The NASCAR Cup Series travels to Las Vegas this week for the Pennzoil 400. We got to see what the Gen-7 car could do on an intermediate track last week at Auto Club. Now we get to see how the car will perform on a 1.5-mile tri-oval at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Auto Club Speedway is completely different from Las Vegas Motor Speedway but that does not mean we cannot learn anything from last week’s race. We learned that a lot more drivers will be in play for DFS contests this year. The Gen-7 car has a wheel problem and it is going to allow some of the “punt plays” to be an option for our lineups. Drivers who get a flat tire in the race are often stuck on the track. They have to get towed back to the pits and this forces their car to go many laps down. The drivers who ride around the back (B.J. McLeod, Garrett Smithley and Cody Ware) are able to move inside the top-30 because of attrition. It will be something we will have to factor into our picks this week and see if this trend continues.
PRACTICE SPEEDS FOR PENNZOIL 400
NASCAR changed the practice schedule for the race Sunday. The teams will get 35 minutes to dial in their cars, instead of the 15 minutes that they had least week. We learned a lot from the limited practice last week. Tyler Reddick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Erik Jones all posted fast speed in practice and it translated to race speed. I expect the drivers on the fast 10-lap speed charge will be fast Sunday.
DFS STRATEGY FOR LAS VEGAS
The Pennzoil 400 is scheduled for 267 laps. That means there are 66.75 points available for leading laps and 120.15 points available for fastest laps in DraftKings contests (26.7 dominator points available in FanDuel contests).
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is not like Auto Club Speedway. It is going to be much tougher to pass the leader this week. The trend at Las Vegas is for one driver to lead roughly 110 laps and score roughly 56 fastest laps points (52.7 dominator points). A second driver typically leads 50 laps and scores 32 fastest laps (26.9 dominator points). It will be important that we pay up for the top drivers (Hello Mr. Kyle Larson) so that we can have the top dominators in or lineup. We should cash every contest if we score these 80 dominator points that are typically scored at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Teams to Watch
Richard Childress Racing: The RCR cars have had a lot of speed so far this year. Tyler Reddick was the fastest driver at the Busch Light Clash and he had the best car at Auto Club. Austin Dillon was able to finish second last week and his crew chief told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, “We started the race with the wrong setup. When we took some speed out of it and added drivability, we took off.” The RCR alliance cars were also really good. They include: Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain. It is no surprise that RCR has the Gen-7 car figured out. They are the team that designed the Gen-7 car and they tested the car more than any other team. All of these drivers are good picks Sunday.
Joe Gibbs Racing: The JGR cars looked like junk last week but do not expect that to continue Sunday. David Wilson (President of TRD) told Jeff Gluck of the Athletic, “We killed our cars before we arrived at the track last week. We know it was going to be a sandy, dirty track, so we put a mesh screening to protect the engine. The sand built up in that mesh and caused our cars to overheat and lose 10 horsepower to the field. We definitely will not have the same setup at Las Vegas.” I expect a bounce-back race from JGR Sunday.”
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)
PENNZOIL 400 CORE DRIVERS
KYLE LARSON (DK $11.3K FD $14K): Larson is expensive this week but he has proved that he is worth his high price. Larson has won five of the last seven races on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule and he has won the last three races on intermediate tracks. Larson scored 99.4 DK Points in this race last year. Larson was fastest on almost all of the speed charts (single-lap and 10-lap average speed) and he qualified second. Larson should lead a lot of laps Sunday.
CHASE ELLIOTT (DK $11K FD $13.5K): Elliott looked really fast last week at Auto Club until his teammate (Kyle Larson) “accidently” put him into the wall. Elliott looks fast again this week. The No. 9 car posted the eighth-fastest speed in practice and qualified fifth. Elliott has an outside chance to dominate and he should have a lot less ownership than Kyle Larson.
JOEY LOGANO (DK $10.8K FD $13K): The No. 22 car is off to another hot start to the season. That is nothing new for Logano. He always starts off fast. Logano won two of the last three races in March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Logano posted the firth-fastest speed in practice, had the fifth-fastest 15-lap speed and the No. 22 car qualified sixth for the race. Logano is a good pivot to Kyle Larson as one of the top dominators.
RYAN BLANEY (DK $10.5K FD $12.5K): Blaney is always good on the 1.5-mile tracks. He averaged the second-most DFS Points last year (behind Kyle Larson). Blaney had a lot of speed in practice. The No. 12 car posted the third-fastest speed in practice, with the second-fastest 15-lap average speed. Blaney qualified 11th so he will have a good chance to score place differential and dominator points Sunday.
KYLE BUSCH (DK $10.2K FD $12K): I guess we have to play Rowdy at his home track. Busch smacked the wall in practice so he will be in a backup car and start dead last. This is not your normal “backup car” though. Joe Gibbs Racing said the car was brought to the track to be used for parts. The No. 18 team has to work over night to put it together. I trust JGR that they will make it half-way decent and Busch should be able to finish in the top-15. That would give him 20-25 place differential points.
DENNY HAMLIN (DK $10K FD $11.5K): Hamlin dominated the last races at Las Vegas. The No. 11 car started sixth, led 137 laps, scored 32 fastest laps and won the race (Hamlin scored 99.65 DK Points). Hamlin has finished the last three races at Las Vegas in the top-four. He wasn’t blazing fast in practice (Hamlin was 11th fastest) but his teammate was (Christopher Bell). The No. 11 car should be ready to race and I expect the Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske cars to draw most of the ownership. Hamlin is a good pivot for Tournament Contests.
WILLIAM BYRON (DK $9.8K FD $11K): The No. 24 car had the third-fastest average green flag speed last week at Auto Club. Can he be that good in Las Vegas? Byron posted the fourth-fastest speed in practice with the fastest 15-lap speed. The No. 24 car had the fastest long-run speed in practice. The No. 24 car qualified 14th for the race. Byron is my favorite play (behind Kyle Larson) Sunday.
TYLER REDDICK (DK $9.3K FD $10K): It is tough to ignore how fast Reddick has been in the Gen-7 car. He had the fastest average speed in the test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway and he had the second-fastest average green flag speed at Auto Club last week. Reddick posted the seventh-fast speed in practice with the fifth-fastest 10-lap average speed. The No. 8 car qualified seventh for the race Sunday. Reddick is going to run well Sunday. The question is… Can he finish the race up front? That has been a problem for him. I like Reddick for Tournament Contests.
KEVIN HARVICK (DK $9.1K FD $9.5K): It is hard to trust Harvick right now. He hasn’t dominated on an intermediate track in over a year. He has not led a lap at Las Vegas in his last three races at the track. But he keeps qualifying in the back so we cannot ignore him. Harvick qualified 25th for the race Sunday. He should move up 12-15 spots in the race and be a lock for Cash Contests.
KURT BUSCH ($8.9K FD $9.2K): Busch started dead-last at Auto Club and had to serve a pass-through penalty to start the race. He still was able to rally for an eighth-place finish. Now he gets to do it again. Busch got loose going over the bump in turn one in qualifying so now he will start 31st. Busch should move up 15-18 spots and be a lock for Cash Contests.
CHRISTOPHER BELL (DK $8.2K FD $8.7K): Bell looked really good in practice and he backed it up in qualifying. The No. 20 car posted the second-fastest speed and he had the third-fastest 15-lap average speed. Bell qualified on the pole so there is a lot of risk in using him. I will take a chance with Bell in some Tournament Contests and hope he can lead some early laps and finish in the top-10.
ARIC ALMIROLA (DK $7.8K FD $6.3K): Almirola could be a good value pick this week. He has a history of starting of the season on a hot streak. It looks like that trend is continuing. Almirola finished fifth in the Daytona 500 and sixth last week at Auto Club. That is the best average finishing position in the Cup Series. His crew chief (Drew Blickensderfer) said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, “Teams can either be aggressive or try to lead every lap, or take it easy with this car and just finish in the top-10 each week. We decided we will have as much handling in the car as possible to ensure we can stay out of trouble and be there at the end of the race.” So far, so good for Almirola.
ERIK JONES (DK $7.3K FD $8.5K): How good was Jones last week? He had the fastest average green flag speed and he finished third. He was one of the best value picks in DFS contest. He should be a good value pick again at Las Vegas. Jones posted the 13th-fastest speed in practice and qualified 23rd. Jones should move up 8-10 spots and be a good pick for Cash and Tournament Contests Sunday.
COLE CUSTER (DK $6.7K FD $6K): Custer probably hated to leave his home state of California. He won the Xfinity Series race last week and he finished 11th in the Cup Series race. Can he have a repeat performance Sunday in Las Vegas? Custer was 13th-fastest in practice and he starts 24th Sunday. Custer should be a good pick to move up in the race.
JUSTIN HALEY (DK $6.1K FD $4K): Haley is always a good value picks when he starts deep in the field. Haley started 35th and finished 23rd last week (35 DK Points). This week Haley starts 28th. He posted the 22nd fastest speed in practice. Haley should have a good chance to move up 6-8 spots and score 26-31 DK Points. Not bad for $6,100.
DANIEL HEMRIC (DK $5.8K FD $4.5K): How good was Hemric last week. He went six laps down in the race and rallied back to finish ninth. Hemric looked good in practice again this week. The No. 16 car for Kaulig Racing posted the ninth-fastest speed in practice with the eighth-fastest 10-lap average speed. Hemric qualified 16th. I see no reason why Hemric cannot finish in the top-15 Sunday.
B.J. MCLEOD AND GARRETT SMITHLEY: I expect there will be a lot of wrecks and spins again Sunday. That means the drivers in the back will be in play. McLloed and Smithley are good at riding around and staying out of trouble. They did it last week and Mcleod finished 22nd (scored 28 DK Points) and Smithley finished 21st (scored 29 DK Points). I will take a chance that the same will happen this week.
DFS EXAMPLE LINEUPS
NASCAR said they are going to crack down on teams messing with the chassis that they provide. I expect there will be a lot of cars who fail inspection early in the season. When the top cars fail inspection, it changes the DFS lineups completely. For this reason, I will post the final picks after the inspection is complete (60 minutes before the race).
Each year I get told the same thing… I used your lineup and I did not win the big jackpot. That is because 25-50 other people copied and pasted my lineup too and you had to split the pot 25-50 ways. The lineups posted this year will be examples on how to create a lineup for the race. You can copy and paste, but just know a lot of other people will have the same lineup. (It is OK to copy and paste the Cash Contest lineup). There is plenty of information in this article to help you create your own unique lineup to give you a better chance of winning.
Updated DraftKings Cash Contest Lineup
The original Cash Contest lineup had Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemric and Garrett Smithley. I decided to make some changes after looking at the numbers some more and talking to some people about playing the back markers today (B.J. Mcleod and Garrett Smithley). The people in the Garage do not expect the back markers to move up because of attrition as much as they did last week. I will play them in a few lineups, but not in Cash Contests.
I still think the Two Kyle’s are locks for Cash Contests. Kyle Larson should lead the most laps and Kyle Busch should score the most place differential points. Kurt Busch is also a lock since he starts 31st and should finish in the top-15. I decided to pivot from Kevin Harvick to Erik Jones. Right now, I trust Jones just as much as Harvick. I will take the $1,800 I save and upgrade from Garrett Smithley to Chris Buescher. Buescher wasn’t blazing fast in practice but he never is. What he does do well is stay out of trouble and finish in the top-20. His average finishing position in his last 10 races on the 1.5-mile tracks is 14.4. He will be a great value pick if he can move up 13 spots today.
Updated DraftKings Tournament Contest Lineup
My original Tournament Contest lineup was: Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, Erik Jones, Justin Haley and Garrett Smihley. Just like the Cash Contest lineup, I am going to make some changes so I do not have to play the back marker drivers and I want to pivot off of the drivers I had that will be too highly owned in my previous lineup.
I still like Kyle Larson and William Byron as my top-two dominators today. Everyone is talking about Ryan Blaney since he starts 11th and has a good chance to score place differential and dominator points. I still like Blaney but I will pivot to a lower owned Joey Logano. Both Team Penske cars had similar speed in practice. Another popular driver is Erik Jones. I still like Jones but I will pivot to a lower owned Cole Custer. He has just as good of a chance to finish in the top-15 as Jones, Custer is cheaper and he will have less ownership. I will take the salary I saved from my two pivots and use it to upgrade Justin Haley to Daniel Hemric and upgrade Garrett Smithley to Ty Dillon. Dillon looked like trash in practice but last week he was 31st fastest and he finished 17th. The Petty GMS Racing cars seem to race better than they practice.
DraftKings Non-Larson Lineup
FanDuel Cash Contest Lineup
No changes to the Cash Contest lineup on FanDuel.
FanDuel Tournament Contest Lineup
I made a few changes to the Tournament Contest lineup for FanDuel. I decided to pivot from Erik Jones to Cole Custer and upgrade Justin Haley to Aric Almirola. The strategy for the Stewart-Haas Racing cars is to take it easy, stay out of trouble and be there at the end. It worked last week and it should work today.
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