The playoffs begin this week, and while that does not directly affect single-race games like Draft Kings it factors into cap values and positive handicaps for the drivers listed below. The majority of teams that got into the playoffs with a win and most of them have earned top points in the game.
The season was still fresh this March when the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was run, but the drivers who scored top-10 points in the Draft Kings contest went on to run well for the remainder of the season. The only driver who scored among the leaders and did not make the playoffs was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with 44.75 (eighth-most).
In the most recent race on this track type, two other non-playoff drivers scored top-10 points: Chris Buescher has the ninth-most of 49.0 with Daniel Suarez at 45.5. All three of these non-playoff drivers are featured below because it will be virtually impossible to complete a roster without finding some bargains.
One other factor that has been noted a few times this week already was the chaotic nature of last year’s South Point 400. One will not want to overcommit on the most expensive drivers in case of another unpredictable race. Kevin Harvick ($10,300)
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Kevin Harvick ($10,300)
Harvick can certainly be uneven at times. Throughout the past two seasons he and his team have been just as likely to make mistakes that cost a shot at the win as they are to hit on a dominant setup. Vegas is representative of that as well. Harvick crashed last year in this race. He finished 38th in 2017 and 41st in 2014, but he also has a pair of victories in that span and a fourth-place finish this spring. After last week’s performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we suspect he will be back to this top-notch ways.
Group B: (Between $9,700 and $8,500)
After getting off to an incredibly slow start with four consecutive results outside the top 25 at Vegas, Keselowski found the handle in 2013 and finished third. In the seven races that followed, he has not finished worse than seventh, has three wins, and an average finish of 3.25 over the past eight races. While he has not been nearly as dominant as we would like in the past few races of 2019, he should easily rebound in the South Point 400.
Selecting all three will be difficult from a cap management standpoint, but one can easily mix and match from Team Penske. Keselowski’s eight straight top-10s is the best in the field, but Logano is close behind with seven consecutive. He won this spring’s race – narrowly beating Keselowski in the process – and has four more top-fives included in his streak.
Meanwhile Blaney lacks the duration, but he has been a top-10 driver for most of his career on this track. He entered the Pennzoil 400 this spring with four consecutive results of seventh or better that included a sweep of the top five last year. He fell a lap off the pace this spring, but with the playoffs on the line, he should rebound.
Group C: (Between $8,300 and $7,400)
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,400)
The similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks have not been where Leavine Family Racing has shined brightest, but DiBenedetto is still one of the top values at this level. He is the cheapest of this group and has momentum on his side with his ninth straight top-20. Since scoring a fourth-place finish at Sonoma Raceway 11 races ago to kick start his surge, he has an average finish of 11.9 and that is more than good enough to secure a spot on the roster. A top-10 might be a bit of a stretch this week because the 1.5-mile tracks take a complete package to run, but no one will be surprised by a top-15.
Daniel Suarez ($7,600)
Pride is a huge motivator in NASCAR. Having missed the playoffs, Suarez wants to prove he is just as fast as the 16 drivers ranked above him – including his three teammates. There is no reason to believe that his equipment won’t be the equal that of the more expensive options of Harvick, Clint Bowyer, or Aric Almirola. This week, Suarez is capable of earning a top-10 to go along with his 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, third at Texas Motor Speedway, and eighth in the most recent 1.5-mile race at Kentucky.
Group D: (Between $7,200 and $6,100)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,100)
Stenhouse has been at his best this year on 1.5-mile tracks. He has a perfect record of top-20s on them this season with two top-10s and five top-12s. One of these was a sixth in the Pennzoil 400 this spring; another was a 12th in the most recent event at Kentucky. Even if he lands on the high side of that range or a little outside of it, his points-per-thousand ratio is going to be solid.
Chris Buescher ($7,200)
Buescher has also swept the top 20 on this track type. He has been a little less consistent with three results of 18th or 20th that are balanced by four top-10s, but three of these came in the last four races. Buescher finished 18th this spring and earned 35 points in the Draft Kings game, which was 14th-best. His cap value this week ranks 20th, so the math works in his favor.
Group E: (Less than or equal to $6,000)
Michael McDowell ($5,800)
For the past couple of weeks we have rolled the dice and highlighted drivers making their first starts of the season. Joe Nemechek was a solid value at Darlington Raceway with 19.5 points to his credit while Ryan Sieg scored 32 last week at Indy. The similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks are not ones that reward dark horses, however, and it’s time to take a more cautious approach in the lower level. Front Row Motorsports is probably the best team among the bargain drivers. McDowell has finished 26th or better in his last five attempts on this track type with an average of 21.6.
The top-10 points’ earners from this spring were Joey Logano (92.5), Kevin Harvick (85), Brad Keselowski (73.75), Kurt Busch (73.75), Martin Truex Jr. (62.5), Aric Almirola (59), Kyle Busch (58.25), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (44.75), Chase Elliott (41.5), and William Byron (39.75).