NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Quaker State 400
If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America.
NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!
numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes usually takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide, but I filled in this week. God help us there.
With all of this in mind, let's preview the Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on FanDuel.
|Qualifying||Saturday, July 8th
5:35 p.m. EST
Whatever percentage a hot dog is a sandwich, that's how much of a drafting oval the new configuration of Atlanta is.
There are a lot of drafting-oval elements. For example, we've seen cars usually down on speed finish extremely well in the three races since the track was redesigned, and the cars are in a massive pack with minimal room between them.
Oh, and like the bigger tracks, there will be no practice here with teams usually sitting it out to avoid mayhem in those tight packs.
However, it's not all the same. Two cars led 71.9% of March's race here, so the lead doesn't shuffle nearly as much as it does at Daytona or Talladega. Only eight cars in March's race were off pace or out due to crash damage, too. That number has been 17 on average at the two larger drafting ovals this year.
We're left with an interesting blend of drafting oval and intermediate track, but there's enough variance to make for a wild daily fantasy slate.
General Lineup Strategy
Imagine how stressful it would be if you needed to target lap leaders at Daytona or Talladega. Well, that's what Atlanta is.
Consecutive Atlanta races have been won by the polesitter. Chase Elliott led 96 laps en route to a win last July, and Joey Logano led 140 from the pole earlier this season. That's a formula you'd sooner see on a normal 1.5-mile circuit, but there's definitely a risky element to that.
With tight racing in packs, a poor pit stop could lead to the polesitter crashing in a matter of laps, so that's no guarantee to work even with a two-race trend in tow. Our general approach should still be to prefer fast cars starting further back in the field -- just as it is at Daytona or Talladega.
With that strategy, the floor comes from place-differential points (or avoiding negative points, at least). The ceiling comes from finishing well -- as many did from the back in March. Of the top-10 finishers in that one, five started outside the top-15 spots.
Therefore, I'm still not going out of my way to solely focus on getting laps-led points. Avoiding mayhem is the top priority, but some exposure to top qualifiers and/or favorites to lead and win will be necessary in tournaments.
Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level -- in that order. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations or a top-20 finish this season were included.
MLT Rank is the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend as a great indicator of overall speed. The prior races in the sample (with weight percentage) this week are:
2023 Atlanta (Spring) - 50%
2023 Daytona (Spring) - 25%
2023 Talladega (Spring) - 25%
For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is among the favorites to win the race, and a "0" has no realistic chance of leading the race at any point.
For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale of potentially finishing inside the top 15 spots. These drivers will be better daily fantasy plays the further back in the field they start for optimal place-differential points.
None of the 35 drivers in my rankings is a "bad" play in daily fantasy. They've all got solid enough equipment and skills to contend for a top-10 finish -- especially if this one were to get wild with accidents.
There is also a deep list of contenders to lead and win the race at the front, but I went with Ross Chastain ($11,500) as my top overall pick. Of course, his Trackhouse Racing team has won two in a row, and "Uncle Mo" never hurts. A better reason might be that Chastain finished second in both races here last year and was toward the front before an accident in March.
Ross is tied with Joey Logano ($10,000) for the best average ranking in this weekend's blend of median lap times on drafting ovals. Of course, Logano won the race and led 140 laps, so his speed was much easier to see. He's as good of a threat as any to also win this one.
Denny Hamlin ($11,500) is a drafting wizard, encapsulated by three triumphs in the Daytona 500. He led five laps with a top-10 average running position in March, so this isn't a bad track for him despite Hamlin not yet winning here.
With a win at 'Dega earlier this year, Kyle Busch ($12,500) is actually the betting favorite, according to the Quaker State 400 odds at FanDuel Sportsbook. Busch had the third-best median time at Atlanta in March, so he's also no slouch.
Chase Elliott ($11,000) has to be on the shortlist to win, too. As the defending winner of the July event, he missed March's event due to a broken leg, but he'll be especially aggressive as he likely needs a win to make the playoffs.
The final name of the contenders could be a shocker to some. To me, it's Corey Lajoie ($4,500). Lajoie has two top-five finishes in three Atlanta races since the track was reconfigured, and the exception was his best effort. He was pinched into the wall by Elliott on the last lap when gunning for the lead. With the sixth-best median time in March, Lajoie's overall speed and track history can match anyone's in the field.
As we dig into more value options, Ryan Blaney ($9,500), Brad Keselowski ($7,500), Chris Buescher ($7,200), and Austin Cindric ($5,700) helped Ford -- behind Logano -- control the race earlier this year here. Keselowski even led 47 laps. If Ford maintains a strong package at this track, they're a great pairing with Logano in a potential stack.
Chevrolet and Toyota could rebound, though. Adding to the bevy of aforementioned Chevy contenders, William Byron ($13,000) won here last March. Alex Bowman ($7,800) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,800) have top-five marks in this weekend's blend of median times at drafting ovals thus far.
We also know Bubba Wallace ($8,200) can get it done on a drafting oval. Toyota could be a dark horse to control this race as Wallace and Hamlin will be joined by Martin Truex Jr. ($13,500), Christopher Bell ($10,500), and Ty Gibbs ($8,000). Those three all posted a top-10 median in the spring race, but Gibbs is the one I see as a tougher sell as a rookie with minimal Cup Series drafting experience.
The best daily fantasy plays will be the highest-ranked drivers from my rankings who end up outside the top-20 starting spots. From there, it's about accepting or rejecting each driver who fits that description as potential chalk.