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Road courses are among the most predictable track types on the NASCAR Cup schedule. The problem with that is handicappers and cap managers know that and as a result, bargains are hard to come by. The best one can hope for is that the algorithm used continues to look for a maximum total and the game is forced to give you reasonably priced drivers.
That would seem to be the case this week, but you have to look hard for bargains.
The groups look a lot different this week than they do for most events and several drivers one would hope to be bargains are not. Drivers like Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, and Ross Chastain who break through from time to time are relatively expensive on the weight of three road course top-10s apiece. The odds are in their favor over drivers with fewer success stories, but players need to be careful in overcommitting resources on unknown entities.
As a result, several marquee drivers are less expensive. They are running for strong organizations with brilliant strategists and are more likely to climb into the single digits than dark horses. If you set multiple lineups this week, try out a mixture of longshots and favorites and you are more likely to hit on the optimal setup.
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
AJ Allmendinger ($11,200)
With betting odds above 15/1, there was some hope that Allmendinger would not be prohibitively expensive. That didn’t happen, but if you build your lineup from the bottom up and have sizeable funds left over, it is highly possible that Allmendinger will earn near-maximum points. It will take a long time to overcome his 33rd-place starting position, but once Stage 3 rolls around he should be in a position to strike and earn a top-five. If you take Allmendinger, the average cost for the remaining five drivers is a mere $7,760.
Chase Elliott ($10,700)
Elliott’s misfortune last week, (when he was stranded outside the top 15 as the Talladega Superspeedway musical chairs game ended), is a blessing in disguise. His eighth-place grid position gives him plenty of room to earn positive place-differential points and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he will challenge for the win. The big question mark over the No. 9 this week is whether the team will try to earn Stage 2 points. If they do, it could put them off sequence for the final segment.
Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)
Denny Hamlin ($9,500)
There may be a little cap manager fatigue in play where Hamlin is concerned. He’s been so expensive for so long, that they may view this as an opportunity to short him. That plays into your favor because Hamlin is a solid road racer with a lot of momentum on his side on the strength of two playoff wins and a sweep of the top 10 during the playoffs. He is also the only driver in the field with nothing to lose, which will contribute to an aggressive strategy that could pay huge dividends. It will also pay to note that he was on his way to Victory Lane at Indy before he was spun by Chase Briscoe.
Kurt Busch ($8,700)
Busch could be a huge differentiator this week because he has not made a lot of noise in 2021. He qualified for the playoffs with an Atlanta win, but didn’t do much with the opportunity in the Round of 16. In his prime, he was one of the best road racers in the field, but he never really got a lot of credit for those skills. In 2021, he has two top-fives and a pair of sixth-place finishes in six attempts. On the Roval, he’s batting .667 in regard to top-fives in three starts.
Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)
Chase Briscoe ($7,600)
We would prefer it if Briscoe were a little cheaper, but he is far enough below the average cost per driver to be a good value. Briscoe is one of the drivers with three top-10s in six road course races this year, but his record was almost much better. If he had not been hit with a restart violation in the closing laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, NASCAR would almost certainly not have penalized him for contact with Hamlin and he would have qualified for the playoffs in his rookie season. If he finishes in the top 10, he would add 12 or more place-differential points to his total.
Tyler Reddick ($7,800)
Reddick starts 29th this week and also has a great opportunity to earn positive place-differential points. Like Briscoe, he has three top-10s to his credit. In fact, both drivers earned their top-10s in the same races and there is a solid chance they will do so again. As the playoff contenders watch the rearview mirrors, these Young Guns will be charging to the front in an effort to make a name for themselves.
Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)
Bubba Wallace ($5,300)
In 14 previous road course starts, Wallace has not cracked the top 10 and winning last week on the carburetor-restricted superspeedway is not going to suddenly increase his skill. With that understood, his skill has been improving from repetition on road courses. He’s earned two top-15s and swept the top 25 in his last four attempts on this course type. He starts 15th this week and could finish in that same ballpark.
Erik Jones ($6,400)
If you take both Wallace and Jones, the average cost per remaining driver is $9,575 and that means taking either of our Group C picks leaves you with a healthy cap and opportunity to take both Allmendinger and Elliott. There are cheaper drivers at this level who have scored top-10s in 2021, but none of them have been as consistent as Jones. In six road course starts, he has one top-10, two more top-15s, and a 16th. He’s finished outside the top 20 only once and that is a manageable downside.
The top-10 points’ earners from the 2021 Geico 500 were: Ryan Blaney (73), Chase Elliott (61.25), William Byron (55.75), Cole Custer (54.5), Erik Jones (52.75), Joey Logano (49.5), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (48.5), Jimmie Johnson (48), Kurt Busch (47.5), and Clint Bowyer (41.25).
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