DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Brickyard 400
The Sprint Cup Series moves to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard. This could be the weekend for Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon ($11,000), who races on his hometown track for the final time. And Gordon is in the right car, as Chevrolet has dominated in 21 events, winning 16 races at the historic track.
Gordon checks in with the second-best driver rating (105.6) among active drivers at Indianapolis, behind only teammate Jimmie Johnson ($12,400). Over the past five years Gordon is tops in driver rating (115.0), posting a 7.6 Average-Finish Position (AFP) while running inside the Top 15 in 90.3 percent of his laps. That’s best among all drivers with at least two starts during the span. Johnson has led the most laps (174) in the past five races, followed by fellow Hendrick driver Kasey Kahne ($10.100) with 118 laps led. Kahne starts 27th and he could post big-time DFS results in the pass differential category if he races like he normally does at the Indiana track.
Since 2009, Kyle Busch ($11,800) leads all drivers with a 6.4 AFP at Indianapolis, and it’s hard to get away from picking him in GPPs (guaranteed prize pools) since he rolls into this one with three victories over his past four races. The No. 18 is on a mission to qualify for the chase, and this is one of his strongest tracks. In 10 career starts he has never won at IMS, but he has three Top 5s, eight Top 10s and he has finished outside the Top 20 just once. Of all drivers with at least five career starts at Indy, Rowdy has the third-best AFP (10.0). He will start ninth, and could log some valuable points in the pass differential category.
Kyle’s brother, Kurt Busch ($11,600), was faster than everyone in the third and final practice Friday, posting a high speed of 181.987 mph to edge out teammate Kevin Harvick ($13,900) by an eyelash. And it was Kyle Larson ($10,000) turning in the fourth-fastest practice time in the second session, and the third-best speed in the third session. He finished seventh in his only other start at Indianapolis, so the sample size isn’t great. But the Ganassi Driver was consistent in practice and a Top 10 finish is expected for the Target No. 42. Larson will start fifth at the Brickyard.
Plenty of DFS owners will flock to Carl Edwards ($10,300), who secured the pole in qualifying Saturday. If he is able to log plenty of laps led, he will be a decent DFS pick-up. However, his position differential could hurt him, especially since he has managed just one Top 5 finish in 10 career starts at the track.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart ($9,000) has been a shell of his former self over the past three years. Injuries, and the awful Sprint Car situation last summer has really taken its toll on the three-time series champ. However, he has run consistently at Indy over the past five years, posting a 92.0 Driver Rating while ranking fourth with an 8.4 AFP. Smoke has started 16 races at Indy, posting two wins and seven Top 5s, finishing inside the Top 20 in all but one of his starts. At a mid-level DFS price Stewart is a must-have despite his recent difficulties. He goes off fourth in Sunday’s race.
Stewart’s former teammate, Ryan Newman ($9,300), has managed a win, two Top 5s and 10 Top 20 finishes in 14 career starts at the Brickyard, turning in a strong 17.2 Average-Finish Position. NASCAR’S Loop Data shows he is ranked 10th in Driver Rating over the past five years, and he has a respectable 9.6 AFP during the span, leading 45 laps. He enters this race with five consecutive Top 20 finishes, including 11th or better in three of the past four.
Paul Menard ($8,700) has finished 16th or better in four of his past five races this season, and he’ll be a popular pick at Indy at this mid-level salary. Plus, in eight career starts in Sprint Cup at the Brickyard, the former open-wheel racer has one victory under his belt. Like Menard, Sam Hornish Jr. ($8,200) also has history in a stock car, as well as an open-wheel racer. Hornish has finished as high as 16th in four career starts at IMS.
Another lower-priced option that will be popular with the DFS crowd is David Ragan ($8,100), who had a tremendous qualifying effort to secure a spot in the second row. He’ll go off third, and has a chance to log valuable DFS points in the laps led category. Keep in mind, however, that it is a mistake to use him in DFS since he has just one Top 10 finish in 20 starts this season. In addition, he has started inside the Top 10 in three of his past four races, tumbling down the leaderboard while logging minus points in pass differential to kill DFS owners.
Aric Almirola ($7,800) has recovered nicely since finishing dead-last at Pocono June 7, finishing 22nd or better in four of his past five, including a 12th-place finish at Kentucky. At this price level he is an absolute must-have, as he has two Top 20 finishes in three career starts, finishing 21st or better in each outing. Plus, his inclusion in your lineup will allow you to afford another stud up top. Almirola goes off 22nd, but if his practice runs are any indication, a Top 10 showing and positive pass differential could be in the offing.
Another lower-end driver worth a spin is Austin Dillon ($8,400), who has two Top 10 finishes over his past three races, including that ugly finish at Daytona July 5. He has 10 or more points in pass differential in three of the past four races. Clint Bowyer ($8,500) was sharp in practice, rounding out the Top 5 in the second session Friday. In nine career starts at Indy he has never finished outside the Top 20, including two Top 5s with an AFP of 13.6, ninth among all active drivers. He also qualified seventh in his 5-Hour Energy No. 15. At this price level he has a chance to make noise for DFS owners.
A.J. Allmendinger ($7,900) is another low-end option with a high ceiling this weekend. He has four Top 20 finishes in six career starts at Indianapolis, and he is coming off an impressive 13th-place showing at the 5-Hour Energy 301 at NHMS last weekend. He has record 35 fastest laps over the past eight races to help DFS owners, and he led 13 laps last weekend. If he can avoid a negative pass differential like he did last weekend, he’ll easily exceed DFS salary expectations.
Jamie McMurray ($9,600) was on fire until tumbling to a 26th-place finish at New Hampshire last week, recording nine straight Top 20 showings. However, he has really struggled in the pass differential category, posting negative points in six of his past 10 races. McMurray simply cannot be relied upon at Indianapolis for DFS purposes until he starts to contribute positively in the category.
If you’re fishing for a low-end value, don’t look to Timmy Hill ($7,300). He was miserable in practice, failing to record a speed in the first session, finishing dead-last in speed in the second session and wrecking in Turn 4 in the third session. He will need to go to a backup car for the remainder of the weekend which doesn’t bode well for his already distant chances. Like Hill, Reed Sorenson ($7,100) also struggled to build up a head of steam, finishing second-to-last in speed in each of the final two practice sessions. In six career starts Sorenson actually has one Top 5 and three Top 20s, but his practice results make him a DFS option to start at your own risk.
Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski ($11,200) didn’t do much in practice of qualifying, and he will start 31st in the Blue Deuce. However, he has an Average-Finish Position of 14th at Indy, never finishing inside the Top 5, but never falling further than 21st in five career starts. As such, he could improve his position dramatically for DFS owners, helping them to valuable points in the pass differential category, even if he finishes back in the pack in the area of 15th-2oth.
Lastly, in 21 events at IMS, the eventual race winner has come from the pole three times, with two winners from the second starting spot. Three winners have won from the third spot, and two from the fourth starting spot. In other words, 10 of the 21 race winners have come from the first two rows, so remember that when finalizing your DFS lineups.