Who will be your ticket to victory out in the desert?
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to ISM Raceway for week two of their West Coast Swing. The 312-lap race will feature higher horsepower than Atlanta and Las Vegas, in addition to higher downforce. That will equal higher speeds; qualifying produced the quickest times we've seen at this one-mile track in three years. It also means track position won't be as important as the past two weeks; mid-pack starters have a chance to move their way through to the front.
In order to succeed and put yourself above the cash line, you will want drivers who have a fast car, lead a large amount of laps, and finish well (or several spots ahead of where they start). Remember, DraftKings adds or subtracts from where the driver qualifies for the race. Be sure to check beforehand, too, in case any drivers in your lineup have to start from the back.
For example, Jimmie Johnson will start 15th on Sunday. If he were forced to start in the rear for any reason between now and the race, DraftKings would keep his initial qualifying position. That means you could possibly lose points if he doesn't win or finish better than 15th.
Kevin Harvick ($12,800)
Career at ISM: 32 starts, 9 wins, 16 top fives, 21 top 10s
Average finish at ISM Raceway: 9.3
For the second week in a row, my first pick (and most expensive one) is Harvick, and for good reason. He has a dominating track history here, having won nine races and producing 21 top-10 finishes out of 32 starts. In the last 10 races at ISM, he has led 1,105 laps, over 600 more than the next-closest driver. Harvick also won this race a year ago.
A week ago, the Stewart-Haas Racing veteran scored 85 DraftKings points at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after leading 88 laps and having 52 fastest laps in the race. He is somewhat risky due to his price, but after qualifying eighth, he could pay off the salary. You really can't go wrong choosing him for your roster.
Kyle Busch ($12,200)
Career at ISM: 27 starts, 2 wins, 9 top fives, 19 top 10s
Average finish at ISM: 11.4
A driver risky from a fantasy perspective, Kyle Busch is a good bet to win this race. In fact, he won the fall race last season and finished second to Harvick in the spring. Kyle Busch led 128 of the 312 laps in the 2018 spring race, then 117 laps in the fall. In the previous seven races at ISM Raceway, he has finished in the top 10 every time. Six of those seven races saw Kyle Busch finish inside the top five. This year, he has completed all three races inside the top 10, jumping to the top five in two of them.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is one of the hottest drivers on the circuit today and would be an option should you decide not to play Harvick in your lineup. Busch qualified in the fourth position and can earn you points for potentially leading laps. His three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates also qualified in the top 10 (Denny Hamlin in third, Martin Truex Jr. in ninth and Erik Jones in 10th). That trio has quick cars as well and could serve as appealing alternative options.
Kurt Busch ($8,800)
Career at ISM: 32 starts, 1 win, 7 top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish at ISM Raceway: 14.2
The 2005 Subway Fresh Fit 500 race winner at this track has finished in the top five in two out of three races so far this season. But while Busch has a great track record at ISM Raceway, much of his success happened several years ago.
However, he and his team proved last weekend in Las Vegas they are willing to take risks, staying out while the rest of the field pitted. They succeeded in this strategy and took home a top-5 result. Busch also led 52 laps at Phoenix last fall and was in contention for a Championship 4 berth before his race went south.
Chase Elliott ($9,300)
Career at ISM: 6 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at ISM Raceway: 9.5
Elliott has a pretty good track history here, though the sample size is somewhat small. However, he does have the potential to lead many laps, especially starting on the front row for this race (second). In six career races at ISM Raceway, Elliott has led 156 laps. He also can give you points for fastest laps (66 total for both races last year).
Hendrick Motorsports historically runs well at this track with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson leading the way. Johnson qualified 15th while Alex Bowman and William Byron are starting sixth and seventh, respectively. All four drivers have the equipment and talent to finish well and earn big fantasy points for your lineup.
Kyle Larson ($9,900)
Career at ISM: 10 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at ISM Raceway: 14.2
Larson unusually qualified in 31st position; most of his previous races here, he started within the top 10. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver has a fast car, simply the victim of a qualifying timing mixup. Since Larson is starting so far back, he has the potential to produce an extreme amount of fantasy points for your roster.
This season, Larson and his team have made mistakes on pit road after having stellar performances throughout Atlanta and Las Vegas. Will they be able to avoid pit road troubles and finish strong? We will have to wait and see.
Ryan Newman ($7,100)
Career at ISM: 33 starts, 2 wins, 10 top fives, 12 top 10s
Average finish at ISM Raceway: 16.8
Newman is my honorable mention this week (along with teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) due to their starting position and performances so far this year and at this track. Newman won the race in 2017 while Stenhouse finished in the top 10 at Las Vegas last week. Newman, starting 18th, and Stenhouse, 19th, are low in salary and can help save money if you choose one of the more expensive drivers for your lineup.
Dark Horse Performer
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,100)
Career at ISM: 8 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at ISM Raceway: 26.2
I have DiBenedetto as my Dark Horse Performer due to him driving for a new team this year, the No. 95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. He remains risky because of his price and past performances at ISM. However, this JGR-aligned team and DiBenedetto have already proved they can run well. The Daytona 500 may have ended in heartbreak, but 49 laps led is a clear sign there's speed developing with this program.
Despite qualifying 25th, DiBenedetto was 10th fastest in practice Friday. Can he translate that into race trim? If so, he can save you some money to insert one of the more expensive drivers in your lineup.