Pennzoil 400 (Cup)

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Welcome, Speed Degens, to another week of NASCAR Cup Series DFS! It was a successful night for our team last night in the Xfinity series with several green screens being posted. It was a nice bounce back after the Truck series race on Friday, and we hope to keep that momentum rolling today. Let’s dig in!

Race Information and Notes

  • 267 laps on a 1.5 mile D-shaped oval (400 miles total)
  • There are approximately 183 dominator points available.
  • Defending race champion: Joey Logano (has won the past 2 spring Vegas races)
  • Green flag time: 3:30 pm ET (12:30 pm PT)
  • All cars have passed inspection, so the starting lineup should be set. Will update in the Slack chat as needed.

Lineup Construction

As a reminder, here are the general rules I developed in the off-season to assist with constructing winning Draftkings lineups for the Cup Series:

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

Here are the optimal lineups on each site for the 2020 Las Vegas races:

On DraftKings, I will be focusing mainly on 2 dominator builds with value plays capable of hitting 7x value if possible. In both races, 2 drivers earned more than 35 dom points, while no other drivers achieved more than 20. Both optimal lineups in 2020 had all six drivers finishing in the top 10. At least 2 drivers in each lineup started in the top 10 as well.

On FanDuel, finding the punt who can score at least 10x their salary is key as evidenced above by Stenhouse Jr., Wallace, and Buescher. It is not as important to jam in two dominators since the point values for these points are less than on DraftKings. I would target 5 to 5.5x as a baseline for drivers priced above $10000. Other drivers in the lineup should be capable of finishing top 10 and possibly top 5. (Note: There was much salary needed in the first race due to huge wreck shaking up the finishing order at the end of the race.)

Drivers I’m Targeting

$10k and above

Ryan Blaney (26) – He has finished top 5 in 3 of the last 6 Vegas races and was set to win this race last spring before a late race caution. He also ranked first in central speed on intermediate tracks in 2020, which was the highest correlated statistic to finishing position. The Penske cars have been strong at Vegas with wins in 3 of the last 5 races. Blaney provides place differential upside as well and has a good chance to finish in the top 5.

Chase Elliott (8) – Man, did we miss last week or what… Though it was a little concerning, I’m betting on Chase to turn things around this week at Vegas. His last 3 finishes here are 22nd, 26th, and 4th, BUT he is the only driver to score over 20 dom points in all 3 races. In fact, he has the most dom points over that 3 race span in the series. In last year’s fall race, he had the highest percentage of laps ran in the top 5; in the spring race, he had the most laps in the top 10. Hopefully, others will see his finishes and lower his ownership, but he’s one of my favorite dominator options.

Joey Logano (15) – Can he 3-peat? Logano has won the past 2 spring Vegas races, which shows just how strong Penske cars are at this track. It’s rare here to see one of the top dominators come from outside the top 10, but with the new starting lineup procedure, I don’t put as much weight into that. He does provide some place differential, but he’ll still need to lead some laps to land in the optimal lineup.

***Note: I will be taking a wait and see approach with Kyle Busch. He struggled to dominate last season despite some strong finishes. Now, he is with a new crew chief who is learning how to set up the car the way Busch likes it. I thought I would be high on Martin Truex Jr. but upon further review, I may fade. He hasn’t had over 13 dom points in the past 3 spring Vegas races. He is always a threat to win on intermediate tracks, but there’s no way he is optimal without the laps led.

$8k to $10k

Kyle Larson (3) – It is evident that it hasn’t taken long for Larson to get comfortable in his new cars. In an interview, he mentioned that when racing for Ganassi Racing, he felt every bump inside the car, but his Hendrick car rides so smooth, he doesn’t really feel them at all. I’d imagine it’s a boost to his confidence and ability to make moves when needed. He finished 9th here last spring (before his suspension) and never seemed to be able to move any higher than 7th. There is additional risk with him starting this high, but given the speed he showed last week at Homestead, I think there’s a good chance that he’s able to lead early. GPP option only.

Alex Bowman (9) – I don’t typically like Bowman when he’s starting this high, but these are the types of tracks where he shines. He ran the most laps in the top 10 here last fall. He’ll need more than that to be optimal, but he was 7th fastest on intermediate tracks in 2020 and the Hendrick cars have been fast so far this season. Low owned one-off with sneaky dominator potential.

Aric Almirola (28) – I like this play more than the chalky Matt DiBenedetto. Both need top 10 finishes to hit 6x value. I think many will see MDB’s 2nd place finishes at Vegas last year and go from there. What they will fail to notice is how he was assisted by late race cautions. Almirola, on the other hand, has an average finish of 12th at Vegas since 2018 and had 8 top 10 finishes at intermediate tracks last season. 

William Byron (2) – As you can tell, I am high on the Hendrick horsepower so far this season, recommending all four drivers (though not in the same lineup of course). Byron looked very fast last week in his win at Homestead and appears to finally be rounding into form. If Harvick misses the setup or has a bad start, Byron is a contender to lead early. As I’ve said before, clean air is king and momentum is hard to stop. He had the 5th most dom points in the 2020 Vegas races, likely due to being able to rack up some fast laps running a high line near the wall. He was consistently able to work his way through the field and has the potential to possibly go back-to-back this week.

***Note: I will consider playing Matt DiBenedetto (especially in cash), but I am planning to fade Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. Talk about being scared; someone please bring me my brown pants. I may be regretting this by the end of stage one, but this isn’t Harvick’s best track, the polesitter hasn’t been optimal as much as expected with the lack of qualifying, and Hamlin has been just decent here with the exception of his win last fall. They are all in play, but that’s the stand I’m taking.

$6k to $8k

Christopher Bell (16) – Bell surprised us with his win at the Daytona road course a few weeks ago and then struggled last week at Homestead. He should feel more comfortable here at Vegas, where he won’t have to run along the wall to make the best lap times. It’s hard to remember that with the upgrade in equipment, he is a top 5 threat each week. Not sure he gets there, but I can see him finishing around 7th.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) – Not in love with this play but Stenhouse is a reasonable pivot from some of the chalkier options in this range. He is inconsistent, but has finished 3rd and 6th in the past 2 spring Vegas races and scored the most total points of all drivers here last spring. He also ranked as one of the top 5 passers in this 550 HP package in 2020, which should give him top 10 potential.

Cole Custer (20), Chris Buescher (18) – These two will be the chalkiest value options on the slate today, but for good reason. Buescher looked very strong early at Homestead last week before dropping back as the track changed throughout the race. He has 4 top 15s in the past 6 Vegas races and his encouraging newfound speed gives him top 10 potential. Custer, on the other hand, has finished in the top 20 in the past 7 intermediate track races dating back to last season. He was running at the edge of the top 5 before a flat tire caused him to fall back at the very end of last week’s race at Homestead. Last season, he also won at Kentucky and finished 7th at Kansas, two similar tracks. Buescher and Custer would hit 6x value with 11th and 12th place finishes, respectively. If playing GPPs, I may pivot one of them in each lineup to differentiate.

Daniel Suarez (22) – This Trackhouse #99 car is better than I think most of us expected. Team owners Justin Marks and Pitbull have devoted a lot of resources to make sure this team is set up for success. I know seeing all the Camping World sponsored trucks on Friday night seemed like a joke, but Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis was actually impressed and signed on as a real primary sponsor for Suarez this week. Anyway, when in good equipment, Suarez had finishes of 8th, 17th, and 20th here at Vegas. I project him to finish around 15th-18th today. He may be chalky as well, but I like the value he provides. If you want a reason not to play him, though he raced well last week at Homestead, he was the last car on the lead lap when a caution came out and saved him; it could’ve been a different story.

***Note: Others I will consider in this range are Austin Dillon, who won at Texas (similar track) last fall and looked very strong last week at Homestead, and Ryan Newman, who struggled last year making only one optimal lineup but looked decent last week. 

$6k and below

Honestly, I am trying to avoid this range. If you feel like taking a risk with 20 lineups, I may sprinkle Michael McDowell in one or two. His Daytona win seemed fluky, but he is one of 2 drivers (Harvick is the other) to finish in the top 10 in all 3 races this season. Anthony Alfredo could be an option for salary relief since John Hunter Nemechek was in the optimal lineup in this same car last season. 

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, despite the wrecks and questionable mechanical issues in the Xfinity and Trucks series, they are both easier to predict than the Cup series thanks to the package they are running. Without practice data, it is very difficult to project who will be the best options to lead laps and run fast laps. While I have my favorite choices to dominate, I want to stress that any of the better drivers (mostly priced above $8000) have that potential. Heck, no one expected Buescher to lead like he did last week. Keep that in mind.

Favorite Dominators: Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott

Favorite Value Plays: Cole Custer, Chris Buescher

Fades: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski

Cash Core: Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto

As always, best of luck this week, Speed Degens! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to join the FREE (see what I did there?) Fantasy Sports Degens slack chat or hit me up on Twitter (@dsmaybin0308). Looking forward to seeing those green screens!