We’re at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, which is another 1.5-mile track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, like Atlanta last weekend. With that being said, don’t automatically assume that those drivers that did well last week are going to run well this weekend: these tracks, although similar in length, are actually quite different. Tires don’t mean as much at Las Vegas, and this track is actually more similar to the “typical” 1.5-mile venue that these drivers are used to racing on. In other words, don’t over-react to what happened last week.
Another difference between Atlanta and Las Vegas is the race length: this weekend’s Pennzoil 400 is a full 100 miles less in scheduled length than last weekend’s QuikTrip Folds of Honor 500, which means less FPTS will be up for grabs in DraftKings when it comes to laps led and fastest laps. That also means that a mistake by either the driver or the pit crew will hurt even more, as there will be less time to overcome it.
DraftKings Drivers I Love For Las Vegas
Kevin Harvick (10,300) – Yes, Kevin Harvick dominated the race at Atlanta last weekend, and yes he has a very good chance at doing the same damn thing here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Harvick is a recent winner (2015) and has had a car capable of winning for the last few years here, although some mechanical issues have ruined this #4 team’s chances at times. This weekend, Harvick qualified on the outside pole for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, and he should remain at or near the front for much of the day. Kevin was just 14th-fastest on the overall speed chart in Happy Hour on Saturday but ranked 2nd-best in ten-lap average and seemed to have a very good long-run car, which will pay dividends during the race. Looking at the Playoff races at 1.5-mile tracks last year, Harvick had an average finish of 3.8 on them and averaged 47 fastest laps and 57 laps led per race. Additionally, only one driver has had more fastest laps than Harvick here at Las Vegas over the last four years, and that has been Brad Keselowski. The #4 Ford should be Freaky Fast on Sunday and could easily make it back-to-back trips to victory lane early in the 2018 season.
Denny Hamlin ($9,100) – Denny Hamlin is my favorite play this weekend. He’s in the price range where he’s going to be overlooked on race day, but the fact of the matter is this: the #11 Toyota is going to roll off the grid from 19th on Sunday, and Hamlin is more than capable of coming home with a top 5 finish. Denny ran 6th in this race one year ago and that goes along with his 5th-place effort here back in 2015. Additionally, when you look at last year’s Playoff races on 1.5-mile tracks, Hamlin was one of the best finishers in the series, posting an average result of 5th, which was 4th-best behind Truex, Harvick, and Elliott. The only real issue I have with Hamlin this weekend in regards to DraftKings is that he’s probably not going to get many dominator points.
Aric Almirola ($7,700) – Yeah, this may seem like a no-brainer pick this weekend, but Aric Almirola’s price tag isn’t necessarily cheap at $7,700, so that should keep him from being way over-owned in DraftKings contests on Sunday. What it all comes down to is what makes the most sense, and sometimes you just have to go with the majority is also doing. Almirola qualified 29th for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, but he’s driving a Stewart-Haas Racing car, and all of their other Fords have shown good speed this weekend. There’s no reason why Almirola should be any different. The good news is that this #10 team kept working on the car on Saturday and Aric was able to post the 12th-fastest lap in the Happy Hour practice, along with the 7th-best ten-lap average. He started 30th and finished 14th in this race last year, and I’m expecting much of the same from Almirola on Sunday.
EDIT ADDED 10:25 am ET on Sunday: After crunching some numbers, I’m really liking William Byron ($7,200) today. This provides a nice pivot option off of Ryan Newman, too. I’ll likely be very over-weight on Byron today.
Unlike last week at Atlanta, there weren’t any drivers that missed qualifying due to inspection issues, nor did any driver really mess up their run. There are some drivers, though, that were just slow on Friday, and should be able to move up a good amount of spots on Sunday, and those guys are: Ty Dillon ($6,500), who starts 31st, Aric Almirola ($7,700), who starts 29th, Bubba Wallace ($6,700), who starts 26th, and Ryan Newman ($7,100), who starts 25th. All four of these drivers are viable options because of the place differential potential, but will also be highly owned, so keep that in mind.
Ryan Blaney ($8,700) – Typically the pole sitter is a sitting duck when you have Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. sitting right behind him to start the race, but there’s a chance that Ryan Blaney will be able to hold his own once the Pennzoil 400 goes green on Sunday. Don’t forget: Blaney put up his best DraftKings performances when he qualified up front last season, including leading 148 laps at Texas (started 2nd) and leading 83 laps at Kansas (started 1st). This weekend, Blaney got some good on-track experience on Saturday with the Xfinity Series race, and it doesn’t hurt that he put down the fastest lap during the Happy Hour Cup practice on Saturday. We saw track position mean a lot in the other two races at Las Vegas this weekend, and if that’s the case on Sunday, Blaney could be a great gamble in DraftKings. In order for that roll of the dice to pay off, though, he’s going to have to lead 50+ laps while also finishing inside the top 5. I’ll have some Blaney exposure (15-20%) but nothing huge.
Austin Dillon ($7,600) – Austin Dillon qualified 16th for this weekend’s Pennzoil 400, which is always that “sweet spot” of being right on the edge of qualifying too high. And while a top 15 finish is probably about the ceiling for this #3 team, you never really know how these races are going to play out. Austin wound up 5th in this race two years ago and also ran 16th here in the 2014. He didn’t blow anyone out of the water on the speed charts Saturday, but his teammate, Ryan Newman, has had plenty of speed this weekend, and Dillon should be able to learn something from their setup before the Pennzoil 400 goes green on Sunday. What I like most about Austin Dillon this weekend, however, is how this #3 team performed on the 1.5-mile tracks in the Playoffs last season, averaging a finish of 14th, which was good enough for 8th-best in the series. Usually that kind of stuff carries over to the next season, and we’ll find out soon enough.
Jamie McMurray ($7,400) – Jamie McMurray is typically a pretty good qualifier, so whenever he starts outside of the top 20, you need to jump on that–especially at a 1.5-mile track. Jamie Mac is one of the most consistent finishers at this track type, and his average result (12th) on tracks of this length in 2017 actually tied for 5th-best in the Cup Series. This weekend, McMurray will roll off the grid from 22nd but should be able to finish in the mid-teens before it’s all said and done. The #1 Chevrolet was 17th-fastest in Happy Hour practice on Saturday and also had the 13th-best ten-lap average. As far as Las Vegas Motor Speedway goes specifically, McMurray hasn’t finished worse than 15th here since the 2011 season, and he came home 8th in this race one year ago.
Salary Cap Relief
I took a shot with Chris Buescher ($5,700) last weekend at Atlanta and it didn’t work out at all, but I’m not giving up quite yet on the #37 team. Yeah, they’re running the new Chevrolet, and I have my concerns about that, but the fact of the matter is that Buescher started from 28th on Sunday and we have seen him sneak into the top 20 on 1.5-mile tracks before. In fact, during the Playoff races last season, Buescher averaged a finish of 18.6 on this type of venue, which was good enough for 17th-best in the series–and better than Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Erik Jones, among others. As far as Las Vegas goes specifically, Buescher was 13th-fastest in Happy Hour and he’s finished 23rd and 26th in his two career Cup Series starts here. At $5,700, though, he’s worth a gamble, as Michael McDowell ($5,500) and David Ragan ($5,900) qualified too high this weekend, and Cole Custer ($6,400) is over-priced.
Fade That Pick!
The following drivers qualified too high and have little chance at getting dominator points, so I will have very little exposure (if any) on Sunday: Kurt Busch ($8,500), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,000), Erik Jones ($8,300), Paul Menard ($6,900), and Michael McDowell ($5,500).
As far as a driver that will should be highly owned and that I’m going to be pretty under-weight on, it’s going to be Kyle Larson ($9,800). Now let me explain why. First and foremost, we don’t really know whether these Chevrolets are going to be good in race trim or not. They definitely weren’t very good in qualifying trim on Friday, and when you look at the race at Atlanta last week, there’s a reason there were only two that finished inside the top 13. Now, Kyle Larson is going to be targeted by a lot of people this weekend for a couple of reasons: 1.) he tested here, and ever since then he’s been on top of the speed charts at Las Vegas, and 2.) he had the best ten-lap average in Happy Hour. With that being said, don’t forget that Alex Bowman said not to put too much stock into ten-lap averages at this track. Additionally, Harvick was much better after ten laps than Larson ever thought about being. Finally, Kyle Larson has ran four Cup Series races here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and has a grand total of 16 fastest laps in those events. With Blaney, Harvick, and Truex already ahead of Larson to start Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, I just don’t see the #42 getting many dominator points, thus not making Larson worth the $9,800 salary.
Another driver that is worth a fade consideration is Ryan Newman ($7,100). He’s going to be very high-owned in DraftKings this weekend because he qualified 25th and he’s relatively cheap at $7,100. Another reason why Newman’s ownership percentage is going to be quite large is because the #31 Chevrolet was super fast during both practice sessions on Saturday. With that being said, “The Rocketman” was atrocious on the 1.5-mile tracks last season–and that’s putting it nicely. Through all of the 2017 season, Newman averaged a finish of 25th on this track length, which was 30th-best in the Cup Series overall. He didn’t do much better in the playoffs, either, as Newman’s average result on 1.5-mile tracks during that span was 25.2. It’s going to be hard as hell to fade him here on Sunday, but sometimes you have to make some bold moves to make money in DFS NASCAR.
Driver Point Projections for Las Vegas
The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. I don’t try to project fastest laps–that’s up to you. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj Base + Laps Led FPTS||Starting Position||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10,500||58.1||4||01.8||45||$181|
|Darrell Wallace Jr||$6,700||26.8||26||21.6||0||$250|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$7,000||16.2||7||17.4||0||$432|