The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has made a stop at ISM Raceway this weekend for a 312-lap showdown at the low-banked, one-mile track. Now that qualifying and all practices are in the books, it’s time to set your NASCAR DFS lineups and make some money at DraftKings.
Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 will present a bit of a different challenge than the last two races at Atlanta and Las Vegas, and while the dominator categories should still be your No. 1 priority, I expect pit strategy to play a much bigger role in the outcome of the race and the contests at DraftKings this weekend.
Not only will pit strategy shuffle the running order at the end of the race, but it can also create a situation where a couple of drivers take turns cycling the lead.
It’s tough to predict which teams will roll the dice on pit road, and it’s even tougher to predict which teams will be successful. However, this is a track where I like to take some shots at drivers starting deeper in the field. A mid-pack run can turn into a surprise Top 10 in an instant at ISM if the caution flag waves at the right time.
With that in mind, I will have a lot of my lineups split between high-priced dominator candidates and cheaper options starting deeper in the field. Casting a wider net on the dominators will help ensure that I grab a bunch of points in the laps led and fastest laps run categories, even if multiple drivers lead larger portions of the race.
Meanwhile, owning a couple of cheap sleepers could prove just as crucial if I nail an under-owned option that delivers a surprise finish.
Make sure to get your lineups set for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway, and make sure to check out all my top NASCAR DFS plays for DraftKings.
Must Own Drivers
Kevin Harvick ($11,400)
Coming into the weekend, I though there was a good chance I would be fading Harvick. He hadn’t led any laps here in three races, and it looked like he had lost the setup a bit. After the speed he showed in practice, he looks a lot like the driver that has led the most laps in five of his eight starts at ISM with Stewart-Haas Racing. A vintage performance from the eight-time ISM winner could be on tap Sunday.
Kyle Larson ($10,300)
Larson was knocking on the door of a win at ISM all of last year. He was the runner-up in the March race and finished second in both stages, and he won the opening stage in the fall before blowing a motor. Larson starts on the front row Sunday, and I like his chances of jumping out to an early lead and earning his share of dominator points while contending for the win.
Brad Keselowski ($9,900)
It’s not often that one of the best drivers in the series starts deep in the field, but you need to take advantage when they do. Keselowski will start 25th, but he showed Top 10 speed in practice and has a solid resume at ISM. He should exploit the place differential category on his way to being one of the top scorers.
Chase Elliott ($9,800)
Elliott was a DFS workhorse in both races at ISM last year, leading 106 laps and posting more than 50 fastest laps in the March race and leading 34 more laps in the fall event. He starts third with a car that was excellent throughout both practices Saturday, and Elliott said this might be the best car he has had here. Some dominator points seem like a given, and he has a great chance to finish as the top scorer this weekend.
Kyle Busch ($10,500)
I think Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson will be the most popular dominator picks, but Busch should still be owned enough to be safe for cash lineups. After all, he has five straight finishes of seventh or better at ISM, and he led the most laps in this race last year. Busch starts seventh and showed Top 5 speed in race trim. He should be a safe bet for a strong finish and potentially some dominator points.
Aric Almirola ($8,100)
Almirola was too loose in practice, and he will start 22nd as a result. However, he appeared to find some speed on Saturday, looking like a legit Top 10 threat during final practice. He’s got plenty of room to pad his score through place differential, and I expect him to be one of the bigger movers and a 40-plus-point scorer at DraftKings.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,100)
It has been a rough weekend for Stenhouse, and he will roll off 29th after being forced to qualify in a backup car that he had zero laps in. It looked like he made some gains during Happy Hour, and I think he should only get better as the race goes on. Last year, he gained 17 spots and finished fourth in the March race, and he gained 19 spots in the fall event on his way to an eighth-place finish. He’s no stranger to moving through the field here, and he’s got a great floor and plenty of upside thanks to his starting spot.
Ty Dillon ($6,400)
He hasn’t shown much speed this weekend, but Dillon has the place differential category working in his favor after qualifying 28th. He also has a solid track record at ISM, finishing 16th or better in all three of his Cup starts. I don’t think he will post a huge score, but Dillon’s starting position alone makes him one of the safest low-priced plays.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,900)
ISM hasn’t been his best track, and Truex hasn’t led a lap here since 2012. Throw in practice times that were good but not dominant, and there is some serious risk in paying up for him. On the flip side, he’s on the pole, and clean air and track position can mean a lot, especially at ISM. There is a chance that Truex leads the early portion of the race, if not even more. I recommend having at least a little exposure to him this weekend.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200)
Hamlin might be the ultimate boom-or-bust play this weekend. He led a race-high 193 laps here last fall, and based on his long run speed, he has a car capable of winning again this weekend. He is an excellent flat track racer in general, but whether it is pit road penalties or other mistakes, few drivers are better at torpedoing their own race. I love the upside, but he is one of the riskiest dominator candidates.
Erik Jones ($8,300)
He’s been rock solid all weekend, qualifying in the Top 10 and showing Top 10 speed across both practices Saturday. Of course, his speed at IS M shouldn’t be a surprise. Jones finished eighth and fourth in two starts here as a rookie last season. A Top 10 finish and 30-plus fantasy points seem like his floor, and Jones could be a great contrarian to all the Stewart-Haas Racing drivers who have similar price tags but are starting deeper in the field.
Alex Bowman ($7,900)
Bowman had a memorable run here in the fall of 2016, leading 194 laps and finishing sixth as a sub for Dale Earnhardt Jr. I’m not sure he is going to do that this weekend, but he does start in the Top 5 with a car that showed Top 5 potential in practice. His a high-risk, high-reward mid-priced play and exactly the type of driver who can help you win a big GPP.
Jamie McMurray ($7,600)
His Top 10 qualifying effort should hold down his ownership, but McMurray has been the model of consistency at ISM. He has eight straight finishes of 16th or better here, and he ranked in the Top 10 in average running position in both races last season. He put down the second-fastest lap in Happy Hour and ranked ninth in 10-lap average speed, so a Top 10 finish isn’t out of the question. McMurray is capable of 30-plus point on finishing position alone.
Paul Menard ($7,300)
He didn’t leave himself much room to pad his score through place differential after qualifying 14th, but Menard could be great lesser-owned alternative to obvious low-priced plays like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Dillon. Menard has been strong out of the gate in his first year with Wood Brothers Racing, and he has already been a Top 15-caliber driver at ISM in the past. If he sneaks into the Top 10 again Sunday like he did at Las Vegas last weekend, he could be the reason you win a lot of money.
Michael McDowell ($5,200)
If you want a punt play this weekend, McDowell is my top choice. He starts back in 31st, but he has shown Top 25 speed so far this year and was a borderline Top 20 car in final practice Saturday. I think he easily tops 20 fantasy points for a bargain price.
Drivers to Fade
Ryan Blaney ($8,900)
Blaney started on the front row in both races at ISM last year, but he struggled with long-run speed and finished outside the Top 15 in both races. He starts 12th this weekend, and while he looked to be a little better on long runs in practice, I think a Top 10 is his ceiling. I think you can get more bang for your buck this weekend.
Kurt Busch ($8,600)
He has decent career numbers at ISM, and he also has the place differential upside you normally look for after qualifying 23rd. That being said, he just didn’t show a lot of speed in practice. I think it could be a long afternoon for Busch, and I’d rather drop down in price.