Draft Kings: Pennzoil 400

Dan Beaver
Rotoworld

The Pennzoil 400 by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is much more predictable than last week’s Daytona 500 – and don’t for a moment think that has gone unnoticed by the Draft Kings salary cap manager.

In recent years, Las Vegas has been dominated by three drivers and all of them are priced above $10k this week. Toss in the perennial favorites that typically score well even when they finish outside of the top five and there is a glut at the top of the order.

This week there are six drivers priced in the five-digit range and we would quibble with only one of them. Denny Hamlin ($10,200) is uneven on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. Of course, he does earn well on those weekends when he finds the right setup. 

The good news is that 25 of this week’s 38 drivers are priced below the $8,333 average-per-driver and some of them have a lot of untapped potential. In all likelihood, players will want to play at least five lineups – each headlined by one of the most expensive players – and then try a variety of companions for each.

The rookies are still unknown entities, but Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, and Tyler Reddick recorded strong results in the Xfinity series and are driving for teams that have earned their share of top-15s in the Cup series. Taking two of those three will open up a wide range of options.

Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)

Joey Logano ($10,700)
Logano was our top pick last week. And if not for an accident, he likely would have been the value we expected. This week it is a tossup between him and teammate Brad Keselowski ($11,100) as to who belongs on your lineup. Team Penske has easily been one of the most dominant organizations on this track with Logano riding an eight-race, top-10 streak that has produced an average finish of 5.1 and Keselowski with a nine-race streak and a 3.2. Logano is $400 cheaper, however, and that could make a big difference when you consider drivers in Level C and D.

Group B: (Between $9,800 and $8,500)

Ryan Blaney ($9,200)
Blaney may well be the greatest value pick this week. He is relatively expensive at $9,200, but we would have considered him a Level A driver if not for his lack of experience. Frankly, we would rather have him on the roster than Hamlin because of his consistency in recent seasons. Last year’s 22nd in this race sticks out like a sore thumb, but that was caused by an early loss of two laps when he thought he had a tire going down. Otherwise, he has not finished worse than seventh since his sophomore season. In that same span of races, Hamlin has only one finish that good.

Kyle Larson ($9,800)
Larson did not have the performance at Vegas last year for which he was accustomed. He finished 12th in the spring and eighth in the fall. This year he is the seventh-most expensive driver in the Draft Kings game. He will probably cover the spread because he entered the 2019 Pennzoil 400 with a three-race streak of top-three results. The progressive banking on this track is well suited to his driving style since it allows him to search around for a groove that is not occupied by another team. Most often that is near the wall.

Group C: (Between $8,400 and $7,200)

Last week the cheapest driver in Group C was $7,600. This week Christopher Bell is priced at $7,200 in order to make room for the exorbitant amounts commanded in Group A.

Christopher Bell ($7,200)
And speaking of Bell, it is worth taking a risk on the rookie this week. He will have Joe Gibbs Racing power under the hood and save you $1,000 or more. He won’t challenge for the win, but then again Kyle Busch ($12,400) has done so only twice at Vegas since 2009. Bell should easily challenge for a top-10; he should earn a top-15, but he is the 19th-most expensive driver. His price tag adds $227 to the average driver and with one other bargain, you can start to look higher on the list.

Matt DiBenedetto ($7,400)
Paul Menard has been solid at Vegas in the past two years. He swept the top 10 in 2018 and the top 15 last year while racing for the Wood Brothers. DiBenedetto has the same capability and he could be the second bargain you’re looking for. As with Bell and his affiliation with JGR, DiBenedetto has some of the same Penske power as the three best teams in the field for only a fraction of the cost.

Group D: (Between $7,100 and $5,800)

Ross Chastain ($6,100)
Chastain is an easy pick this week. He showed a lot of promise last year in the No. 15 and that earned him the right to run the No. 6 at Vegas for the injured Ryan Newman. He will not get the same out of the Ford as the veteran driver, but no one is going to be surprised by a top-15. His bargain basement price tag is a legacy from last year.

Cole Custer ($7,100)
Custer is solid on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. This team was strong on the course type with Daniel Suarez behind the wheel last year. The No. 41 earned seven results of 17th or better and that setup should give Custer a great baseline from which to work. Like Chastain, he could easily score a top-15 this week and if you chose to put both Young Guns on your roster, you can afford to take two of the Group A drivers.

Group E: (Less than or equal to $5,700)

Corey LaJoie ($5,300)
LaJoie has momentum on his side after scoring a top-10 last week at Daytona. He managed to score a couple of solid runs on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and while his 12th in the Coke 600 was atypical and aided by a lot of attrition, his 22nd at Kansas one week previously did not have an asterisk behind it. LaJoie swept the top 30 in his first nine races on this track type last year with an average of 25.8. Given a little luck, he will beat that number in the Pennzoil 400.

 

Last 45 Days

Driver

Avg.
Rank

Total
Points
Earned

Avg.
Points

This
Week's
Cap

Points
Per K

Group

Denny Hamlin

1.0

89.8

89.8

$10,200

          8.80

A

Kevin Harvick

12.0

45.0

45.0

$12,000

          3.75

A

Kyle Busch

29.0

7.5

7.5

$12,400

          0.60

A

Martin Truex Jr.

35.0

-0.5

-0.5

$11,600

         (0.04)

A

Joey Logano

36.0

-1.5

-1.5

$10,700

         (0.14)

A

Brad Keselowski

37.0

-11.5

-11.5

$11,100

         (1.04)

A

 

Ryan Blaney

3.0

69.5

69.5

$9,200

          7.55

B

Chase Elliott

13.0

43.8

43.8

$9,500

          4.61

B

Kyle Larson

17.0

33.5

33.5

$9,800

          3.42

B

Kurt Busch

32.0

1.0

1.0

$8,900

          0.11

B

Alex Bowman

34.0

0.3

0.3

$8,700

          0.03

B

William Byron

40.0

-32.0

-32.0

$8,500

         (3.76)

B

 

Clint Bowyer

6.0

62.0

62.0

$8,000

          7.75

C

Matt DiBenedetto

19.0

25.5

25.5

$7,400

          3.45

C

Erik Jones

20.0

25.0

25.0

$8,200

          3.05

C

Christopher Bell

23.0

21.0

21.0

$7,200

          2.92

C

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

28.0

11.5

11.5

$7,600

          1.51

C

Aric Almirola

30.0

7.0

7.0

$7,800

          0.90

C

Jimmie Johnson

38.0

-17.3

-17.3

$8,400

         (2.05)

C

 

Chris Buescher

7.0

58.5

58.5

$6,700

          8.73

D

Michael McDowell

10.0

47.8

47.8

$5,800

          8.23

D

Austin Dillon

15.0

36.0

36.0

$6,900

          5.22

D

Bubba Wallace

18.0

29.5

29.5

$6,300

          4.68

D

Ross Chastain

25.0

16.0

16.0

$6,100

          2.62

D

Tyler Reddick

26.0

13.5

13.5

$6,500

          2.08

D

Daniel Suarez

 

 

 

$6,000

             -  

D

Cole Custer

39.0

-17.5

-17.5

$7,100

         (2.46)

D

 

Corey LaJoie

5.0

64.8

64.8

$5,300

        12.22

E

Brennan Poole

11.0

47.5

47.5

$4,800

          9.90

E

JH Nemechek

9.0

48.5

48.5

$5,400

          8.98

E

Joey Gase

16.0

35.0

35.0

$4,700

          7.45

E

Timmy Hill

21.0

24.0

24.0

$4,500

          5.33

E

Reed Sorenson

21.0

24.0

24.0

$4,900

          4.90

E

Ryan Preece

24.0

19.0

19.0

$5,500

          3.45

E

Ty Dillon

27.0

12.5

12.5

$5,700

          2.19

E

Quin Houff

32.0

1.0

1.0

$4,600

          0.22

E

Garrett Smithley

 

 

 

$5,100

             -  

E

JJ Yeley

 

 

 

$5,000

             -  

E

 

Las Vegas Coverage

Pennzoil 400 Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Live: Pennzoil 400
Four to Watch: Austin Dillon
Four to Watch: Martin Truex Jr.
Four to Watch: Joey Logano
Power Rankings after Daytona 1

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