The DraftKings daily fantasy NASCAR game goes road racing in New York this weekend as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen International for the I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at the Glen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
Cars hit the track Saturday morning for first practice. After that, Watkins Glen marks the second weekend where Cup Series qualifying will be held on race day. Drivers battle for the Coors Light Pole Award at 12:05 p.m. Sunday before coverage shifts to the race on NBCSN.
ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up
Kyle Busch ($10,300)
Watkins Glen: 12 starts, two wins, five top fives (41.7 percent), 10 top 10s (83.3 percent)
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 10.1
Busch is officially locked into the playoffs following his first win of the season at Pocono last weekend. He was head and shoulders above the rest of the field in car performance; everyone else really wasn’t close.
Busch’s average running position of 11.2 at The Glen leads all active drivers while his average finish of 10.1 is second best. Busch has finished inside the top 10 in 10 of his 12 career starts at the track. That’s the best percentage out of all Cup drivers. He also has the series' fastest average green-flag speed and the most quality passes. With four career road course wins, Busch stands out with a slight edge over a NASCAR grid that has more parity on road courses than ever.
Kurt Busch ($9,600)
Watkins Glen: 16 starts, three top fives (18.8 percent), seven top 10s (43.8 percent)
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 17.3
Busch has not had the greatest season. Other than his Daytona 500 win, he is on pace to set career lows in top-five and top-10 finishes. The DraftKings price is still pretty high, which means that we will need a good qualifying outcome in order to start him.
But the elder Busch's success at Watkins Glen should not be overlooked. He has the third-most fastest laps run at this road course, which shows that he can muscle his way around the track better than most drivers. He also sits right behind his brother in quality passes.
Busch has four straight finishes of 11th or better at Watkins Glen, dating back to his season with Furniture Row Racing. If Busch practices within the top 10, qualifying mid-pack, he will deserve a look.
Clint Bowyer ($9,500)
Watkins Glen: 11 starts, one top five (9.1% percent), four top 10s (36.4 percent)
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 15.1
Bowyer is on the outside looking in at the final playoff spot. He is 10th in series points, but due to the number of different winners throughout the season, he has been bumped outside the top 16. That's despite another solid top-10 finish last weekend at Pocono, a track where Bowyer also picked up the stage two win.
The Kansas native has three top-10 finishes in his last five races at Watkins Glen while an average finish of 15.1 ranks 10th best in the series. He also finished second at Sonoma earlier this year, the only other road course on the schedule. With the playoff window rapidly closing, expect aggressive strategy from Bowyer both on the track and in the pits.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,400
Kyle Larson ($9,000)
Watkins Glen: Three starts, one top five, one top 10
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 15.0
Larson’s average finish of 15.0 at Watkins Glen is skewed by his 29th-place result last season. Larson was battling for a top-five finish with AJ Allmendinger heading to the checkered flag before Allmendinger dumped him around the final corner. What was going to be a great finish quickly devolved into a career worst.
In his debut at The Glen, Larson started 23rd and finished fourth. The next season, he ran a respectable 12th. Larson has 172 laps run inside the top 15 at Watkins Glen, which is the sixth-most total in the series among active drivers.
Long locked into the playoffs, Larson has fallen off the past few weeks. But the No. 42 team has great bounce back potential this weekend.
AJ Allmendinger ($8,800)
Watkins Glen: Eight starts, one win, three top fives, five top 10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 9.4
There are two races that 'Dinger fans circle on the calendar, and one of them is Watkins Glen. He has the best average finish through eight races of any active driver. He also has the second fastest green-flag average speed.
Watkins Glen is the home to 'Dinger’s only Cup Series win. He is priced surprisingly low, then for a driver who is the best in the field at this track. Expect the veteran to be the talk of the weekend, especially in a season featuring so many different winners.
Joey Logano ($8,600)
Watkins Glen: Eight starts, one win, three top fives, five top 10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 12.8
Logano had another disappointing weekend with a 27th-place finish at Pocono. The No. 22 Penske team has underperformed since the encumbered win at Richmond in week nine and is not locked into the playoffs. At this point, Logano needs a win to make it in.
But the Glen, one of his best racetracks is a place this top-tier driver could cash in. He has two straight top-two finishes at Watkins Glen, including a win in 2015. Logano has also finished inside the top 10 in five of the last six races run at this track. Running 12th at Sonoma in June, a similar run here won't be good enough. It's crunch time for this Team Penske operation so expect a boom-or-bust race on Sunday.
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,900
Michael McDowell ($7,100)
Watkins Glen: Eight starts, two top 20s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 32.8
McDowell is having a career year so far in 2017. He is averaging a finishing position of 21.8 through 20 races, improving his career best from 2016 by three positions. He also recorded his first top-five Cup Series finish at Daytona last month.
McDowell has only finished outside the top 25 once in the past 11 races, and that was a 26th-place result at New Hampshire. He has two straight 18th-place finishes the past two weeks. McDowell, part of a satellite operation at Leavine Family Racing has been running more consistently than most of his other Richard Childress Racing psuedo-teammates.
McDowell finished 14th at Sonoma and is known for his road course expertise. If he qualifies outside the top 20 at Watkins Glen, McDowell will be a great back of the lineup guy on DraftKings.
Danica Patrick ($5,900)
Watkins Glen: Four starts, two top 20s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 19.8
Patrick is on a low key streak right now. She has four straight top-15 finishes, the first run of consistency of its kind in her career. In all four races, her best qualifying position was 20th at Kentucky. She is passing cars on the track while the team is not making mistakes on pit road.
At Watkins Glen, Patrick sneaks under the radar. She has been a consistent top-20 car through her four starts at the track, earning finishes of 20th, 21st, 17th, and 21st. She also led 11 laps in this race last season, a surprise contender as pit strategies took center stage.
In a 2017 season of Cinderella finishes, anything is possible. This weekend could be Danica’s.
(Top photo by ASP Inc.)