Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Pocono Organics CBD 325 and Explore the Pocono Mountains 350
What was once a novelty is now a known entity. We've got a double-header this week in Pocono, and we know exactly how to handle it.
The NASCAR Cup Series will run two races in Pocono, starting on Saturday with the Pocono Organics CBD 325. Then, they'll reset and run it back on Sunday with the Explore the Pocono Mountains 350. Although the method for setting the starting order is different, there will be plenty of overlap in strategy between the two races for NASCAR DFS.
To get a glimpse at that strategy, we can go back to last year when the NASCAR Cup Series ran five separate double-headers, all of which gave us a firm idea of how to handle things for DFS. So let's lean on those races to formulate a strategy for both of this weekend's races, starting with Saturday.
Pocono Organics CBD 325
The key for the first race in the double-header is always the length of the race. For Pocono, specifically, it's a short one at 130 laps. That puts a bullseye on identifying place-differential candidates, assuming they're available to us.
With just 13.0 FanDuel points available for laps led, the upside for drivers at the front is muted relative to longer races. However, place-differential points remain the same. In a vacuum, we want drivers starting further back as their relative upside is increased.
Here, we won't be able to look at last year's Pocono race for a clue. That race used a different method to set the starting order where the top 12 drivers in points all started in the top 12 spots. Three of those drivers made the perfect FanDuel lineup.
This time, the starting order is dictated by a formula that includes where drivers finished last week. With Chase Elliott having been disqualified, he's starting way in the back; that's not an opportunity we had last year.
Overall, four of the top nine drivers in my model's projected average running position are starting 15th or lower. The 12th-ranked driver (Ryan Blaney) is starting 27th. We've got some guys we can reasonably expect to have speed starting deep in the pack, which means our goal for Saturday's race should be to identify those drivers and build around them for cash games and tournaments.
This, though, will also be a good situation to lean on the "assumption game" that we play for shorter races. That's where you pick an assumed winner for tournament lineups and lock them in. The 43 points for a win are huge and likely guarantee that driver a spot in the perfect lineup no matter where they start. This allows you to still use Kyle Larson despite the fact he's on the pole. Then you'd just load up on place-differential after that.
Effectively, the first Pocono race is a format we've grown used to this year. It's similar to a road-course race where we pick an assumed winner and accept place-differential where we can find it. We've had plenty of practice with that type of race this year.
We haven't had much practice with the Sunday race format, but we know the field will play perfectly into our hands.
Explore the Pocono Mountains 350
The starting order for the second race will involve an invert of the finishing order from the first race. The top 20 spots will flip, meaning the driver who wins Saturday will start 20th on Sunday.
We've got baked-in place-differential outlets, and we'll already know they've got the speed to seal the deal. It's a dream situation for DFS.
Sunday's race is just a smidge longer at 140 laps, so the optimal strategy of hunting out place-differential options is back in place. Last year's double-headers proved the efficacy of this strategy.
Again, there were five double-headers across the season last year. Of the 25 drivers in perfect lineups across the five races involving an invert, 21 started the race in the 14th spot or lower. That's a hit rate higher than you see at superspeedways, so it's clear we want to stack the middle and back of the pack on Sunday.
What's interesting is not all of those 21 finished well in the first race. In fact, 11 of the 21 drivers started outside the top 20, meaning they finished 21st or worse in the first race. Every perfect lineup had at least one driver who finished behind the invert, and one of them (Darlington) featured four such drivers.
This makes it key (if you can) to watch the race on Saturday. If a fast car runs into issues there and finishes poorly, they're going to be an elite option for DFS, as evidenced above. We just have to make sure the bad finishers ran there as a result of bad luck or some issues rather than just having a slug of a car. Watching the race should give you key intel on that.
It is worth noting that for every second race except for Darlington at least one driver who started in the top 10 made the perfect lineup. And -- even more interestingly -- it was a driver with a salary of $9,300 or lower each time.
The drivers who finish in the teens on Saturday likely have enough speed to get by but not enough horsepower to climb to the top. If you give those drivers good track position to start, it's possible they'll hold it and finish well enough to pay off.
As a result, we shouldn't cross off drivers who are starting inside the top 10 on Sunday. They can still be good DFS plays. We'll just want to limit exposure to those drivers to strictly tournaments and make sure we're not going overboard on them, overlooking potentially better plays deeper in the pack.
The second race of a double-header is arguably the most process-oriented situation we get for DFS. We know the optimal strategy, the starting order is conducive to that strategy, and we don't have the same level of variance you get at a superspeedway. Pocono's the lone double-header on this year's schedule, so we should make sure we take advantage of the opportunity we've got and lean hard into this approach for Sunday.