DFS NASCAR: Kobalt 400 in Vegas
NASCAR heads to Las Vegas Sunday for the Kobalt 400. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) is a 1.5-mile track with 12-20 degree banking in the turns. The 400-mile race will include 267 laps. The weather forecast is calling for heavy gusts of wind throughout the race. It’s something to watch out for as this can add an unpredictable element to the cars’ handling.
Similar to last week in Atlanta, my strategy is to secure some laps led points with 1-2 front-runners/favorites, then fill out my roster with drivers starting deeper in the field who can pile up some nice finish differential points.
Note: Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray both switched to backup cars. They’ll start at the rear of the field Sunday. Edwards will be scored from his 24th starting position and McMurray from 29th.
* Stats used include the last five races at LVMS, Happy Hour (HH) practice, and Happy Hour 10-Lap Average (HH10LA). I also pulled data from 1.5-mile tracks since 2015.
Matt Kenseth ($9,900): Kenseth has three consecutive top-10 finishes at LVMS (including a 2013 win) and has a fast car ready to roll on Sunday. Starting 3rd, Matt also topped the HH practice speed chart and ranked 4th in 10-lap average. His average driver rating over the last five at LVMS ranks 6th. Kenseth has been solid on 1.5-mile tracks over the last year as well, ranking 9th in driver rating, 6th in most laps led, and 8th in fastest laps run. He’s the driver I’m most confident in who is starting in the first two rows.
Jimmie Johnson ($10,300): Johnson is in a nice spot to deliver more fantasy goodness on Sunday. Last week’s winner starts 11th, but showed solid speed in ranking 6th at HH and 4th in HH10LA. His car seemed to get stronger through each practice, which is a great sign. Over the last five at LVMS, Johnson has one top-5 and three top-10s. He ranks 2nd in driver rating and most laps led. His 2015-16 rankings on the 1.5-mile tracks are 7th in driver rating and 4th in both most laps led and fastest laps run. He’s got momentum from last week and a great shot at cracking the top-5 yet again Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ($9,000): Junior again has a very friendly price tag and has a nice starting spot for Sunday’s race. Dale went from hating his car early in the practice sessions to being happy with it following his HH practice runs. He starts 20th, but got his car heading in the right direction with the 7th fastest HH practice time. Over his last five at LVMS, Junior has two top-5s and five top-10s. He ranks 1st in driver rating and 4th in most laps led. Dale was in a similar spot last week at Atlanta and drove to a 2nd-place finish. He’s a nice piece to a cash game lineup at a nice price, and I like him to race towards another top-10 finish.
Kyle Busch ($10,200): Kyle will start 23rd Sunday at his home track and is a solid finish differential play. Last week, Busch started from the back and drove through the field to a 3rd-place finish. He won yesterday’s Xfinity Series race and I expect him to gain at least ten spots in finish differential Sunday. Kyle has been tremendous on 1.5-mile tracks since 2015, ranking 2nd in driver rating, 5th in laps led, and 7th fastest laps. His driver rating over the last five at LVMS ranks 8th and includes one top-5 finish.
Ryan Newman ($7,500): In my opinion, Newman is still a bit underpriced and has a great starting spot Sunday. He qualified 21st, but his practice ranks improved from 10th to 7th to 5th throughout the weekend. He was also 13th in HH10LA. Ryan has three top-5s and four top-10s in his last five at LVMS, and ranks 12th in driver rating. I think he’s a nice cost-effective play Sunday, who will move up in the field and help create a little cap room to grab a high-priced stud (Kenseth, Johnson, etc.).
Casey Mears ($6,100): I gained interest in Mears after his practice sessions on Saturday. His car found some speed yesterday, ranking 3rd and 8th, respectively, and popping the 10th highest HH10LA. These are nice rankings to see for a driver on the cheap who starts 22nd. Mears is a nice spend without having to drop all the way down into the mid $5k range.
Cash Game notes: I expect both Paul Menard ($6,500) and Brian Vickers ($5,500) to be highly owned as well on Sunday. Menard has one top-5 and three top-10s over his last five at LVMS, and ranks 10th in driver rating. His average start over this span was 21.2 and average finish was 8.8. He ranked 4th in HH and 12th in HH10LA. The price point is very attractive given his strength on this track. I’m most drawn to Vickers’ price tag. It seems to be so cheap for a driver who has finished in the top-15 at his last three LVMS races and has a +6.0 average place differential in that span (18.7/12.7). Much of the Vickers love is tied to him driving Tony Stewart’s car (I was guilty of this, too, at Daytona) and having a great first practice ranking of 5th. His last two practices ranked 31st and 26th, with his HH10LA ranking 22nd. He seems to be heading the wrong way throughout the weekend. Also, I can’t help but reflect on the miserable 2015 season Tony Stewart had driving Tony Stewart’s car. I do still think Vickers is ok for cash given the price, but my expectations are tempered.
Trevor Bayne ($5,900): Bayne and, to a lesser extent, teammate Greg Biffle ($6,400) mildly intrigue me from a GPP perspective of moving away from guys like Mears, Menard, or Vickers. Trevor has posted some nice qualifying efforts early in 2016, only to fade in the race. This week, Bayne is qualified 28th. He ranked 24th in the first and third practices, but jumped to 6th in the early practice on Saturday. His HH10LA ranked 20th. He has one top-10 and three top-20s over his last five at LVMS. I’m viewing Bayne as a way to differentiate, possibly jump up 5-6 spots in finish differential, and open up some salary cap space for a GPP lineup.
Carl Edwards ($9,600): I have no problem using Edwards in cash games, but do believe his moving to the back of the field could drive down ownership levels and make him a worthy GPP play. Carl was on fire in Saturday’s practice, ranking 1st and 2nd, respectively. As mentioned above, he will be scored from 24th, so he’ll have some work to do to generate positive points. We saw teammate Kyle Busch drive through last week’s field, and Edwards could do the same. Over his last five LVMS races, Edwards has one win, four top-5s, and four top-10s. He also ranks 5th in driver rating over this span. Carl has been strong on 1.5-mile tracks since 2015, ranking 8th in driver rating, 10th in laps led, and 12th in fastest laps.
Kevin Harvick ($10,500): Harvick again is the highest priced driver and has been dominant on the 1.5-mile tracks since 2015. He ranks 1st in driver rating and fastest laps, and 2nd in most laps led. At LVMS over the last five, Harvick ranks 3rd in laps led, 4th in driver rating, has one win. He ranked 22nd in each of the Saturday practices, but was 9th in HH10LA. Harvick will start 6th on Sunday.
Joey Logano ($10,000): The Penske cars seem to have fallen behind Gibbs and Hendrick in the early part of 2016. Logano did note he was really pleased with his car after ranking 2nd in the first practice, but then ranked 30th and 17th in the Saturday practices. He ranks 11th in driver rating here over the last five and has one top-5 finish. Since 2015, Joey ranks 3rd in driver rating, most laps led, and fastest laps on 1.5-mile tracks. I think he sticks in the top-10, but could contend for a win if he can regain that first practice form.
Kurt Busch ($9,200): Busch won his second straight pole for Sunday and ranked 3rd in both HH and HH10LA. Since 2015, Kurt ranks in the top-10 in driver rating, laps led, and fastest laps on 1.5-mile tracks. LVMS is his home track, but he has only one top-10 and an additional top-20 finish in his last four races here. There’s also some concern on how his car will handle the long runs, as that worked to his detriment last week. Still, he has the opportunity to get out front early and lead some laps to boost his point total. Those points will help offset any negative movement in finish differential.
Jamie McMurray ($7,300): McMurray also moves to the back and will be low-owned Sunday. He’ll be scored from 29th and had Saturday practice rankings of 21st and 16th, respectively. Jamie ranks 18th in driver rating over his last five LVMS races, and has one top-10 and four top-15s in this span. He was 15th in driver rating and 14th in average finish on 1.5-mile tracks since 2015.
Who are you plugging in to your lineups today? Good luck and hit me up with any questions you have. Enjoy!!!