WATCH: Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin joins the RotoExperts to talk DFS and Fantasy Racing
If the finish at the Daytona 500 is any indication, we’re going to be in for a special Sprint Cup Series and Fantasy NASCAR season. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin ($9,700) edged out Martin Truex Jr. ($9,100) at the stripe for a victory on the restrictor-plate track. The Cup drivers move on to suburban Atlanta for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, and the two tracks could not be any more different.
While speed and drafting is the rule of the day at Daytona on the plate run, the Sprint Cup Series will employ two new tire codes this weekend while running a low downforce package. The left front and rear tires are 22 and 20 Psi respectively, while the right front is 50 Psi and the right rear 47 Psi. The difference in tire codes for this weekend’s race will make a difference in the grip department. It will be interesting to see if there are any tire problems with the Goodyears. You can expect a lot more hard racing and passing if all goes well, which will make for an exciting race and lots of live scoring changes.
Hamlin, last week’s champ, will be a popular DFS selection because of his victory at Daytona. Exposure will be high in GPP and cash games, but he hasn’t always been good in Atlanta. While he does rank second in Driver Rating since the start of the 2009 season, overall in his career he has a marginal 18.1 Average-Finish Position (AFP) with just one win, three Top 5s and six Top 10s in 18 career starts at the track. While he hasn’t been terrible, and certainly has shown improvement over the past few years, it’s a good idea to go another way rather than with Joey Public this weekend.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses, all stats and recommendations below also widely applicable to NASCAR Fantasy Live and Yahoo as well)
Hamlin’s teammate Carl Edwards ($9,600) is the JGR car you’ll want this weekend. He has three career victories at Atlanta, posting nine Top 5 finishes in 18 career starts while turning in a 14.5 AFP, fourth among active drivers in this weekend’s field. He qualifies well at the track, and has been out in front for 413 laps, an important statistics for DFS players. Kyle Busch ($10,100) is also top-notch at the intermediate, posting two career victories with just five finishes outside of the Top 20 in 17 career starts in Atlanta. Toyotas got off to a fast start at Daytona, and they very well could carry the day in Georgia, too.
Matt Kenseth ($10,000) will also be a popular selection at Atlanta despite the fact he hasn’t won. He has 10 career Top 5 finishes while finishing outside of the Top 20 on just four separate occasions in 27 starts in Atlanta. His 12.0 AFP is third among all drivers.
It was a popular strategy to use a Hendrick Motorsports DFS stack last weekend at Daytona, but it just didn’t work out. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,800) was the highest-priced driver on the board last weekend, but he crashed out and his DFS salary tumbles to the mid levels. He is an outstanding value at this price since he has been good in his career in Atlanta, winning once while posting nine Top 5s, 13 Top 10s and 23 Top 20s in 28 career starts while leading 633 laps over the span. His 11.9 AFP is second among all drivers only behind teammate Jimmie Johnson ($10,200). The six-time champ has four career celebration burnouts in the ATL while turning in an amazing 13 Top 5s in 24 career starts.
Kasey Kahne ($8,400) is a nice mid-level play based on his success over the years in Atlanta. He has three checkered flags with nine Top 10 finishes in 19 career starts at the track while leading 353 laps. He is a decent No. 3 or 4 DFS driver.
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano ($10,400) and Brad Keselowski ($9,800) are each a bit overpriced based on their career production at Atlanta. Logano has nine starts under his belt, but just two Top 10s and five finishes outside of the Top 20. He has been improving at Atlanta lately, but it’s best to avoid him in Yahoo! Fantasy leagues and save him for later in the season at tracks he is more certain to provide big results. Kes has seven career starts under his belt at Atlanta, and just one Top 5 and three Top 20 finishes while posting three DNFs. If you simply must have a Penske driver, Logano is better than Keselowski.
In the Stewart-Haas Racing stable, Ty Dillon ($5,600) takes the wheel of the No. 14 car for the injured Tony Stewart (back). He replaces Brian Vickers, who does not have a ride this weekend despite rather dominant numbers over his career in Atlanta. Dillon could be a good value based on his Xfinity Series production at Atlanta over the years, but Cup is an entirely different story, especially in his first race for a new team. His brother Austin Dillon ($6,700) has three career starts in Atlanta, but his results have been rather poor. He has just one Top 20 finish, and an AFP of 27.3. Austin has plenty of upside, but this weekend is not the time to use him in NASCAR Fantasy Live, Yahoo! or DraftKings formats.
As usual, Kevin Harvick ($10,500) is a stud for DFS owners heading into the weekend. Over the past nine races at Atlanta he leads all drivers with a 106.9 Driver Rating according to NASCAR’s Loop Data, and he has led 478 laps during the span while running 80.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. While he hasn’t qualified particularly well for whatever reason, starting 18.9 on average since the start of the 2009 season at Atlanta, he has a 10.0 AFP during the span, showing he can be a force in the Place Differential and Laps Led categories.
SHR’s Kurt Busch ($9,200) has managed three career wins in Atlanta, too, and his 17 Top 20 finishes in 24 career starts is rather impressive. Over the past nine starts at the track he has a 100.0 Driver Rating, ranking fourth in the category while running inside the Top 15 in 68.1 percent of his laps. His 395 laps led during the span will also be rather attractive to DFS and NASCAR Fantasy Live players.
As far as the bottom feeders are concerned, those No. 5 or 6 drivers you absolutely have to have to enjoy success, you will definitely want Ryan Newman ($6,900). He has never picked up a win in 23 career starts at Atlanta, but he has nine Top 10s and 16 Tops 20s with a 16.9 AFP. You won’t get much more value than that.
Jeffrey Earnhardt ($5,500) will take the keys to the No. 32 machine for GoFAS Racing. He was 25th in 2014 in the Xfinity (then Nationwide) Series race, and 32nd in 2015. Despite the less than stellar numbers, he is worth a look if he gets into the field and starts low, as he could improve his place while also serving as a salary saver to load up at the top.
Trevor Bayne ($6,300) might be a less risky option running in the No. 6 for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just two Cup starts under his belt at Atlanta, but he has posted a 16th-place showing and a 19th-place finish. At this price level that would be a tremendous return on investment.
As far as drivers you’ll want to avoid, Jamie McMurray ($7,400) has no Top 5s and just four Top 10s in 22 career starts at Atlanta, posting a 20.6 AFP. Last weekend’s runner-up Truex Jr. has just two Top 5 finishes in 17 career starts with a dismal 19.6 AFP with four DNFs. Clint Bowyer ($7,000) was a sleeper last week, but he can be avoided in Atlanta this weekend. He has just six finishes inside the Top 20 in 15 career starts with a poor 21.3 AFP.