NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Season Finale 500
If you are looking for an action-packed way to get your sports fix, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America. NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, of course!
Here at numberFire, we've always got you covered for everything NASCAR DFS. We have a Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast, where Jim Sannes breaks down his favorite plays for Sunday's slate. Jim also has a current form and odds breakdown to review how NASCAR's best drivers are performing recently analytically.
This race's lineup was determined using NASCAR's new qualifying procedure that combines owner points, Sunday's finish in Martinsville, and the fastest lap of each driver in that race, which puts Chase Elliott on the pole for this Sunday's event. The four championship-eligible drivers will start in the first four spots. That formula also gives Elliott the premier pit stall choice.
This 312-lap race concludes the NASCAR season on a flat, one-mile oval in Phoenix, AZ. All eyes will be on the drivers competing for the championship, which are Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Denny Hamlin. With the most on the line, the four playoff drivers have dominated historically, although those events were in Miami on a different configuration. Last year, playoff drivers led 266 of 267 laps in Miami, and the year prior, they led 179 of 267 laps and finished in each of the top four positions. That makes the four drivers this weekend--all with positive track histories at Phoenix--a focal point of high-salaried options.
With that, let's preview the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix.
Brad Keselowski ($13,500): All four championship drivers are worth a spotlight according to recent history, but even without the stakes attached to this race, these four join Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick as the best options to win on Sunday. Keselowski is the highest-salaried driver in the pool for good reason, as he arguably had the best car at Phoenix in March, when he led 82 laps and won the second stage before finishing 11th due to strategy. That was actually Keselowski's worst finish on a flat track shorter than a mile this year, and Keselowski added dominant wins at Richmond (192 laps led) and Loudon (184 laps led) at other short, flat tracks. Keselowski is my personal pick to dominate and win this race, and his popularity may be reduced given his finish in March, his recent form on larger tracks, and his salary.
Joey Logano ($13,300): Logano was the March winner in Phoenix, leading the final 62 laps in the final race before NASCAR's COVID-19 break. Logano rate well via Jim Sannes' NASCAR model, and he has top-10 finishes on every short, flat track this season -- lead in all but one of them. Logano has the worst odds to win (+850) this race -- per FanDuel Sportsbook -- of any of the four playoff drivers, but a win may not be required for him to grab a second straight championship. Still, leading just 19 laps at Martinsville and 45 at Richmond indicate he is a distant third in terms of potentially dominating this race with laps led on this type of track, which makes Keselowski the preferred option at nearly the same salary.
Denny Hamlin ($13,000): Harvick was bounced from this weekend's title race despite nine wins, which crowns Hamlin as the most dominant season-long driver of the championship four. His seven wins and 1,083 laps led are both second to only Harvick on the year, and Hamlin is no stranger to fantastic performances in Phoenix to close out a title run. Last year, when Phoenix was the penultimate race of the season, Hamlin punched his ticket to Miami by leading 143 laps in a dominant win. However, if there is a downside for Hamlin, his form on these tracks is by far the worst of the title contenders, with only one top-10 finish on a short, flat oval this year (second at Loudon). With a different aero package this year than last season's, Hamlin appears a distant fourth among the championship four in terms of recent form on this configuration.
Chase Elliott ($12,500): It seems like a distant memory when Elliott went seven straight races without a top-five finish this summer, but he has rebounded, playing spoiler with his win last weekend in Martinsville by eliminating Harvick. His four wins are tied for third of any driver entering this weekend. He likely has a huge boost of confidence after leading a race-high 236 laps last weekend on a flat oval in Martinsville, and Elliott led a race-best 93 laps in March right here at Phoenix. Elliott is the most salary-efficient option of the championship contenders. He starts out front on pole and has the best pit stall. When ranking these four, I've got Elliott trailing only Keselowski, and he's capable of getting his first career title.
William Byron ($10,200): The maximum number of title contenders in a FanDuel lineup is three, and with all of them starting up front, there likely is not enough upside it terms of laps led to make three the optimal number you want to have. That means there is value in both finish and place differential throughout the rest of the field. Byron may be the best combination of both. He will start 25th due to his wreck in Martinsville but has run well at Phoenix historically. His 14.4 average finish at Phoenix is the 11th best among active drivers, and he has a driver rating above 80.0 in four of five races here. Byron has three top-10 finishes in five races on short, flat ovals this year, and he was running for his fourth before a crash last weekend. He is a high-floor option with upside, although he'll likely be popular.
Cole Custer ($8,500): Custer's rookie campaign will undoubtedly go down as a success, as he will officially be crowned Rookie of the Year on Sunday by virtue of being the only rookie to make the playoffs. His win at Kentucky was the highlight of his season, but his best configuration of race track may have been one-mile ovals, where he finished no worse than 11th in four tries so far on that style of track. His floor is certainly lower due to starting 15th, but the championship drivers could be so quick on Sunday that he benefits from other cars getting lapped early. Starting further toward the front, Custer likely does not face that danger.
Tyler Reddick ($7,600): The last time the circuit was at Phoenix, Reddick finished in the top-ten in both stages. Reddick ended up crashing in that event, and that has summarized his up-and-down rookie campaign -- which includes nine top-10 finishes but 11 finishes outside the top 20. That makes him a volatile option in DFS, but there is power in harnessing that in tournaments. Reddick's strong speed in March combined with two third-place finishes at Phoenix in Xfinity races in 2019 tells us he does have speed and comfort on this track, though he needs to make it to the end of the event -- from 21st on the starting grid -- to make use of it.
Chris Buescher ($6,700): Buescher falls in the same category of Reddick as a highly volatile option. In the last 10 races, Buescher has three top-10 finishes, but he's been outside the top 20 in each of the other seven races. The issue for Buescher's Ford has not been speed but rather avoiding trouble, as he has finished multiple laps down due to accident or mechanical failure in five of those 10 starts. Phoenix is a place that has suited him well historically. He brings four straight top-20 finishes at ISM Raceway into this event, and with a starting spot of 32nd, he offers plenty of upside.
Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.