After clawing for lobsters up in New Hampshire, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Irish Hills of Michigan for a double-dose of DraftKings contests. The FireKeepers Casino 400 airs Saturday, Aug. 8 at 4 p.m. ET, while the Consumers Energy 400 is the following day at 4:30 p.m. ET. Both will air on NBC Sports Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
At two miles in length, Michigan International Raceway is a bit longer than most intermediates on the circuit. It's a fast track with 18-degree banking in the turns, but it can be hard to pass there. Just how difficult? Well, since 2013, only two winners began the race outside the top 12 and six started from the pole. In fact, just last June pole-sitter Joey Logano led all but 40 laps in his dominating victory.
However, 2020 is a bit different; not only are these races much shorter (156 laps each), but there's also a new rule for restarts. The choose rule is in place starting this weekend and will be used at every race except road courses and the superspeedways. First used in the All-Star Open and race at Bristol Motor Speedway, drivers will pick which lane they wish to be in as they approach a V on the track. It's meant to help curb the "games" drivers would play when exiting pit road to restart a certain way. It will be interesting to see how it works out on Saturday with a full field of cars.
Since there aren't as many laps in these races, it might be wise to have some drivers who can take chances and finish well ahead of where they start. Even though it can be difficult to pass, pit strategies can always come into play, whether under caution or a long green-flag run. Just ask a winner, Austin Dillon at Texas Motor Speedway last month, or even a 10th-place finisher like Chris Buescher at Pocono Raceway in June. Both had different strategies near the end of each race that produced good results (and high DraftKings scores).
Remember, DraftKings awards 0.50 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 points for each lap led. Additionally, the site adds or subtracts a point for each position a driver gains or loses on track. Finally, the driver in first place scores the most points (46). Second place gets 42 DraftKings points, third gets 41, and so on. The key in daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings is not only to target the best drivers but the ones who gain the most positions from where they start. Here's a complete rundown of DraftKings' NASCAR scoring rules.
Before I move onto this week's picks, here are the results from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
NASCAR DraftKings Score
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
I definitely should have played someone else over Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who had disappointing days. However, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. produced a great value for his price, while Denny Hamlin had another strong showing. Also, Christopher Bell had a very fast car but encountered tire troubles throughout the race that set him back.
But three out of five wasn't good enough. 225.5 DraftKings points were needed to win in the big $1 single-entry double up, while 247.5 was the minimum cashing score for the $1 Happy Hour tournament.
DraftKings Daily Fantasy NASCAR Plays/Sample Lineup for the FireKeepers Casino 400 & Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway
Kevin Harvick ($11,000)
Career at Michigan: 38 starts, 3 wins, 13 top fives, 19 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 11.7
Michigan has certainly been kind to Harvick, especially in recent years. He's won the past two Consumers Energy 400 events and has only ended outside the top 10 three times at MIS since 2013. Additionally, Harvick has led 194 laps in the past four races, including 108 in the August 2018 event. He also notched 135 total fastest laps in those four races.
The 2014 Cup Series champion is having a strong 2020 season so far with four wins, 13 top fives and 17 top 10s. He's had seven straight top fives, including victories at Pocono and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Though Harvick hasn't eclipsed the century mark on DraftKings since June 7, he's had several scores above 40 fantasy points. You'll need a much higher total than that for him to have value, but Michigan is definitely a place where he'll max out.
Joey Logano ($9,700)
Career at Michigan: 22 starts, 3 wins, 6 top fives, 15 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 12.2
Logano has had three wins at MIS since 2013, his first year with Team Penske, and ended outside the top 10 just twice. Unfortunately, both of those finishes have come within the past five races, including a 17th last August. Still, he held command over the field in the June 2019 event and held off Kurt Busch in overtime to win. He'll start Saturday's race in the same spot as last season -- from the pole.
Though Logano does seem to be in somewhat of a slump, the No. 22 Team Penske driver does have three top-10 finishes in the past five races. He finished fourth last week at New Hampshire and third at Texas, scoring over 50 DraftKings points as a result in each race. Logano also looked to have a solid day at the Tricky Triangle, but a flat tire late in the event dropped him from eighth to 36th.
The pole gives Logano a huge edge as he'll start with clean air on Saturday. If he can stay out front (and doesn't have any pre-race inspection problems), there's a good chance he'll match Penske cohort Brad Keselowski's performance from NHMS.
Chase Elliott ($9,300)
Career at Michigan: 8 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 7 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 7.6
Though Elliott hasn't won yet at Michigan, he's only had one result outside the top 10. All his other finishes have been either second, eighth or ninth, continuing the tradition of strong performances of father Bill in the Irish Hills. Even if Chase doesn't lead many (or any) laps, at least he is consistent there. Consistency can be key to cashing your DraftKings contests, as long as the rest of your roster scores well.
The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports pilot may only have one points-paying win so far in 2020, but Elliott did claim $1 million at the All-Star Race last month. He led 60 laps in that event and recorded 50 fastest laps, a 1-2 punch which translated into 98 DraftKings points. Elliott also scored 49 fantasy points at Indy and 61.5 at the second Pocono event. If his team can help him find speed to run inside the top 10, he should have another good DraftKings score.
Austin Dillon ($7,500)
Career at Michigan: 15 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 16.0
Remember earlier how I mentioned Dillon earned a good result after a strategic pit stop at Texas? Yes, a two-tire stop helped him restart on the front row late in the race; then, he held off fellow Richard Childress Racing wheelman Tyler Reddick in two overtimes to take the victory. Teams are using the same tires that were used in that race, so Dillon's crew chief Justin Alexander could have another sneaky gameplan this weekend.
At Michigan, Dillon has had a mixed bag of results. Last August, he gained 24 positions to end in 13th, whereas two years ago, he finished fourth. He'll start 18th Saturday, in the middle of the pack, providing upside if he can work that No. 3 Chevrolet toward the front.
Daniel Suarez ($6,000)
Career at Michigan: 6 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 18.5
Suarez earned top fives in both races last year, but he's not in the same kind of equipment this season to have that same kind of performance. So why did I choose him? Well, thanks to both attrition and driving skills, Suarez hasn't had a DraftKings score lower than 15.3. Notably, Suarez earned 41.5 DraftKings points at IMS and 45 DraftKings points at Kansas Speedway after notching two top-20 finishes, which are great values for his salary. Even though he's starting 37th, the driver of the No. 96 Toyota should still gain some positions on the track and get another 25+ fantasy score.
Dark Horse Performer
Ryan Preece ($5,800)
Career at Michigan: 2 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10s
Average finish at Michigan: 16.0
After a very rough July for the entire JTG Daugherty Racing stable, Preece redeemed himself last week at NHMS with a 16th-place finish. This helped him score 42 points on DraftKings. Also, in June he earned 34 fantasy points at Pocono after gaining 10 positions. In addition, Preece finished seventh last season at Michigan after starting 29th, which would've been a monstrous DraftKings score for this price. Like Suarez, he'll start near the back, which gives him a good chance to earn position differential points.
By the way, if you want to go the safer route, Michael McDowell has had many more top 20s than Preece this season. McDowell is starting 21st, though, so you might not get as many bonus points from him.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)