Let's get your NASCAR DraftKings lineups ready for the fourth Cup Series race of the 2021 season. The Pennzoil 400, held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will air on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and Frontstretch.com's Joy Tomlinson has your fantasy forecast.
Cup drivers will once again compete on a 1.5-miler, but this time, the track isn't as rough on the tires like Homestead-Miami Speedway was. Las Vegas is a typical cookie-cutter oval, though some races are anything but. If there's a caution late in the race, look for drivers to have differing pit strategies before the restart, which would shake up the results. Last fall saw a late-race jumble in the running order and handed Kurt Busch his lone victory of 2020.
Could a mini surprise happen once again? Be prepared. This season has felt anything but typical; who would've guessed Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell and William Byron would all earn wins in the first three races of the year? It's definitely affected my DraftKings results. You can see below what happened last week at Homestead.
NASCAR DraftKings Results
I think the glaring part of this lineup is Denny Hamlin; he had to start all the way in the back due to an unapproved adjustment, which made him lose dominator points. Had Hamlin stayed on the pole, this lineup might have easily cashed in.
The minimum cashing score in the single entry double up was 246.85 points, while a DraftKings score of 302.20 earned $1.65 in the $1 Happy Hour tournament.
DraftKings lowered the points for each fastest lap to 0.45 this season, as well as the points awarded for first place to 45. DraftKings has also put more emphasis on drivers who finish inside the top 10 and top 20. For example, the gap between 10th and 11th place is now two points instead of one: 10th gets 34 points, while 11th gets 32.
In this race, you should target lap leaders, strong drivers on restarts, and those who can sustain speed over a long green-flag run. A combination of favorites and big movers from the back of the pack will help you win your NASCAR DraftKings contests.
Here's a complete rundown of DraftKings' NASCAR scoring rules.
Note: the following is a sample DraftKings lineup from Joy Tomlinson; you can use the information to create your own.
Daily Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings Plays/Sample Lineup for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Joey Logano ($10,000)
Career at Las Vegas: 15 starts, 2 wins, 6 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 8.4
Logano won this event the past two years, though those were both when teams could practice. In both wins, he didn't lead the majority of laps, though he did lead 86 of them in 2019 and 54 in 2020. The Team Penske veteran also led 105 laps in the fall 2019 event en route to 19th.
However, there's the old adage of "practice makes perfect" and Logano didn't look the same last week without it. He started out well at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading 12 laps from the front row, but quickly faded and couldn't really make his way back to the front. That affected his starting position for this week, as he'll begin 15th.
Will he suffer through a second straight week? I don't think so; track history with Logano here is just too much to ignore. Expect him to be at or near the front of the pack Sunday, cashing in for those who didn't give up on him.
Kyle Larson ($9,400)
Career at Las Vegas: 9 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 10.8
I know it's the second week in a row I'm playing Larson on DraftKings, but his speed shown last week at Homestead sucked me in. He scored 62.4 fantasy points after recording 18 fastest laps and leading five en route to a fourth-place finish. Though Vegas and Homestead are very different track types, they're still both 1.5 miles in length and it's a good indicator Larson can replicate that speed.
At LVMS, the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet pilot has two runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018. In the fall 2018 race, Larson led 24 laps and recorded 28 fastest laps before finishing second. Before his suspension last year, he finished ninth after totaling five quickest laps.
The Hendrick cars seem pretty fast so far this season and I wouldn't expect that speed to dissipate anytime soon. Look for Larson to again notch some fast laps and fight his way up front on Sunday.
Matt DiBenedetto ($9,000)
Career at Las Vegas: 8 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 18.6
DiBenedetto has not had the start to the season he was looking for. The Wood Brothers Racing driver currently sits 34th in the point standings after three races; last week's 28th place was his highest finish thus far.
So why do I have him in my lineup? Well, he was second in both races at Las Vegas last year after starting 19th in his first year running the No. 21 Ford. DiBenedetto's also ended better than where he started in every Cup event there.
Additionally, he'll roll off all the way back in 30th, which would give you a ton of bonus points if he is able to earn a top 10. Although Matty D's DraftKings salary is pretty high for his poor results so far, the potential is there to produce a high score.
Christopher Bell ($7,700)
Career at Las Vegas: 2 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 28.5
As I mentioned above, Bell won on the Daytona International Speedway road course a couple of weeks ago, which gave him 62.7 DraftKings points. Unfortunately, he did struggle at Homestead and ended up 20th.
The sophomore didn't do so well last season at LVMS, either; his best finish was 24th in the fall race. However, Bell drove for Leavine Family Racing, which did not have the best equipment to compete for wins each week. This year is different, as he's racing the No. 20 Toyota for top-tier Joe Gibbs Racing. This team has the speed and the engineering support Bell needs to earn top 10s.
Bell showed that in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at this Nevada track, finishing runner-up twice and adding on a fourth-place result. In the fall 2019 race, he led 154 circuits around the 1.5-mile course before losing to Tyler Reddick. If Bell has this same kind of speed Sunday, he'll be one to watch.
Ross Chastain ($7,300)
Career at Las Vegas: 5 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 28.0
Chastain earned his second top 20 of the season last week, gaining 15 positions and recording 41 fantasy points on DraftKings as a result. It was a nice recovery from wrecking out early at the Daytona road course.
Now, you may be thinking, "why would I choose Chastain? His average finish isn't great." That's true, but consider four of his five starts were with Premium Motorsports. Even with that underfunded program, the talented driver finished 20th in the fall event in 2018. That's one of the best results this team ever had on intermediates.
However, my main reason for choosing Chastain is because he won at Las Vegas in NXS driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018. I mean, the watermelon farmer didn't just win. He flat out dominated, leading 180 out of 200 laps. CGR may not have the same kind of dominant speed that it had back then, but remember, Kurt Busch won the Cup race last fall. The way 2021 is going, it wouldn't surprise to see Chastain competing for the win this Sunday.
Dark Horse Performer
Chris Buescher ($6,400)
Career at Las Vegas: 8 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Las Vegas: 17.2
After Buescher's strong run in Miami, Fla. last week, I couldn't resist not playing him this time. He led 57 laps and recorded 39 fastest laps for Roush Fenway Racing before getting stuck back in traffic. Buescher still finished 19th, though it was disappointing considering he battled for the lead early and often. The laps led and fast laps boosted his DraftKings score to 48.8, a very high score for this salary.
For some reason, DraftKings didn't increase his price for this week. Take advantage! The No. 17 Ford driver has done very well at LVMS, ending further from where he began in each race since 2017. In last year's events, Buescher gained nine and seven positions to finish 14th and ninth, respectively. This week, he'll start 18th and can definitely earn another top 10.
After claiming "he's the most relaxed he's been in a race car in a really long time," look for Buescher to continue his momentum this week.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)