NASCAR DFS: Pennzoil 400 Preview

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR DFS: Pennzoil 400 Preview

Fresh off a trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back at a 1.5-mile oval this weekend. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, the first leg of a three-race West Coast swing.

Although Vegas isn’t a carbon copy of Atlanta, it does tend to follow the same trends that we see at other 1.5-mile tracks, with drivers starting up front leading a lot of the laps. Last weekend at AMS, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch all led more than 30 laps, combining to lead 271 of the 325 laps. All three started seventh or better.

Last year at Vegas, Martin Truex Jr. and Keselowski combined to lead 239 of the 267 laps, and they both started on the front row. In fact, the driver who has led the most laps at Las Vegas has started 11th or better in five of the last six seasons.

Starting off with at least one dominator is a given, but the rest of my lineup will depend on how qualifying pans out. If a couple of bigger names end up starting in the back, I’ll be willing to punt my final roster spot to afford both a dominator and grab some exposure to the place differential points.

If there are aren’t any obvious plays starting in the back, I’ll be more likely to go with a balanced approach. Two dominators and a mixture of mid-priced plays could get the job done.

Make sure to check back after Friday’s qualifying session or my updated picks and lineups strategies. In the meantime, here is a closer look at my top options at DraftKings for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas.


Must Own Drivers

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,500) 

I’m not worried that he didn’t have a dominant run at Atlanta last weekend. Last year, Truex didn’t lead a lap and finished eighth at AMS, but he turned around and led 150 laps and won at Las Vegas. More importantly, he went on to lead at least 49 laps in the other 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks, winning seven times. I’m expecting plenty of dominator points from the defending champ in this one.

Kevin Harvick ($10,300)

A cut tire sent him into the wall and out of the race at Vegas last year, but Harvick has led laps in his other three starts at the track with Stewart-Haas Racing, including 142 in a win in the 2015 race. Throw in the beatdown he put on the field at Atlanta last weekend, and Harvick looks like one of the best bets to earn some dominator points Sunday. 

Brad Keselowski ($9,400)

Keselowski has the setup figured out at Vegas. Over the last five races, he has a series-best 3.4 average finish and hasn’t finished worse than seventh. He also has two wins during that stretch and has led laps in all five races, leading 89 laps here last year. Overall, he ranks third in both dominator categories at Vegas, and only Jimmie Johnson has a higher percentage of laps led and fastest laps run at the track. I love him at this price.

Joey Logano ($9,300)

He’s coming off a solid run at Atlanta, and Logano has been a force at Vegas since joining Team Penske. He has a 6.4 average finish in five starts at the track, leading 40-plus laps three time and recording 14 or more fastest laps in all five races. I could see myself stacking the Team Penske guys this weekend. 


Value Plays

Ryan Blaney ($8,700) 

Blaney is quickly becoming one of the better drivers at the 1.5-mile tracks, and he has already amassed a solid resume at Las Vegas. He has a 10.7 average finish in three starts here, finishing sixth in 2016 and seventh last year. Blaney showed some dominator potential at the mile-and-a-half tracks last year, so whether he starts up front or deeper in the field, he is going to have great upside for the price this weekend.

Clint Bowyer ($8,100)

He notched a Top 10 at Vegas last year, and while he was more of a Top 15 driver at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2017, you have to be intrigued by his strong third-place run at Atlanta last weekend. If he shows muscle in practice again this weekend, Bowyer could end up being a mid-priced gem.

Daniel Suarez ($7,300) 

Suarez tends to torpedo his own value with excellent qualifying efforts, but he has a Top 15 floor and Top 10 potential. You can’t ask for much more at this price. If Suarez happens to have an average qualifying run or worse, he’ll become one of the bargains on the weekend.

Paul Menard ($6,900)

He is coming off a decent outing at Atlanta, and I really think the move to Wood Brothers Racing is going to help Menard this year. He has quietly been one of the better sleepers at Las Vegas, and his 11.8 average finish over the last five races here ranks eighth in the series. Menard has an average place differential of +6.4 during the same stretch, and I’ll be all over him as a cheaper play if he starts in the middle of the pack or worse.

Trevor Bayne ($6,300)

Bayne’s mostly been a mid-pack performer at Vegas, but he’s been so bad in qualifying that he could have some potential this weekend. Over the last five races, he has a 20.2 average finish and an average place differential of +10.4. He has gained at least seven spots in every race in that span, gaining double-digit spots three times. If he struggles in qualifying again Friday, he should be a safe source of cap relief.


Sleeper Specials

A.J. Allmendinger ($6,000)

I don’t like to make a habit of trusting Allmendinger at intermediate ovals, but he has managed decent numbers at Vegas with JTG Daugherty Racing, posting a 15.5 average finish in five starts. He’ll also free up a bunch of cap space. If he ends up starting outside the Top 25, he could be worth a flier this weekend, especially in the larger GPPs.

Michael McDowell ($5,500)

If I’m dropping below the $6,000 mark, McDowell is the driver that catches my eye. He is coming off a Top 25 at Atlanta, and he finished 18th at Vegas last year. He is an underrated qualifier, so that could kill his value, but I’ll be all over him if he starts around the 30th spot.