NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Instacart 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!
numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes has you covered with his current form and odds breakdown as well as his track preview to spotlight this week's venue. For driver picks and a full preview of the event, Jim also discussed the Daytona 500 on the latest NASCAR episode of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
Kyle Larson's life fell apart after a devastating mistake nearly one year ago, but now with his new team at Hendrick Motorsports, he cashed in on the start of a new era at HMS, as Larson made for back-to-back wins for the team by taking the checkered flag last week in Las Vegas, clinching his spot into the 2021 playoffs. This week, NASCAR's best stay west, as the Cup Series heads to ISM Raceway in Phoenix this weekend. Host of the 2021 season finale, this flat, one-mile track is its own unique dogleg challenge, and the 312 laps on the docket this weekend mark the first short track event of the year.
The starting lineup for this event was set through NASCAR's weighted formula, which includes last race's finish, the fastest lap in that race, and current points position. That formula puts Brad Keselowski on the pole for Sunday's race, and Larson will start alongside him. Pit stalls were selected in the same order as the starting lineup.
With that, let's preview the Instacart 500 in Phoenix on FanDuel.
Chase Elliott ($13,500): The top of the salary pool is loaded for a second consecutive week, but it is difficult to pass on Elliott as a first choice. No one led more laps than Elliott (246) at ISM Raceway last season, and he collected a seventh-place finish in the March race and a win in the finale, which clinched him his first career championship. Elliott also posted two top-five finishes at Martinsville last season, which joins Phoenix, New Hampshire, Loudon, and Richmond as the five flat, short ovals on NASCAR's schedule. The under-the-radar case for Elliott is also the strength of Hendrick Motorsports to start the year, as they've led the most laps as an organization in four straight races. Elliott starts sixth.
Brad Keselowski ($12,500): Keselowski starts out front in this race, where laps led will be crucial to DFS success, and that is an exciting proposition considering he led 82 laps from 14th starting spot one year ago. Keselowski also performed admirably on short, flat ovals last season, with wins at Loudon and Richmond and a combined 376 laps led between those two events. He was also runner-up to Elliott in the season finale in 2020, as well, after winning Stage 2, so he was among the best challengers in the last race on this exact configuration.
Ryan Blaney ($10,500): The top of the salary pool is about searching for lap leaders, and the need to stuff two or three of those in a lineup may leave this tier feeling ignored. Blaney is not entirely out of the realm of possibility of leading laps, as he led 94 laps here in March 2019 not long ago. However, Blaney is the picture of consistency at this track, assuming no bizarre luck, as he has finished sixth or better in three of the last four Phoenix races -- and the one exception was an early crash. Teammates Keselowski and Joey Logano have been two of the most dominant drivers on this configuration, and they led 283 Phoenix laps last season. Blaney makes for lower-salary access to the same equipment and is starting 8th.
Aric Almirola ($8,000): Several drivers have struggled to start 2021, but none more so than Aric Almirola. Almirola was a playoff driver in 2020 but has finished outside the top-30 spots in three of the four races this year. That poor start leaves him starting 32nd Sunday and offering plenty of place-differential upside once again. At the risk of become Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, Almirola profiles as an excellent DFS option in Phoenix. Almirola is actually tied for third in top-10 finishes at this track type since the start of 2018 (with four), so he has had success on this flat configuration before. He's capable of of a good finish, which would make him a big scorer given his starting spot.
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700): DiBenedetto was in Almirola's shoes last week, but Matty D turned it around by finishing on the lead lap and coming home in 16th. That still leaves him as an affordable path to place-differential points this week from a 20th starting spot, and his Phoenix record is actually stronger than his history in Las Vegas. DiBenedetto has three straight top-15 finishes at Phoenix between Wood Brothers Racing and his old team. It's also worth noting that DiBenedetto is an alliance car to Penske Racing, a team which has a strong track record here.
Bubba Wallace ($6,500): When Bubba Wallace jumped the shark to the new Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin-owned Toyota team, many expected huge things. With a best finish of 17th so far, this Joe Gibbs Racing satellite team is certainly looking for more, although last week in Las Vegas, it was due to a mechanical failure. Phoenix is a great opportunity for Wallace to post his first top-15 finish of the season. With far inferior equipment, Bubba posted two top-20 finishes in 2020 at Phoenix, and Wallace also had an 11th at Martinsville last season on that flat configuration. Each of the last three optimal FanDuel lineups for NASCAR races at Phoenix have included a driver with a salary of $7,000 or less. Starting 25th, Wallace is my pick to be that guy in this race, and he's in great equipment to turn around his team.
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.