Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Ally 400
For the second time in the past four points-paying races, it's a brand new track coming up for the NASCAR Cup Series. This time, they're heading to Nashville Superspeedway.
Naturally, whenever, there's a new track, our inclination will be to try to find similar tracks on the schedule. For Circuit of the Americas, that was easy. They were turning right, which really whittled down the list for us.
For Nashville? It's more of a shrug emoji.
If you were attempting to put Nashville into a bucket, here are the characteristics you'd list: 1.33 miles, tri-oval, concrete, flat banking, heavier tire wear, and utilizing the 750-horsepower package. The concrete part is unique because only Dover and Bristol also check that box, but they're both a mile or shorter and high-banked. Darlington has the most similar length, but it's shaped like an egg and has almost twice the banking of Nashville. The flatter tracks using the 750-horsepower package are all asphalt and at least 15% slower than a single-lap speed in Nashville.
In other words, if you want a quick-and-dirty answer, you're not going to get it. That's going to make predictions for this week more complicated.
Thankfully, we do get one little reprieve: because it's a new track, there will be a practice session on Saturday and qualifying on Sunday.
This does complicate our schedule for filling out DFS lineups, which is pertinent for strategy. So let's start things off there and then dive deeper into Nashville to see how we should play things for this week.
Another Short Window
The one downside with having qualifying again is that it puts a big lid on our prep time. That'll be the case again this weekend.
Qualifying for the race will start at 11 am Eastern on Sunday. It should wrap up by noon, and then lock is set for 3:30 pm Eastern. This means we'll have 3.5 hours to fill out lineups with all the necessary knowledge in hand. Yippee.
As mentioned before COTA, this should factor into your decisions about how to play things this week. If you're around and available in that 3.5-hour window, great! You'll be able to fill out good lineups, and the pool you're competing against will be less efficient than usual.
If you're not around in that 3.5-hour window, you'll want to consider just sitting this week out. You can toss in lineups for funsies, but if your true, ultimate goal is to fill out +EV lineups and profit, you won't be able to do so without knowing who starts where. Just ask yourself what your goal is in playing NASCAR DFS and make your decision based on that.
The lone consolation is that the practice data will be available the day before. Practice is at 2 pm Eastern Saturday. Because the track isn't all that long, we should have -- at minimum -- five-lap averages from each driver. If we get 10-lap averages for the most relevant parties, then feel free to expand the sample and lean on that when trying to predict who will be fast.
Gunning for Lap-Leaders
Part of the reason qualifying is so vital this week is that laps led will matter quite a bit.
The Ally 400 is 300 laps long, leaving 30.0 FanDuel points available for lap-leaders. This necessitates having at least two drivers in each lineup who are capable of leading laps, and the odds are high those drivers will start near the front.
Two lap-leaders is the bare minimum. But history at other tracks tells us that we're going to want a third lap-leader in there, as well, likely coming from the mid-range.
Specifically, we're looking at other races of roughly the same length. This year's race in Phoenix was 312 laps long, and the perfect FanDuel lineup included three drivers with salaries between $10,700 and $9,000.
|Perfect Lineup||Salary||Start||Laps Led|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||$10,700||5th||64|
In that one, William Byron made the perfect lineup despite not leading any laps. The same thing happened in the championship race at Phoenix last year when Jimmie Johnson was the third highest-salaried driver in the perfect lineup at $10,500. He led four laps. This is big for the appeal of the mid-range: they can pay off even without leading laps, giving them multiple paths to coming through.
Then we can also get a scenario like last year's spring race in Phoenix when the three-lap-leader lineup was the optimal.
|Perfect Lineup||Salary||Start||Laps Led|
In total, there have been five races between 300 and 320 laps since the start of last year (excluding the second Dover race, which included an inverted starting lineup). Four of those five included three drivers with salaries $10,000 or higher in the perfect lineup. Whether that third driver winds up leading laps or not doesn't seem to matter; we just want them in there.
This does mean we may have to dabble in the lower-end value-play waters at points. That's certainly more daunting in Nashville than Phoenix given the increased speeds. It's still worthwhile, though.
Even though Nashville is faster, there will still be off-throttle time. They're utilizing the 750-horsepower package rather than the 550, so they won't be able to hold it wide open in the corners like they did in Texas last week. The more off-throttle time, the larger the pool of drivers who can realistically get a top-10 finish. It's not as forgiving as Phoenix or Richmond, but it's still better than what we see in the 550 package, at least.
The value plays are where we can take the place-differential route, and it should be there despite the presence of qualifying. In the Coca-Cola 600 -- a race where the correlation between starting order and finishing position was 0.665 -- the two value plays in the perfect lineup started 18th and 27th. The higher-horsepower package may also increase the chaos a bit, giving more wiggle room for drivers to make up ground during the race. Don't force it with drivers you don't expect to be fast, but we should at least have some place-differential outlets after qualifying.
Overall, there are a bunch of unknowns entering the week. We don't have a great idea of which drivers will compete, and we don't know some of the key intricacies of the track. But what we do know is that the roster construction laid out above is likely the optimal approach.
Even with Nashville being unique, a 300-lap race is not. Past similar races have been conducive to the three-stud or two-studs-and-a-mid-range approach, and it's the one we should take this weekend. Although we'll still have to make sure we pick the right drivers, this line of attack should position us well to take advantage if we properly analyze which drivers will have speed on Sunday.