For the first time in nearly two years, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to wine country, California's Sonoma Raceway. Let Frontstretch.com's Joy Tomlinson set your NASCAR DraftKings lineup for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.
The 2020 event had to be shifted elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so drivers are eager to return to the 2.52-mile circuit. Sonoma features 12 turns, including the Carousel, a lower-elevation segment with a lengthy turn that was used in 2019. It’s the second road course in three weeks after teams took on a rainy and wet Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the first time on May 23.
Thankfully, there's no threat of rain at Sonoma. As is the case for road courses and shorter tracks, the higher horsepower package with a smaller rear spoiler for lower downforce will be used.
What do you need to know for daily fantasy? Well, the race is only scheduled for 90 laps, so there are not as many bonus DraftKings points available for laps led and fastest laps. Martin Truex Jr. led at least 59 circuits en route to back-to-back wins in the last two races at Sonoma; if someone performs in the same manner, you will certainly want him in your lineup. Other events at Sonoma had multiple drivers lead several laps, so if this incident occurs again, you would need drivers likely to get a top 10.
But also consider those who are likely to make up the most positions on the racetrack, as it's an extra DraftKings point for each spot they gain. You might be able to find some good value plays that will help you win your fantasy contests.
Before I move on to this week's picks, here are the results from the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kyle Larson dominated from the pole and won his second race of the season, helping Hendrick Motorsports to break Petty Enterprises' all-time wins record. Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman also had good nights, finishing inside the top five, while Chris Buescher ended in eighth. Though Ryan Newman couldn't recover from hitting the wall and finished 27th, the lineup still did well.
This lineup earned $2 in the $1 Happy Hour tournament and won the large $1 single-entry, double-up contest.
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, etc.
Here's a complete rundown of DraftKings' NASCAR scoring rules.
Note: the following is a sample NASCAR DraftKings lineup; you can use the information to create your own.
Daily Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings Plays/Sample Lineup for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900)
Career at Sonoma: 14 starts, 3 wins, 4 top fives, 5 top 10s
Average finish at Sonoma: 18.1
As noted earlier, Truex dominated the 2018-19 events at Sonoma, leading 62 and 59 laps on the way to victory. He also led 25 laps in 2017 before engine trouble cut his race short. He earned a fifth-place finish at this track in 2016 and won his first race in 2013.
But Sonoma isn't the only venue where Truex has had success. Earlier this year at the Daytona International Speedway road course, the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing pilot ended 12th, though he ran in seventh on average throughout the race. Last year, he led 10 laps and crossed the finish line in third. Also, at the Charlotte ROVAL, Truex finished seventh in 2019 and 2020 after nearly winning in 2018. Lastly, from 2017-2019 at Watkins Glen International, he had results of first, second and second, respectively.
It may be harder for Truex to get to the lead right away Sunday (since he's starting 19th), but his skill at Sonoma is just too good to overlook.
Joey Logano ($10,100)
Career at Sonoma: 11 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at Sonoma: 14.3
Logano is not really known for his road racing skill, but he does have some good runs on this type of layout. At Sonoma, his two most notable results were fifth in 2015 and third the following year. However, he's had progressively worse finishes since then.
Based on other road course events, Logano seems due for a Sonoma turnaround. Last year at the Charlotte ROVAL, he was runner up and finished 10th in 2018-2019. The No. 22 Team Penske driver also had some good runs at the Daytona road course: He ended ninth last season and came just short of the win this year after leading 10 circuits. Finally, he has a victory at Watkins Glen in 2015 and finished second in 2016.
Logano will roll off 13th this Sunday and should earn a good result if he stays out of trouble.
Kevin Harvick ($8,900)
Career at Sonoma: 19 starts, 1 win, 6 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Sonoma: 12.7
Sonoma is one of Harvick's best road courses with 10 top 10s in 19 races. He hasn't ended worse than sixth in the last five events (2015-2019), including a win in 2017 and a second in 2018. He led 24 and 35 laps, respectively, en route to these finishes; he also notched 42 fastest laps in the 2018 event.
Though his WGI record isn't as flashy as Sonoma in recent years, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing wheelman crossed the line 10th in 2018 and seventh in 2019. Harvick has a win there as well, though it was all the way back in 2006. Additionally, Harvick ended ninth in 2018 at the Charlotte ROVAL and third in 2019, leading 34 laps in the latter race. He also brought home a sixth-place finish at the Daytona road course in February.
At just $8,900, all you really need from "Happy" is an eighth or better, though it wouldn't hurt if he led some laps or recorded some fast laps.
Erik Jones ($7,000)
Career at Sonoma: 3 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Sonoma: 13.3
Jones is starting to pull together some finishes in the teens lately with a 16th in both the Coca-Cola 600 and at COTA, earning 38 or more DraftKings points as a result. He also took the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet to 14th place at the Daytona road course in the second race of the season.
While competing for JGR at Sonoma, Jones gained 13 and 24 positions to finish seventh in 2018 and eighth in 2019, respectively. He also earned a third in last year's Charlotte ROVAL event and an 11th at the Daytona road course. While his equipment this season isn't as strong as previous years, Jones still can get a good finish on Sunday. However, he's starting 18th, so a 10th-place showing would be more ideal in daily fantasy.
Ryan Preece ($6,800)
Career at Sonoma: 1 start, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Sonoma: 29.0
Preece has only had one start at Sonoma — a dismal 29th place — but has shown on other road courses that he's capable of a finish in the teens. For example, in last year's Charlotte ROVAL event, he gained four spots to end 14th after leading eight circuits. He also went home ninth at the Daytona road course this February and 15th in the rain at COTA.
Though the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing driver's results at short tracks haven't been as good, he did end 18th at Dover International Speedway. I bring up the short tracks because the same package used there is also run on the road courses. With not a lot of options at this price range for NASCAR DraftKings, you might have to take a chance on a guy like Preece. He'll start 27th Sunday and could score well with a top-15 finish.
Dark Horse Performer
Ryan Newman ($6,300)
Career at Sonoma: 18 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 8 top 10s
Average finish at Sonoma: 12.8
Newman has a few good results at Sonoma; he ended seventh in 2019 after qualifying 21st, and was ninth and eighth in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Unfortunately, his WGI results haven't been great, as his last top 10 was all the way back in 2006. Still, at the Daytona road course, he ended 19th last season and gained 13 spots to end 20th earlier this year. Newman was also 11th at the Charlotte ROVAL in 2018.
The No. 6 pilot for Roush Fenway Racing does have three top 10s so far this season — a seventh at Homestead-Miami Speedway, fifth in the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race and 10th at Darlington Raceway. He also has several other top 20s but has found himself in a bit of a slump as of late with three straight finishes of 23rd or worse.
Newman begins 24th Sunday and could use a top-15 result to head back in the right direction. While a bit of a risk, remember, there's not as much upside in this salary range for NASCAR DraftKings.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)