DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Auto Club
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Fontana, Calif. for the Auto Club 400, the two-mile track in suburban Los Angeles. There is plenty of room for passing, and we should see a lot of good racing and action. In the past few seasons we have had some memorable moments, from a last-lap wreck between Joey Logano ($10,000) and Denny Hamlin ($8,900), which sent the latter to the hospital. That also caused the volcano known as Tony Stewart to blow, causing a WWE-type scrum between pit crews of the No. 14 and 22.
In the 2014 race, Kyle Busch ($10,300) nipped Kyle Larson ($8,200) at the line by .214 seconds, although that margin of victory is nothing compared to last weekend’s win by .10 seconds by Kevin Harvick ($10,500) over Carl Edwards ($9,100) in Phoenix. Last season it was Brad Keselowski ($9,200) outlasting Kurt Busch ($9,500). Anyway, the point of looking back is to show that Auto Club is anyone’s race, and there are many different contenders year in and year out, although NASCAR’s Loop Data and Driver Averages are still a telling factor when setting your DFS lineup.
Austin Dillon ($6,700) is on the pole for Sunday’s race, and he is a tremendous DFS option to build your lineup around. He posted a 188.482 mph speed in qualifying, and he also was tops in practice at 188.511 mph. That is impressive, as is the fact in his two career starts at the track he has finished 11th and 16th. He will easily exceed DFS salary expectations this weekend, and starting off on the pole should help him rack up plenty of laps led points, too.
Kyle Busch has posted a 138.0 Driver Rating over the past four starts at Auto Club, leading 361 laps while running 98.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has averaged a ridiculous 1.8 Average-Finish Position, so if you spend big up top you’ll want to make sure Rowdy is one of your starting drivers. Rowdy will go off sixth in Sunday’s race.
Fellow JGR racer Carl Edwards ($9,100) has three Top 5 finishes in four starts already this season, including his near-miss in Avondale last weekend. Cousin Carl ranks second among all drivers with an 8.8 AFP in 18 career races in California, posting a win, eight Top 5s and 122 career laps led. At this price level he is a sharp play, as is teammate Matt Kenseth ($9,900). Kenseth was rather erratic through the first three races, but he righted the ship with a seventh-place showing at PIR last week. According to Loop Data he has a 102.6 Driver Rating while leading 72 laps with a 12.4 AFP. He has run 86.3 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Edwards goes off fifth, while Kenseth will start 20th.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($10,400) has been a staple for Fantasy owners over the years in California, as he is about as close to a sure thing as there is. In 21 career starts at what is essentially his home track, J.J. has five wins, 12 Top 5s and 20 Top 20s with a 6.8 AFP and 955 laps led, by far the most among any drivers. He has never been worse than 24th.
Johnson’s teammates haven’t been as reliable for DFS purposes, and it’s a good idea to avoid the rest of the stable. Kasey Kahne ($8,300) has a win in 19 career starts at the track, but he ranks outside the Top 10 in Driving Rating over the past five years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,600) has a high price tag, but he won’t come close to earning his DFS salary this weekend. California has never been one of his good tracks, as he has a rather marginal 18.9 AFP in 23 career stops at Auto Club, posting zero wins with just seven finishes inside the Top 10 and a total of just 28 laps led.
Rookie Chase Elliott ($8,600) makes his first-career start in California. He was a rather marginal 18th in practice, but he ended up qualifying eighth. A Top 10 finish would make him a decent DFS play at this mid-tier price level.
ON THE DOWN LOW
If you plan to use a high-low lineup strategy, in addition to Dillon, you will want to grab Danica Patrick ($6,200) and Brian Vickers ($5,400). Using that triumvirate of Dillon, Danica and Vickers will pretty much allow you to use any three studs of your choosing without losing much. We discussed Dillon above.
Danica has been surprisingly effective lately, finishing 21st or better in each of her past thee outings, turning four fastest laps in the past four starts. She had a season-high 19th at Phoenix last weekend, and she has two Top 20 finishes in three career starts at Cali. At this price level she is a recommended contrarian play, as others will avoid her just because of her overall poor results through the years. However, Danica has work to do starting 31st in Sunday’s grid. She also was just 30th in practice.
Vickers steps behind the wheel of the No. 14 for the injured Stewart. He doesn’t have a lengthy history at Auto Club, but he has 11 finishes inside the Top 20 in 15 career starts. And over his past two outings in Fontana he is second in Driver Rating at 111.9, second to just Kyle Busch with a minimum of two starts. He turned 95.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, so Vickers is one to watch.
Another value might be Trevor Bayne ($6,100), who starts seventh. He hasn’t had much success in just two career starts at Auto Club, finishing 29th and 30th. However, he also averaged a 31.5 Average Starting Position, so Sunday’s start from Row 4 alongside Elliott should lead to a career-best finish for Bayne at the track.
Ryan Blaney ($6,600), the early leader in the Rookie of the Year standings, makes his first-career Cup start at California. He will start 14th and is a solid No. 5 or 6 driver option if you don’t trust the others above. Casey Mears ($6,300) is another potential value, starting 23rd in Sunday’s race. He ran eighth in practice, posting a speed of 187.505 mph, so he showed he has the potential to run in the Top 10.