Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks: Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicago
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There is a different look to the article this week. Before you grab your pitchforks and torches, listen to my podcast while building lineups (click here). The focus of the article is hogs and value. If you boil it down, that’s all that matters in daily fantasy NASCAR.
Dig into the statistics and find the best plays for this weekend’s NASCAR event with the Daily Fantasy NASCAR Spreadsheet: click here
Hogs (Fast Lap and Lap Leaders)
If you want to win a GPP or cash games, then you need to pick the right hogs. You can miss one in cash games, but in GPPs you have to be perfect with the hogs. If there are three, then you need all three. Sometimes one driver controls most of the race, and there are only two.
The safe strategy is to burn four picks on Hogs. This requires acceptable value plays, a viable punt, and sometimes a double punt. One punt play and a value driver is the optimal situation. Double punting is comparable to dropping the sandbags form a hot air balloon, but hoping your hogs crank the helium and send your team flying.
Targeting three hogs will leave enough salary to build a well rounded roster. The obvious drawback is that you have decreased your odds of nailing all of the hogs.
(in order of most fantasy points at intermediate tracks)
Martin Truex, Jr. – $10,700
- Start: 3rd
- Current Form: Pick a stat. This is the Russell Westbrook of Daily Fantasy NASCAR. If we want a hog, then let’s look at the hog stats. In the last 6 intermediate track races, Truex has not scored less than 25 fast lap points and 14 laps led points.
- Track History: Truex won the 2016 Chicago race with an overtime pass. Although he only led 32 of the 270 laps, Truex ran 66 fast laps (41 hog points).
- Gut Feeling: Truex didn’t lay down blazing times in practice, but they weren’t slow either. There have been practices where Truex scorched the field this season. There have been practices where he’s been just a top 10 car, and he still ran away with the race. After 25 races, practice doesn’t really matter for Truex. We may be at the point where he sandbags in practice to conceal his actual speed. Until he sucks, I know that isn’t the most professional term for a write up, but until he sucks, just play him.
Kyle Larson – $10,400
- Start: 6th
- Current Form: His best performances have been at the long two mile intermediate tracks (Fontana and Michigan). It’s hard to get an accurate hog prediction for Larson because he started from the back at Texas, Charlotte, and Kentucky. In two of those races, he made it to the front and ran the third most fast laps. In the last intermediate track race (Darlington), Larson started 4th and scored 26 fast lap points and 31 laps led points.
- Track History: In 2014, Larson was forced to start in the back. He went on to score the third most fantasy points by finishing 3rd (20 fast lap points and 10 lap led points). In 2015, Larson drove from 18th to 7th. He wasn’t a hog, but his place differential and finishing position points placed him inside the top 5 in scoring. In 2016, Larson was forced to start from the rear again. He looked good, but with only four cautions in the race (green flag runs averaged 50 laps), it was impossible for Larson to stay on the lead lap.
- Gut Feeling: This is a multiple groove race track. No, this isn’t speed racer. Cars do not whiz by each other in the corners lap after lap. Larson can run the high groove and pass slightly slower cars. At a track like Texas that has just one racing groove, slow cars can block faster cars lap after lap. In 2014 and 2016, Larson did not have a problem slicing his way from the back to the front. Chicago is a Larson track. The practice times and starting position are a slight concern. Larson could be a 3rd to 7th place driver all day. He may make it over the hump and win in the end, but this doesn’t look like a race where Larson leads the field for a significant portion of the race.
Kyle Busch – $10,600
- Start: 1st
- Current Form: He’s not Truex, but he’s Larson in a Toyota. He’s also talking a lot of trash on Twitter like he’s about to do something big.
- Track History: Busch has 5 straight top 10s at Chicago. In 2016, he scored 12 hog points. He started on the pole, but was not the fastest car in practice. In 2015, he scored 47 hog points (championship season). In 2014, 18 hog points. In 2013, 32 hog points. He seems pretty safe in Chicago.
- Gut Feeling: First of all, some people are worried about a trend set by pole sitters at Chicago. I explained why not to worry in the FanVice podcast earlier this week. Another fact that I overlooked, qualifying was rained out from 2013-2016. The best car did not start first. Practice #3 was the money practice, and Kyle Busch was 1st on the short run and 2nd on the long run. The only person that can beat Kyle is himself.
Denny Hamlin – $9,700
- Start: 2nd
- Current Form: Hamlin cheated and won at Darlington (most recent intermediate track race). He may have cheated for his first win at New Hampshire in July. His victory celebration was awfully weird. Cheating or not, it’s not a big difference. When Penske stopped cheating there was a huge step backwards. That hasn’t happened for JGR. Apparently, the JGR Toyotas have discovered something that the other manufacturers have not. After JGR impressed in practice #1, Brad Keselowski said a manufacturer has not been this far ahead since the 1970s. He wasn’t congratulatory. He was blaming NASCAR for letting the Toyotas get away with something.
- Track History: At Chicago, Hamlin has finished 6th, 1st, and 6th in his last three races. That’s nice, but we want hog points. Hamlin was not a hog in any of those races.
- Gut Feeling: Hamlin is fast enough to hang with “The Big 3.” With a quick pit stop or the right strategy call at the right moment, Hamlin can get out front or win in the end. His practice #3 speeds reaffirm this belief. He’s fast, but not the fastest.
Chase Elliott – $9,900
- Start: 8th
- Current Form: Pointing your way into the playoffs is more of an achievement than winning. Some drivers earned fluke or borderline fluke wins and proceeded to turn laps for the rest of the season. Even good drivers in good cars did the same thing. Elliott had to race every single week. No one can compete with “The Big 3,” but a strong argument can be made that Elliott leads the next tier.
- Track History: The #24 car is good at Chicago. They know something. Elliott scored the second most fantasy points at Chicago last year. In the three previous seasons, Jeff Gordon scored the 6th, 5th, and 4th most fantasy points. The constant is crew chief Alan Gustafson. In 2009, his driver, Mark Martin, led 195 laps and won the Chicago race.
- Gut Feeling: This is the first time in two years that Elliott has been picked as a hog. Feel free to fade for that reason alone. We might only see two hogs. We might only see two hogs in the optimal lineup. Elliott is the low owned GPP option based on track history and practice speeds.
This can mean several things. A punt that scored 20 pts. but provides salary relief. A $6,000 to $8,000 driver that provides some salary relief, and returns 6 fantasy points for every $1000 of salary ($6000 = 36 pts., $7000 = 42 pts., $8000 = 48 pts.). Depending on the situation, good value is 6x to 7x return from a value driver.
Popular Place Differential Non Hog (PPDNH …yes, I just make this stuff up)
Erik Jones- $8,400is not a 24th place driver. He spun in practice, but he did not do any damage. It’s possible that the team decides to change tires, and goes to the back. It doesn’t matter. He’ll be inside the top 20 within a couple laps. By the end of stage #1, Jones will be knocking on the door of the top 10. We’ve seen this movie before. Yes, Jones is a rookie, but he’s a pretty good rookie in an amazing car. He might be a little more fired up because Kevin Harvick threw shade his way this week. I can’t remember the exact wording, but he said something along the lines of “Jones is driving well because he’s in a fast Toyota, and he’s wasting the best opportunity of his life.” Enough with the stories; is he fast this weekend? When isn’t he fast? If you look at his last three intermediate track races, his fastest lap in practice matched his average running position in the race. The streak could have stretched to four races, but a pit road mistake ruined his first Michigan race (other drivers’ practice to average running position correlations are posted in the FanVice slack chat).
Kurt Busch – $8,100 turned it on. He qualified for the playoffs in race one. Races two through twenty-five were worthless. His mediocre results were likely due to experimenting. That’s just a theory, but three top 5s to close the regular season seems to back that up. This looks like at least a top 10 car. In his last six Chicago races, he has 4 top 10s, a 13th place finish, and a 32nd place finish (the 32nd was with little Phoenix Racing – they’re no longer in NASCAR). Can he score enough points per dollar? A top 5 is his ceiling and it’s 6x. That doesn’t seem like enough in GPPs with three hogs hitting over 6x. If we only see two hogs, then he might squeeze into the optimal lineup. In cash, he’s fine.
Paul Menard’s – $6,800 salary jumped up this week. He finished 28th, so it wasn’t due to performance. It has to be high ownership (don’t look at me, he wasn’t in my article). Menard must have been in a lot of lineups, and he burnt a lot of players. This seems like an ideal spot to play Menard. Over his last 15 races he’s averaging a 19th place finish. His worst finish at Chicago over the last 7 years is 22nd. Menard is fine in cash, but because of last week’s burn, he’ll be under owned in GPPs.
Brett Moffitt – $4,600was the 2015 rookie of the year. That was a bad year, but he’s not a complete nobody. The BK racing cars aren’t completely garbage. He finished 32nd in his only intermediate track race at Michigan in August. Moffitt is starting dead last because he didn’t attempt a qualifying run. This feels like another Michigan. A 32nd place finish is 20 points. That will work from a sub 5K driver at an intermediate track.
Michael McDowell – $5,800 doesn’t offer a lot in savings, but he’s not a long shot either. His wrecks are seldom, and he occasionally slides into the top 20. A finish around 20th is all that is needed as long as the other five picks hit. He should run around 25th, and if things go well he could hit 20th.
Track Cheat Sheet: Chicago
- Close your eyes. Imagine a race track. That’s Chicago. It’s a 1.5 mile long oval. Oh I’m sorry, open your eyes back up. Hmmm, you probably can’t read this, so you don’t know to open your eyes. Good thing I already explained that this track has multiple grooves.
I am a promoter at FanVice and am also a user (my username is greenflagradio2) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of FanVice and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.