As the Sprint Cup series heads to Dover International Speedway for the next race of the Fantasy NASCAR season and just the second in Daily Gaming history, there is one major question on the minds of those who are getting ready to set their lineups: Can Jimmie Johnson be trusted?
Last week’s event was supposed to be the race where you could simply lock Johnson in and be concerned about the results of your other drivers. Heck, Charlotte Motor Speedway is his “home track.” But it was Jimmie who ended up destroying the hopes of his Fantasy owners, who needed their other drivers to pick up the considerable slack after the No. 48 finished 40th. He was able to recover from an early spinout to continue contending, but his day was done after a second mishap. It was the third time this year he has finished 35th or below.
Consistency has been an issue for Johnson this year, but consider that he had five consecutive Top 3 finishes entering last week, and even with rumblings of Hendrick Motorsports being frustrated with the team’s overall performance, any perceptions that Johnson is unreliable appear overblown for now. Statistically, Dover is another one of his best tracks, and you shouldn’t let last week’s troubles cause you to shy away from him.
Johnson has won nine times at Dover (his most at any track), and has led triple digits in laps of his 10 of his last 12 DIS races. Fantasy players on DraftKings and NASCAR Fantasy Live should note that his starting positions have been worse than his finishes in his past seven starts. He leads the field in just about every important Loop Data category, including Driver Rating (122.3), Average Running Position (6.5), Fastest Laps Run (1,106), Average Green Flag Speed (144.673 mph) and percentage of Laps in the Top 15 (88.2). His DraftKings price for this week sits at $13,000, second-most expensive, but you have to find a way to build around him.
Martin Truex Jr. is the other essential choice this week, as the New Jersey native considers this his home turf. This is the closest track to his roots in Mayetta. Truex scored his first career win at Dover and finished in the Top 10 in both races at the site last year. His DraftKings price has risen to $10,200 after he led for 131 laps and ran 62 of the Fastest Laps at Charlotte. He has led the most laps at Charlotte and Kansas, and while none of his Loop Data numbers at DIS are stellar, his comfort level at this track and his strong momentum right now make him a must-start. You have to love him on NASCAR Fantasy Live at $22.25.
Matt Kenseth is another top option this week, as he is also running very well and has registered three straight Top 10 finishes at the site and has won two DIS races. He has produced double-figure stats in fastest laps and laps led in three of his past four DIS starts. He ranks second in several significant Loop Data departments, including Driver Rating (108.3), Average Green Flag Speed (144.394) and Laps in the Top 15 (82.8 percent). He had the best place differential of any driver at DIS in last year’s spring race. If he runs well in practices, especially the final session, consider him on DraftKings for a cool $11.200.
After winning at Charlotte, Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Carl Edwards, is clearly settled in with his new team and looks like a prime start in the Yahoo B list and on DraftKings for $11,500. In fact, a Kenseth/Edwards duo may be able to save you some salary cap room on DK if you want to take the anti-Johnson contrarian route. He has 12 Top 10s and eight Top 5s in 21 DIS starts and is second in Fastest Laps Run (499), Quality Passes (552), third in ARP (11.0) and fourth in DR (99.2) and Green Flag Passes (838). He also had the second-best place differential in the spring DIS race last year. Edwards’ $21.25 price tag on NASCAR Fantasy Live makes him a must-start this week.
Another Gibbs car also deserves consideration: Kyle Busch made a rather impressive return to action last week after an 11-race layoff and he is third in DR (105.5) and Average Green Flag Speed (144.300) at DIS.
Greg Biffle had his best run of the season last week as he finished second at CMS, and he may be starting to turn his fortunes in the right direction. He’s quite price-friendly on DK at $8,800 and he ranks fifth in DR (87.4) at the site. He is also fourth in Quality Passes (517) and Fastest Laps Run (435).
The ultimate contrarian play this week may be Tony Stewart. There appears to be no good reason to use him when you consider he has only one Top 10 this year and no apparent momentum. But his last three DIS finishes have been been first, seventh and 14th. He also had a place differential of plus-35 in those events. Stewart is the leader among “Closers” at DIS, as he has the most positions improved in the final 10 percent of races at the site. If you are rolling out more than one DFS lineup this week, that is the only instance in which you should be bold enough to go with “Smoke”.
Kurt Busch seems to be running up front every week, but Dover is not one of his better tracks, as he has an Average Start of 11.2 and an Average Finish of 17.1 at the site, along with a Negative Pass Differential of -73. If he runs really well in practices, though, you may have to overlook those past stats. Ryan Newman has the worst NPD at -207. Kyle Larson has an Average Finish of 8.5 at DIS and Jeff Gordon is a five-time Dover winner, but while neither has the apparent momentum to make them prominent plays this week, their pre-race event runs should be watched closely.
When reviewing the lowest-ranked drivers to round out your lineups on DraftKings and NASCAR Fantasy Live, you should monitor practice results to see who may start in a lower position but fares respectably in the pre-race sessions. Josh Wise was third in pass differential in the 2013 spring race, and Brett Moffitt and Justin Alllgaier finished in the Top 26 in last year’s spring event. Allgaier also finished 29th in the second race of 2014 at DIS.