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COVID-19 protocols are still in place, which means lineups are being set by a combination of factors from last week plus a driver’s points standing. Some very solid performers on 1.5-mile tracks drew a bad number from the Talladega lottery cage and as a result, they will start deep in the pack.
Since place-differential is big part of DraftKings’ scoring, four of the six drivers who are valued above the $10,000 mark this week start 20th or worse. Since so many strong drivers are starting deep in the field, the salary caps this week are more top-heavy that normal. Two drivers land with caps above $11k.
That inevitably means some other drivers are cheaper than normal, so there are some good values if you believe the marquee top-10 starters will be able to remain with the leaders. This week, you may want to set a couple of lineups to see whether the top-heavy or value-driven approach works best.
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Kyle Larson ($11,300)
Larson did nothing wrong last week, but he was likely home watching the World of Outlaws Sprint Car race from Bristol, (and wishing he was battling David Gravel for that win), before the checkers waved over Talladega. A crewmember let him down by leaving a metal screen in front of the engine and Larson blew before he could even get started. Now he rolls off the grid 32nd for the Buschy McBusch Race 400 and is going to earn a ton of place-differential points. In fact, we believe he could earn 31 points with a race win. He’s expensive and you will have to take some risks in the levels below, but he will probably be the top earner this week.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,000)
Truex likely provides the best value at this level. He will start the Kansas race 15th on the grid and has great odds to finish in the top five. He is one of the best on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks with the third-best top-five percentage of .444 over the last 18 races. When he misses, it is not by much and his top-10 average of .833 in that span is tied for the best with Kevin Harvick. Truex enters the weekend with a seven-race streak of top-10s on this course type.
Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)
Kyle Busch ($8,600)
Before this year’s Bristol Dirt race, we can’t remember a time when Busch was available for less than $9,000. His modest cap is not only a consequence of his starting in the top 10, he is a driver who needs practice and time trials to dial in the car and he has struggled mightily since NASCAR implemented the COVID-19 protocols. He starts ninth, however, and if he can get the car dialed in during Stage 1, he can easily finish among the leaders. His only win last year came at Texas Motor Speedway, which is another similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track.
William Byron ($8,800)
Byron starts from the pole this week and the cap managers at DraftKings apparently believe he is going to lose significant place-differential points. We’re not so sure. This week NBC analyst Steve Letarte picked him to be the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver on the PointsBet Sportsbook, which means he will cross under the checkers ahead of Larson, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman. To do that, he is going to have to challenge for a top-five at the very least and probably the win.
Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700)
DiBenedetto came within a lap of winning his first Cup race last week at Talladega. He might experience an emotional letdown after coming so close, but we are willing to bet that won’t be the case. He’s been running well and his top-five on the aero-restricted superspeedway just confirmed it in both his and DFS players’ minds. After finishing between 12th and 16th in five consecutive races earlier this season, he now has back-to-back top-10s. He should be capable of earning one more this week. In 2020, DiBenedetto scored three top-fives and an eighth in 11 races on this track type.
Tyler Reddick ($6,900)
Reddick has earned the most points-per-thousand-dollars spent at this level over the last 45 days. He came close to punching his playoff ticket earlier this year in the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but Byron was just a little stronger. Last year he scored four top-10s on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and another three top-15s. In fact, his career top-15 average on this course type is .571, so we’re playing the odds.
Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)
Daniel Suarez ($6,300)
In the first three races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks in 2021 there have been a half-dozen surprise top-10 finishers. Suarez is not only due a strong run, he has been hovering around the top 10 mark on this course type since joining Track House Racing. He finished 15th at Homestead and was 17th at Atlanta. A top-15 will be enough to make him a good value, but he is capable of running even better.
Michael McDowell ($5,800)
When McDowell won the Daytona 500 this spring, he took that momentum with him into the next two races. He finished eighth on the Daytona road course and was sixth the following week the 1.5-mile track in Homestead. He survived Talladega and finished third last week, so it is highly possible that he will have that same extra spring to his step this week at Kansas. If you are going to take one of the most expensive drivers in the field, you will have to take a risk with at least two from the bargain bin.
The top-10 points’ earners from last fall were: Kevin Harvick (95.75), Joey Logano (62.25), Kyle Busch (59.5), Chase Elliott ( 59), Brad Keselowski (58.5), Alex Bowman (54), Christopher Bell (48), Ryan Blaney (46.5), JH Nemechek (43), and Denny Hamlin (42).
Last 45 Days
Martin Truex Jr./span>
Ricky Stenhouse Jr./span>