Fantasy NASCAR Picks: Fantasy NASCAR Picks – FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan

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Now back to the great analysis from Pearce!

Universal Hogs – At intermediate tracks, these are the only drivers that matter

Kevin Harvick – His pit crew is slow. Busch’s team is a second faster every stop. Harvick needs Busch to come down pit road at least two spots behind him. If Harvick pits first and Busch pits second, it’s over. Busch to the lead.

If Harvick has the #1 pit stall, maybe he stays in the lead. Even when the pit crew doesn’t make a mistake, they’re still slow. Busch has never been that great at Michigan, so Harvick might not have to worry about losing the lead on pit road.

Truex’s team is terrible as well – the Fox broadcast mentions every week that the #78 team lost several pit crew members this year. These are first world problems. Just plug Harvick into your lineups.

 

Kyle Busch – He has run double duty at Michigan for 8 years. It has not helped. There is some bad luck involved, but with the amount of laps in great cars, his results do not add up. He should at least have a handful of Xfinity wins, but he doesn’t.

Maybe this track is too much of a lap turner. It’s too much fla-tout running. However, there is something here. Busch’s last win at Michigan was in 2011. That was the last race before the repave. Since then, Busch has 3 top 10s in the last 12 races. The positive is that two of those top 10 finishes came last year.

In the spring race, he led 40 laps. It appears that the track is starting to age. After Kansas was repaved, Busch struggled for several years before winning in 2016. Now for the bad news. Just when Busch is figuring this track out, NASCAR is likely going to implement the All-Star package for the second Michigan race. It’s back to square one.

Anticipating this move, Busch added this week’s Michigan race to his Xfinity schedule. He doesn’t want to run this package, but now, he knows that he can benefit from the experience and prepare himself for the Cup race in August.

 

Martin Truex, Jr. – His car was fast last week, but it needed clean air. Two things happened at Pocono. Kyle Busch beat Harvick off of pit road on lap 126. Truex passed Harvick to get to second. On lap 140, Truex stays out under caution. He took the lead and never relinquished it. Clean air is powerful at Pocono. Passing going into turn 1 is impossible.

However, I would pump the brakes on the “Truex is back” story. It’s great for media narratives, but dangerous if you’ve got money on the line. Truex at any other track, gets passed in that situation. Michigan is a one groove track, but you can get passed at the end on a restart.

Truex knows that all too well because Larson beat him on a late race restart at Michigan last fall. At Kansas a month ago, Truex stayed out and Harvick quickly ran him down for the win.

 

Kyle Larson – You could argue that Larson does not belong. That’s a strong argument at 1.5 mile tracks, but at the 2 mile ovals (Fontana and Michigan), Larson is elite. He had a very fast race car last week, but he did not score a single hog point. Some DFS players will point to Keselowski and the other non-elite drivers. Even they earned hog points. That’s circumstantial.

Larson had the speed. At the end of the race, he was there with Team Elite. The scrapers scored hog points via pit sequence. Larson never deviated from Team Elite because he didn’t have to. He was fast enough to hang with them. He never got to run in clean air, so he didn’t score any hog points. Larson is closer to the Harvick at Michigan, it’s possible that he wins in the end, but its not an optimal point per dollar play.

That almost happened last week, and it has really good chance of happening this weekend. Larson has won the last three Michigan races, but they were late race shootouts. Only in last spring’s race was he a hog.

 

The Field

Since the beginning of time, there have been late race cautions at Michigan. Cuations lead to more cautions, and the ending gets weird. This phenomenon played out last week at Pocono. If you get 30 cars on the lead lap, it’s bad news. Below average cars will have good finishes and average cars will have great finishes.

Look at the past results. Compare average running position to finishing position. Some DFS players will go from broke to green and others will go from green to broke. Do yourself a favor and don’t look at the DK scoreboard.

Obviously, drivers take risks at the end on restarts. That’s not unique. What makes Michigan unique is that one groove gets going on restarts and one does not. The outside line will shoot by on restarts, and the bottom line stacks up. The third place car and fifth place car can easily slide outside of the top 10 before they hit turn 3. It gets worse. After losing 5 spots on the restart, there is another caution. We do it again, and you lose 5 more spots!

How do you prepare for this? You cover your bases with value and mid range picks. This is what happened last week at Pocono. The mid range and value drivers that were hitting value with 40 laps left completely flipped by the time the race ended.

Kenseth and Stenhouse were dead, but the yellow flag resuscitated their races. Byron and Allmendinger were cruising, but the yellow flag struck like a Mario Kart lightning bolt. That’s Michigan – someone gets a damn lightning bolt at the end while other miniature drivers crawl to the finish in futility.

 

Brad Keselowski – Want to know how important clean air is at Michigan? Keselowski started on the pole and led 103 of the first 113 laps (10 laps of pit cycling). The pole position has done pretty well at Michigan.


Joey Logano – He is too expensive for just finishing position points. If he can earn 7 place differential points, then maybe. I’d hate to pay for finishing position when a $6,000 driver flukes his way into the top 10 on the last restart.


Clint Bowyer – Similar to Logano.


Denny Hamlin – Hamlin, Bowyer, Logano, and Keselowski are running around the same spot weekly. None of these drivers lead laps. Hamlin is the easiest to squeeze in, but when he doesn’t screw up on pit road, he wrecks at the end (Pocono).


Chase Elliott – Michigan has been one of his better tracks, but the car just isn’t ready yet. That being said, he doesn’t need a great car to run around 10th and get lucky on the last restart. Even if this race doesn’t follow the trend. There will be a restart at some point, and the green flag run to finish that follows likely won’t deviate significantly from that result. It’s hard to pass once the laps getting turning.


Ryan Blaney – This feels like a track where Blaney should run well. He likes the flat out throttle tracks. His finishes do not look good, but his average running positions in the last four races at Michigan are better than solid: 12th, 10th, 6th, 14th.

 

Jimmie Johnson –  I should look it up, but it doesn’t matter that much. This is Johnson’s lowest salary ever at DraftKings* (I didn’t look it up). Ever since I started disparaging him about being a wannabe Lance Armstrong, he started racing well, cars that is. He’s a perennial poor qualifier, and at this price, I expect Jimmie to be a very popular play.


Erik Jones – With finishing position being a big factor in this lap turner, the $8,000 range will be popular. Most players will likely gravitate towards the drivers starting closest to the back. That’s what happened last week with Jones and Almirola. Jones has a 5th to 10th place car, but he needs to be mistake free.


Aric Almirola – Don’t let last week go to your head. The only time Almirola works is when he can earn double digit place differential points. This is a 10th to 15th place car.


Kurt Busch – He is in the tier with Hamlin, Bowyer, Logano, and Keselowski. His salary is wrong. He will be very popular this week. He’ll have to start inside the top 5 to make you sweat, but if Kurt starts inside the top 5, he could score hog points.


Alex Bowman – Earnhardt, Jr. always had a good setup at Michigan. Bowman subbed for Earnhardt at Michigan in 2016. He started 6th and was fast in practice, but he finished 5 laps down with an electrical problem.


Ryan Newman – Perfect example of Michigan. The first number is his finishing position and the number in parenthesis is his average running position: 4 (18)…15 (20)…17 (13)…11 (8)…8 (18)…18 (13). The good news for Newman is that he is always inside the top 20. The bad news for DFS players is that we really do not know where these drivers will finish. Running in 8th and finishing in 11th doesn’t seem like a huge swing, but that could be thousands of dollars. Not only does Newman lose place differential and finishing position points, but some other driver gained those points. DFS NASCAR is a zero sum game.


Jamie McMurray – He’s doing better, but he needs to qualify in the 20s to be in play.


Austin Dillon – Michigan is a max aero-downforce race. Watch the final practice closely with the DVR pause button in hand. Do not watch while you’re eating Cheetos and on your phone. Actually watch practice. Look for caved-in windshields on the Chevys.


Daniel Suarez – Last fall I was very high on Suarez. I loved him, and Kahne wrecked him on lap 140. Nothing has really changed. Any week I recommend him or play him, something goes wrong. He’s cooled off after getting busted cheating at Dover (not counting the all-star race).


Matt Kenseth – His average running position was 26th last week, but he finished 13th. He finished 5 spots better than where he raced at Charlotte, too. That’s what we are looking for at Michigan. Kenseth is one of the $6,000 to $7,000 drivers that you spread around a couple lineups and you hope one hits.


Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – He’s on the same plan as Kenseth. Hang around and hope to get a top 15 at the end. It’s not a huge stretch. Here are all of Stenhouse’s average running positions this season: 14    14    18    22    20    36    12    11    17    15    11    17    14    24.


Paul Menard – His average running position was 18th last week. I expect a similar performance.

 

Kasey Kahne – Not interested.


A.J. Allmendinger – It looked like he had a safe top 20 in the bag last week, but a series of cautions reset the field and put everyone on the lead lap. Last year at Michigan, he ran 24th and 25th, but he finished 20th and 18th. If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable about this week, then good. That’s that way it should be. That’s the way it was last week. Just pretend it’s Daytona with your $6,000 to $7,000 picks. It’s easier to swallow playing drivers that you do not love, but do not fall in love either. They’ll break your heart.


William Byron – I like Byron a lot, and I am going to try my best to limit my ownership. I want even exposure to $6,000 bingo balls.

 

Punts –  I wasn’t crazy on the punts last week because I knew some of these jokers in the $6,000 to $7,000 range would undeservingly finish close to the top 10. I am of the same belief this week. If a decent punt is starting around 35th, then I might change my approach. That will be chalky, and I’d rather go underweight on chalky punts. They can fail so easily.

 

The Xfinity series is using the plate package this weekend. It will work. There will be tandem drafting. It will be nuts. After practice, we’ll have a good idea of what to expect. I expect madness. We’ll figure it out in the slack chat.