Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Coca-Cola 600

Get you a race that can do both.

We're letting loose in the summer of 2021. We've gotta make up for lost time, meaning we don't have time to make sacrifices. Now is not the time for prioritization; it's the time for glut.

Luckily, the Coca-Cola 600 is here to quench that thirst. With a 400-lap race at a track where passing is very possible, we get to gun for lap-leaders and place-differential in the same lineups. We can even get both from the same driver if the stars align.

We need to take advantage of this blessing. Let's dig into past renditions of NASCAR's longest race and see what trends emerge before applying them to filling out lineups for Sunday on FanDuel.

There Will Be Points

One thing you can say for sure about Sunday's race: it's going to be high-scoring for DFS.

There are 40.0 FanDuel points available for laps led, which is almost 70 more than any other race at a 1.5-mile track for the season. As you know from playing DFS for races on short tracks, this means we need to prioritize multiple lap-leaders in each lineup.

But this is also such a long race that starting further back does not bar a driver from leading laps. We can see this by looking at what's happened here the past few years.

Last year's Coca-Cola 600 was the only one after the COVID-19 layoff to hold qualifying sessions. This meant -- in theory -- that the fastest cars were starting at the front. Despite that, Alex Bowman led 164 laps after starting 12th. Martin Truex Jr. was the only other guy to lead more than 55 laps, and he started eighth. They worked their way forward and still had enough race left to rack up a difference-making number of laps out front.

The same thing happened in 2019. There, Truex led 116 laps from 14th, and Brad Keselowski led 76 from 21st. You didn't have to start up front to lead laps, and those races were both run using the same rules package that'll be in place Sunday evening.

For this reason, we have to re-tool the way we think about lap-leaders. Usually, we'll talk about them through the lens of starting position. Here, we just need guys with the upside and speed to lead laps, regardless of where they're starting.

Are those drivers likely to start near the front? Yes. Again, in theory, that should naturally happen due to the presence of qualifying. But if a driver you think will dominate the race qualifies 12th, don't sweat it; they're still fully viable as a lap-leader.

One thing to consider if that does happen, though, is the "waves" approach we've discussed for short tracks. That would mean getting one driver up front (a wave one driver) to lead laps while your other driver picks their way through traffic to lead later (wave two). Kurt Busch led 54 laps from the pole last year, and Kyle Busch led 79 from third in 2019. There are still inherent advantages to starting up front. We just don't have to weigh starting position as much as we do in other long races.

The other implication of a longer race is that the value of mid-range drivers with upside increases. Speed matters here, making it tough to justify punting, which complicates a three-stud approach. However, if you find someone in the $9,000 or low $10,000 range who could run out front, it may allow you to jam in three lap-leaders without forcing yourself to punt. The optimal lineup construction for this week is two studs, a mid-range play with upside, and then whatever value you can scrap together.

For the value plays, we should get at least some place-differential options despite there being qualifying. Three drivers made last year's perfect FanDuel lineup after starting 26th or lower. Two made it after starting 22nd or lower back in 2019, as well. You'll want to look at practice times and each driver's form at 1.5-mile tracks to make sure they have speed, but with how long the race is, the drivers who do have giddy-up will have no problem working their way forward before the checkered flag.

Long story short, we've got freedom this week. We can target studs with speed no matter where they're starting. As long as you think they can lead laps, they're a good play. Starting up front is not a prerequisite of leading laps.

So, we should still care about qualifying on Saturday and who starts up front, but our strategy discussion doesn't have to revolve entirely around the starting lineup. We can put our evaluator hats on, decide who will be in contention by the final stage, and plug in those drivers with confidence.