Daily Fantasy NASCAR Picks: Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead

Every driver. Every theory. Every speculative strategy. This is copious and pretentious.

Fantasy NASCAR Spreadsheet for Homestead: click here

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Now back to the great analysis from Pearce!

Ray Black, Jr. (4500): This is his third race and third intermediate track race of the season (his first was Chicago – race 27). He finished last in Chicago and 34th at Texas. He did not wreck, but he was nowhere near the lead lap. He’s in the 51 car this weekend. This car is typically a 30-35th place car with Timmy Hill or BJ Mcleod behind the wheel. The other drivers have struggled to do better than 35th. Black is in the struggling drivers category. Black has raced at Homestead in the Trucks and Xfinity series. Both performances were below average.

David Starr (4600): Not racing this weekend.

Ross Chastain (4700): The Tommy Baldwin #7 will make one of their few races outside of the plate tracks. It may be the last for the #7. Tommy Baldwin sold his company to Premium Motorsports (#15 and #51 cars). Baldwin became the competition director and a crew chief for Premium Motorsports. You can look at the #15 and #51 cars, if you are really breaking down this punt. It’s not a crazy idea. We know that some cars will wreck out. We know there will be a caution at the end. A car that starts 40th, just might nail the last restart, and grab a couple spots they do not deserve. A 34th place finish is 16 points, that’s not terrible from an absolute punt. You’ll notice that Chastain finished 20th at Dover. That was a wreck filled race with plenty of wave arounds and lucky dogs. That was also Chastain’s third Dover race that weekend (Trucks, Xfinity, and Monster Cup).

Jeffrey Earnhardt (4800): Last year, there were a bunch of cautions at the end of the race. There is always a caution at the end of the Homestead race, but not always that many. Either way, with the cautions and wrecks, Earnhardt finished 31st. His average running position was 37th. That’s exactly what we are looking for from a sub $5,000 punt. Earnhardt started the season poorly, but in the second half, his average finish at the intermediate tracks is 31st.

Cole Whitt (4900): Here’s another way to look at punts. Don’t get caught up on Whitt only finishing 30th. Imagine there’s a late race wreck, and Austin Dillon finishes 28th or Danica Patrick does the same. You’re probably kicking yourself, and swearing off punts. They can’t score! They rarely make it to 25th. That’s true, but they don’t score a boatload of negative points either. Whitt at 30th is more fantasy points than Dillon or Patrick when you calculate the negative place differential points. There will be stars that wreck, or have an issue, and lose 15 to 20 place differential points. Whitt will outscore them. With punts, look at the whole picture, and look at the other drivers. Last year at Homestead, 8 non-punt drivers scored 11 points or less. A punt that doesn’t wreck, is automatically better than one quarter of the field. That works in cash, and it allows you more salary to squeeze in another hog or a star with place differential potential. A punt that has a decent race might work in the optimal GPP lineup.

Reed Sorenson (5000): He’s a good driver, but he’s been in poor equipment since 2010. All season, Sorenson has consistently finished around 31st at the intermediate tracks. He’s cracked the top 30 three times, but those were caution filled races. Each of those three races had at least 9 cautions. That might be pushing it to bank on double digit cautions. Another 31st place finish is possible, but it all comes down to where he qualifies. We need some place differential points. Sorenson finished 24th in the in the 2014 Homestead race (14 cautions in that race).

Landon Cassill (5200): This is a pretty cheap price for Cassill. He will be the punt du jour. His average finish at intermediate tracks this year is 26th. He’s finished outside of the top 30 just once in 14 intermediate track races. In the last 7 intermediate track races, his worst finish is 26th. His Homestead numbers are the typical Cassill numbers with inferior equipment. Last year, in his first year in a Front Row Motorsports car (the best equipment he’s enjoyed), he finished 21st. Yes, the wrecks helped, too.

Matt DiBenedetto (5400): A fast, steeply banked track is a Dibenedetto track. The problem is that Dibenedetto has very little experience at this track. His numbers at the intermediate tracks are a small step behind Landon Cassill’s stats. The read is that if he qualifies in the back, he’s a play. If he qualifies around 30th to 35th, then he’s in play, if other punts qualify too close to the front. Finally, if he looks decent in practice and qualifies in the 20s, he could be a very low owned punt option. In the last intermediate track race (Texas), Dibenedetto started 28th and finished 25th. That was 22 fantasy points, and not enough points in that race to be in the optimal lineup, but his racing performance was strong. If he takes that type of speed to a more volatile race, he’ll earn a top 20 DFS score.

Corey LaJoie (5600): The punt group is a little thinner this week. Joey Gase is in the #83 car this weekend, but he’s not in the player pool. Carl Long is in the #66 car, but he’s not in the player pool. Do you want to know the life of a punt driver? His sponsor is MYFREEDOMSMOKE.COM. That website doesn’t work.

I did a google search. NASCAR has listed the wrong url. It’s myfreedomsmokes.com with an “s” at the end. I can’t imagine why sponsors aren’t lining up to get into the sport, and yes, it’s a vape site. Vape life! If Monster pulls their sponsorship of the series, let’s return NASCAR to it’s roots – Vape Cup.

His teammate is driving the #83 Earth Water car. Part of me believes that’s a health drink. I’m sure it counteracts the health effects of vaping. The other part of me is little more skeptical. That could easily be a vape juice.

I’m not here to judge people for vaping, but vapers will tell you that it’s vaping, not smoking. Shouldn’t it be myfreedomvapes.com? I looked up the Vaping wikipedia page. It’s hard to trust an introduction that has 36 footnotes. For comparison, the wikipedia introduction for 9/11 only has 6 footnotes.

I probably should write something about the fantasy NASCAR pick. Corey Lajoie will smoke the competition this week. No he won’t. Lajoie has three Xfinity races at Homestead. An oil leak DNF, a crash, and a 34th place finish. LaJoie has earned 6 top 30s at intermediate tracks this season, but he’s less consistent than drivers with small salaries. Sorenson, Whitt, Dibenedetto, and Cassill all have better average finishes at intermediate tracks.

Michael McDowell (5800): Among the Sub $6,000 driver, McDowell has the best average finish at intermediate tracks (24th). He’s not in punt equipment. The #95 Leavine Family Racing car is very closely allied with RCR. This isn’t a junk car. Kasey Kahne is taking over this car next year. He would sooner retire or dirt race before he drove around the back for 38 weekends a year. McDowell has 9 top 25s at intermediate tracks. That’s nice, but does he score fantasy points? Let’s look at those 9 top 25s.

He scored 25 points or more in five of his top 25s. In 4 top 25 races, he did not. Where did he start those races?

Starting position for +25 point races with a top 25 finish:

  • Las Vegas: 26th
  • Kansas (1): 35th
  • Charlotte (1): 21st
  • Darlington: 30th
  • Texas (2): 23rd

McDowell can score points starting anywhere from 20th to 40th. It’s worth taking note of Charlotte and Texas. Those were his best starts, but his lowest scores above 25 points. Less place differential points will lead to lower ownership, but that doesn’t matter when another punt out performs him in terms of points per dollar. At least that’s the theory.

At Charlotte (1), McDowell was not the optimal lineup, but a lineup that included him as a punt scored 434 points. The optimal was 436 points. At Texas (2), again, McDowell was in the second best lineup. It was 8 points behind the optimal. In both cases, if you played the second best lineup, you would have likely been the sole winner of the GPP.

Forget the theory, you can play McDowell from any starting position outside of the top 20.

David Ragan (5900): His stats are nearly identical to his Front Row Motorsports teammate, Landon Cassill. The edge goes to Cassill because he’s $700 cheaper. Ragan is the same car with lower ownership. That’s nice, but that can change with qualifying.

Paul Menard (6100): He finshes 20th to 25th. If he starts there, then he’s not much of a play. He’s cheap enough that he can be considered, if our selection of value plays is limited. Obviously, if he starts closer to 30th, then he’s a safe cash play at $6,100. In his 5 Homestead races with RCR, Menard has 4 finishes that are 21st or better.

Aric Almirola (6200): He was in the optimal lineup in the last two intermediate track races.

A.J. Allmendinger (6300): Another beneficiary of last year’s late race cautions was The Dinger. His average running position was 22nd, but he finished 8th. It could happen again. NASCAR is limiting tires this weekend. Homestead is an older track that chews up tires. Teams may run out of tires at the end. Running on old tires at the end can lead to wrecks. Running on old tires late in the race during restarts guarantees cautions. Saving tires early in the race can lead to wrecks on older tires. Allmendinger’s average running position in the 2015 Homestead race was 17th. He can put himself in a position to take advantage of late race cautions.

Danica Patrick (6500): Homestead finishes: 19, 24, 18, 20. Average position at Homestead: 27, 22, 21, 24. Last year, she jumped forward, but we’ve already discussed that situation. In the last two races, her best single lap practice speed was 30th. On the long run, she was 22 out of 31 and 22 out of 30. The long run speed seems to correlate with her average running position. Most of the cars that did not attempt long runs were punts.

Chris Buescher (6700): In 12 of 14 intermediate track races, Buescher has earned a top 25 finish. He has 7 top 20s. In the last 7 intermediate track races, he’s averaging a 16th place finish.

Ty Dillon (6900): We know what he does and what he will do, but does he return value? Ty is safe, but is he GPP worthy? Off the top of my head, I’m guessing that he has reach 5 times value once in the last 5 intermediate track races. I lose. He hit 6x at Darlington and Kansas. The story hasn’t changed. He’s fine in cash games, but unless there is a dearth of value or Ty qualifies poorly, he’s not a great GPP play.

Daniel Suarez (7000): He’s too cheap like always. He’s a 10th to 15th place car. At his price, a 10th to 15th place finish will likely result in a spot in the optimal lineup. A top 10 DFS score will be be just about 40 fantasy points. Allmendinger earned a top 10 DFS score last year at Homestead by driving from 12th to 8th. That sounds like a possible Suarez performance. If he qualifies inside the top 10, then I am comfortable fading the former Xfinity champion.

Trevor Bayne (7200): His intermediate track finishes this season:

My dad was color blind, but he knew big numbers in racing were bad. Bayne has a top 20 in his last two Homestead races. He can hang around and catch a break.

Austin Dillon (7400): The first reaction to his 12th place finish in last year’s Homestead race is that he was another driver that stole spots at the end. That’s not the case. His average running position was 10th. In 2015, his average running position was 15th. In his rookie season, it was 19th at Homestead. It feels like Dillon wasn’t very good this year, but it’s the same old Austin Dillon. He has a top 20 average running position in 10 intermediate track races and 8 top 15s. In his last 6 races, his worst finish is 16th.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (7500): Some teams got better every week; this one did not. Stenhouse has ZERO top 10 finishes at 1.5 mile tracks this season. Homestead has a groove near the wall, so Stenhouse seems playable this weekend. In his 5 career Homestead races, he has ZERO top 20 finishes.

Ryan Newman (7600): His average running position at intermediate tracks this year:

There’s been some wrecks, but for the most part, Newman finishes where he races. The one exception is Michigan (2). If you recall, Michigan is a single groove race track. On restarts, the outside line is not just the preferred groove, it’s the only groove. The bottom line stacks up and drivers that were lucky enough to start on the outside gain a bunch of spots. There were two cautions in the last 10 laps. The assumption is that Newman was on the outside both times. We don’t care about Michigan. The point is that Newman finishes where he runs. Does he run where he practices?

Long Run Practice Speed compared to average running position at intermediate tracks (negative means the driver’s running position was worse than where they practiced):

The negative 16 was a wreck early in the fontana race. Aero is huge at Fontana, so it’s no surprise that he could not match his practice rank. Newman races where he practices. Newman finishes where he races. We’ll know where he will finish after Saturday’s practice.

Jamie McMurray (7700): Pop Quiz – When was the last time Jamie McMurray was priced below $8,000 at a non-plate track? You’ve got to go back to week 9 at Richmond. Why is McMurray cheap this week? No idea. It’s not because of track history. His last 6 finishes at Homestead:

Possibly, it’s because he stumbled at intermediate tracks recently, but this has been a terrific season for McMurray:

He wrecked at Kansas. The law of averages says that he was well overdue. At Texas, the 18th place finish was 5 spots worse than his average running position. Which brings up another point. McMurray has the highest correlation between long run practice speed and average running position. The two data points are within 5 spots of each other 83% of the time. McMurray races where he practices.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (7800): When Richard Petty earned his final win (#200), NASCAR knowingly allowed him to use an illegal super powered engine. It was 200, Daytona, and President Reagan was in attendance. Junior is not going to get the same star treatment. He might not need a super powered engine to win. If you hate rostering Junior, and fall for this crap every time, then stop reading now. This race will be a tire management race.

The 4 championship drivers will attempt to stay on the same tire strategy as each other. Non-championship drivers can do whatever they want.  I will not be surprised to see Homestead’s hog points go to the non-championship drivers. They will take chances with tires. They will stay out on old tires. They will cycle through tires quicker. If NASCAR is lenient with Junior during pre-race inspection, and he has a little speed combined with the right tire gameplan, then he could give his fans the greatest going away present of all time. This is probably a less than 5% scenario – for now.

If Junior is fast in practice and in qualifying, then the inspection theory may be coming true. He cannot out race the Toyotas, but with 3 fewer sets of tires during the race and a nearly guaranteed late race caution, anything can happen. So you’re telling me there’s a chance!

Kasey Kahne (7900): He has a top 15 in each of his last 3 intermediate track races. He finished last season strong, too. Homestead has been a decent track for him. His average finish is 17th. Throw out the late race wreck last year and a mechanical failure in 2004, and he’s a top 15 driver. I want to see a poor qualifying spot and decent practice times before I buy in. His practice speeds are hit or miss. He was fast at Texas, but had nothing at Kansas. There’s a reason why Kahne has struggled over the last several years. The cars are not consistently fast.

Erik Jones (8100): It’s not the cheapest Erik Jones, but it’s better than his normal high 8s price. My philosophy hasn’t changed. If Jones has a fast car in practice, he can earn 4 fast lap points in the race. Those points make up for his qualifying spot that will likely limit place differential points. If he starts inside the top 10, it’s not likely that he’ll finish in the optimal lineup. If he starts inside the top 10, then he’s too risky for cash games. He’ll be low owned, and that is alluring in GPPs, but low ownership exists for a reason. Erik Jones has been in an optimal lineup at a 1.5 mile track just once this season. In that race, he started 38th.

Kurt Busch (8300): At Kansas, Busch gained a massive amount of spots because of the late race cautions. At Texas, he finished exactly where he ran. This is a top 15 car. Kurt has been a top 15 driver at Homestead throughout his entire career. He won’t lead laps or earn fast laps. You’re hoping to get cautions at the end that propel this car forward.

Clint Bowyer (8500): As is the case with most tracks, his recent track history at Homestead is far from stellar. That’s because he raced for a small team last season, and the year before that he was driving the lame duck MWR cars. Those cars were liquidated and sold to BK racing for the 2016 season. They proceeded to finish outside of the top 30 every week. Before the two year nightmare, Bowyer was really good at Homestead. He finished 12th better in 8 of his first 9 Miami.

The strange thing about Bowyer is his intermediate track performances this season:

Why are the numbers getting worse? His teammate Kevin Harvick has gotten faster. Tin foil hat time! The theory has always been that Stewart-Haas Racing is a split team. There is the Tony Stewart side and the Gene Haas side, and they do not work together. The numbers have always supported it. Tony and Danica vs. Harvick and Kurt. Bowyer is now Tony. Next year, Almirola will be Danica. When Almirola took over Danica’s ride, every quote was from Tony Stewart. He was gushing over Almirola. This is a situation where two teams share a garage and a few other things to split costs, but the teams do not work together.

Ryan Blaney (8700): If he starts in the back, yes. If he starts on the front row, maybe. If he starts anywhere else, probably not.

Denny Hamlin (8900): If tire management becomes a major theme, then the fast Toyotas that can “race it like they stole it” will likely gobble up the fast laps and laps led points. The four championship contenders could not care less about stage points or laps led. They do not need to be in the top 10 until the last 100 laps, then they’ll push. It doesn’t make sense to risk their car or tires early in the race. The contenders will ease off the throttle sooner and get back into the throttle later. Just a little to save tires, but that little bit creates an opportunity for fast laps to go elsewhere (non-championship Toyotas or Kyle Larson).

If you look at the fast lappers this year, it’s Truex, Harvick, Busch, and Larson. The next step down is Kenseth and Hamlin. Early in the race, the fast laps should go to Larson, Hamlin, and Kenseth. Obviously, poor practice speeds might eliminate this possibility. A poor qualifying spot would likely hurt Hamlin and Kenseth, but not Larson. He will run up against the wall, in the fast groove, straight out of the gates.

Matt Kenseth (9100): There is the tire story, then there is the stage story. In every race this year, drivers have earned stage points. It was important to win a stage or finish inside the top 10. This week it’s meaningless. The stages are simply mandatory cautions. Some drivers will attempt to pit before the stage caution. They’ll finish the stage outside of the top 10, but the points are meaningless. During the stage caution the leaders will drive down pit road and the drivers that pit early will assume the lead. Not many drivers will be able to take advantage of this. Only drivers inside the top 15, maybe only the top 10 will be able to pull it off. No one has taken this gamble this season. It’s risky, but most teams prefered to take the guaranteed stage points than gamble on track position. Points do not matter anymore, a lot of drivers can gamble with the stages. This could be a very goofy race.

Joey Logano (9200): The Penske Fords are slow. Logano is a finishing position only driver, and it has price, that’s not enough. He’s not completely a fade. If he can earn a couple place differential points and earn a top 3 through strategy, then he may work in GPPs. That’s a low percentage scenario. It would likely require wrecks, and counting on wrecks or predicting wrecks is never a good plan.

Chase Elliott (9400): In terms of average finish, Chase Elliott has been the second best driver at intermediate tracks, but he’s a distant second.

Elliot consistently finishes inside the top 5. Hamlin and Kenseth have score more hog points, but Elliott scores more finishing position points. It’s hard to roster Elliott at this price at an intermediate track because picking him means one less hog. The rule has always been to spend for hog points or place differential points from a star. Don’t pay for finishing position alone. If Elliott has top 5 speed in practice #3, then he deserves attention. If he qualifies in the teens, but practices much higher, again, he’ll deserve attention.

Kyle Larson (9500): All year, the media speculated about Larson winning the championship at Homestead. He’s a monster at this track. He hasn’t won, but that’s because of late race cautions. This is a progressive banked track with a groove along the wall that is fast and dangerous. Larson can turn circles around the field while they run the low line.

Larson is not racing for a championship. He doesn’t have to follow the tire strategy of the contenders. He can stay out on old tires or go in early. Either way, it seems like a forgone conclusion that Larson will run the most fast laps. That has been the case in each of the last two Homestead races.

Don’t lock in 100% Larson. He’s had 4 straight DNFs. Two were due to mechanical failures. He seemed to have given up a couple weeks ago after his second DNF. This is the last race of season and it’s a track that Larson loves. His head will be in the race. The only real concern are the two engine failures in the last 4 races. Bad luck is one engine failure. Two means the team is screwing something up. Last week, Larson thought he had the best car at Phoenix before it blew up.

There are a couple ways of looking at this situation. You can lose sleep over the DNFs or you hope that the DNFs scare other players away and it lowers Larson’s ownership. He’s too cheap and should be widely owned.

Jimmie Johnson (9600): The car is not fast enough for this price. Johnson’s salary has been wrong all season. He doesn’t run fast laps. He doesn’t lead laps. He occasionally plays the strategy correct and the cautions fall at the right time, and he wins a race. His qualifying position is usually in the teens, and he can earn a combination of finishing position points and place differential points that results in a top 5 DFS score. It’s a top 3 score, if one or two drivers hog all of the fast laps and laps led points.

That’s what happened last year at Homestead. Larson could be the run away hog, and that would open the door for Johnson. A more likely scenario is that Larson, Truex, Kyle Busch, and Kevin Harvick earn hog points at different moments in the race. In that case, Johnson’s top 5 finish (and that’s not a guarantee), will not results in a top 5 DFS score. It may be a top 10 DFS score, but not a good point per dollar play.

Kevin Harvick (9700): If the end of the Texas race is an indication of what to expect at Homestead, then Harvick is the next champion. If intermediate track speed in the playoffs is an indication of what to expect at Homestead, then Harvick is the next champion. The car has the speed and the team has the experience. The track history checks out, too. In 2014, Harvick joined Stewart-Haas Racing with Rodney Childers as his crew chief. They won a championship in their first season, but more importantly, they have been lights out at Homestead. Harvick’s average running position has been 3rd in each race, and he’s scored at least 16 hog points in each of those races. Why is he only $9,700?

Brad Keselowski (9900): In every interview, Keselowski and his crew chief have said they’re not as fast at the other cars. Are they playing mind games? No. Look at the spreadsheet. There is a year’s worth of data that says Keselowski is slower. If I’m Keselowski, I set my car up for the short run. I hope that I am fast enough and there are enough cautions to hold track position. I play the strategy right, and I beat Truex and Harvick at the end on a restart because they have cars built for the long run. That sounds like a dream. It’s pretty unbelievable because I left out Kyle Busch. Keselowski is not passing Kyle Busch for the win at the end. Kyle Busch is a bucket of crabs. If he can’t win, no one else can win. Imagine that restart, Busch wins or they both go into the wall.

Kyle Busch (10500): this race may come down to a late race restart, and Kyle Busch is pretty good at those. He’s also very aggressive. It could easily be checkers or wreckers. His season, like all of his seasons’, has been a wave of troughs and crests. The only thing that can stop Kyle Busch is Kyle Busch (including his team as extension of himself). Winning the championship race requires a driver to be perfect, but this year it requires a driver to be pluperfect (apparently that’s a word that means “more than perfect,” but that applies to grammar. I am totally using the word wrong, but it’s word 4,800. I don’t care at this point).

There aren’t enough tires for the race. If a driver hits debris, then he’ll have to change the entire set. Now, the driver is really short on tires, and their race is basically over. That’s not my theory. That’s exactly what the drivers and crew chiefs are saying. They are not happy about the tires. Personally, I love it. It could turn into a giant mess and backfire like every other genius decision by NASCAR, but it’s a cost effective way of battling aerodynamics.

If a pit crew does not secure a lug nut, then the driver will have a loose wheel, and they’ll have to replace the entire set. Boom. Game Over. One of the crew chiefs believes that pit crews will take more time on pit road to secure lug nuts. That’s an advantage to non-championship drivers (Hamlin, Kenseth, and Larson). In today’s NASCAR, the best place to gain spots is on pit road with quick stops.

Martin Truex, Jr. (11100): This is his race to lose, but who cares about that. We want hog points, and that’s what he does. Truex has scored 1,316 fantasy points at intermediate tracks this season. I don’t have a point of reference, but I am willing to bet a large sum of money that no one has scored more fantasy points in the last 5 years.

Truex had a disappointing race at Homestead last season, but don’t be afraid. He was already eliminated from the playoffs. It was a meaningless race. Another factor contributing to his disappointing performance was the team’s decision to skip the Homestead test. They were in a position last year, where they needed to focus all of their efforts on advancing through each round of the playoffs. Not to mention, this team is based in Denver. A midweek practice in Miami, in the middle of the playoffs, was not an option. Some teams will say that testing at Homestead is worthless because the track changes so much during a race. Those are also the same teams that barely advance through each round of the playoffs and are in no position to test at Homestead.

This year, Truex’s spot in the championship race was a certainty. The team tested at Homestead in October, and they were pleased with the results.

Nothing has changed. Fade Truex at your own peril. Anyone that has faded Truex at an intermediate track has lost.

See you in the FanVice Slack Chat. ~ Pearce