Daily Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview & Picks for DraftKings - Pennzoil 400
Chris Durell will be bringing you his weekly race breakdown, top trends, and pre-qualifying targets to help you cash on DraftKings and FanDuel. You can also grab a copy of his free DFS NASCAR Cheatsheet that includes a ton of stats and a customizable model.
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Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Las Vegas, NV
Track - 1.5 Mile D-Shaped Oval Intermediate(20° of Banking)
This week the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sin City for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While it is the second race using the new 2019 rules package, it will likely be a different race for a couple reasons starting with the track. Atlanta is an old slippery surface that wears out tires fast while Vegas has progressive banking and much more grip making it easier on the tires. The biggest difference this week is the new package which will add aero ducts to the front of the car which should further increase downforce, drafting, and pack racing. We saw a preview of what this weekend could look like back at the start of February when teams tested the new package. If you want to see some of that action check out Jeff Gluck's broadcast on Periscope.
Like last week with so many unknowns with the new package, I will be employing multiple strategies when multi-entering contests. I will look for drivers who were fast in one-lap and 10-lap averages in practice and narrow the field down to a couple of dominators to build around in some lineups and will stack teammates in other lineups with the chance we see a lot of drafting and pack racing.
Qualifying is Friday afternoon with two more practice sessions on Saturday so be sure to check back on my DFS NASCAR cheatsheet for updated rankings leading up to lineup lock. I will also have a list of my top targets listed on the sheet following final practice. Let's jump in and take a look at the previous winners, race trends, track history, and then look at some pre-qualifying targets.
Last Six Winners at Las Vegas
- Brad Keselowski(started 13th led 75 laps)
- Kevin Harvick(started 2nd, led 214 laps)
- Martin Truex Jr.(started 2nd, 150 laps)
- Brad Keselowski(started 4th, led 24 laps)
- Kevin Harvick(started 18th, led 142 laps)
- Brad Keselowski(started 2nd, led 53 laps)
- Race winner has come from a Top 5 starting position in four of the last six races
- Race winner has come from a Top 10 starting position in six of the last nine races
- At least one driver has led 70+ laps in five straight races at LVMS
- Two drivers have led 70+ laps in four of the last five races at LVMS
- Over the last five years(six races), there have only been four drivers(Logano, Keselowski, Truex, Kyle Busch) with an average running position inside the Top 10
Track History at Las Vegas
Kyle Larson has yet to win here at Vegas but has easily been the most consistent driver here with three straight podium finishes and has Top 10's in four of his six career trips here in the Cup series. Martin Truex Jr. joins Larson as the only other driver with Top 5 finishes in each of the last three races and he won this race during his Championship campaign in 2017. With 252 laps led in those three races, Truex also leads all drivers with a whopping 93 DraftKings/75.9 FanDuel points per race in that time. We also can't talk track history here at Las Vegas without mentioning Brad Keselowski who won the playoff race here last year and has seven straight finishes of 7th or better with three wins and 262 laps led(37.4 per race). One driver who has been very up and down here at Vegas is Kevin Harvick who has been involved in an accident in two of the last three races here but has also flashed a ton of upside with two dominating wins(2018 - 214 laps led, 2015 - 142 laps led) here in the last five as well.
Looking at the drivers in the mid-range, there are some nice values who stand out this week. Ryan Newman picked up a Top 10 here in the playoffs and has finished Top 20 in six straight and nine of his last 10 races with three Top 10's. Paul Menard finished Top 10 in both races here last year and Chris Buescher who is coming off a Top 10 at Atlanta finished 15th in both races here last year and 26th or better in all four of his career races here in the Cup Series.
Track Type History(Intermediate)
Here is what I wrote last week about Intermediate track history in last week's article:
In 2018, it was Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch absolutely dominating the mile and a half tracks as they combined for seven fo the 12 wins on the track type. Busch was a bit more consistent finishing inside the Top 10 in 11 of the 12 races with a 5.3 average finish while Harvick was involved in crashes at both Las Vegas and Charlotte leaving him with a 9.3 average finish on the track type in 2018. After picking up seven wins on intermediate tracks during his championship 2017 season, Martin Truex Jr. only won once(Kentucky) on the track type in 2018 but was still consistent with a 7.1 average finish with 340 laps led. The Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski combined for three wins with Keselowski winning at Darlington and Las Vegas and Joey Logano winning the most important race of the season at Homestead to win the Championship. Logano also closed out the season leading 40 or more laps in four straight mile and half races.
So with a combined 10 of the 12 wins on the intermediate tracks in 2018, it was no surprise that Keselowski, Truex, Harvick, and Kyle Busch finished 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th. It is tough to tell exactly what the new package will look like or who it will benefit the most but you definitely can't go wrong targeting any of the drivers who have a history of doing well on intermediate tracks.
The Daytona 500 is an animal of its own and then you factor in that Atlanta is also unique track in a lot of ways and we really don't have an accurate report card for any driver or team at this point. The team that has stood out to me the most in the early going is Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin won the Dayonta 500, each of the four drivers has a Top 5 and Erik Jones and Kyle Busch are the only two drivers with Top 10 finishes in each of the first two races.
The Ford's have been strong overall in the new Mustang which, for news purposes, has taken a back seat to the "new rules package" in the early going. It appears that changing bodies at the same time every other team is also dealing with changes was genius. The top Ford drivers have been Brad Keselowski who won last weeks race and doing so while dealing with the flu. Right behind him is Kevin Harvick who dealt with steering issues during practice and qualifying last week but made the right adjustments and looked dominant for a part of the race leading 52 laps and finishing 4th at the end of the day.
The most shocking and talked about story of the early season is the Hendrick Motor Sports team that is in year two of a new body-style and still struggling. Looking back at Atlanta last week, the top Chevy team was easily Chip Ganassi Racing as Kurt Busch was the top Chevy finishing 3rd while Kyle Larson led a race-high 142 laps but a speeding penalty held him to a 12th place finish. The only other Chevy to pick up a Top 10 at Atlanta was Chris Buescher of JTG Daugherty Racing. The Hendrick cars ran 15th(Bowman), 17th(Byron) and finishing a lap down were Chase Elliott(19th) and Jimmie Johnson(24th).
Pre Qualifying/Practice Targets
It was a very positive outcome for Chip Ganassi Racing a week ago in Atlanta as they introduced the new 2019 rules package on an intermediate track. Kyle Larson dominated most of the race leading a race-high 142 laps before being hit with a speeding penalty on pit road which left him with an eventual 12th place finish. While he didn't get the dominator points like his teammate, Kurt Busch matched Larson with a 6.0 average running position and came home with an impressive 3rd place finish.
The duo now heads to Las Vegas and looking at track history, Larson has the big edge as he returns with three straight podium finishes including two runner-ups. He is #1 in my pre-practice/qualifying model and will definitely be a core driver for me this week, especially being the 6th most expensive option on both sites. Kurt Busch has not been great at his hometown track with three straight finishes outside the Top 20 but with the new rules package, I expect some drafting so pairing these two together makes a ton of sense in GPP formats.
Like I mentioned above in the track history section, Truex joins Larson as the only other driver with a Top 5 finish in each of the last three races here at Las Vegas. On top of that, he also has the edge in dominator points as he has led 252 in that time, leading the field in two of those three races. After being taken out in a crash in the Daytona 500, Truex rebounded big-time last week in Atlanta finishing runner-up to Brad Keselowski and was maybe a lap away from making a move for the win. I will take the momentum and track history and roll with Truex in all formats, especially on DraftKings where he is the 5th most expensive driver.
He is likely to be popular this week in the low to mid $6K range but for good reason. He is coming off a tremendous race at Atlanta where he started 30th, had an average running position of 17th and ended up with a 9th place finish at the end of the day. He now returns to Las Vegas where he tallied a 15th place in both races last year. If he qualifies inside the Top 25 this week, he will become a GPP only play but outside of that starting position and you can lock him into your lineups in all formats.
Chris Durell has been playing Daily Fantasy Sports for five 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.