Quaker State 400 DFS Gems

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Is Atlanta Motor Speedway now a carburetor-restricted superspeedway? The pundits certainly believe so and there was nothing in the racing at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway to suggest otherwise. And it that’s the case, then DFS players should shift back into their lottery mode where the key to success is setting a variety of lineups and spreading the wealth.

In fact, except for Chase Elliott, the drivers with the best average finish in pack races during the past two years are not the ones who command the highest salary caps. There is a holdover effect for drivers like Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, and Ryan Blaney in which cap managers find it difficult to drop them out of the $10k range.

That stubbornness can make them unattractive on other course types, but is has less impact in pack races simply because there are so many bargain basement drivers that can be activated to offset the cost. This is a race where cap management takes a back seat to statistics and intuition as it always does on plate tracks.

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

Chase Elliott ($10,500)
Elliott (10.71) has the second-best average finish over the past two seasons on carburetor-restricted speedways by a narrow margin to Bubba Wallace (10.14) and he has the benefit of knowing that he is mathematically locked into the playoff with a pair of wins in 2022. Elliott has had his share of hardship on plate tracks. It’s often self-inflicted when he tries to make something happen without a drafting partner, but since winning Talladega 1 in 2019, his fortune has changed. He hasn’t finished in the top five yet this season, but he has swept the top 10. He is the only driver to perform that feat.

Ryan Blaney ($10,700)
It’s not often that we see Blaney as the most expensive driver in the game, but if he ever deserved it, the carburetor-restricted speedways are where that is truest. Blaney has won one plate race in each of the three previous seasons and with two extra chances in 2022, it’s hard to imagine he won’t get the job done this year. The biggest question is whether that will come at Atlanta or Daytona before the playoffs begin. Blaney was on his way to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 before he was pinched into the wall on the last lap by Austin Cindric.

Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)

Bubba Wallace ($8,700)
Wallace is not only a good value at this level, he has a shot at winning the race outright. With qualification canceled because of rain and all of the bad luck he’s experienced throughout the first half of the season, he will earn a ton of place-differential points if he is successful. Wallace rolls off deep in the field from 32nd. His win at Talladega last year came in a rain-shortened race, but it was not a fluke, which he proved in his last two Daytona starts with runner-up finishes.

Martin Truex Jr. ($9,100)
We often suggest caution where Truex is concerned, but he has shown marked improvement this year on plate tracks. He can be star crossed and crash prone and that has marred his average finishes. When he stays out of trouble, however, he and the rest of the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) contingent have the horsepower and discipline to finish with the leaders. That is precisely what Truex did at Atlanta in this spring’s QuikTrip 500 and he followed that with a fifth at Talladega.

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Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)

Kevin Harvick ($7,600)
Harvick has momentum on his side with a three-race, top-10 streak and finishes that strong in seven of his last nine attempts. His winless streak of more than 60 races is a distraction and that is magnified by the fact that he probably won’t make the playoffs on points. While that can be an issue on unrestricted tracks, there is no time for a lapse of concentration in pack racing and Harvick’s hyper-focus is second to none in the Cup series.

Brad Keselowski ($6,500)
Pack racing is a great equalizer. Speed is irrelevant when it is arbitrarily choked off by restrictor plates. Since 90 percent of the field can run the same times, it falls to the driver, (and Fate), to make up the difference. There is nothing that can be done about Fate, but experience counts in the draft and Keselowski has a proven record of winning in this style of racing. He and Chris Buescher ($7,000) were among the class of the field in Daytona Speedweeks and Kez won last year’s Talladega 1. He finished second in the fall race on that track.

Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)

Corey LaJoie ($5,400)
We would not have been surprised to see LaJoie elevated into Group C this week and the cap manager’s oversight is a gift. LaJoie has a knack for pack racing with top-10s in five of his last 14 plate starts and another five result of 16th or better. With a starting position of 30th, he is all-but guaranteed to earn positive points and putting him on your roster adds nearly $600 for each additional driver.

Justin Haley ($6,300)
Haley’s 2019 win at Daytona is forever imprinted as the epitome of how random races at Daytona can be. After track-drying that day, the Coke Zero 400 was about to go green and NASCAR informed the teams they would get the one-to-go signal on the next lap. As the field dove onto pit road, Haley stayed out and watched the track get soaked for the final time. So that win doesn’t contribute to his handicap. What does factor, however, is his sixth-place finish at Daytona last summer and back-to-back top-12s at Atlanta and Talladega this year.

The top-10 points’ earners from the 2022 QuikTrip 500 were: 1. William Byron (86.9), 2. Corey LaJoie (71.05), 3. Ross Chastain (63.8), 4. Martin Truex, Jr. (58.4), 5. Daniel Suarez (55.85), 6. Kurt Busch (52.95), 7. Justin Haley (49.1), 8. Josh Bilicki (48.8), 9. Chase Elliott (47.5), 10. Brad Keselowski (47.05)

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Last 45 Days

Driver

Avg.
Rank

Total
Points
Earned

Avg.
Points

This
Week's
Cap

Points
Per K

Group A

Ross Chastain

6.60

279.10

55.82

$10,300

27.10

Kyle Larson

10.20

230.85

46.17

$10,100

22.86

Chase Elliott

11.60

211.00

42.20

$10,500

20.10

Ryan Blaney

12.00

191.45

38.29

$10,700

17.89

Group B

Daniel Suarez

13.00

197.60

39.52

$8,900

22.20

Martin Truex, Jr.

13.60

196.70

39.34

$9,100

21.62

Kyle Busch

15.20

210.60

42.12

$9,900

21.27

Christopher Bell

15.40

166.15

33.23

$8,500

19.55

Joey Logano

19.00

149.10

29.82

$9,600

15.53

Denny Hamlin

19.80

135.25

27.05

$9,700

13.94

Tyler Reddick

17.80

126.50

25.30

$9,300

13.60

William Byron

21.00

88.00

17.60

$9,500

9.26

Bubba Wallace

26.80

47.20

9.44

$8,700

5.43

Group C

Erik Jones

14.20

184.00

36.80

$6,700

27.46

Kevin Harvick

12.20

198.95

39.79

$7,600

26.18

Michael McDowell

13.40

183.75

36.75

$7,300

25.17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

15.00

164.15

32.83

$7,100

23.12

Austin Cindric

15.00

161.00

32.20

$8,100

19.88

Aric Almirola

18.00

143.70

28.74

$7,400

19.42

Austin Dillon

19.60

124.00

24.80

$6,900

17.97

Kurt Busch

18.80

134.65

26.93

$8,200

16.42

Alex Bowman

18.80

120.20

24.04

$7,800

15.41

Chase Briscoe

21.20

116.85

23.37

$7,900

14.79

Brad Keselowski

22.80

94.65

18.93

$6,500

14.56

Chris Buescher

22.60

98.90

24.73

$7,000

14.13

Group D

Todd Gilliland

18.60

130.45

26.09

$5,700

22.89

Ty Dillon

19.80

130.45

26.09

$6,000

21.74

Justin Haley

18.80

134.35

26.87

$6,300

21.33

Harrison Burton

24.60

90.25

18.05

$5,500

16.41

Cody Ware

24.80

82.45

16.49

$5,200

15.86

BJ McLeod

23.33

64.00

21.33

$5,100

12.55

Cole Custer

27.80

55.90

11.18

$6,200

9.02

Josh Bilicki

29.20

37.00

7.40

$4,900

7.55

Corey LaJoie

28.80

33.35

6.67

$5,400

6.18

Noah Gragson

25.00

21.00

21.00

$5,800

3.62

Garrett Smithley

$4,800

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2022 QuikTrip 500 [Atlanta 1]
Geico 500 [Talladega 1]
Daytona 500 [Daytona 1]