Fantasy NASCAR Analysis: (FREE) – Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

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Now back to the great analysis from Pearce!

Anyone can look at the spreadsheet and find out who is the best at the road courses and who is the best at Sonoma. Anyone can look at the practice charts and figure out what cars have decent setups. Let’s look at builds this week. Anytime the optimal lineup is a little different, it makes sense to focus on what kind of build works.

A lot of people are asking about hogs this week. The answer is there aren’t any. Pick the drivers that finish near the top. They will likely score some hog points along the way. There’s never really been hogs at road tracks because there aren’t many laps and pit strategy affects lap leaders and fast laps. Now, with stages, it’s all over the place. Just pick drivers that will earn top 10s.


People are also asking about punts. We’ll look into that first..


2017 Optimal$ptfppkstavgfindfs finp1p1-Lp2p2-L
Brad Keselowski860067.757.923103117x95
Kevin Harvick990065.56.61261215x72
Denny Hamlin890055.256.2146432x27x
Clint Bowyer940054.55.81315244x8x
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.8100455.61013675x3x
Cole Whitt4900316.32922211633x26x


Cole Whitt sticks out. My initial reaction is – yeah, but can a punt come through again? I don’t want to build lineups with a punt, if this was the one lucky time that a punt made it through. Let’s look closer. Michael McDowell at $6,100 scored 33 fantasy points. That’s almost two punts that came through. Boris Said at $5,100 (a road ringer that had never done anything in DFS in the past) scored 20 points. Chris Buescher at $6,200 scored 17 points, but could have had a better day, if he didn’t start 9th. It looks like a low 6s and under driver will work.


2016 Optimal$ptfppkstavgfindfs finp1p1-Lp2p2-L
Tony Stewart890064.57.210101118x17x
Denny Hamlin800058.757.3652316336
Greg Biffle670040.56.0321718923x3113
Ryan Newman7500456.017138726x148
Carl Edwards910050.55.514445x4x
Kasey Kahne8700475.41912952469x


This one will mess with your mind. That’s right, $1,100 on the table. Every driver finished with a top 10. There is a lot of place differential, too. Edwards is the only negative pd driver, but he earned 13.5 hog points (no stages in 2016). That’s a lot for a race that is barely over 100 laps. The drivers listed aren’t longshots. It’s reasonable to believe that each of the drivers above could have earned a top 10 at a road course. Tony Stewart is a crazy pick, and the only reason he finished where he did was because NASCAR bailed him out with a debris caution at the perfect time.


2015 Optimal$ptfppkstfindfs finp1p2
Kurt Busch1240062.755.122193
Kyle Busch1070062.255.81112181
Sam Hornish, Jr.760048.56.42410938
Paul Menard920050.55.5321382013
Clint Bowyer890047.55.3631014


This was before DraftKings switch to the 6 player format. It may not be worth analyzing, but there are some notable characteristics of this lineup. Four drivers finished inside the top 10 and one in 13th. The two value picks scored big time place differential points. Menard and Hornish’s average running position were 22 and 23, for whatever that is worth. They all had decent speed in practice.


Let’s look closer at last year’s Sonoma race.


2017 Optimal$ptfppkstavgfindfs finp1p1-Lp2p2-L
Brad Keselowski860067.757.923103117x95
Kevin Harvick990065.56.61261215x72
Denny Hamlin890055.256.2146432x27x
Clint Bowyer940054.55.81315244x8x
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.8100455.61013675x3x
Cole Whitt4900316.32922211633x26x


Brad Keselowski – He’s a better Glen driver than Sonoma, but he was starting 23rd. That’s tempting. Starting 23rd dictated that BK follow a different pit strategy. His strategy worked, and he had decent track position for most of the race.


Kevin Harvick – He had a top 3 car and was able to get up front early. This allowed him to have track position for most of the race. He benefited from Truex’s car blowing up. If Truex doesn’t blow up, Harvick is not optimal. If you entered 20 lineups in the 2017 race, how many would have had Harvick and no Truex? Harvick and no Larson? Harvick and no Allmendinger? I can understand fading Dinger, but the Harvick optimal seems to be a low owned build. Another note about Harvick: He ran the K&N race last year because he wasn’t satisfied with his recent performances at Sonoma.


Denny Hamlin – He has been the road racer in NASCAR over the last two years. Hamlin is considered a great short track racer, so it makes sense that Hamlin runs well at Sonoma. He wasn’t as fast as Harvick and Truex, so he and the second group of fast cars pitted on a different sequence. Hamlin was the fastest of that group.


Clint Bowyer – He came out of nowhere. His car was damaged. My assumption is that he pitted at the perfect time in stage 3. The final stage was a full green flag run, so the cars were spread out. If you had a decent car, then you could make your way through the field. There is a lot of randomness at road courses, but Bowyer had good car (#14 won at Sonoma in 2016), and he’s a good short track and road racer (Sonoma win in 2012 – his near championship year).


Junior – He’s good at Sonoma. He tended to race well at tracks with flat corners (Phoenix, Martinsville, and Pocono).


Cole Whitt – Just a lucky Punt? At Sonoma he’s finished 27th, 22nd, 34th, and 21st. His 34th was driving the #98 car for Premium Motorsports. That car was terrible. Whitt is driving this weekend, so it’s a possibility. A low priced driver with decent results in the past has been playable at Sonoma.


We can’t build lineups, but let’s look at price and break down possible top 10 drivers.


Kevin Harvick    11700 – Yes, he can earn a top 10, but will be a good point per dollar play at this price? That’s almost $2,000 more than his price last year. In 2017, the lowest fppk for a top 5 DFS score was 5.3. For Harvick to hit that number, he would need to score 62 fantasy points. Over the last 3 years, the average high score was 65 fantasy points. Basically, Harvick has to earn the high score just to hit 5.3 fppk. Let’s compare that to Hamlin. At $9,100, Hamlin only needs 48 fantasy points. The highest salary at Sonoma last year was $10,200. Our lizard brain tells us that we can’t fade Harvick, Busch, Truex, and Larson, but maybe we can. What if DraftKings missed priced the drivers this week? These are intermediate track prices, but intermediate track points are not available in a 110 lap race.

Kyle Busch 11200 – Same as Harvick. He’s fast, but the prices are wrong.

Martin Truex, Jr. 10700 – This car could lead every lap, but it can’t… not at a stage race at Sonoma. His price is not egregious, and he scored a lot of fast lap points for a road course race last year. I am less inclined to fade Truex than Harvick/Busch.

Kyle Larson 10600 – This car can finish with a top 5 (39 fantasy points), but he’ll need at least 5 place differential and 5 hog points to be optimal at this price. The 5 hog points is doable, but I do not see Larson starting outside of the top 5. Saying Larson is a top 5 car is a bit of reach. He’s never done it before.


$9,000 Group – Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin – This group is firmly in play. I like the cheapest. I like the car starting the furthest from the front. I’m not really worried about practice, they should all be fast in the race. Pit strategy will greatly impact this group.

Jimmie Johnson 8900 – He guessed wrong on strategy last year. They had a decent car, but they’ll need to guess right to get a top 10

Chase Elliott 8700 – H guessed right last year and got a top 10.


Kurt Busch 8600 – His price jumped up this week, but it doesn’t hurt that much especially if you fade Harvick and Kyle Busch. The reason people do not like to play Busch is that he only scores finishing position points, but those are the only points available this week. As long as he doesn’t score negative place differential points, he should be fine.

Ryan Blaney 8400 – Can he earn a top 10? Yes. That’s all that matters.


Aric Almirola 8200 – The car will be ready for Sonoma, but will Almirola be ready? He missed the race last year. I am really interested to see his practice times. I’d rather have Kurt, but we might need to play multiple $8,000 drivers. You can build a decent lineup with two 9k, two 8k, and two 7k drivers.

A.J. Allmendinger 8000 – You’ve got to have some exposure just in case he doesn’t screw up. Allmendinger has been priced above $9,500 in the last two Sonoma races. He was $8,800 and $9,900 in the last two Watkins Glen races.

Alex Bowman    7800 – He’s running the K&N race and has likely spent the last two weeks in the Hendrick simulator.

Jamie McMurray 7600 – Top 10-15 is possible. The car was fast last year and raced a little better than it finished. This seems like a popular play (pre-qualifying).

Daniel Suarez    7500 – He improves everywhere, so why not? Just remember, as soon as he starts to look good, something inevitable goes wrong with the #19 car. Earlier this year, several people kept playing Jamie McMurray every week until he finally hit. It happened at Texas.

Ryan Newman 7300 – It all comes down to pit strategy and luck. At this price, he’s worth a spot in sevel lineups. You can act smart if Newman lucks his way into a top 10.

Erik Jones 7200 – He’s running in the K&N race. Last year he enrolled in a driver course at Watkins Glen to gain more road experience. Wait and see on practice.

Austin Dillon 7100 – This is a slightly cheaper version of the Newman play. Throw him in some lineups. A top 15 without negative place differential points will likely suffice. It’s crazy that Harvick is almost $12,000 and Dillon is $7,100 at a road course.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 6900 – Crew Chief Brian Pattie won with Clint Bowyer at Sonoma in 2012, and earned 4 top 10s in 4 races. Stenhouse’s best finish at Sonoma is 20th. Even before his wreck last year, his team was having major struggles setting up the car. Last year was his only race at Sonoma with Pattie, but this might not mean anything. Pattie crew chiefed for Juan Pablo Montoya, and they earned a 6th, 10th, and 22nd place finish. You would expect more from JPM.

Paul Menard 6800 – A top 15 does not seem like a stretch and a top 10 seems possible.


Kasey Kahne 6600 – A top 20 might work if he scores double digit place differential points. This car wasn’t bad at road courses with Michael McDowell behind the wheel. Kahne has been pretty good at Sonoma during his career.

Darrell Wallace, Jr. 6500 – No way in hell. Bubba would probably be the first person to tell you not to pick him at Sonoma.


William Byron    6300 – He’s running the K&N race this weekend. That means K&N practice laps. Byron hasn’t been on iRacing since February, so there goes that theory. Let’s see how the weekend goes.

Chris Buescher 6100 – Access to Allmendinger’s notes, that’s invaluable. He won at Mid-Ohio in the Xfinity series. A 5x from Buescher will work this weekend. That’s 30 points, or 14th to 14th, 22nd to 18th, 26th to 20th.

Michael McDowell 5900 – Last year McDowell was priced $6,100 at Sonoma, then $7,100 at Watkins Glen. He was almost in the optimal lineup at Sonoma.That tells me they got his price wrong, again. He won an Xfinity road race at Road America in 2016. Before NASCAR, he was open-wheel road racer.



David Ragan 5800 – Terrible Sonoma results.

Ty Dillon 5700 – Inexperienced.


Trevor Bayne 5500 – Welcome back, but his Sonoma finishes aren’t very appealing.


Cole Whitt 5300 – He can get 25 to 30 points. A 30th to 20th-ish is not beyond the realm of possibilities.


Justin Marks 5200 – Two 30th place finishes at Sonoma. Maybe, if he starts last, but with more than fair pricing in the $8,000 and $9,000 tiers, I don’t see him being optimal.


Matt DiBenedetto 5000 – His average running position last year was 24th, so I’m not completely against it at $5,000. He helps fit in a +$10,000 driver.


Parker Kligerman 4900 – No.


Chris Cook 4800 –  Hard to see this car staying on the lead lap.


Tomy Drissi 4700 – No to the car and the driver.


Gray Gaulding    4600 – No Sonoma Cup experience


Cody Ware 4500 – Rick Ware has two cars? No Sonoma experience.