The NASCAR Cup Series travels north to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week, and drivers can’t wait to get their hands on that lobster (except maybe Denny Hamlin). Let Joy Tomlinson of Frontstretch.com prep your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings rosters for the Ambetter 301, airing on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network.
Cup only runs at Loudon, New Hampshire, once a year, but you can look at past races (especially from the last few years) to see which drivers are more likely to perform well there. Additionally, NHMS is similar to Richmond and Phoenix Raceways, as well as World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. How? Well, they’re all shorter flat tracks with less banking in the corners. Obviously, Gateway is a bit more unique because of its shape, but the racing could be similar at Loudon.
Another common trait among all four racetracks is the tire combination used by cars, further emphasizing the need to study the events from this season.
Fortunately, practice and qualifying are back this weekend, though drivers won’t have much time to be on track. Practice begins Saturday morning with qualifying shortly thereafter. Both are set to air on USA Network (with coverage starting at noon ET).
One more note about the Magic Mile: It’s actually just over one mile long (1.058 miles). As is often the case at shorter racetracks, the 301 is for the number of scheduled laps in the event, equaling about 318.46 miles. So drivers have a good chance of earning bonus fantasy points on DraftKings for laps led and fastest laps. Be sure you pick the right ones that will help you cash your contests.
Speaking of that, let’s take a look back at the results from Atlanta Motor Speedway before I share my picks for this week.
Aside from Alex Bowman cutting a tire and hitting the wall, this lineup didn't do too bad. And one of our dark horse performers, Corey LaJoie, was near the front on the last lap until he tried to pass Chase Elliott on the outside. He got squirrelly and crashed into the wall, finishing 21st.
The above lineup won $0.75 in the $5,000 Quarter Jukebox tournament. The top-scoring lineup had Elliott, Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones and Justin Haley. It scored 351.95 fantasy points and won $250 on DraftKings.
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 position lost, so keep this fact in mind if you decide to play the polesitter.
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 Plays/Sample Lineup for the Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Kyle Busch ($11,000)
Career at Loudon: 30 starts, 3 wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s
Average finish at Loudon: 14.3
Last year, Busch exited early from the race at Loudon last year thanks to the rain that made the track slippery. It was his second retirement in a row there, but before that, he showed some strength and speed. In 2019, Busch led 118 laps before ultimately finishing eighth; the year prior, he brought home a runner-up result. And in 2017, Busch took the checkered flag after dominating for 187 circuits.
Though the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has mostly been quick at the 1.5-mile courses, he’s also had some good results at the flat tracks with the sport's Next Gen chassis. Busch placed seventh at Phoenix, ninth at Richmond and second at Gateway, leading 66 laps in the latter event before getting beat on a late restart with Joey Logano.
The only downside this week is Busch’s salary, which tops all drivers this week. However, it should be worth it if he’s quick off the hauler and doesn’t run into any problems during the race. If you’d rather not spend that much on DraftKings, Ryan Blaney also led laps at Phoenix, Richmond and Gateway and would likely be a good alternative.
Christopher Bell ($9,100)
Career at Loudon: 2 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 1 top 10
Average finish at Loudon: 15.0
If you play daily fantasy with other sports, like baseball or football, you know that sometimes stacking a team can benefit your DraftKings roster. Occasionally, that works in NASCAR as well, so I’m playing Bell with his JGR cohort.
At Loudon in 2021, Bell was gaining on Almirola near the end of the race, but before he could catch him, the event was called due to darkness. Still, he brought home a solid second-place result.
Some of Bell’s performances at the flat tracks this season have been good, too. For instance, earlier this year at Richmond, the No. 20 car led 63 laps en route to a sixth-place finish. At Gateway, Bell wound up ninth, one of just two top-10 results in the last five races.
And don’t forget about his runs at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Bell won all three races in 2018-19 and 2021, leading 93, 186 and 151 laps, respectively, in each. The Next Gen car may help bring back that talent he displayed then. If it does, Bell should score some bonus points on DraftKings for laps led and fastest laps.
Kevin Harvick ($8,800)
Career at Loudon: 38 starts, 4 wins, 13 top fives, 22 top 10s
Average finish at Loudon: 12.4
I know Harvick is still searching for his first win in over a year, but I just couldn’t ignore his stats at Loudon. In the past 11 races there, he’s finished inside the top six in nine of them. He won back-to-back events in 2018-19, was fifth in 2020 and sixth last season after leading 66 laps. Harvick also won in 2016, though he led just eight circuits in that race.
This year, Harvick has done fairly well on flat tracks in his No. 4 Ford of Stewart-Haas Racing, at least early on in the season. He gained 10 positions to finish sixth at Phoenix, while at Richmond, he was runner up. Unfortunately, at Gateway Harvick had an issue that sent his car into the outside wall while he was inside the top 15.
But that was his only finish outside the top 15 in the past 10 races. Perhaps more significantly, in that span he earned three top fives and seven top 10s, producing some hefty DraftKings scores (especially at the last two road courses and at Charlotte Motor Speedway). I expect a similar performance this weekend at one of his best racetracks.
Aric Almirola ($8,100)
Career at Loudon: 19 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 5 top 10s
Average finish at Loudon: 18.0
Yup, another team stack, but this time it’s Harvick’s SHR teammate, Almirola. The No. 10 pilot is the defending race winner, leading 25 laps before darkness settled in, ending the race early.
But that wasn’t Almirola's first time leading laps at Loudon; in fact, he’s led laps in each of the past four events there. In 2018, Almirola was out front for 42 circuits and came in third in his first year with SHR. Also, he’s had a top-10 average running position in those four races.
Almirola, who initially announced this would be his last full-time season in Cup, hasn’t had the same results earlier in the year at the flat racetracks. However, he did qualify in the top 10 at Phoenix, Richmond and Gateway, so you know there's some speed in the car. Plus, he ran in the top 10 all day at Gateway before crossing the line in fifth place.
Hopefully for Almirola, he continues his strong runs at New Hampshire this weekend.
Dark Horse Performers
Michael McDowell ($6,500)
Career at Loudon: 19 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Loudon: 32.7
OK, so Loudon hasn’t exactly been a good course fo McDowell, with most of his results 23rd or worse. He did earn top-20 finishes in 2019 and 2020, though.
Although his results at the Magic Mile aren’t as good, McDowell and his Front Row Motorsports team have found significant pace in that No. 34 recently. Since the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race, he’s nabbed one top five and six top 10s in 11 races. He has just one finish in the 20s during that span, at Kansas Speedway, while rising five positions to 21st in the standings.
Lastly, at Gateway McDowell led 34 laps, though he wound up in 18th at the end. Could that experience help him turn a corner at NHMS? Let’s hope so.
Austin Dillon ($6,300)
Career at Loudon: 12 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Loudon: 16.8
Dillon is fairly consistent most of the time, especially at the Magic Mile. He’s ended most of his races in the teens, though he does have three finishes of 21st or worse in 12 starts. His lone top 10 was an eighth-place showing back in 2015. Last year, Dillon finished 17th, while in 2020 he advanced from 23rd to 13th by race’s end.
This season has been much of the same for the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing driver. Dillon began in the 20s at Martinsville Speedway, Richmond and Gateway, and placed third, 10th and 15th in each race, respectively. He also was ninth at Darlington after starting 14th.
Even if Dillon doesn’t snag a top 10, a result in the mid-teens should score about 30-40 points or so on DraftKings, depending on where he starts.