Tackling a first-time track and an unpredictable weekend at Charlotte
This weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is the last in the sport's three-week first round of the playoffs. Following Sunday’s (Sept. 30) Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL debut, only 12 of the 16 drivers will transfer to the next round. The green flag flies for the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.
Here are the rules for FanDuel’s new Daily Fantasy NASCAR game.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, FanDuel allows you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 109-lap race will only have a total of 10.9 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on midpack drivers who can climb up toward the front on race day.
The “Big Three” Tier
Kyle Busch ($14,500)
Road Courses: 28 starts, four wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish on road courses: 12.8
The MENCS points leader is coming off a win last weekend at Richmond Raceway. That clinched Busch's way into the second round of the playoffs as the quest for his second series championship continues.
With this being the debut of Charlotte Motor Speedway's ROVAL, there aren’t any track statistics to look at other than general road course history. However, when it comes to road courses, Busch is one of the best. He has four career wins on this track type, including two at both Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. He also finished inside the top five at both of those tracks earlier this season.
Busch is one of the most adaptive racers in the series, so he should pick up the new road course quickly. Add in a stress-free weekend with his playoff spot already assured and the No. 18 could spank the field under the right circumstances.
Martin Truex Jr. ($14,000)
Road Courses: 26 starts, three wins, eight top fives, 12 top 10s
Average finish on road courses: 15.4
Truex has been the 2018 road course ringer among full-time NASCAR drivers. He led 62 laps en route to a victory at Sonoma earlier this season, his second career win at the track. The 2017 series champion followed that up with a runner-up finish at Watkins Glen. Add in last season's victory up in the wine country of western New York and Truex has an average finish of 1.3 in his last three road course events.
Truex has been the dominant driver at Charlotte Motor Speedway on an oval, winning two of the last five races there. Now, it's time to see if that success can transfer onto the new configuration. I'd expect it to.
Kevin Harvick ($12,800)
Road Courses: 36 starts, two wins, nine top fives, 18 top 10s
\Average finish on road courses: 13.2
Harvick has a career-high seven wins this season and is on pace to set season highs in nearly every category. He has been dominant at every track type in 2018, other than road courses. This small weakness could be why he is priced so much lower than Busch and Truex.
But even though Harvick hasn’t won on a road course this season, he does have two right-turn victories under his belt. The Stewart-Haas Racing veteran won at Sonoma as recently as 2017 and his history at these places is better than he's shown this year. Pivoting off the other two drivers and onto Harvick this week could be a competitive advantage and also provide salary relief to build a more balanced lineup.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,900 - $12,000
Chase Elliott ($12,000)
Road Courses: Six starts, one win, two top fives, three top 10s
Average finish on road courses: 10.0
Elliott got the monkey off his back and into Victory Lane for the first time at the Cup level when the series was at Watkins Glen back in August. He outdrove the best of the best and secured himself a spot in the MENCS playoffs with his first career win.
Elliott enters this weekend with the second best average finish among all active drivers at road courses. In six career starts, he has an average finish of 10th, which includes two top fives. That should serve him well at a track which is a virtual unknown for how it will play out on race day.
Clint Bowyer ($11,400)
Road Courses: 26 starts, one win, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s
Average finish on road courses: 12.0
Bowyer’s lone road course win came at Sonoma back in 2012, but he has come close a few additional times. The veteran has three top-three finishes at Sonoma in the last four races at the track, including a runner-up finish in 2017.
Bowyer could be the best non-“Big Three” bet to win this weekend. Keep in mind the No. 14 team also enters the weekend on the outside looking in on the next round. He'll need to be aggressive early to secure extra stage points and put himself on the right side of the bubble.
Daniel Suarez ($10,300)
Road Courses: Four races, two top fives, two top 10s
Average finish on road courses: 9.5
Suarez is another young talent developing into a great road course racer. What pops off the stat sheet is the fact that he has the best average finish among all active drivers between the two road courses (9.5). He finished fourth at Watkins Glen earlier this summer and finished third there in 2017.
With his NASCAR future still up in the air, Suarez is possibly racing for a job. Expect him to put it all on the line Sunday.
BARGAIN TIER: $8,900 and below
AJ Allmendinger ($8,900)
Road Courses: 20 starts, one win, three top fives, eight top 10s
Average finish on road courses: 16.9
Allmendinger has been known over the entirety of his career as the resident NASCAR road course ringer. His background in open-wheel racing sets him up perfectly for attacking this track type. He won at Watkins Glen in 2014; since then, he has finished inside the top 10 twice. He finished 15th at the Glen back in August.
Turning right comes naturally to Allmendinger, so expect him to get the hang of the new ROVAL quicker than most of the other drivers. He could be a top-10 threat this weekend and has a respectable salary.
Chris Buescher ($6,400)
Road Courses: Seven starts, two top 15s
Average finish on road courses: 22.7
Buescher is the go-to cheap driver this weekend. He has four consecutive top-20 finishes at road courses, including an 11th-place finish at Watkins Glen in 2017 and a 12th-place result at Sonoma this season. Anywhere inside the top 20 would be great for his low price, but expect him to fight for another top 15.
(Top photo courtesy of Charlotte Motor Speedway)