Daily Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview & Picks for DraftKings - Ticket Guardian 500
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Ticket Guardian 500
ISM Raceway - Phoenix, AZ
Track - 1 Mile Tri-Oval
This week the Monster Energy Cup Series heads to ISM Raceway for the Ticket Guardian 500. The new rules package is a little bit different here in Phoenix as the cars will be without the tapered spacer bringing them back up to 750 hp and they will also not be using the air ducts. They will, however, keep the new rear spoiler creating more downforce and early reports in the opening practice are faster speeds here than ever before. We will see how it plays out.
For fantasy, with 312 laps in the race, I will still be building around dominator upside as there has been at least one driver to lead 100 or more laps in 10 straight races here. Looking at the place differential trends, the playoff race last fall was a bit of an outlier with 11 drivers picking up double-digit PD as no more than five had done it in the previous five races. It would appear there is a correlation to the new configuration but the sample size is just too small to draw any logical conclusions. While there is not nearly as many top drivers starting back in the field this week, there is still a few we can target in this area.
Let's jump in and take a look at some track history, track type history, current form and top targets heading ito the final practices on Saturday.
Last Six Winners at ISM Raceway
- Kyle Busch(started 6th, led 117 laps)
- Kevin Harvick(started 10th, led 38 laps)
- Matt Kenseth(started 7th, led 62 laps)
- Ryan Newman(started 22nd, led 6 laps)
- Joey Logano(started 4th, led 58 laps)
- Kevin Harvick(started 18th, led 139 laps)
Track History at ISM Raceway
Kyle Busch returns to ISM Raceway as the most recent winner here back in November and has finished Top 10 here in seven straight and nine of his last 10 trips with six Top 5's and led 75 or more laps four times. While that is great and all, there is one driver who has been better, much better.
Kevin Harvick finished 5th here in the playoffs but has been dominant overall with a finish of 6th or better in 11 straight and 13 of his last 14 races here with seven wins. SEVEN!! Add the back to wins for Harvick back in 2006 and he has nine career wins here, six more than at any other track throughout his career. He is almost a lock(pending practice/qualifying) to be a core play this week.
Chase Elliott had some bad luck in the playoffs getting caught up in a crash between Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch but did win stage one and overall has been great here early in his career. Through six races, he has four TOp 10's and two Top 5 finishes and also led 106 laps here before a 12th place finish in the Spring race here in 2017. He should most definitely be on your radar this week.
There are a couple of young drivers in Erik Jones and William Byron who are nice value plays this week who have been good here in a limited sample size. Jones got the start here in the #20 back in 2015 when Kenseth got suspended and finished 19th. He then stepped into the Cup series in 2017 in the #77 car and finished Top 10 here in both races and followed that up with a Top 10 in his first race for JGR last season before a disappointing 17th place finish in the playoffs. Byron was promoted to the Cup Series last season in the #24 for Hendrick Motorsports and impressed here with a 12th and 9th place finish and now has an 8-time champion crew chief(Chad Knauss)on the box to help him improve on those finishes.
Don't sleep on Aric Almirola this week as he returns to ISM Raceway with three straight Top 10 finishes, starting 18th or worse in all three.
Track Type History(One-Mile Intermediate)
I won't go too deep into track type history this week as New Hampshire(1.058-mile with 12° of banking), ISM Raceway(1-mile tri-oval with 9°-11° of banking), and Dover(1-mile with 24° of banking) are all very different. On top of that, ISM Raceway re-configured things for the fall race with the start/finish line being moved from the backstretch to the middle of turn 2. Either way, there are some drivers who have been successful at these one mile tracks across the board.
Martin Truex Jr. finished the 2018 season with a 15th at Dover and 14th here at ISM Raceway but before that had tallied a Top 5 in eight straight races on one-mile tracks going back to the first Dover race in 2017. The only thing he hasn't provided us in that time is dominator points as he has just 36 laps led in that time.
Chase Elliott has been consistent on one-mile tracks and since the start of the 2017 season has finished 12th or better in 10 of the 11 races with a win(Dover-2018) and he has five Top 5's in his last seven races here.
We talk about them at almost every track type but Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have both been really, really good on the one-mile tracks over the last two years(11 races). They each have three wins and surprisingly, one at each track. Over those 11 races, Harvick has 575 laps led while Busch has 747 laps led so both also make excellent dominator targets at these tracks.
Down in the value range of pricing this week, we find Daniel Suarez who has picked up eight Top 10's in 11 races since the start of 2017 which is more than any other driver not named Truex, Harvick, or Kyle Busch.
The most consistent team through three races(don't @ me) has been Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500, Kyle Busch is the only driver with a Top 10 finish in each of the first three races, and throw in Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones and each driver on the team has at least two Top 10 finishes so far.
Team Penske has also had a tremendous start as Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano won back to back races at Atlanta and Las Vegas which also happened to be the first two races with the new rules package. The only reason I don't put them, as a team, ahead of JGR is due to the struggles of the #12 of Ryan Blaney who has yet to finish inside the Top 20. I would avoid him in cash games until we see some Top 10 form but for GPP's I think he makes a great low owned pivot.
The Stewart-Haas Racing team has been led by Kevin Harvick who bounced back after a crash and 26th place finish at the Daytona 500 with back to back 4th place finishes at Atlanta and Las Vegas. In those two races, Harvick also led 133 laps and he now returns to his best career track. Right behind Harvick is Aric Almirola who also got caught up in a crash at Daytona and like Harvick has bounced back with Top 10's in each of his last two races. Clint Bowyer comes into this week with three Top 20 finishes including a Top 5 at Atlanta while Daniel Suarez has 10th and 17th place finishes at Atlanta and Las Vegas after a 33rd at Daytona.
Chip Ganassi is having a solid start to the season starting with Kurt Busch who took over the #1 car for Jamie McMurray. He finished 25th at Daytona but has been solid since with a 3rd at Atlanta and 5th at Las Vegas. Kyle Larson looked great for most of the Atlanta race, leading 142 laps but overall it has been a manageable but slow start with a 7th, 12th, and 12th.
Pre Qualifying/Practice Targets
How do you not start your lineups with Kevin Harvick at ISM Raceway? He has finished 6th or better in 11 straight and 13 of his last 15 races here with a whopping seven wins. For his career, he has nine wins at ISM Raceway with 1,595 laps led which is over 600 more than the next closest driver. Oh ya, and in an interview(see below) after qualifying he mentions this package feels alot like the 2014 package. That is bad news for the field as he won both races in 2014 and led 488 laps!
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 9, 2019
It was another wild qualifying on Friday afternoon as cars waited on pit road until the clock wound down and it affected a few including Larson who was only able to complete one lap which was not enough to advance to the second round. He will start 31st this week after posting the 3rd fastest lap in opening practice and provides us with elite place differential upside. Overall, he has been up and down here at ISM Raceway but has finished Top 5 here in three of his last five trips including a 3rd place finish in the playoffs with the new track configuration.
It will be interesting to see the speed in the final two practices but Almirola is definitely on my radar this week. He will start 14th which gives us some mid-range place differential upside and has finished Top 10 here in three straight trips including a strong run in the playoffs where he finished 4th.
Like Larson, Daniel Suarez was not able to make it through to the second round of qualifying which had everything to do with Michael McDowell slowing him up which caused a bit of a tussle on pit road. He will start 28th which is even more appealing considering his mid $7 price tag on both sites. He was caught up in a crash here in the playoffs but had finished 8th, 18th, and 7t in his three other races here in the Cup series. Excellent value 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.
- NASCAR Phoenix Auto Racing: (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)