Daily Fantasy NASCAR Driver Preview: Drydene 400
Two of the biggest pillars of driver selection in daily fantasy NASCAR are track history and current form. Knowing where drivers sit on both of those spectrums is going to make our lineups look a whole lot nicer at the end of the race.
By looking at which drivers have excelled at this week's track in the past and those who are currently racing well, we can know which drivers are in line to be good plays for the slate. That's what we're going to try to do today, dividing drivers into those two buckets with noteworthy track history or noteworthy current form.
Clearly, this isn't to say that all of these drivers will be great plays in this race. A lot of that will be dictated by where they start and the scoring history at that track. To read more about what strategies we need to deploy based on starting position, check out this week's track preview.
Later in the week, once qualifying is in the books, we'll go through the top plays for the race based on all of these factors. But which drivers should we be keying on for the time being? Let's check it out. Here are drivers we should monitor for the Drydene 400.
Kevin Harvick (FanDuel Salary: $14,000): Kevin Harvick's past three average running positions at Dover are second, third, and fourth, respectively. The rest of the field has combined to post an average running position of fourth or better twice in that time. So you could say that Harvick is decent here.
What may mask this dominance by Harvick is that his results have been a bit more mixed. He has just one win in that time with his other finishes being sixth and fourth, so should we actually view him ahead of someone like Martin Truex Jr. ($14,500), who won here back in the spring?
We probably should. In that sixth-place run last fall, Harvick led a whopping 286 laps, one of four times he has led at least half the race in the past 10 trips to Dover. The only reason he didn't win last fall was that he had a loose wheel on a late-race pit stop and had to come back down pit road, making it even more impressive that he was actually able to finish sixth still. Sometimes, finishes can be fluky, and they fail to reflect how good Harvick has been here recently.
The current form is there for Harvick, too. He nearly won at the Charlotte roval last week and enters with a top-six average running position in four straight races, all of which have come at different track types. Harvick's not the most expensive driver on FanDuel, and he doesn't have the shortest betting odds, but it's very possible he should be the favorite before the cars hit the track.
Kyle Larson ($12,500): Kyle Larson was dominant at Dover back in 2017. In two races there, he led a combined 378 of 800 laps, culminating in a pair of top-five finishes. But that dominance hasn't been there since, so should we still give him a bump as the Cup Series heads back to Dover?
Last year was tough for Larson, but we saw a return to life in the spring. He finished third, pairing it with a fifth-place average running position, the third-best mark for the entire race.
That race was a big turnaround point for Larson and his team. They had just one top-10 in the first 10 races prior to that, and Dover was their first top-five. He has been stout since then, too, including a sixth-place finish and a fifth-place average running position at a Bristol track that is high-banked and concrete, just like Dover. Because of runs like that, we can feel pretty solid about Larson entering practice this weekend.
Erik Jones ($9,000): Volatility is something we'll have to accept with Erik Jones. He has finished 36th or worse in four straight races (though one was due to a disqualification), so we know he can hit the lows. But he can hit the highs, too, and that matters.
Jones has hit those highs in each of the past two Dover races. He was fourth in last year's fall race, and he followed that up with a sixth-place run this spring. Jones' average running positions were 11th and 10th in those two races, respectively, and he has now had a top-12 average running position in four of five Dover races.
The race before Jones' terrible streak started was in Darlington. He won that race, leading 79 laps en route to the victory, and he was fourth in Richmond before the disqualification. Volatility is tough to swallow when the lows hit this often, but the payoff is worth it for when Jones does manage to have a clean race.
Daniel Suarez ($8,000): Daniel Suarez has had the benefit of racing his entire Cup Series career with teams that perform well at Dover in Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. But Suarez has been good enough to take advantage of that equipment.
In five career Dover races, Suarez's worst finish was an 11th-place run this spring, his debut race with SHR. He had a 13th-place average running position in that one, his fourth time with a top-13 mark in this five-race sample, showing that his quality runs are legit. He also got a win here in the Xfinity Series back in 2016 as part of his championship season with JGR.
Despite not being in the playoffs, Suarez has had some speed recently, too. He has had a top-15 average running position in seven straight races, including a mark of 12th with an eighth-place finish at the high banks in Bristol. His upside isn't as high as someone like Jones', but at just $8,000, a top-10 finish is enough to pay off. Suarez has shown he's more than capable of that here.
Chase Elliott ($13,000): Chase Elliott's coming off a win last week, but it came on a road course, and there's not much overlap between a road course and a high-banked oval like Dover. So, in theory, you could potentially just write off Elliott's big run last week. But that would be a flaw.
Although all three of Elliott's wins this year have come either on a road course or a pack-racing track, he was heating up at more regular venues before Sunday. The turnaround on ovals for Elliott seemed to happen at Bristol, where he led 33 laps, had a fourth-place average running position, and finished fifth. Given the overlap between Bristol and Dover, that's extra noteworthy. He then followed that up with top-eight average running positions in both Las Vegas and Richmond.
We also don't want to write off the win because Dover is another spot where Elliott has historically excelled. He has six top-fives here in seven career races, and he led 145 laps in this spring's edition. He was the one who capitalized on Harvick's late-race issues last fall and got the win, so don't expect regression out of Elliott just yet.
Alex Bowman ($10,000): Elliott's success at Dover has all come at Hendrick Motorsports, which means the team has the equipment to whip it here. Alex Bowman showed that he is also capable of taking advantage of that equipment this spring.
Bowman was runner-up here in the spring, his first finish better than 20th at the track, but he also led 26 laps at Dover in the 2018 spring race before running into issues. His race this spring came with a seventh-place average running position, the best for any driver entering this weekend with a salary lower than $12,000.
The current form is there for Bowman, too, which is encouraging. He had another runner-up finish behind Elliott last week in Charlotte and was sixth in Las Vegas two races before that. Bowman's team is living on borrowed time after using a late-race surge to advance to the second round of the playoffs, but a Dover race gives him a chance to leverage that into a deeper postseason run.
Clint Bowyer ($9,700): Clint Bowyer -- like Bowman -- is playing with house money. He barely made the playoffs to begin with, and he needed a good run at the roval to advance. But Bowyer's running well enough now where we shouldn't just brush him off.
Bowyer had a terrible summer but got things kicked into gear at Bristol, which bodes well for this weekend. He was seventh there with a 10th-place average running position. Including that race, Bowyer now has a top-10 average running position in five of the past six races with the lone exception being Las Vegas, where the team entered the race with a poor setup.
Bowyer also has a nice little streak going at Dover with a top-10 average running position in four straight races there. He was second in last year's spring race, and he was on his way to another stout run in the fall before a late-race wreck pushed him back to 35th. Stewart-Haas Racing is impressive at this track, and Bowyer is running hot right now, so we should be very in on him at a mid-range salary.
William Byron ($8,800): Elliott and Bowman were both in the top five in this spring's Dover race, and they were joined by another teammate in the top 10. But it wasn't 11-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson ($9,200); it was actually William Byron in eighth.
At the time, that was Byron's second top-10 of the year in 11 races. In 18 races since, Byron has nine additional top-10s and three top-fives, showing that something has clearly clicked for Byron in his age-21 season. He has three top-10s in his past four races, and all three came on different track types.
Byron is on a team capable of winning at this track, and he has flirted with some wins himself recently. Byron's first win probably isn't too far down the line, so it's likely wise to start investing now before he gets that first checkered flag and closes the buying window for good.
Aric Almirola ($7,500): We've already discussed every other SHR driver at some point here, so let's complete the loop and chat about Aric Almirola. Similar to Bowyer and Suarez, Almirola's speed recently is better than his salary would indicate.
Almirola's best runs recently came in Indianapolis and Las Vegas, both of which are much faster than Dover, so we should be careful not to over-emphasize them in our process. But Almirola also had a top-15 average running position in both Richmond and Charlotte, so the good runs have been evident at other track types, as well. He just hasn't turned those runs into a top-10 finish since Daytona in July.
Almirola may be able to break that streak this weekend, though we see a similar story emerge at this track. His most recent top-10 in Dover came while he was still with Richard Petty Motorsports in 2015, and he was top-five in both races that year despite having horrendous equipment. His finishes with SHR here are 11th, 13th, and 16th, which seems underwhelming, but he has had a top-15 average running position each time, and he led 64 laps in last year's fall race. We shouldn't expect a repeat of that given the lack of finishing upside Almirola has had this year, but he does still seem to have more juice than his recent finishes would indicate.
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,200): Matt DiBenedetto has a been a fixture in the current-form section of this piece for two months now, which probably gets a bit boring for you as a reader. But DiBenedetto just keeps paying off at tracks where drivers get off the throttle, so it's hard to jump off the ship.
DiBenedetto has been 14th and 11th the past two races, which means his top-10 streak at more driver-centric tracks is no longer active. But his average running position was 14th in both of those, and it has been 14th or better in six straight races with additional off-throttle time. One of those was his near-win in Bristol, and as mentioned, that is something we should covet at Dover.
The problem we have with Dover is that it is a fast, equipment-heavy track despite its size. DiBenedetto still doesn't have the fastest cars, and that matters. As such, we should put a heavy amount of weight on DiBenedetto's practice times on Friday. If he has impressive 10-lap averages, then we can be pretty aggressive in using him. If he lags there, though, it's okay to pump the brakes and come back to DiBenedetto at another track.