The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is at Auto Club Speedway this weekend for the Auto Club 400. Alternatively referred to as Fontana, this is a 2-mile race track that is the sister track to Michigan International Speedway. These two tracks are the only 2-mile venues on the schedule, so it’s worth digging back into the loop data from the three races on them last season (we visit Fontana once and Michigan twice). This weekend, qualifying
was a joke didn’t go as planned for a lot of teams, and only 24 cars made it on to the track because of failed inspections. So, there’s a lot of good cars starting near the back on Sunday, now we just have to figure out which ones are the best plays in DraftKings.
We’re set to run 400 miles with this weekend’s race, which obviously equates to 200 laps at a 2-mile track. With that being said, it’s worth noting that each of the last four races at Auto Club Speedway have went into overtime, although with the way this season has been going with cautions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that streak ended. Place differential FPTS are going to be your main target this weekend because of how qualifying went, but don’t forget that you need those dominator points, too; 50 FTPS are going to be up for grabs for laps led on Sunday while we should have around 85 FPTS for fastest laps, depending on cautions.
GPP DraftKings Drivers I Love For The Auto Club 400
Kyle Busch ($10,300) – If you listened to Kyle Busch’s interview after Happy Hour on Saturday, you probably noticed a little bit of nervousness in his voice. That’s a good thing. When Kyle Busch has a very good race car to work with, you can tell so in his voice. During the interview, he mentioned that they were really good to start out the final practice, and then during the session the other teams caught up a little bit. He was disappointed with the latter, but he’s still faster than almost anyone. Rowdy posted the fastest lap in that final practice session and had the 4th-best ten-lap average. Kyle will start from the outside pole when we get going here on Sunday, but I expect him to take the lead very early on. He was one of the best drivers on 2-mile tracks last season and that should continue on with this weekend’s Auto Club 400. Busch won back-to-back at this track in 2013 and 2014 and has finished 3rd or better in four of his last six starts here.
Clint Bowyer ($8,000) – When you have so many drivers starting in the back due to NASCAR’s flawed inspection process, you have to fully evaluate everyone that is back there and kind of position yourself to be a little different. That’s what rolling the dice with Clint Bowyer is doing this weekend. The #14 Ford will roll off the grid from 26th when the Auto Club 400 goes green on Sunday, and while that obviously gives him plenty of room to move up, a lot of people are going to skip right over Bowyer and instead opt for the guys starting back in the 30s. Obviously this isn’t a bad play, but I want to be strategic here. Additionally, Bowyer comes in at an affordable $8,000 salary, and he was 7th-fastest in the final practice session on Saturday after posting the 10th-fastest lap in the first. Bowyer finished 3rd in this race one year ago and has that Stewart-Haas power to race with this weekend. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he challenged for a top 5 finish here on Sunday.
A.J. Allmendinger ($6,000) – Here’s a pick that provides some salary cap relief as well as the possibility of a monster points day. Auto Club Speedway is one of those tracks that can get very slick for the drivers, and that plays right into a guy like A.J. Allmendinger’s hands. That’s part of the reason why Fontana is one of the best tracks on the circuit for The Dinger, as he has averaged a finish of 19.2 in his thirteen career starts here. A.J. started 24th and finished 17th in this race one year ago, and he actually posted top 10 finishes in the 2016 and 2014 Auto Club 400 races, believe it or not. The #47 Chevrolet will roll off the grid from 32nd when we get going on Sunday, but Allmendinger should be able to wheel it to a finish much higher than that. He was 7th-fastest during the opening practice session here on Saturday, and his teammate, Chris Buescher, actually qualified 12th for this weekend’s race. With that being said, if you’re looking for a pivot option here to go with a lesser-owned driver, Kasey Kahne starts 34th and costs just $100 more than Allmendinger.
The following drivers did not make it onto the track during qualifying on Friday and will thus be premium plays for place differential FPTS: Denny Hamlin ($9,300), who starts 25th, Clint Bowyer ($8,000), who starts 26th, Aric Almirola ($8,500), who starts 27th, Alex Bowman ($7,600), who starts 28th, William Byron ($6,600), who starts 29th, Daniel Suarez ($7,000), who starts 30th, Chase Elliott ($9,700), who starts 31st, A.J. Allmendinger ($6,000), who starts 32nd, Jimmie Johnson ($9,000), who starts 33rd, and Kasey Kahne ($6,100), who starts 34th.
Fontana Sleeper Options
Brad Keselowski ($10,200) – The driver of the Blue Deuce is a bit overpriced this weekend, but there’s some sleeper value there, simply because Keselowski is going to be relatively low-owned in DraftKings contests on Sunday. With Truex, Larson, Kyle Busch, and Elliott being right in this same price range, the obvious play is to go with one of those drivers over Brad Keselowski. That’s why I have BK as a sleeper. Keselowski won this race at Fontana back in 2015 and has finished 9th and 2nd in the two races at this track since then. As far as this weekend goes, Kez qualified 11th but has more speed than that; the #2 Ford was 6th-fastest in Practice #2 on Saturday and then ended up 5th-fastest in Happy Hour (with the 9th-best ten-lap average). For what it’s worth, Keselowski had an average finish of 11.7 on the 2-mile race tracks last season.
Erik Jones ($8,200) – Erik Jones was on this list last week at Phoenix as well, and up until the time that he and his teammate, Daniel Suarez, ran into each other on pit road, it looked like Jones was going to challenge for a top 5 finish. He (thankfully) rebounded for a solid top 10, but obviously disappointed many fantasy owners–myself included. With that being said, the speed was there, and I think it would have been the right call if that situation didn’t happen on pit road. What I’m really getting at here is that Jones and this #20 team are really starting to get things going, and with how fast the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are this weekend, I really like Erik’s chances to potentially play spoiler on Sunday. He qualified 4th for this season’s Auto Club 400, and while I typically shy away from drivers that qualify that high and aren’t flat-out favorites to dominate, there’s something about Jones that I like about rolling the dice. He had the 3rd-best ten-lap average during Practice #2 on Saturday and wound up 6th-best on that chart in Happy Hour, and let’s not forget that Jones actually almost contended for the win at Michigan last season. Overall, he had an average finish of 9.3 on the 2-mile tracks in 2017, which is impressive. I wish Jones would have qualified a little further back for Sunday’s race, but at $8,200, I think he’s worth some exposure in case he does get out front and lead some laps. I do think the #20 Toyota is a top 5 car for Sunday.
Paul Menard ($6,800) – It’s going to be hard to roll the dice with Paul Menard when he starts 14th for this weekend’s Auto Club 400, but that’s why he’s listed in this “Sleeper Options” section. Ryan Blaney finished 9th at Fontana in this #21 Ford last season, and although there’s definitely a bit of a talent gap there, Paul Menard still knows how to wheel a race car. In fact, Menard finished no worse than 9th in the three races here from 2013 to 2015, and then continued that streak of solid finishes in 2016 with a 15th-place effort. So he obviously knows how to get around the track here in Fontana, and don’t forget that Menard was a legitimate top 10 threat over at Michigan for a few years. This weekend, the #21 Ford hasn’t been super fast, but Paul was 12th when it came to ten-lap average in Happy Hour on Saturday.
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: Ryan Newman ($7,800), Austin Dillon ($7,400), Ty Dillon ($6,300), Trevor Bayne ($5,800), Chris Buescher ($5,700), Matt DiBenedetto ($5,000), Reed Sorenson ($4,700), Jeffrey Earnhardt ($4,600), and Gray Gaulding ($5,000).
To be honest, races like this aren’t very fun to play DraftKings. And by “races like this,” I mean races where there are any issues with qualifying inspection. This creates so much chalk that it almost completely takes the strategy out of it. That’s just my opinion, though.
In addition to the “Fade” drivers listed above, my high-dollar guy in this category is Joey Logano ($9,400). He qualified 6th for Sunday’s Auto Club 400, and could very well end up inside the top 5 before it’s all said and done. With that being said, Logano isn’t going to get many dominator points, so it’s really hard to justify that price tag. Yes, Joey has finished between 4th and 7th in each of the last three Fontana races, but he’s led a grand total of 4 laps between those three events. As far as fastest laps go, Logano had 11 fastest laps in last year’s race here at Auto Club Speedway, but zero in the two Michigan races. The biggest reason why I’m fading Logano this weekend, though, is because the #22 Ford didn’t impress me much at all during the practice sessions on Saturday. Yeah, Logano showed top 10 speed in both sessions, but that doesn’t make me money in DraftKings with a guy like JoLo.
Driver Point Projections for Auto Club
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 + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. This is just my second week trying to project fastest laps, so you can take those with a grain of salt. 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||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10,800||61.0||1||03.2||43||23||$177|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$7,500||23.5||16||17.8||0||0||$319|
|Darrell Wallace Jr||$6,400||16.5||19||22.4||0||0||$388|