Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks: Auto Club 400 Speedway of California (Fontana)

The intro is typically written earlier in the week. That was scrapped. Johnson, Logano, and Bayne did not qualify. This is an absolute mess. At another track, DFS NASCAR players could consider fading good drivers starting in the back, but not at Auto Club Speedway.

In the last four years, the Auto Club race has ended the same way. There is a late race caution, and a restart that determines the winner. Someone steals the win, average cars advance their position on the last restart, and good cars lose spots ruining their day.

Look at these crazy numbers. Normally, if 20 cars finish on the lead lap, that’s a lot. Average cars get lapped pretty easily in NASCAR. At Fontana, over 30 cars have finished on the lead lap in each of the last two years. The drivers know the drill. Stay out of trouble, turn laps, and hope for a chance at the end. This race is a lot like Daytona without the pack racing and big wreck (if you would like a more indepth explanation of the peculiar nature of the Fontana race, then listen to the FanVice NASCAR Podcast).

Heading into Friday, this was a punt week. That’s changed. When a handful of cars did not qualify, the punts got moved forward. Most have been pushed out of play, and in their place, must play top notch rides.

Dig into the statistics and find the best plays for this weekend’s NASCAR event with the Daily Fantasy NASCAR Spreadsheet:

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Top Tier Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks (plus $9,000)

The Daily Fantasy NASCAR circuit will run 200 laps at a two mile track in California. That’s not a lot of laps led points, but you’ll need the driver with the most. Fast laps will be hard to target this weekend. With the new segments at a two mile track, teams will pit at different times. If a driver pits early, and is on fresh tires, then they can score fast lap points while running outside of the top 25. Based on current trends at Auto Club Speedway, it looks like two of your six drivers should be lap leaders.

Joey Logano did not make a qualifying run because his car could not get through inspection. He will start 35th. He was one of the favorites to win this week. Not anymore. There isn’t a guarantee that he will finish inside the top 10, but a top 20 seems like a given and that’s 41 points (likely a top 10 DFS score). He said his car was fast in race trim. In the Practice #3 (teams saved their sticker tires for this practice because it was closest to race temperatures), Logano was 6th fastest on the short run and 8th fastest on the long run.

Jimmie Johnson is really good at Fontana (6 wins and a 73% top 10 finish rate). Unfortunately for him and fortunately for us, Johnson wrecked late in practice #1 and was unable to get the backup car ready for a qualifying run (starting 37th). Johnson was very fast in practice #2 (not quite as important as practice #3, but still significant). His practice #3 speeds were average, but enough to lead us to believe that he’s a top 20 driver.

Kyle Larson might be the runner up, again. That’s fine; wins are overrated in fantasy NASCAR. Each week, the drivers that pile up the laps led points start in the front. He’s got the car to get it done and the track position (starting 1st). Don’t worry about his short run speed in practice #2 (22nd), he was on scuffed tires during that practice. All of his other short and long run practice times are top 5 speeds. Larson scored the most points in the Michigan race last August. Why does that matter? It’s a similar track where the 2017 low downforce package was tested. Larson won the Xfinity race on Saturday.

 

Middle Tier Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks ($7,000-$9,000)

Trevor Bayne was not on the radar this weekend. The Roush-Fenway Fords are running well this year. They ran well at Phoenix last week (a track that has been a chore for the team). Fontana has not been a strong track for Bayne, but Roush is improving every week. More importantly, Bayne is starting in the back because he missed qualifying. In Practice #3, Bayne posted top 20 speeds on both the short and long run. If Bayne finishes 25th (not a stretch by any means), he’ll score 30 fantasy points (top 20 DFS scores).

Erik Jones is having a great rookie season. He finished 4th in Saturday’s Xfinity race. In the Monster Cup series, he has a pretty good car, too. In practice #2, he was the fastest on the short run and the long run. In practice #3, he was 4th quickest on the short run and the long run. Jones will be very low owned due to drivers starting in the back eating up salary. He makes for a great GPP swerve.

 

Value Tier Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks ($6,000-$7,000)

We’re looking for place differential and finishing position. If we can get them both, then awesome. Sometimes it’s foolish to chase both, but not this weekend. Chase them both.

Aric Almirola was fast in practice #1, but there was a mechanical issue between practice and qualifying. The 43 team took the car apart, and fixed the problem. In practice #2, Almirola was 9th fastest on the long run. In practice #3, Almirola posted top 20 speeds on short and long runs. Almirola is starting around 30th for the 3rd week in a row (31st). In the previous weeks, Almirola finished 8th and 13th on the DFS scoreboard. Almirola’s average running position at Fontana  over the last last 6 races is 23rd.

Punt Tier Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks (sub $6,000)

Punts are long shots, but not this weekend. With the late race cautions and wave arounds, three-quarters of the field will finish on the lead lap. If a below average driver makes the right move at the end, then they can score 40 fantasy points. Last year 5 punts finished with a top 20 fantasy score (8 punts finished in the DFS top 25). At Fontana, 15 punts have finished with a top 20 Daily Fantasy NASCAR score in the last 4 Fontana races (19%). That’s not Daytona levels, but it’s up there. This is a punt week.

Matt DiBenedetto scores 23 fantasy points if he finishes 30th. His worst finish this season is 29th. Last year, he finished 27th at Fontana. This is a mini-Daytona. With the cautions, Dibenedetto will have a chance to stay on the lead lap. As long as he doesn’t wreck, he should move toward 30th. Most importantly, he gives DFS player salary flexibility. There are expensive must plays in the back and in the front. Put on a helmet and roster DiBenedetto. He didn’t show much speed in practice, but he averaged 31st fastest on short runs in the three practices.

 

Track Cheat Sheet: Auto Club (Fontana)

  • This track was built by Roger Penske. Michigan was also built by Penke. Fontana and Michigan are similar two mile long ovals. Michigan has slightly more banking, but the key difference is that Michigan’s track was recently repaved. Fontana has an old, rough surface that will chew up tires and lead to numerous cautions.
  • Last August, NASCAR tested the 2017 low downforce package in the second Michigan race. Current form and track history are always useful data points, but don’t overlook the second Michigan race last season.

 

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.