After spending a week in Daytona Beach, Florida, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to another sunny state for week two: California. Read on for daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings tips written by Frontstretch.com's Joy Tomlinson for the Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway, airing on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
Cup teams head to the Los Angeles area for the second time in three weeks, only this time, it's for points. It's also the first trip the series has made to Auto Club in almost two years, as last year's event was moved to the Daytona International Speedway road course due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
NASCAR worked on the track ahead of this weekend's races, laying down resin and using a tire dragon to help with grip. This track is old and worn out and is more abrasive on wheels; the resin should help lessen the abrasiveness. However, this weekend brings a new car and new tires, so we don't really know what to expect as far as the racing goes.
One thing I do know is that the winner in each of the past four races started within the top four. Additionally, seven of the last 10 winners at ACS began their races inside the top 10.
But don't forget about the back of the field; if a driver has trouble during qualifying, he could still have a good finish in the race, producing a lot of position differential points on DraftKings. Sometimes, those hidden value plays are the difference between winning big or just cashing the minimum.
Before I share my DraftKings picks for Fontana, here's a look back at the Daytona 500:
Note: These scores and salaries are from the original contests DraftKings made before qualifying.
Denny Hamlin finished further back from where he started, which left him in a hole. Fortunately, he was over 50 percent owned in both the $1 double up and Micro Happy Hour tournament, so it didn't hurt the lineup as badly. Aric Almirola wound up being a great play, as he finished fifth.
This score won the $1 single entry double up contest and earned $2 in the Micro Happy Hour tournament.
As far as DraftKings scoring, the rules are the same as last season: 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap led. Additionally, drivers can earn a point for each position they gain on the track (relative to where they start). They can also lose a point for each spot lost, so keep this fact in mind if you decide to play the pole sitter.
The DraftKings setup is bigger and better for 2022. Here are their rules for the road this season.
Now, on to my picks!
Note: The following drivers are part of a sample NASCAR DraftKings lineup; you can use this info to make your own. DraftKings may decide to make another set of contests post-qualifying; these are from the first set opened during the week.
NASCAR DraftKings Plays/Sample Lineup for the Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway
Kyle Busch ($10,400)
Career at Fontana: 22 starts, 4 wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s
Average finish at Fontana: 9.6
Busch has nearly the best average finish among active drivers, second only to Chase Elliott (who’s only run five races). It’s incredible how well he does at this SoCal racetrack. His first victory came back in 2005 but his last three were within the last seven races, including back-to-back ones in 2013-‘14. He last won in 2019 after leading 134 laps in a dominating performance.
It will be interesting to see how Busch adjusts to the Next Gen car at this 2-mile course. He seemed to handle things well in Los Angeles earlier this month, staying at the front and finishing second to Joey Logano. But that was at a quarter-mile track — much smaller than ACS. If his team can give Busch the same kind of speed he had then, then the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver should finish near the front on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick ($9,200)
Career at Fontana: 27 starts, 1 win, 7 top fives, 13 top 10s
Average finish at Fontana: 15.1
Harvick last won at ACS in 2011, but he’s had some pretty good results here over the past six races, earning four top 10s during that span. In 2015-‘16 he placed second, leading 142 laps in the latter event. Though he hasn’t led any laps in the four races since, he still was fourth and ninth in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Now, I know it’s unconventional to choose a driver with this high a salary who didn’t visit victory lane the previous year. However, I think the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing pilot is hungry enough that he’ll give his team lots of feedback on the car to help it perform well later in the race. Also, Harvick had a pretty good long-run car in the Busch Light Clash (at least in practice), which could be beneficial if there’s a long green-flag run late in the race this week.
Alex Bowman ($9,000)
Career at Fontana: 5 starts, 1 win, 1 top five, 1 top 10
Average finish at Fontana: 18.0
Bowman is the most recent victor at Auto Club, leading 110 circuits en route to his best performance there yet. Prior to that, he hadn’t even finished inside the top 10, as his closest result came in 2018 (13th).
And though we don’t really know for sure how Bowman will do in this new car, we can look at how he did last year at high tire wear racetracks. For instance, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports wheelman finished ninth at that 1.5-mile oval. Then, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bowman went home third and fourth in the spring and summer races, respectively. While Atlanta isn’t the same now, it was very rough on tires last year, comparable to what drivers will face at ACS.
Tyler Reddick ($8,400)
Career at Fontana: 1 start, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Fontana: 11.0
Reddick is more of a dark horse at his salary, since he’s only raced at Auto Club once in the Cup Series. He finished that race in 11th, eight positions further from where he started. However, he did earn a seventh and fourth during his two-year NASCAR Xfinity Series career (2018-'19).
But last year, the pilot of Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 Chevrolet did really well at Homestead. Reddick nearly caught William Byron toward the end of the race, but had to settle for runner-up. Additionally, he was sixth at Atlanta in July.
Check out how Reddick does during the limited practice session. If RCR shows some speed, he could be worth rostering.
Dark Horse Performers
Harrison Burton ($6,900)
Xfinity Series career at Fontana: 1 start, 1 win, 1 top five, 1 top 10
Xfinity average finish at Fontana: 1.0
Burton is a true dark horse, as we don't really know how he'll do with this new car. Hopefully, the rookie won't fly like he did in the Daytona 500 last week!
Though he has very limited experience in the Next Gen car, Burton looked pretty fast and aggressive at the L.A. Coliseum a few weeks ago. He didn't make it to the main event but ran up front for much of the Last Chance Qualifier (though there were only nine cars in that race).
However, the main reason I decided to take a chance on the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing driver is because he actually won at Auto Club in the Xfinity Series. It was no experience, no problem for Burton, who drove for JGR at the time. It was also his first NXS victory, officially catapulting him into the playoffs and title contention. While those cars drive differently than the Gen-7 Cup cars, Burton could still use what he remembers from that race to help him get to the front this week.
Daniel Suarez ($6,100)
Career at Fontana: 4 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Fontana: 17.8
Suarez hasn’t ventured to Fontana with Trackhouse Racing Team yet, so it’s unclear how well he’ll perform on Sunday. But he’s inexpensive on DraftKings, which allows you to play some of the higher-priced drivers by rostering him.
In Suarez's first Cup race at the California track in 2017, he grabbed a seventh-place finish. However, that run was with JGR; he has yet to crack the top 10 there in three races since.
Although Suarez didn’t do well at Atlanta last season, there were some other courses he earned some top 15s, like Kansas Speedway (both spring and fall), Homestead, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway (fall). Plus, in his first race at Nashville Superspeedway, he snagged a seventh place. So intermediates offer hope for success here.
Be sure to check out this driver's practice and qualifying results, though before you make your final decision.
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