Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks: FOLDS OF HONOR QUIKTRIP 500 at Atlanta

Go watch Days of Thunder. I’m serious. They nailed it. The film hasn’t aged a day. Let’s talk about the edge of out of control.

This season, NASCAR has shrunk the spoiler and splitter, again. This reduces the aerodynamic downforce on the tail and nose of the car. In the corners, and that’s all that really matters in auto racing because anyone can drive fast going straight, there is less weight pushing the tires down onto the track. A car does not want to turn, it wants to continue going straight (Newton’s First Law), straight into the wall. However, due to some fancy tires, banking, and the track surface, the tires will grip the track at high speeds. If you take away the weight pressing the tire to the track, this lowers the coefficient of friction, and you slide much easier …also known as, the car does what Isaac Newton said it would – it continues straight; it does not turn; it chases toward the wall as if it were the affection of Pepe Le Pew.

If you’re from the North you’ll get this. During the winter, you throw a couple bags of water softener in the bed of your S-10 (technically that’s mechanical downforce, but it’s still downforce) to weigh down the truck in preparation for slick surfaces. More weight equals more grip. More grip equals more speed. NASCAR is living the inverse.

Now, the pessimist, myself included, will say that lessening the downforce does not make cars loose or more “racey.” It just means that the cars will go slower. Drivers will always push the car to the edge. Instead of pushing the car to the edge at 195 mph entering the turn, they drive 185 mph. The romantic wants to believe that less downforce will create hell-bent for leather passes and the best driver, not the best machine, will carry the day. It’s okay to dream, so long as you know it’s a dream. The more things change, the more things stay the same. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

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

…Let’s build a lineup, too:

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

The Daily Fantasy NASCAR circuit kicks off properly at a 1.5 mile circuit with 325 laps. That’s the typical amount of fast lap and laps led points at an intermediate track. If you want to win the GPP, then you’ll need to pick the 2-3 drivers that hog these points.

Kevin Harvick scored the most fantasy points at Atlanta in 2016 and 2014, and he scored the 2nd most fantasy points in 2015. On Sunday, he’ll start from the pole in clean air. In practice #1, Harvick posted the fastest long run speed (10 lap average). In practice #2, he was the third quickest on 20 lap runs. Last year, 40% of the cars in the long run top 10 finished the race with a top 10 DFS NASCAR score. Don’t overthink, but if you want to overthink it, Harvick did experience pit road issues routinely last season. Don’t over think it.

Jimmie Johnson loves Atlanta, but hates qualifying. In 2014 Jimmie didn’t even get to qualify; it didn’t matter. He made his way to the front of field in no time. Last year, Jimmie Johnson drove from 19th to 1st. This year he starts 18th. Daytona is over, erase the memory of those wrecks. This week is when the real racing begins. Johnson won the championship last year even though it wasn’t his best year. Still, a down year for him (7 top 5s in the 12 intermediate track races), is pretty good.

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

Matt Kenseth finished inside the top 5 at Atlanta in 2015 and 2014. He should have in 2016, but confusion in his pit box led to a black flag penalty. This put him two laps down and essentially, ended his race. Otherwise, Kenseth was looking at a possible win, and at the very least, his third straight top 5 finish. I’ll take a top 5 starting from 16th. On short runs, Kenseth was 4th fastest in practice #1.

Kasey Kahne is the reason you should watch qualifying or read my article because you’ve got other things to do on a Friday night. Kahne qualified 29th, but his car is better than that. You get one chance at a qualifying run, and Kahne drove too hard into turn 3, his car lost gripped, so he had to ease up. Boom 29th. Let’s look at the bright side. He’s in a great spot to earn place differential points. His tires only have one lap on them (drivers must start the race on the tires used during qualifying). Kahne’s intermediate track program was hot in the second half of last season (5 top 10s in the last 6 races). On short runs, Kasey Kahne was 7th fastest in practice #1 and 7th fastest in practice #2.

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.

Aric Almirola is a combination of good track history and a good place differential starting position. Almirola has top 20s in each of the last 4 Atlanta races. Richard Petty Motorsports struggled at times last year (first season building their own chassis). That being said, his average running position was not terrible at the 1.5 mile tracks last year (23rd). In practice #1, Almirola laid down the 15th fastest lap.

Ty Dillon raced well last season while substituting for Tony Stewart. This isn’t Tony’s ride, but it’s not a trash can on wheels. In practice #2, Ty was inside the top 10 in 10 lap runs and 20 lap runs. Last year, the race began with a run of over 100 green flag laps. The #13 Geico car has been a top 15 car in the last two Atlanta races.

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

Punts are long shots everywhere. At Atlanta, 15 punts have finished with a top 20 Daily Fantasy NASCAR score in the last 6 Atlanta races (13%). Last year there was just one successful punt, but with the new race segments, anything can happen. Be careful with that data, those numbers cover the last 6 years and NASCAR has undergone many changes during that time period.

Michael McDowell did not make a qualifying run. He’ll start 35th. In his last 4 intermediate track races last season, he finished 14th, 22nd, 23rd, and 10th. The 95 car was the best little team that could last season. Let’s say he finishes 25th. That’s 29 points (five times value) and a top 20 DFS score. In Practice #2, McDowell ran the 10th fastest 20 lap run.

Track Cheat Sheet: Atlanta

This a fast intermediate track (1.5 mile long oval track that constitutes the majority of NASCAR race tracks). With its high banking, it’s very similar to Charlotte and Texas. The key differences is that Atlanta’s track surface is 25 years old. It might as well be a cheese grater. If a driver is too aggressive or avoids pitting for too long, they’ll blow a tire and drive straight into the wall; their race is over.

The new segments could change everything. We won’t know until we know. Watch the truck and Xfinity race on Saturday, or check in with me on twitter before the Cup race on Sunday.

Practice #2 single lap speeds are slightly misleading. Some cars did not make runs on sticker tires (new).