Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Bank of America ROVAL 400
One of the unique challenges with daily fantasy NASCAR is that every track is different. Not only does this mean that certain drivers will perform better at one place than another, but each track will have different scoring tendencies than the previous one. That means we need to alter our strategies pretty drastically.
Each week here on numberFire, we're going to dig into the track that's hosting the upcoming weekend's race to see what all we need to know when we're setting our lineups. We'll have a separate piece that looks at drivers who have excelled there in the past; here, we just want to know about the track itself. Once qualifying has been completed, we'll also have a primer detailing which drivers fit this strategy and should be in your lineup for that week.
This week, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will wrap up the first round of the playoffs at the Charlotte Roval with the Bank of America ROVAL 400. What do we need to know about the track before filling out our NASCAR DFS lineups? Let's check it out.
There's a whole lot poppin' this weekend in Charlotte. Primarily, it's the cutoff race for the first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as the field gets trimmed to 12 drivers from 16. It's also just the second time the series has taken a trip on the Charlotte roval, and last year's race was an adventure.
We'll get back to the track in a second, but first, let's go through the implications of the playoffs.
Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch have already advanced to the next round, so they can just gun for a win here. As noted by FOX Sports' Bob Pockrass, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano can all clinch just by finishing 30th or better, so their spots are likely secure in the next round, as well.
Here's the rest of the playoff grid along with where they are relative to the cutline in 12th spot.
|Driver||Rank||Points to Cutline|
Outside of points, the other way to advance is by winning a race in the round. That's Erik Jones' lone remaining hope, so he'll be going full DGAF mode here and focusing solely on getting that checkered flag.
Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson are decently safe unless they run into major issues, but the others will need to prioritize stage points on Sunday. And this is a big factor at road courses.
In Sonoma earlier this year, William Byron qualified on the pole. He eventually slid back a couple of spots in the field. Rather than having Byron pit with the leaders before the end of the opening stage, allowing him to stay out under caution and pick up track position, crew chief Chad Knaus told Byron to stay out. He did and collected 10 points for the stage win. That's equivalent to 10 spots at the end of the race, and that strategy played a role in getting Byron into the playoffs.
But on FanDuel, we don't get points for stage points. We care only about where a driver finishes, and Byron finished 19th there partly because of the track position he lost while prioritizing stage points. It's a good strategy for the teams, but it definitely hurts their appeal for DFS.
This is a concern we'll have for all the drivers between 9th and 15th in the standings entering the race. The others will likely be focused on a win, similar to the non-playoff drivers. But we will need to at least keep this in mind when considering drivers right on the bubble for advancing to the next round.
That'll all be going down at a track that bathed in chaos last year. Sunday's going to be exciting.
With this being just the second race at the track, what did we learn during last year's race? And which data there should we disregard? Let's dig in and sort that all out.
Roster Construction and Strategy
A big key for determining strategy in daily fantasy NASCAR is the number of laps in the race. A longer race means you want more cars close to the front who can get upside via laps led. A shorter one leads you to stack the back as drivers back there can generate upside via place-differential points.
Sunday's race will be the third-shortest of the year with just 109 laps, leaving 10.9 FanDuel points for laps led. This should funnel us to target drivers starting further back, right?
In last year's Charlotte roval race, that was not the case. Four of the drivers in the perfect lineup started the race in the top 10.
|Perfect Lineup||Salary||Starting Position||Laps Led|
This could be a potential indicator that passing was impossible during the race, preventing drivers who were slow in qualifying from working their way forward during the race. But once we dig in, the way this race played out will start to look a bit fluky.
The first big red flag against our initial hypothesis comes via Keselowski. He started that race all the way back in 25th. Despite that, Keselowski still managed to lead 29 laps, second-most for any driver in the race. That wouldn't have happened if passing were a complete chore.
So, if Keselowski started 25th and led 29 laps, why didn't he finish better?
It's because he got caught up in the beast that is the roval.
Keselowski wasn't the only one caught up in that wreck, as you can see. He also collected Byron and Paul Menard, both of whom were running in the top eight after starting outside the top 20. Basically, all the good place-differential drivers took each other out.
Something similar could very easily happen again on Sunday because Charlotte was a demo derby last year. But Keselowski wrecked while leading, meaning calamity could just as easily take out drivers who start at the front this time.
And we should expect wrecks again. We even saw big wrecks in practice.
And then the leaders wrecked again coming to the checkered flag during the race.
Truex started that race 13th and was on his way to victory before that wreck. So to say that passing wasn't possible would be misleading and inaccurate.
Those wrecks we saw may have eliminated some of the drivers who would have gotten place-differential points in last year's race, but they also validate the idea that we should target drivers starting further back this year. Every time one driver crashes, the drivers behind them all get to move up a spot. That's 1.5 points on FanDuel (half a point for place differential and one point for finishing position). A three-car wreck is worth 4.5 points, and it pushes those drivers up in the order in a hurry.
As such, when we start looking for drivers to build around, we should start at the bottom and work our way forward. Those are the drivers who will have the best upside.
As we always discuss for pack-racing tracks, it's totally acceptable to have one driver in a tournament lineup who is starting near the front. If they win, they'll pay off for DFS no matter where they start. You find a driver you think will win, plug them in, and then target place-differential candidates from there.
Of course, we don't just want to haphazardly pick drivers just because they're starting poorly; we need them to finish well, too, and not everybody starting in the back can do that.
We should have a good amount of practice data to lean on, giving us a glimpse at which drivers have a feel for the course. Keselowski and Larson were the two best drivers in practice for last year's race, and they combined to lead 69.7% of the laps. Because this is a new track, there are three practices scheduled prior to the race, and we should look closely at the drivers who fare best in those sessions.
We can also glean a bit of information from the other road course races this year in Sonoma and Watkins Glen. When doing so, we'll just want to be sure to put more weight on average running position than finishing position so as to not overlook drivers who may have had flukiness in one of the outings. Elliott finished 37th in Sonoma, but his 15th-place average running position shows he wasn't awful all day long. He then went on to lay the lumber to the field in winning at Watkins Glen.
Between practice times and recent road-course history, we should have a pretty good idea of which drivers figure to have fast cars during the race. If any of those cars happen to be starting a bit further back, then they'll likely be good process plays for the race.
Because this race figures to be hyper-volatile, we may want to take extra steps to differentiate in tournaments. Even if a driver looks like they're an elite play, they could be one of the drivers swept up into those nasty wrecks, so we'll want to be sure we're omitting them from lineups every now and then just to safeguard ourselves in case they wreck. Nobody is truly safe here.
We'll also want to be conscious of where that driver is in the playoff picture, as noted above. The cutoff could play a role in deciding strategy, and that will have a clear impact on where drivers finish. This isn't to say we can't use any bubble drivers -- some of them are very skilled road racers -- but it is something to keep in mind.
We don't always want to ignore past history at a track when formulating strategies for DFS. In fact, we won't want to do that often at all. But in this case, it makes sense. The race played out in a weird way, and we know that the length of the race pushes us toward a certain strategy; we shouldn't let a couple of bad breaks in last year's race push us off of that.
As such, we should be looking to target drivers starting further back with the ability to finish well, something we can determine by looking at their practice data and recent runs at similar tracks. That will be the core of our lineups. Once we pick an assumed winner -- who can pay off no matter where they start -- and mix and match a bit in tournaments to account for variance, we should be able to rebound on Sunday and have things break better for us this time around than they did last year.