Bristol in August but also crashed out early at Richmond and finished the final Martinsville race in the 26th spot. The laps led definitely helped him get to an average of 41.3 DK points per race. Looking at the 2.5-mile intermediate races, he struggled at Indy finishing 31st but was tremendous at Pocono with finishes of 8th and 3rd. He all but one(New Hampshire) race on the one-mile tracks with three Top 10's(Phoenix-2, New Hampshire-1) and six Top 20's and the only reason it was his fourth-best track type from a fantasy perspective is the 8.1 average starting position. Jones picked up Top 10 finishes at four different intermediate tracks(Texas, Darlington, Kentucky, Charlotte) but only finished inside the Top 15 50% of the time which led to a sub 30 DK point average per race. Like most young drivers, he struggled at Sonoma but was successful at Watkins Glen(used in Xfinity Series). Finally, like all the other JGR/Furniture Row Racing drivers, Jones struggled on the plate tracks which proves even further the strategy of stacking teammates or in this case, fading them.
2018 Outlook: In arguably better equipment this year as he steps up to the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing car, I fully expect Jones to improve overall and become more consistent. He is definitely a breakout candidate for me in 2018 and I can see him picking up his first career Cup win and if I had to guess it would be at Michigan or Bristol.
Martin Truex Jr. #78
Truex Jr. was the class of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series as he picked up a whopping eight wins including the Championship clinching race at Homestead in November. He only grabbed three poles all year but it really didn't matter as he led the series with a ridiculous 19 Top 5's and 26 Top 10 finishes. Like I mentioned with Kyle Busch, it was either Busch or Truex almost every week if you were considering a dominator driver as he also led the series with 2,253 laps led and was the only driver in the series to end the season with an average finish below 10. Let's take a look at his fantasy success on each track type.
- Intermediate Tracks(95.5)
- Two-Mile Intermediate Tracks(83.3)
- One-Mile Intermediate Tracks(74.9)
- Short Tracks(57.3)
- 2.5-Mile Intermediate Tracks(32.7)
- Road Courses(25.6)
- Restrictor Plate Tracks(17.0)
I wrote about Truex Jr's dominance on intermediate tracks all season in my articles and it was pretty amazing, to say the least. Seven of his eight wins came on the mile and a half tracks and he led at least 76 laps in 10 of the 12 races for a total of 1,208 total laps led. With an average of 95.5 DraftKings points per race, he had just over 32 more points on average than the next best driver. WOW. He didn't pick up a win on the 2.5-mile tracks but was still dominant from a fantasy perspective with finishes of 2nd and 6th at Michigan and 4th at Fontana while leading a total of 192 laps. Not far behind was his performance on the one-mile intermediate tracks as he finished with five Top 5's in six races for a 4.8 average finish with 402 laps led. He wasn't quite as consistent on the short tracks(12.8 average finish) with two finishes of 20th or worse but did pick up three Top 10's in six races with 356 laps led. Looking at the 2.5-mile tracks, he was pretty darn good at Pocono with finishes of 3rd and 6th but got into a wreck with Kyle Busch at Indianapolis in the late stages of the race and finished 33rd. He went into 2017 with one road course win(Sonoma-2013) and while he blew an engine at Sonoma this time around finishing 37th, he did pick up a win at Watkins Glen in August. Like I have mentioned throughout the article both these teams struggled at the plate tracks and the champ was no different as he finished 13th and 34th at Daytona and 35th and 23rd at Talladega.
2018 Outlook: It was a breakout season for Truex he went into 2017 with just seven career wins in 11 full seasons and I don't see much changing in 2018. I believe he will once again dominate on mile and half tracks and fully see JGR/Furniture Row improving on the plate tracks this year. My prediction is that he will join Kyle Busch in the final four once again this season.
Stay tuned as the Penske Racing 2017 review and 2018 outlook article will be out within the next week. If you would like to start researching for the 2018 season, grab a copy of my race by race trends sheet below(click on the pic) showing drives salaries and DraftKings for every race last year as well as average points per track type. Cheers!
Chris Durell has been playing Daily Fantasy Sports for four years and fantasy in general for more than a decade. He is an active player in NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, and of course NASCAR. He lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with his wife and two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jager_Bombs9 for advice, strategy, answers to any NASCAR questions or how he copes with the winters up north.