NASCAR travels to Northern California this week for some road course racing at Sonoma. The race at Sonoma typically turns into a fuel millage race and that makes it harder to predict. The Stage breaks are eliminated this week, so that means the teams will try to complete the race in three or four trips to pit road. The fastest car does not always win in Sonoma. The crew chief who uses the correct strategy does win, if the cautions fall their way. It should be a fun race for our DFS contests. We are just going to need a little luck on our side Sunday.
SONOMA PRACTICE SPEEDS
The Cup Series had a 20-minute practice session to shake down their cars Saturday evening. That is not a lot of time to make many long runs on a 2.52-mile road course. We probably will not learn much from this practice, but it never hurts to check out how each team unloaded for Sunday’s race.
Here are the practice speeds for the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway…
CUP SERIES STATS AT ROAD COURSES
The Cup Series has only competed in one road course race this season (COTA), so we do not have much data to work with from the 2023 season. We can look at the road courses races last year and add it into the data from COTA to help predict which drivers will be fast Sunday.
Here are the average DFS Points from the races at COTA this year and the road course races in 2022….
The race Sunday is scheduled for 110 laps (277 miles or 350 kilometers). That means there are 27.5 points available for leading laps and 49.5points available for fastest laps (77total dominator points). The elimination of the Stage breaks makes it more likely that we will have a two dominator race. That is how most of the races at Sonoma played out before NASCAR added the Stages to the races. Typically one driver led 55 laps and scored 22 fastest laps (23.65 dominator points) and another driver led 42 laps and scored 18 fastest laps (18.6 dominator points). We will likely need to have the top dominator in our lineups Sunday, but I am focusing on finishing position. I want as many drivers as possible who can finish in the top-12 Sunday.
The drivers with the best chance to dominate the race Sunday include Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and AJ Allmendinger
The drivers with the best chance to score place differential points are Kyle Larson, Austin Cindric, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Erik Jones, Justin Haley and Brad Keselowski
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 SONOMA
TOP-TIER DRIVERS: KYLE LARSON (DK $10.6K / FD $13.5K), TYLER REDDICK (DK $10.4K / FD $13K), CHASE ELLIOTT (DK $10.3K / FD $14K), ROSS CHASTAIN (DK $9.7K / FD $12K), AJ ALLMENDINGER (DK $9.3K / FD $10.5K), AUSTIN CINDRIC (DK $9.1K / FD $9.5K)
VALUE-TIER DRIVERS: DENNY HAMLIN (DK $8.9K / FD $7.2K), MARTIN TRUEX JR. (DK $8.8K / FD $8.2K), RYAN BLANEY (DK $8.4K / FD $7.8K), KEVIN HARVICK (DK $8.1K / FD $8K), ALEX BOWMAN (DK $8K / FD $8.5K), CHRIS BUESCHER (DK $7.9K / FD $9K), TY GIBBS (DK $7.5K / FD $6.2K), MICHAEL MCDOWELL (DK $7.4K / FD $7K), CHASE BRISCOE (DK $7K / FD $6.5K), ERIK JONES (DK $6.8K / FD $6K), JUSTIN HALEY (DK $6.7 / FD $5.2K), AUSTIN DILLON (DK $6.1K / FD $5.8K)
PUNT PLAYS: RICKY STENHOUSE JR. (DK $5.9K / FD $4.8K), TODD GILLILAND (DK $5.2K / FD $2.5K)
DRAFTKINGS CASH CONTEST LINEUP
KYLE LARSON ($10,600): Larson is a lock for all Cash Contest lineups this week. He is going to be the highest owned driver in DFS contests. Larson posted the fastest speed in practice, had the fastest car on the long runs and he dominated the Xfinity Series race yesterday. He overdrove the car in qualifying, so now Larson starts 16th. He should have no problem making his way to the front today.
TYLER REDDICK ($10,400): Reddick has been a beast on the road courses. He won three of the last five road course races and Reddick completely smoked the field at COTA earlier this season. The No. 45 car looks fast again this week. Reddick posted the fourth-fastest speed in practice and quailied second for the race. He is my top dominator and my pick to win at Sonoma.
AUSTIN CINDRIC ($9,100): I am not sure what happened to the Team Penske cars Saturday, but they all looked slow in practice and they qualified in the back. Cindric said on the Xfinity Series telecast, “We were working on our long-run speed in practice.” I hope he is right. Cindric starts 34th and his average finishing position in his last 10 road course races is 10th. He should be the highest scoring place differential driver and a lock for all Cash Contests.
CHRIS BUESCHER ($7,900): We typically do not start Buescher in Cash Contests when he starts in the top-10, but this is a road course race and that makes Buescher a safe pick. He has finished his last six road course races in the top-10, with a sixth-place average finishing position. Buescher has the speed and talent to finish in the top-10 again Sunday.
ERIK JONES ($6,800): Jones is not my favorite pick today, but he should be good enough for Cash Contest lineups. Jones starts 28th and his average finishing position in his last 10 road course races is 15th. Jones will score 41 DraftKings Points if he can simply finish near his average today.
TODD GILLILAND ($5,200): Gilliland will be my “punt play” this week. He starts 32nd and he had the 27th-fastest speed in practice. Gilliland also started 36th and finished 10th at COTA earlier this season. Gilliland will be one of the best picks in the field if he can have a race like he did at COTA this year.
DRAFTKINGS TOURNAMENT SINGLE-ENTRY CONTEST
TYLER REDDICK ($10,400): I thought about starting my Single-Entry Tournament Contest lineup with Kyle Larson, because he clearly has the fastest car at Sonoma. I decided to pivot to Reddick. Larson always dominates on Saturday at Sonoma, but he has only dominated on Sunday once. Reddick is more consistent at dominating the road course races and he has the track position to lead a lot of laps today. The No. 45 car should be tough to beat at Sonoma.
AJ ALLMENDINGER ($9,300): Allmendinger has the speed to win the race. Allmendinger has the talent to win the race. Does Kaulig Racing have a car that can handle Allmendinger’s driving style? That is the problem. Allmendinger always runs up front at Sonoma, but he rarely finishes up front. His cars always have mechanical failure. I will play Allmendinger today, because the only thing keeping him from finishing in the top-five is his car breaking down. Maybe this will be the race when he brings the No. 16 car home in one piece.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. ($8,800): Truex used to dominate the road course races when Cole Pearn was his crew chief. He has not been as good in the recent years, but it looks like Joe Gibbs Racing hit on the setup for Sonoma this week. Truex posted the second-fastest speed in practice, with the fourth-fastest long run speed. Truex is no stranger to Victory Lane at Sonoma. He should have a good chance to be one of the dominators today.
CHRIS BUESCHER ($7,900): Buescher is one of the most miss-priced drivers in DraftKings today. His stats suggest that he should be priced in the $9K range, but we get a good discount with Buescher. He is going to be highly owned, but I do not mind “eating the chalk” in Single-Entry Tournament Contests.
MICHAEL MCDOWELL ($7,400): McDowell is another driver who is way underpriced today. McDowell finished third in this race last year and he has finished five of his last six road course races in the top-12. McDowell posted the fifth-fastest speed in practice, with the third-fastest long-run speed. I would not be surprised if McDowell was in Victory Lane at Sonoma.
AUSTIN DILLON ($5,100): Dillon starts 11th so he is an automatic fade, right? Not so fast my friend…. Dillon posted the eighth-fastest speed in practice, with the 10th-fastest long-run speed. He finished 11th in this race last year and 13th in 2021. He proved he can run near the top-10 at Sonoma and no one is going to play Dillon today. He should be a good contrarian pick for our lineup.
DRAFTKINGS TOURNAMENT MULTI-ENTRY CONTEST
CHASE ELLIOTT ($10,300): I expect everyone is going to play either Kyle Larson or Tyler Reddick in their lineups today. I will fade both of them and start my Multi-Entry Tournament Contest lineup with Elliott. He needs a win this week and he may get it. Elliott only had the seventh-fastest car in practice, but that should be fast enough if Crew Chief Alan Gustafson can get Elliott the track position he needs at the end of the race. I expect the No. 9 team to be very aggressive with their pit strategy and give Elliott a good chance to drink the wine in Victory Lane this evening.
AUSTIN CINDRIC ($9,100): I know Cindric is going to be a popular pick. I will “eat the chalk” and play him because his floor and ceiling are so high today. I will try to be contrarian with the rest of my picks in this lineup.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. ($8,800): Truex is one of my favorite picks for today’s race. It looked like 2018 when I watched practice Saturday. Truex was at the top of the speed chart making fast laps at Sonoma. I doubt he forget how to win at this track. Truex should have some ownership, but I doubt it will be too high. I will roll the dice with the No. 19 car today.
RYAN BLANEY ($8,400): Blaney starts 31st, so he is going to have some ownership. I doubt it will be too high because most people will play Cindric from the back. I will play both of them. Blaney has a 15th-place average finishing position in his last 16 road course races. He will score 44 DraftKings Points if he can simply finish around his average today. I think he can do it.
KEVIN HARVICK ($8,100): I looked at the Harvick’s practice speeds in his last three races at Sonoma and his finishing position in his last three races at his home track. His average practice speed is 22nd and his average finishing position is 10th. I am not worried about where Harvick qualified or his speed in practice. He always runs well in this race. Harvick has finished seven of the last eight races at Sonoma in the top-10, with an average finishing position of sixth. He is a great value pick today.
TODD GILLILAND ($5,200): Gilliland is my “punt play” in the Cash Contest lineup and I will use him as my punt play in the Tournament Contest lineup too. He learned a lot from his teammate (Michael McDowell) about road course racing. He should be able to move up 8-10 spots today and be a decent pick for $5,200.
FANDUEL CASH CONTEST LINEUP
FANDUEL TOURNAMENT CONTEST LINEUP
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