DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Cheez-It 355
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen, N.Y. for the second road course of the 2015 season. If Watkins Glen ends up anything like the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, it will be all Busch, all the time.
In late June, Kyle Busch ($10,500) picked up the victory while his brother Kurt Busch ($10,400) rolled to a 1-2 finish for the first time in their careers together. As such, they rank 1-2 at the top of the Draft Kings salary list, too. Kyle qualified fairly well and will start eighth and if his amazing run lately is any indication he is going to finish well, adding DFS points thanks to position differential. He has won twice in 10 career starts at ‘The Glen’, and he has eight Top 10 finishes while turning in an 11.3 Average-Finish Position. He has also led 188 laps at the track, third-most among all active drivers. In other words, he doesn’t struggle at this track and is one of the most consistent road racers in NASCAR today. If you can squeeze Rowdy in under your cap, he is worth using. He’ll start eighth and he should finish at least fifth or better.
You’ll notice A.J. Allmendinger ($10,200) high in DFS salary this weekend, and he sits on the pole for Sunday’s race. In the past five races at Watkins Glen he has an AFP of 9.0 while running 80.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 while turning in a 111.2 Driver Rating, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data. Allmendinger has led 38 laps, fourth-most among all drivers in the past five years at Watkins Glen. You might not want to trust Allmendinger on a tri-oval or at a superspeedway, but he is super savvy on the road course and he rarely makes a mistake. He is almost a guarantee for the Top Five barring disaster, but starting on the pole means there is only one place to go – down. If he doesn’t win, he’ll be hurt in the position differential category, so there are better values for your dollar despite the expected good results. Plus, since he is running on the pole, the exposure will be great for Allmendinger, especially in the cheaper cash games.
At more of a mid-level price, Tony Stewart ($8,800) looks awfully tempting considering his history at Watkins Glen, and the fact he qualified third. However, last season he missed this race after his unfortunate sprint car accident with Kevin Ward Jr., and this week Ward’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Smoke. Will Stewart have other things on his mind when he is behind the wheel, serving as a distraction? He has 14 career starts at Watkins Glen, leading all drivers with five wins. Still, he hasn’t raced at the track in two years and the distractions make him a risky DFS play.
A less risky play might be Matt Kenseth ($8,100), who is coming off a win last weekend at Pocono. He has never posted a win at Watkins Glen, but he has five Top 10s and 11 Top 15s in 15 career starts while turning in a very respectable 15.1 AFP. While he doesn’t appear in the Top 10 in Loop Data over the past five starts, he was 20th in the first practice and 16th in the second practice while qualifying a dismal 26th. Still, that low starting position could be a blessing for DFS owners, as a very positive place differential could be in the offing. It’s hard to imagine Kenseth finishing anywhere lower than 20th.
Getting back to the high-priced studs, Kenseth’s teammate Carl Edwards ($9,200) is second among all drivers over the past five starts at Watkins Glen by running in the Top 15 in 83.5 percent of his laps, leading four while posting a Driver Rating of 98.7 during the impressive span. Edwards also checks in second in the SCS with an 8.0 AFP over the past five stops at the New York road course. At this price level it’s hard to ignore him. He goes off 15th Sunday and could easily scoot up the field to a finishing spot inside the Top 10.
You can’t go an entire week without talking about Hendrick Motorsports superstar Jimmie Johnson ($8,900). He has a very curious mid-level DFS salary, and that will make him a popular selection. J.J. goes off ninth in Sunday’s race, and he ranks eighth in Driver Rating over the past five starts at this track, yet his salary is uncharacteristically low. While he was 20th in the second practice session, he was third in the first session and it is hard to see many passing on him.
Like J.J., Martin Truex Jr. ($8,800) has a very manageable DFS salary. He will start seventh on Sunday, and he is sixth in Driver Rating over the past five starts at the track, posting the third-best AFP (9.0) while running inside the Top 15 in 65.3 percent of his laps. MTJ has nine starts under his belt at Watkins Glen, finishing with three Top 5s, five Top 10s and an AFP of 12.4, which is sixth among all active drivers with at least two starts at the road course. Truex Jr. is usually right in the mix at Watkins Glen, and with a mid-level DFS salary he is going to be another popular roster addition.
Other mid-level guys worth a roll of the dice are Clint Bowyer ($8,300), who has six Top 20s in nine career starts, as well as Brad Keselowski ($9,900), who has three Top 5s in five career starts, averaging a 12.2 AFP. And while Kyle Larson ($7,500) has just one Watkins Glen run under his belt, he finished an impressive fourth last season after starting 23rd. Larson had the second-best speed in the second practice session, and he qualified sixth. Larson is another low-priced guy who could easily exceed DFS salary expectations.
As far as guys to avoid, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($8,200) has a temptingly low price tag, but he has a very mediocre 22.4 AFP in 15 career starts with two DNFs and just three Top 10s. This isn’t Little E’s track to shine, and DFS players will want to steer clear of the 88. Aric Almirola ($6,800) is another driver who has really improved in the short track program for Richard Petty Motorsports. However, their road course program isn’t quite up to the same level, and he has almost bottomed out at Watkins Glen in four starts, posting a terrible 27.0 AFP while ending up in the Top 20 just twice with a 37th place finish and a DNF under his belt.
Michael Annett ($5,800) debuted with a 31st-place showing last season at The Glen, and looked worse in qualifying. He will start 40th Sunday. While it could be argued he is a value due to a possible jump in place differential, he is not expected to ascend very far. He was dismal 39th in the first practice, and 34th in the second practice. Don’t ruin your Sunday by getting cute with Annett.
ON THE DOWN LOW
With Draft Kings going to a six-racer lineup, you will need some low-end bargains. Justin Allgaier ($6,600) is a racer worth watching this weekend, as he showed improvement in practice going from 26th in the first session to 14th in the second session. He then improved even more in qualifying to secure a spot on the sixth row, starting 12th Sunday. He has just one start at Watkins Glen on his ledger, finishing 17th last season. That was very respectable, and a Top 10 showing wouldn’t be shocking in the least.
Boris Said ($6,400) is a ringer who has made 14 career starts at Watkins Glen. While the offering of a spot behind the wheel by hopeful teams has never paid off in a victory, he has one Top Five, two Top 10s and four Top 20s while even leading nine laps. He starts 38th, and is a driver who is likely to gain several positions due to his prowess on the road course. Even if Said can finish a very marginal 25th, he would gain plenty of DFS points thanks to place differential.
Another low-priced driver sure to make a splash at Watkins Glen is Casey Mears ($6,700), who is not quite a road course specialist, but he is very good on the tracks. He has made 11 career starts at Watkins Glen, posting one Top 5, one Top 10 and eight Top 20 finishes with an AFP of 18.7. He will start 29th, so if he is simply average on Sunday he will be a very good DFS option thanks to place differential. Mears was running well at Sonoma before the left rear wheel assembly separated from his Chevy in Lap 99. Mechanical issues are the only thing which will make Mears a DFS dud this weekend. At this price level, he is well worth the risk.
Paul Menard ($7,300) is an interesting pick at this price level. If he can re-capture the momentum which had him post the sixth-fastest speed in the first practice session Menard will make some noise for DFS owners. He starts 28th, so there is plenty of room for improvement. Like Menard, David Ragan ($6,200) had an outstanding first practice session, checking in right behind Menard with the seventh-fastest speed. He slipped in the second session, but will go off 19th. There is some good DFS value here if he can re-capture his first practice magic and negotiates his way up through the field early and often.