Daily Fantasy NASCAR – Fontana Cup & Xfinity
Fontana is Daytona Lite. This is a long and wide two mile intermediate track. Fast cars will finish near the front, and the typical superstars will be contenders for fast laps and laps led. DFS players need to approach this track just like any other intermediate track, but a sprinkle of plate racing theory should go into your lineups, as well.
Fontana always ends with a caution. The cause of this phenomenon is up for debate. Brad Keselowski claims that this tracks is the messiest and is known for the debris that gathers on the track. That’s interesting because NASCAR threw a highly questionable caution flag for a debris caution just before Kurt Busch could win the 2015 race. This was just weeks removed from Busch’s suspension for an allegation that he assaulted his girlfriend (the one that he claimed was a trained CIA assassin, can’t make this stuff up).
NASCAR claims the debris caution was a legitimate safety concern, but for some reason when Greg Biffle wrecked at the end of the same race, NASCAR did not throw a caution. Ignoring the Biffle wreck, allowed Brad Keselowski to take the lead from Busch. That’s right, the guy that benefited from the debris caution says debris cautions are very common at this track. Cover your tracks.
A more sound theory that explains the cautions at the end is that this is a worn out race track. Drivers run tires that do not follow Goodyear’s recommended PSI. Add in extra camber and the tires blow. Late in the race, drivers are likely pushing older tires. They may have skipped a pit stop to earn a wave around. On a late race restart they push their tires too hard or they simply run into the cars around them when the field fans out five wide going into turn 1. Cautions breed cautions as the old silver haired Kentuckian in the booth says. That means more wave arounds and more old tires.
We may not be able to pinpoint the cause, but the trend of shootout finishes at Fontana is clear. This is important. A late race restart won’t affect the hogs. They’ve already earned enough fast lap and laps lep points. A top tier driver could lose spots on the last restart (Chase Elliott electing to get 4 tires on the last pit stop in 2017), but the majority of top notch cars will earn a solid finish.
One or two drivers slide out of the top 10, this opens the door for average cars to slide into the top 10, simply by executing on the final restart. One or two cars will slide out of 10th to 15th position and a 25th place car might close out the west coast swing with an undeserved top 15 finish.
You need hogs in your lineup (please do not say “dominator.” Who dominated the Phoenix race? No one that’s who. Harvick, Busch, Elliott, and Hamlin accumulated meaningless statistics. At no point was the race in the bag for any driver. Harvick dominated at Atlanta, but you cannot use a term that only applies half of the time. Stop being lazy. Also, dominator isn’t even a word. The closest thing it has ever come to being a part of the American lexicon was when it was large rectangular pizza created by Domino’s in the 1990s. Stop making me explain this! Don’t get me started on hammer. Come up with your own slang, just stop saying dominator. You sound stupid.) …again, you need hogs (you don’t have to use hog, it’s not a profound description of a driver that tallies meaningless stats, but it’s a real word).
Needing the hogs is a no brainer. From there you have two routes, both of which are at the mercy of a late race caution. You can play drivers that you believe have good cars, and will have have good races, and will finish where they deserve to finish. Option #2: You can go the other route and play drivers that do not have great cars, that run in the 20s all days, but they grab a bunch of spots on the last restart.
If you look through the past Fontana results, you’ll see a mixture of both. The 2016 optimal lineup included A.J. Allmendinger, he started up front and finished up front. It also included Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.. Who ran around 12th all day, not bad, but he finished 4th. Landon Cassill was in there, too. He ran 25th throughout the race, but finished 16th. In 2017, Daniel Suarez raced 17th all day, but on the last restart he was the second car with four fresh tires. He started around 20th on that last restart, but finished 7th.
My advice is don’t overthink it. Go with your gut. If you want to pick fast cars, then pick fast cars. If you want to pick flukey late restart drivers, then pick them. Outside of your hogs and the inevitable poorly qualifying superstar, you’ll have three picks to burn on drivers priced under $8,000. In a GPP where you are trying to build a unique lineup, it makes sense to differentiate with flukey place differential plays.
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Now back to the great analysis from Pearce!
Cup Hogs – This a short list created before qualifying. I will likely expand the list, but these drivers will get a hard look all the way up until 3pm Sunday.
- Kevin Harvick – I’m not wasting my time explaining this.
- Kyle Larson – High groove race track, the high groove racer, scored the most points at Fontana last year, won the last four two-mile races (2016-2017), need I say more?
- Martin Truex, Jr. – I thought fading him last week was obvious, but to my surprise, he was in the most played cash lineup. I would like to stay ahead of the curve, but I’m leaning towards playing him at Fontana. It’s obvious that DFS players are still afraid to fade Truex, but last week’s fade was track specific. The car was too good at intermediate tracks last year to write him off after Atlanta (Harvick’s playground), Las Vegas (Harvick cheated), and Phoenix (an average short track for Truex over his career).
- Kyle Busch – At Las Vegas, it was a toss up between Larson and Busch. I went Larson; I was wrong. At Phoenix, it was a toss up between Hamlin and Busch. I went Hamlin; I was wrong. I regret the Vegas decision, but not the Phoenix choice. All of the available information, including Kyle Busch himself, said fade Kyle Busch at Phoenix. You can check out my FanVice fantasy NASCAR podcast for a thorough breakdown of the decision to fade Kyle Busch at Phoenix. The #18 car is arguably just as fast, if not faster than Kevin Harvick. He’s burned me twice, so I have to play him now.
Quick Cup Driver Thoughts
- Brad Keselowski – Top 5 driver, could lead laps if he starts on the pole.
- Chase Elliott – Losing the Car Chief at an aero-dependent track with a new car nose, that hurts.
- Joey Logano – He’ll bounce back with a top 10.
- Denny Hamlin – Unclear at intermediate tracks; he used strategy at Atlanta, big penalty at Las Vegas.
- Jimmie Johnson – Have you jumped off the sinking ship yet? He can earn a top 10 through strategy, but I would rather take a $7000 range driver that is relying on strategy.
- Ryan Blaney – Fade him, overlook him, that’s probably happening.
- Kurt Busch – We’re going to have too much SHR Fords this week.
- Aric Almirola – We’re going to have too much SHR Fords this week.
- Erik Jones – Running well this year and ran well at Fontana last year, but the last restart didn’t go his way.
- Clint Bowyer – Probably chalk, no matter where he starts. Say it with me… We’re going to have too much SHR Fords this week. (the contrarian starts by fading the non-Harvick SHR Fords this week)
- Ryan Newman – On his website, he has his own micro social network where Newman fans can register and communicate with each other. It’s truly micro because there are only about five people posting. I get it. I have written blurbs about Ryan Newman for years, and there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to say. Every once in awhile, I write, Newman likes to play the strategy game and ______ is a strategy race…. Newman likes to play the strategy game and Fontana is a strategy race.
- Alex Bowman – He finished 13th last week with faulty brakes and most of his electrical equipment out.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – In two of the last four Fontana races, Stenhouse earned 13 and 12 place differential points. In the other two races, he earned -6 and -12 place differential points.
- Austin Dillon – This is a fair price for a 15th place driver. He doesn’t usually kill your lineup either, and he has one of the fastest pit crews in NASCAR. They’re always bailing him out.
- Jamie McMurray – At this price, you can consider playing him even if he starts inside the top 10. You might want to draw the line at 8th.
- Daniel Suarez – No pit road issues last week, and he finished 8th. He’s cheap and flying under the radar.
- Paul Menard – Too cheap for the Wood Brothers Ford. Maybe, if he’s really slow in practice his ownership will drop, but that’s not likely to happen.
- William Byron – This is a GPP roller coaster ride every week. As I’ve said before, this is a fast car with an inconsistent rookie driver. I would not be surprised to see him blow a tire this week.
- Darrell Wallace, Jr. – He could hang around and sneak out with a good finish.
- Ty Dillon – Same old Ty story, but his team seems to have taken a step backward this year. Too much Vlogging?
- Kasey Kahne – This is the #95 McDowell car. The finishes are exactly the same.
- A.J. Allmendinger – He seems to like this track, he has 9 top 20 finishes in 13 Fontana races.
- Trevor Bayne – His average running position was 14th at Fontana last year. This car has enough speed to run inside the top 20 and grab some spots on the last restart.
- Chris Buescher – In the last intermediate track race, he finished 15th and everyone played him. He’s still cheap, so he’ll be popular this weekend. Buescher’s best average running position in three Fontana races is 26th. I am fine with fading him because of all of the solid options within $500 of his salary.
- Michael McDowell – The mechanical issues that this team is facing weekly are enough to scare me away, and there are plenty of options in this price range. If he qualifies poorly, we’ll redress the issue.
- David Ragan – Phoenix was his third consecutive top 25 finish, and Phoenix isn’t a good track for Ragan. Qualifying will determine his playability.
- Cole Whitt – This car has 2 DNFs in four races due to engine failures, but those were with Corey Lajoie driving. Whitt finished 28th in both of his intermediate track races.
- Matt DiBenedetto – He should have been an off-the-charts popular punt last week. I liked him more than McDowell, but some super famous DFS NASCAR touts pushed McDowell hard. Thanks guys.
- Ross Chastain – Outraced Bubba Wallace and Ty Dillon last week. Enough said.
- Timmy Hill – If he starts DFL and the the world wrecks, then maybe it works.
- Reed Sorenson – The #55 car finished 32nd at Las Vegas… ahead of cars that wrecked out or had mechanical failures. Basically, the #55 was the worst running car.
- Jeffrey Earnhardt – Nope.
- Gray Gaulding – I don’t know what got into him last week, he actually tried. No way in hell I roster Gray Gaulding until we know for sure that he wants to run a race and the car can run a race.
- Joey Logano – Lock-gano.
- Elliott Sadler – Give him a 4th place finish; a 3.8 fppk is not in the optimal lineup.
- Austin Dillon – The #3 Xfinity car has been junk this year, but they can turn it around when the field is this weak.
- Justin Allgaier – He might be the second best car in the field, but the new Chevy LZ1 body could be slow at this aero-dependent race track.
- Cole Custer – Early wreck at Atlanta while inside the top 5, top 5 all day at Las Vegas, ran well at Phoenix for starting in the back.
- Christopher Bell – The fastest Xfinity driver, but lacks the experience of the veterans (Allgaier and Sadler).
- Matt Tifft – He’s improving each week, but $9,500 is egregious.
- Tyler Reddick – His price has finally caught up with him.
- Daniel Hemric – He’s been good since his days in Brad Keselowski’s Truck.
- Ryan Reed – He could be a top 10 driver, but the Roush equipment is behind JGR, JRM, and probably RCR.
- John Hunter Nemechek – He was in the #42 Chip Ganassi car at Atlanta and finished 10th.
- Ryan Preece – The #18 JGR car isn’t worth the price when a Cup driver takes it over, but Preece is a different story, he scored 115 points in #18 car at Iowa last year.
- Brandon Jones – This is about the price where I sell, but $8,400 isn’t bad for an experienced driver in JGR equipment.
- Ryan Truex – He’s a spoiled Tween; too much money for a 10th place finish on a good day and a 17th on a bad day.
- Ross Chastain – Don’t talk fantasy trash or Ross the Boss will roast you on social media; he’s an expensive 17th place finish.
- Michael Annett – A slightly cheaper version of Chastain with a JRM ride.
- Ryan Sieg – The Austin Dillon of the Xfinity series, but in 20th place.
- Austin Cindric – In the undesirable #60 Roush car, he’s a 15th place driver, but at his price that’s not terrible.
- Kaz Grala – He’s improving each week under veteran crew chief Shane Wilson.
- Spencer Gallagher – He’s finished 16th, 15th, and 14th, but he starts in that spot or closer to the front; can’t play him.
- J.J. Yeley – It’s an intermediate track, I could see him going back to an S&P.
- Garrett Smithley – He ran a total of 6 laps in practice last week, and went out and earned his customary 25th-30th place finish.
- Jeremy Clements – A consistent 21st place driver, but he can’t return value at that price.
- Dylan Lupton – His price is correct, the JGL Fords will run between 22nd and 15th this season.
- Alex Labbe – A small team driver rarely wins rookie of the year, but if Labbé continues to return 20th place finishes, he deserves consideration.
- David Starr – Engine failure at Vegas, tried to fix it and it blew up early at Phoenix, stay away.
- Vinnie Miller – The price has always been wrong, only play him if he’s starting 35th or worse.
- Joey Gase – This is the week two through four Dylan Lupton, but we need him to qualify 25th or worse.
- Stephen Leicht – Price doesn’t make sense.
- B.J. McLeod – Last 3 races, 29th, 25th, and 26th; most experienced and fastest punt.
- Josh Williams – Labbé’s teammate has speed (decent qualifying last week), but we need him to qualify 30th or worse.
- Timmy Hill – He was in the winning GPP lineup last week with a 34th place finish, excuse me while I vomit.
- Tommy Joe Martins – He suffered the same fantasy fate as Josh Williams last week, he qualified where his ceiling was.
- Chad Finchum – This Carl Long ride has broken down in both of the west coast races so far.
- Spencer Boyd – He’s trying to finish, but a lot can wrong in a 300 mile Xfinity race.
- Josh Bilicki – He’s still priced under $5,000, so the “Bilicki Glitch” is still in play; default punt.
- Matt Mills – His wreck last week had to do with a brake caliper issue, he’s puntable starting near last place.
- Morgan Shepherd – S&P
- Mike Harmon – He’s dirt cheap and he tries to finish the race; that’s the minimum requirement for an Xfinity punt.
- Jeff Green – RSS S&P