Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway is shaping up to be a great race to kick off this year’s playoffs. And despite the fact that the NASCAR schedule is filled with 1.5-mile race tracks, this is actually the first race since Kentucky in early July that we’ve been at a track of this length. Still, the typical contenders are the same this weekend, but one thing to keep in mind when forming your DraftKings Lineups is that none of the 16 playoff teams will be testing anymore: they’re bringing their best stuff to the track every single week now. As usual, expect the true championship contenders to dominate the top of the finishing order on Sundays from now on.
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DraftKings Plays for the Tales of the Turtles 400
Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,700) or Kyle Busch ($10,600)? – Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch are far and away the two best options in DraftKings this weekend. And honestly, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Sunday’s race at Chicagoland play out exactly like Kentucky did earlier this year, when Truex and Busch combined for 133 fastest laps and 264 laps led. However, they’re also the two highest-priced drivers in DraftKings, so in addition to it being very difficult to fit them both into one lineup, if this race doesn’t play out like Kentucky, you’re not going to have a very good day. So, the question on most people’s mind will be: Martin Truex, Jr. or Kyle Busch on Sunday? My projections have Martin Truex, Jr. scoring slightly more points than Kyle Busch at Chicagoland, but even not taking that into account, I like Truex more than Kyle Busch. Why? Because of Rowdy’s dominating performance in qualifying on Friday, a lot of DraftKings are going to take him when given the choice between the two simply because an effort like that usually means domination. Additionally, Busch is $100 less in salary than Truex, so that’ll sway people’s minds as well. Finally, looking at the similar tracks this year–Las Vegas, Kansas, and Kentucky–Martin Truex, Jr. is averaging 69 fastest laps and 135 laps led compared to Kyle Busch’s averages of 28 fastest laps and 57 laps led. On the 1.5-mile tracks as a whole, Truex is averaging 55 and 115 while Kyle Busch is averaging 27 and 39, respectively. Personally, I am going to have plenty of lineups with both Truex and Busch on them, but the ones that I don’t have both will mostly have Truex instead of Busch.
Chase Elliott ($9,900) – Chase Elliott hasn’t been this high-priced since the Michigan 2 race when he was $9,800, and we all know why he was that high at track: in his previous three starts in the Irish Hills, Chase finished 2nd each time. This week, the main reason Elliott is priced so high in DraftKings is because of his performance in last year’s Chicagoland event: he started 14th, finished 3rd, and led 75 laps while posting 30 fastest laps. Now the question is whether or not he can repeat that performance on Sunday, and based on the practice speeds from Saturday, it’s not really out of this world. The #24 Chevrolet was the most consistent car throughout the two post-qualifying practice sessions this weekend, as Chase ranked inside the top 5 in both overall lap time and ten-lap average in each. And if we’ve learned anything from Elliott over his young career thus far, it’s that when he’s good at a track, he’s really good at a track–and he may have a better car this time around than he did last year.
Ryan Newman ($7,500) – It’s just hard to go against this guy right now, isn’t it? Ryan Newman finished 3rd at Richmond last weekend, making it four straight top 10 finishes for this #31 team as we head into the playoffs. That’s also 12 finishes of 15th or better in the last 15 races for Newman, for what it’s worth. As far as this weekend goes, both of the playoff RCR cars have more speed than usual, and if that speed transfers over to Sunday during the race, they’re both legitimate top 10 contenders. Focusing on Newman, the #31 Chevrolet was 5th-fastest in Practice #2 on Saturday morning and then wound up 17th-fastest in Happy Hour. He ranked 4th in ten-lap average in that first session and 17th-best in the second, but please note that Newman made his ten-lap run later in the session than most other drivers, which could explain the lower speed. “The Rocketman” qualified 16th for Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400, which is right in that area where DraftKings players like to avoid because it could be considered too high to really get any place differential points–especially for a guy like Newman. As far as his record here at Chicagoland, Newman won here back in 2003 and has finished inside the top 10 in four of his last six starts here, two of which were also top 5 results.
Michael McDowell ($5,800) – With so much scoring potential among the high-dollar drivers this weekend, you’re going to need at least one low-dollar guy to make your lineup fit under the salary cap. And while he’s definitely a chalk pick almost every single week, one of the most trustworthy drivers in this price range is Michael McDowell. Looking at the similar tracks to Chicagoland (Las Vegas, Kansas, and Kentucky), McDowell has averaged a finish of 18th this season, and on the 1.5-mile tracks as a whole he’s at 20.8. At Chicagoland on Sunday, McDowell is going to start from back in 30th, so that obviously means we could be looking at 10+ place differential FPTS before it’s all said and done. McDowell hasn’t finished better than 32nd in six career starts at this track but that should change this weekend.
DraftKings Fades for the Tales of the Turtles 400
Denny Hamlin ($9,700) – This weekend at Chicagoland, Denny Hamlin has qualified 2nd and looked solid in both practice sessions on Saturday, especially Happy Hour, where the #11 Toyota was 7th-fastest overall and 5th-best in ten-lap average. And while Denny does look poised to get another top 5 finish on Sunday–which will be his 10th in the last 13 Cup Series races–that doesn’t make him a good pick in DraftKings. You see, Hamlin is a good Fantasy NASCAR pick overall, but he doesn’t really have the dominating factor that it takes to be a good pick in DraftKings, especially on the 1.5-mile tracks. This year, Hamlin is averaging just 7 fastest laps and 2 laps led per race on tracks this size, and at Chicagoland specifically, he has a combined 19 fastest laps over the last three races here despite finishing 6th or better in each (one was even a win). Taking the outside pole driver in DraftKings means he/she has to put up a good amount of dominator points to make it worth it, and that just isn’t very likely to happen on Sunday. I’ll have minimal Hamlin exposure this weekend.
Joey Logano ($9,000) – Joey Logano ended up being a pretty nice DraftKings play at Richmond last weekend, but that was more thanks to the late caution and restart than anything. This #22 team still has a lot of things to figure out, and that isn’t going to be like a light switch where they’re suddenly contending for wins again. Looking at Chicagoland, Logano has finished 7th or better in four of his last five starts here, and while I’m not going to say that it’s unlikely for him to finish that high this weekend–I have it about 50/50–there’s a couple reasons I won’t be taking him in DraftKings. First, Joey qualified 7th for Sunday Tales of the Turtles 400, and that’s too high for a driver who probably going get many dominator points. Additionally, it’d be a good race for Logano to finish 7th, so chances are he’s looking at some negative FPTS for place differential. The #22 team has posted an average finish of 13.2 on the 1.5-mile race tracks this year and averaged just 9 fastest laps and 8 laps led per race. I’ll pass.
Austin Dillon ($7,300) – It will be interesting to see what kind of ownership percentage that Austin Dillon has on race day, mainly because that #3 Chevrolet has looked solid all weekend long. In addition to qualifying 3rd on Friday, Austin ranked 7th-best in ten-lap average during the first practice session on Saturday and then went out and posted the 6th-best ten-lap average in Happy Hour (along with the 2nd-fastest overall lap). And while a 9th-place starting spot is a little too high to make a driver like Austin Dillon viable in DraftKings, his $7,300 price tag makes him worth a gamble in case the #3 team puts a great race together on Sunday. Still, Austin is more than likely a 14th-to-16th place car when it’s all said and done, and his average finish of 21st on the 1.5-mile tracks this season leaves much to be desired.