Welcome back, Speed Degens, to another year of NASCAR DFS! It’s been a long, interesting offseason, and we can’t wait to get back at it.

2020 was a season filled with changing rules, qualifying procedures, and DK pricing. The lack of practice had an impact. Just ask KFB, who, despite his usual success, struggled to adapt and ultimately did not have a successful season. Speed appeared to be the best indicator of success, but having a crew chief who could put the car in clean air was even more advantageous. Just ask Kevin Harvick, who won 9 races last season. Interestingly enough, wins don’t even matter when you focus on the 750 hp package to win a championship. Just ask first-time Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. I digress, but it’s clear we’re in for a heck of a year! Regardless, there were several trends and takeaways that we can use to have an edge on the competition. After a year of getting used to new qualifying formats and pricing algorithms, we are prepared to help you have a profitable 2021 season. Let’s dig in!

Offseason News and Notes

  • There will be two new drivers contending for Rookie of the Year in 2021, as well as another full-time driver coming to the series: Chase Briscoe (#98), Anthony Alfredo (#38), and BJ McLeod (#78).
  • Some of the notable drivers who will not participate full-time in the Cup Series this year are Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, John Hunter Nemechek, and Ty Dillon.
  • Likewise, there have been several drivers change teams for this upcoming season.
    • Kyle Larson: #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy
    • Bubba Wallace: #23 23XI Racing Toyota
    • Christopher Bell: #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
    • Erik Jones: #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevy
    • Corey Lajoie: #7 Spire Motorsports Chevy
    • Daniel Suarez: #99 Trackhouse Racing
  • Interestingly enough, Michael Jordan (yes, Air Jordan) and Pitbull (yes, Mr. Worldwide) have entered the sport as team owners of 23XI and Trackhouse, respectively. As a side note, it’s always nice to see more interest and money coming into the sport.
  • To prepare for the increased number of road course races on the 2021 schedule, the following drivers participated in the 24 Hours at Daytona: Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger (Xfinity).
  • The Chili Bowl is a prestigious dirt carting event in the offseason. Kyle Larson captured his 2nd consecutive title, while other Cup drivers such as Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse, Chase Elliott, Chase Briscoe, and Ryan Newman also participated in the event.

Reviewing Optimal Lineups

Draftkings Takeaways

  • Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin paced the field with the most optimal lineups, making sense given they had the most wins in 2020. Ryan Blaney was a close 3rd due to his speed and the ability to rack up dominator points. He may have been in more if he could just finish races.
  • Despite struggling and losing his ride with JGR, Erik Jones surprisingly made double-digit optimals. It’ll be interesting to see how his results differ in lower-tier equipment, so I will not expect a repeat performance.
  • Six of the top 10 drivers to appear in optimal drivers ranked top 6 in average speed. Three of the remaining four were typically priced less than $7000 and were thus the best punt plays of the season (T. Dillon, Stenhouse Jr., Custer).
  • Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano combined did not make as many optimals as Hamlin or Harvick.
  • It’s surprising that Kurt Busch only makes three optimal lineups, but I believe it’s mainly due to where he was priced relative to other drivers in the 7-8k range last season.
  • I’m not sure if it’s due to the wreck and missed races, age, or inadequate equipment, but Ryan Newman disappointed with only one optimal lineup all season. It seemed like he was touted weekly as a value tier play, so this may be a situation to monitor going forward.

Fanduel Takeaways

  • Surprisingly, Denny Hamlin made three more optimal lineups than anyone else in the field with 14! Blaney and Harvick appeared in the 2nd most with 11.
  • Ty Dillon might have been a good Draftkings play most of the year, but he only made three optimals on Fanduel (7 less). Notably, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also made five fewer optimals on Fanduel.
  • Alex Bowman only appeared in 4 optimals (20th most compared to 11th most on DK). Meanwhile, Austin Dillon made nine optimals (6th most compared to 14th most on DK).
  • 2020 Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott appeared in 7 optimal lineups, 11th most and only half as many as Denny Hamlin did!

How Can We Apply This?

After reviewing last season’s optimal lineups, trends became evident in what a winning lineup construction looks like. Therefore, I have created a set of rules for creating Cup Series Draftkings lineups in 2021. (For more Fanduel information, join the Slack chat and see our weekly content.)

***Note: These rules are based on the usual optimal lineup construction, but that does not mean this will guarantee success. However, they should provide a basis for where to start with lineups and a reference when deciding between multiple drivers.

  1. Target 5x value minimum with all drivers in the lineup. (88.9% of optimals and all others can be explained)
    1. To decide between drivers, target 6x value upside. (85.6% of drivers in optimal lineups)
  2. Spend at least $49000, except at drafting tracks. (80.6% of optimals)
  3. Roster 2-3 drivers priced above $9000. (88.9% of optimals)
  4. Roster at least one driver priced above $10000. (88.9% of optimals)
  5. Avoid drivers priced below $5000. (91.7% of optimals)

Every race is different. So, here are some additional trends by track type that you may be able to utilize when constructing lineups:

Drafting Tracks

  • Don’t be afraid to leave salary on the table.
  • Four or more drivers should start worse than 20th, with at least 3 of them starting worse than 25th.
  • Likewise, avoid drivers starting in the top 10 unless you have a gut feeling. In that case, play no more than 1 of them.
  • Roster at least one driver priced less than $6000.
  • Target 8x value if a driver is priced less than $8000 due to their place differential upside.
  • Denny Hamlin, William Byron, and Ryan Blaney consistently found themselves near the front at the end of these races. Not a rule, but an observation.
  • Ty Dillon, Corey Lajoie, Brendan Gaughan, and Brennan Poole provided good value, but that may not indicate anything for 2021.

Road Courses

  • Just play Chase Elliott and/or Martin Truex Jr. They’re the best road course racers in the series.
  • Typical lineup construction features two drivers priced above $9k, 3 in the $7-8k range, and one punt less than $7k.
    • 1-2 dominators with place differential. Focus on top 10 finishing potential.
  • Dominators from the front row priced above $10k may only reach 5x and can still be optimal.

Short Tracks

  • Roster 2-3 drivers starting in the top 10 as your dominators. They must reach at least 7x to be optimal.
  • Only play drivers starting in the top 25, unless they are a mispriced place differential option in much better equipment than those around them.
  • No more than one punt priced $6000 or below.

***Note: There are so many intermediate tracks on the schedule, all of which differ. Because of that, there aren’t many consistent trends other than following the general rules above. Remember, when in doubt, speed is king!

Final Thoughts

We are ready for a big year in DFS NASCAR here at Fantasy Sports Degens! We’re looking forward to bringing you weekly content for all three series and providing insight to help you cash in! The Cup Series should continue to be super competitive and be full of surprises with new tracks on the schedule. We expect that things will go reasonably similar to how 2020 did since the same package and procedures will be used. 

***Note: While other sites may label drivers as Cash or GPP plays, we here at Fantasy Sports Degens like to focus more on constructing optimal lineups, targeting specific values per salary. At times, we may say a driver is a cash or GPP play, but we have found more success focusing on trying to create the best lineup possible, meaning a safe floor with tons of upside.

Be sure to join our Slack chat for updated info and exclusive access to our weekly data. If any questions or comments, feel free to tweet me (@dsmaybin0308), Jeremy (@radjer_DFS), Mike (@miketuck12), or Rob (@RobertRiggs1). Here’s to a 2021 full of green screens, Speed Degens!