The NASCAR Cup Series will travel to Austin, Texas this week to race at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). This will be the first race for the Cup Series on a road course in 2023. The racing will be different from what we saw last year. The Cup Series brought a new aero package to the track (the same package used at Phoenix), there will be no breaks at the end of the Stages and the choose rule is now in effect. Add in some really good “road course ringers” and we have the ingredients for an exciting race. The EchoPark Texas Grand Prix can be seen Sunday at 3:30 pm ET on FOX.
COTA PRACTICE SPEEDS
NASCAR allowed the teams to practice for 50-minutes Friday because they have a new aero package that the teams have not been able to work with this year. COTA is a 3.41-mile track so the teams did not have enough time to make any long runs in practice. We can learn a bit from practice, but I am not focusing on the practice speeds for the picks this week. I will look at the cars that were fast in practice and have a history of running well on road courses. The drivers who check both boxes should be in your lineups Sunday.
Here are the lap times from the practice session Friday at COTA….
Here are the driver’s stats for the road courses races in the Gen-7 car in 2022 sorted by Driver Rating…
* Jordan Taylor will be driving the No. 9 car for Chase Elliott Sunday
The race Sunday is scheduled for 68 laps (231.88 Miles). That means there are 17 points available for leading laps and 30.6 points available for fastest laps (47.6 total dominator points). That is not a lot of dominator points to chase this week.
The trend at COTA (it is a small sample size) is for the race to be a three dominator race. One driver leads roughly 34 laps and scores 17 fastest laps (11.05 dominator points). Another driver leads 16 laps and scores 8 fastest laps (7.6 dominator points). A third driver leads 10 laps and scores 4 fastest laps (4.3 dominator points).
I expect one driver to lead the majority of the race since there will be no breaks for the Stages this year. I plan to pay up for the drivers I think can lead the most laps, but most of my lineups will focus on finishing points. We will easily cash or lineups if we can simply have all six drivers finish in the top-12 Sunday.
The drivers with the best chance to dominate the race Sunday include Tyler Reddick, William Byron, Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson
The drivers with the best chance to score place differential points are Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Chris Buescher, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Justin Haley
DRAFTKINGS MODEL (Prediction Based on Stats)
Finish = Finishing Points PD = Position Differential Fastest = Fastest Laps Led = Laps Led
* The number in front of the driver is his projected finishing position based on stats.
FANDUEL MODEL (Prediction Based on Stats)
CORE DRIVERS FOR COTA
TOP-TIER DRIVERS: KYLE LARSON ($10.4K / FD $14K), KYLE BUSCH ($10.2K FD $13.5K), ROSS CHASTAIN ($10.1K FD $13K), TYLER REDDICK ($9.9K FDK $12.5K), AJ ALLMENDINGER ($9.7K FD $12K), WILLIAM BYRON ($9.5K / FD $11.5K), CHRISTOPHER BELL ($9.3K FD $10K), RYAN BLANEY ($9.1K FD $9.5K), DANIEL SUAREZ ($9K FD $10.5K)
VALUE-TIER DRIVERS: AUSTIN CINDRIC ($8.8K FD $11K), JOEY LOGANO ($8.7K FD $9K), ALEX BOWMAN ($8.6K / FD $8K), DENNY HAMLIN ($8.5K FD $8.5K), MARTIN TRUEX JR. ($8.2K FD $7.5K), KEVIN HARVICK ($8K / FD $6.8K), BRAD KESELOWSKI ($7.9K FD $7.2K), CHRIS BUESCHER ($7.7K FD $7K), MICHAEL MCDOWELL ($7.1K FD $7.8K), TY GIBBS ($6.6K FD $5.5K)
PUNT PLAYS: ARIC ALMIROLA ($5.8K FDK $3.5K), TODD GILLAND ($5.4K / FD $3K), TY DILLON ($4.7K FD $2.5K)
DRAFTKINGS CASH CONTEST LINEUP
* I am constructing my Cash Contest lineup like a Superspeedway. There are not enough laps to chase dominators in Cash Contests, so I will try to score as many place differential points as possible. The drivers listed below have a good chance to score place differential points at COTA.
KYLE LARSON ($10,400): I really like Larson for the race Sunday. He should have had a chance to win the pole because his car was just as fast as William Byron’s car. The field came in and put on fresh tires, while the No. 5 team felt there car was fast enough to advance to the final round of qualifying. Their gamble did not work. Larson has won the same amount of road course races as Chase Elliott over the last two seasons. Larson was second-fastest in practice with the fourth-fastest long run speed. Larson is a good play from the 13th starting position.
RYAN BLANEY ($9,100): Blaney has been pretty good at COTA. He finished sixth in the race last year and his average finishing position at COTA is 11.5. I am not sure what happened to Blaney in qualifying, but he will start 38th Sunday. That makes Blaney a lock for Cash Contest lineups. The No. 12 car was 12th-fastest in practice. I do not need Blaney to win the race. He will be one of the top drivers in DraftKings contests if he can simply finish in the top-12 Sunday.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. ($8,200): It wasn’t long ago when the question everyone asked when the Cup Series raced at a road course was, “Who is going to win? Chase Elliott or Martin Truex Jr.” They were the kings of the road courses. Truex has not been as good lately, but he starts 25th Sunday, so there is little risk in using him. Truex started 17th and finished seventh at COTA last year. I expect Truex to move up 10-15 spots Sunday and be one of the safer picks in DraftKings contests.
KEVIN HARVICK ($8,000): The No. 4 car looked horrible in practice and then Harvick went out and qualified 29th for the race. I have seen this show before and I am not going to going to be fooled. Harvick was 24th fastest in practice and he qualified 18th for the race at COTA last year. Harvick then went out and finished 11th in he race. His everage starting position on the road courses last year was 22.2. His average finishing position was 12th. Harvick should move up 15+ spots in the race Sunday.
CHRIS BUESCHER ($7,700): Which driver had the best average finishing position on the road courses last year? The answer is Buescher, not that Chase Elliott is out of the race. Buescher finished his last five road course races in the top-10. His car was not very good in practice, so his ownership should be lower than what it would have been entering this week. Buescer will score a lot of place differential points from the 32nd starting position if he can extend his top-10 streak this week.
AUSTIN DILLON ($6,400): Dillon is another driver who has a history of looking bad in practice, qualifying outside the top-20 and then finishing upfront in the race. Dillon posted the 21st-fastest speed in practice, qualified 21st and then went out and finished 10th at COTA last year. I know Dillon has not been very good this year, but he should still be a safe pick from the 28th starting position.
DRAFTKINGS TOURNAMENT SINGLE-ENTRY CONTEST
ROSS CHASTAIN ($10,100): There is a lot to like about Chastain this week. He won this race last year and he will get a lot of track time to get his rhythm down for Sunday’s race. Chastain will run the Truck Series race Saturday and he posted the third-fastest speed in the Cup Series practice Friday with the second-fastest long-run speed. He qualified 12th for the race. I want drivers who can finish in the top-five Sunday. Chastain checks that box and he should lead some laps and score fastest laps too.
TYLER REDDICK ($9,900): Reddick participated in a two-day test at COTA in January. Reddick was the best driver in the Cup Series at the road courses last year. He won the races at Road America and the Indy Road Course. He also finished fifth at COTA last year. The switch from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing shouldn’t slowed him down. Reddick posted the fastest speed in practice with the fastest long-run speed. Reddick qualified second for the race. Reddick has a good chance to win another road course race Sunday.
AUSTIN CINDRIC ($8,800): Cindric participated in a two-day test at COTA in January. He said his team found a setup that gave him balance in the car (it handled well). Cindric led 11 laps, score Stage Points in both Stages and finished eighth at COTA last year. The No. 2 car posted the seventh-fastest speed in practice and qualified third for the race, so they have speed again this week. Cindric seems to be too cheap to pass up at $8,800.
JORDAN TAYLOR ($7,500): Taylor will be behind the wheel of the No. 9 car for Chase Elliott Sunday. Taylor did not test the Gen-7 car but he has been working with Hendrick Motorsports in their Garage 56 car (The 24 Hours of Le Mans car). Chad Knaus from Hendrick Motorsports said that car is similar to the Gen-7 car and Taylor practiced at COTA in the Garage 56 car. Taylor also got a 50-minute practice Friday, where he posted the 10th-fastest speed. Taylor will be a fantastic pick if he can perform half as well as Elliott typically does on the road courses Sunday.
MICHAEL MCDOWELL ($7,100): McDowell is the most miss-priced driver in DraftKings contest this week. McDowell averaged a top-10 finish in the five road course races last year and he has averaged a top-10 finish in his two races at COTA. McDowell posted the sixth-fastest speed in practice with the seventh-fastest long-run speed. The No. 34 car was one of the most consistent at maintaining speed in practice so I will take a chance with McDowell and “eat the chalk” because he will be a popular pick.
TY GIBBS ($6,600): Gibbs won a lot of road course races in the Xfinity Series. So, how will that success translate into the Cup Series? Gibbs has not been great in the Cup Series, but he is showing some signs of improvement. He gets some extra seat time this week since there is a 50-minute practice and Gibbs is competing in the Xfinity Series race Saturday. Gibbs has some momentum after his top-10 finish last week. He is too cheap to pass up at only $6,600.
DRAFTKINGS TOURNAMENT MULTI-ENTRY CONTEST
* My goal with this lineup is to find six drivers who can all finish in the top-10.
DANIEL SUAREZ ($9,000): Suarez is a good road course racer and he looked good at COTA last year. The No. 99 car was leading the race after Stage 1. Suarez got spun out and fell to the back of the pack. His car had top-five speed and it looks fast again this week. Suarez posted the fifth-fastest speed in practice and he qualified fifth for the race. I do not need Suarez to win Sunday (although it would not surprise me if he did). I just need the No. 99 car to finish in the top-10.
AUSTIN CINDRIC ($8,800): Cindric is another driver who has a good chance to finish in the top-10 Sunday. The No. 2 car had top-10 speed in practice and Cindric qualified third for the race. Cindric finished eighth at COTA last year and he finished four of the six road course races in the top-10 last year. Cindric is a great value pick for this race.
JOEY LOGANO ($8,700): Logano won the race last week so he has some momentum entering the race Sunday. He also has a fast car. Logano posted the ninth-fastest speed in practice Friday and qualified 16th for the race. The No. 22 car was up front for most of the race at COTA last year. The No. 22 car often gets overlooked in DFS contest at the road course. I just need Logano to finish in the top-10 and I think he can do it.
ALEX BOWMAN ($8,600): Bowman probably should be the defending champion of this race. He was leading in the final corners coming to the checkered flag, but Ross Chastain decided to do what Ross Chastain does…. The No. 1 car took out Bowman and went to Victory Lane. Bowman finished second (last year) and eighth (2021) in his two races at COTA. I will take a chance with Bowman and hope he can extend his top-10 streak at COTA.
JORDAN TAYLOR ($7,500): I really do not want t have Taylor in too many lineups Sunday, but he is the best driver for the choice. He has a fast car. Taylor just needs to avoid penalties and he should finish in the top-10. I will gamble with the No. 9 car at COTA.
MICHAEL MCDOWELL ($7,100): McDowell is going to be popular because of his history on the road courses and his cheap price, but I think the rest of this lineup is contrarian enough to be able to play McDowell at his high ownership. The lineup will have a good chance to score well with McDowell as the cheapest pick this week.
FANDUEL CASH CONTEST LINEUP
FANDUEL TOURNAMENT CONTEST LINEUP
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