The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET for the 2019 Pennzoil 400. This race marks the debut of aero ducts on the cars as part of this year's new handling package.
Last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it appeared that many cars were harder to pass, but that may not be the case this time. During practices this weekend, many of the teams decided to try drafting after a few single-car runs. That has my approach to making daily fantasy picks this week changing a bit. I believe you will want to choose fast cars qualifying from the rear of the field, utilizing their position differential bonus you'll get when they move up.
DraftKings' scoring format emphasizes laps led and fastest laps, but finishing position will also be key to cashing in. You do not want someone who crashes out of the race from the front of the field, as that will put negative points in your lineup.
Kevin Harvick ($12,500)
Career at Las Vegas: 19 starts, two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 15.4
Harvick has a great history at Las Vegas; both of his wins have come within the last six MENCS races run here. He's typically very fast on the west coast swing, a three-race stretch that includes his best career track (ISM Raceway out in Phoenix).
Harvick finished fourth last week at Atlanta and showed he has speed with this new handling package. Harvick is, however, extremely risky from a fantasy perspective. Since he qualified on the pole, you are going to want him to lead many laps (and possibly win or finish in the top five) if you use the Stewart-Haas Racing driver in your lineup. But I think Harvick is capable of accomplishing that and potentially earning back-to-back victories here.
Brad Keselowski ($11,400)
Career at Las Vegas: 11 starts, three wins, five top fives, seven top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 13.3
Keselowski is another driver with great historical performances at Las Vegas, having won three of the last six races. The Atlanta race winner qualified in a pretty good spot (19th) to give out positive position differential points if he were to finish inside the top 10.
As a Team Penske driver, Keselowski has a fast car and can drive great in the draft. It will be interesting to see how the Penske team will work together to try to perform well here. Last week's performance for Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano, fast until late-race tire troubles, show they'll be a force to be reckoned with.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,100)
Career at Las Vegas: 14 starts, one win, four top fives, six top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 11.8
Again, we have a driver who has a good history at Las Vegas in Truex, winning the 2017 edition of this race. He finished second at Atlanta and looked fast during first practice today with the other Joe Gibbs Racing cars. He qualified 23rd for Sunday's race and has the potential to give us a high DraftKings score due to positive position differential.
Look for Truex's teammates to work with him to finish strong in this race.
Kyle Larson ($9,800)
Career at Las Vegas: six starts, zero wins, three top fives, four top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 11.3
Larson has a good history here, running top three in each of the last three LVMS races. After leading 142 laps at Atlanta last week and finishing 12th, he's also hungry for a win. Chip Ganassi Racing showed some speed with this new package as Larson's teammate, Kurt Busch, ran a surprising third last weekend.
However, Larson qualified seventh, so it will depend on how well he will be able to draft and pass cars in front of him. Leading laps in this race becomes critical to his fantasy value and bonus points. However, Larson's price isn't too high if you want to have mostly mid-range drivers in your line.
Erik Jones ($8,400)
Career at Las Vegas: three starts, zero wins, zero top fives, one top 10
Average finish at Las Vegas: 21.0
I like Erik Jones this week mainly because he drives for Joe Gibbs Racing. I believe the four-car Toyota team can work together during the race to go to the front and lead some laps in a pack draft.
Jones has also triumphed through adversity thus far in 2019. He finished very strong in the first two races this year (third at Daytona and seventh at Atlanta) overcoming some issues in each. He qualified 18th for this race and can get you some extra points if he finishes well. The price isn't too expensive, either, especially compared to his JGR teammates. Jones can be paired with one of the more expensive drivers and give you a little extra cash to play with.
Chris Buescher ($6,500)
Career at Las Vegas: Four starts, zero wins, zero top fives, zero top 10s
Average finish at Las Vegas: 19.8
I have Buscher as my honorable mention because he finished in the top 10 (ninth) at Atlanta last week after starting 30th. That gave the JTG Daugherty Racing driver 56.5 DraftKings points. Buscher's starting 27th in this race and can again produce a high score with positive position differential points... if he can keep his nose clean all day.
Dark Horse Performer
Ryan Preece ($6,100)
Preece is my Dark Horse Performer because he is a rookie and we don't really know how well he will do at this track. The first two races this year, he flashed some potential, but rookie mistakes could lurk at every turn. His pit road accident last week at Atlanta is a prime example of how freshmen drivers can be unpredictable.
But Preece also has great upside. If the drafting causes crashes on Sunday, he could again weave his way through and finish strong like the season-opening Daytona 500.
That's it for now. One last tip: don't forget to check pre-race inspection to see if any drivers start at the rear. That change in starting position will affect your lineup and open up opportunities for more points.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)