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The Circuit of the Americas is a new course for NASCAR drivers and with that comes uncertainty. While this is a road course purposefully built with Formula 1 in mind, it is still a road course and there are certain drivers who excel on the twists and turns.
The past two years have also been filled with uncertainty. Procedures put in place last May as NASCAR returned to action during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic persist. Track time is limited, and even this week with one session of practice and qualification (on the morning of the race), the data is not as great as we learned to expect from the beginning of 2020 and prior.
Even the types of road courses have changed in that span of time. The last four road course races have come on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and Daytona International Speedway – hybridizations of ovals and road courses. This is the first “true” road course we’ve visited since August 2019 – a span of 21 months. Road racing skill embeds itself in a driver’s DNA, however, and the cream will rise to the top.
Keep good notes, however, because between now and the playoffs, there will not be more than two consecutive weekends with oval races as NASCAR seeks to fill the fan’s need for road racing.
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Last week DraftKings thought they had a sure thing in Martin Truex Jr. His salary cap of $11,900 was hugely prohibitive and the highest in the game. He disappointed expectations and earned only 13.6 points, which ranked 23rd.
Chase Elliott ($10,500)
Elliott is cheaper this week and less risky as a result. But taking any driver over the $10k mark means you will need to budget carefully in Groups B through D. That is imminently possible and desirable. Elliott is liable to earn maximum points even if he wins the pole on Sunday morning. If you build rosters from the top down – start with him. Elliott has four wins in the last five road course races and should have won at Daytona if not for a self-inflicted mistake.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,600)
Truex is still the most expensive driver in the game despite last week’s massive disappointment. He’s only $100 more than Elliott, but the difference in productivity between these two drivers in recent road course races is major and it does not favor the driver of the No. 19. Most of Truex’s issues on the track type have been self-inflicted. If he manages to stay out of trouble, he is likely to show a good return on investment, but the real question you have to ask is whether he is going to outperform Elliott.
Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)
AJ Allmendinger ($8,500)
On a road course, it should not matter that Allmendinger is racing for a part time team. His skills elevate him to at least top-10 status and as long as he matches his strategy to the leaders, he will stay in contact and should be a safe bet. A late race caution will be his best opportunity to pull out a surprise win, but if Elliott or Truex is in front of him, he’s probably going to need to use the chrome horn. That could have a huge ripple effect on your roster. With odds of +700 at PointsBet Sportsbook to finish in the top three this week, he an excellent value there as well.
Austin Cindric ($8,700)
The cars are different, but the skills are transferable. Cindric won back-to-back road course races last year at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and on the Daytona Road Course. He was sixth on the Charlotte Roval last fall and came up one position shy of Ty Gibbs this spring at Daytona. This will be his first attempt with the big boys on a road course, but we believe he should be able to hold his own.
Joey Logano ($9,500)
Group B is a difficult one to handicap this week. These are all strong racers who have the potential to score top-10s and in the right circumstances, could challenge for the win. They do not have the type of stats on road courses to make them ‘must-haves’, however. From 2017 through 2019 Logano was more ‘miss’ than ‘hit’ on this track type, but he started to turn things around on the Charlotte Roval. He finished 10th in the inaugural race there and backed it up with another 10th the following year. He was ninth in the first Daytona Road Course race. Better still, he has finished second in his last two efforts on this track type and has some momentum on his side.
Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)
Michael McDowell ($7,400)
McDowell cut his teeth in the Trans Am series and that has always made him one of the top choices on road courses. In the past three seasons, he has stumbled only twice in six races with a 25th at Sonoma in 2019 and a 32nd on the Roval last year. Those two poor races are counterbalanced by a pair of top-10s in his last two Daytona Road Course races. We will not be surprised to see another top-10 – and if he accomplishes that feat, he will earn +200 for the wager at PointsBet – but we will be pleased with anything in the teens considering his salary cap.
Daniel Suarez ($6,600)
Suarez is excited about COTA this week and that goes a long way to making him one of the mid-range favorites. His record is not quite what we would like to see for a driver above the $7k mark, but will probably fit your roster comfortably as one of the best available drivers when it’s time to fill the last two slots on your roster. Equally important, Suarez has been consistent on road courses with seven results of 17th or better in 11 starts. We’ve saved the best for last: Suarez finished in the top five in his first two races at the Glen.
Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)
Ty Dillon ($5,500)
Road ringers have not been effective on this track type in quite a few seasons, but that does not mean part time drivers do not have a place. Dillon has experience and the No. 96 has been around long enough to make him a good option – especially if you are looking to free up some cap room for the drivers in the levels above. Dillon earned the 11th-most points in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona with 43. For comparison: Truex earned 41.6.
Cody Ware ($4,800)
There is a way to take both Elliott and Truex, but it requires some risk. If you take the fourth-cheapest driver Ware plus any other driver at this level, the average amount you have to spend on the remainder of the field is $9,700. That doesn’t cover them outright, but it allows you to better manage Groups B and C. Ware has enough road racing experience in sport cars to make him a reasonable bet, but he does not have the equipment to guarantee a top-20.
The top-10 points’ earners from this year’s Daytona Road Course were: AJ Allmendinger (64.95), Christopher Bell (62.65), Alex Bowman (60), Joey Logano (54.85), Kurt Busch (53.5), Erik Jones (52), Chris Buescher (51), Brad Keselowski (49), Daniel Suarez (46.5), and Denny Hamlin (44.6).
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