The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship continues at the Magic Mile in New Hampshire for the Bad Boy Off Road 300. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards ($9,800) looks to get untracked after a few shaky races in a row, as he starts from the pole in Loudon on Sunday.
Cousin Carl has an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 22.0 over the past three races with zero laps led. That’s simply not going to do if he hopes to hang around the Chase for very long. New Hampshire hasn’t been one of his better tracks over the years, as he has never performed the celebratory back flip at Loudon in 24 starts, while posting just three Top 5s and seven Top 10s. His starting position makes him a very tempting DFS play, especially since he should rack up some laps led, and perhaps even a handful of fastest laps.
Edwards’ teammate Matt Kenseth ($10,100) has been the dominant force at NMHS, posting wins in each of the past two races at the track. He has a 112.9 Driver Rating over the past five starts, turning in a 6.6 AFP with 77 laps led and 90.3 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15. In 33 starts at Loudon he has three victories with 18 of his finishes coming inside the Top 10. He has been automatic at the track lately, and a lot of his success can be attributed to the man atop his pit. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff is about as good as they come in the fuel-mileage strategy department, and that’s always key at New Hampshire. Kenseth will start from the eighth position.
In the race last September it was Kenseth just edging out Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($10,700) because of the fuel-mileage calculations. Harvick didn’t even come close, sputtering on empty with three laps to go after dominating all day long. Harvick has led more laps than any driver on the circuit over the past five New Hampshire races, sitting out front for 379 laps while running 96.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Unfortunately, he has zero wins to show for it due to shoddy fuel management at the end. As such, he is a risky proposition for DFS players because of his high salary and poor finishes at the track. He struggled in qualifying, and will go off 19th. That’s good for DFS players, though, as he should pick up plenty of Place Different points as he moves his way up the leaderboard before the afternoon is over.
Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski ($9,900) has led 321 laps over the past five races at New Hampshire, and he leads all drivers with a 121.0 Driver Rating. While he has just one win in 14 career starts at the track, he is good for five Top 5s, eight Top 10s and a sparkling 10.7 AFP, which is third-best among all active drivers. He was a very ordinary 15th in the mid-July race, but do not look for that to happen again. He goes off 11th Sunday and should pick up plenty of Place Different points with a Top 5 showing.
Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano ($9,600) is a New England kid, and he picked up his first-career Sprint Cup Series victory back in June 2009, and getting the chance at another picture with the lobster in Sept. 2014. He always seems to bring his best to what is considered his home track. Over the past five starts at the track he has a 107.1 Driver Rating, fifth-best on the circuit, and he has run 85.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Logano has finished inside the Top 20 on 11 of his 16 career starts.
Tony Stewart ($8,400) will make his final appearance at Loudon, and he hopes to go out with a bang. He has three wins in 34 starts while posting 15 Top 5s and 19 Top 10s, leading 1,302 laps which is best among all drivers in the field. Smoke last won at New Hampshire in Sept. 2011, which was the last season he took the Sprint Cup Series championship. Will history repeat itself? As a mid-tier DFS option and history on his side, Stewart will have a huge ownership percentage this weekend. Stewart is set to start from the 22nd position, and he would be a giant DFS play if he repeats his runner-up finish from back in mid-July at the track.
Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson ($9,100) scorched the track this week, sweeping the practice sessions while qualifying sixth for Sunday’s race. Larson had a slight hiccup last weekend in Chicago after three straight finishes of third or better, including a win at Michigan. Look for the No. 42 car to be on target, pun totally intended, in his New Hampshire return. He was 17th in the mid-July race, but he had not yet hit his stride. In five tries at the track he has a pair of Top 5s already, while posting a solid 14.0 AFP.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon ($8,200) has solid career numbers at New Hampshire, posting a Top 10 with four Top 20s in five starts while turning in a 13.6 AFP. He has never finished lower than 22nd at the track, and you can expect a run of 15th or better this weekend. Dillon was 13th in the mid-July race at Loudon, and he will go off 29th Sunday. If he simply lives up to his averages he will pick up plenty of Place Differential points for DFS players to more than pay for himself.
Chevy hasn’t been to Victory Lane in eight tries at New Hampshire since Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne ($7,400) won the July 2012 race. Kahne has a respectable 17.0 AFP with nine Top 10s and 17 Top 20s in 25 career starts. Chase Elliott ($8,700) didn’t fare very well in his first attempt at New Hampshire in mid-July, posting a 34th-place showing. He and Kahne need to step up and race well to give teammate Jimmie Johnson ($9,500) more support.
The six-time champion Johnson has struggled without injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his long-time partner Jeff Gordon. While J.J. is still in the Chase, his season just doesn’t have that dominant feel. Over the past five stops at New Hampshire he is outside the Top 10 in Driver Rating. However, he still has three wins in 29 tries at the track, posting 10 Top 5s and 19 Top 10s with a 10.6 AFP, which is second-best among all drivers. At this price level Johnson is an attractive play, especially in GPPs.
JGR’s Denny Hamlin ($9,300) leads all drivers with a 10.2 AFP in 21 career starts at the track, posting a pair of victories with eight Top 5s and 13 Top 10s while leading 495 laps. He was a solid ninth in the mid-July race, and he was strong in practice and qualifying, finding himself fifth in the starting grid for Sunday’s race. The No. 11 has handled himself well at the track flat, and JGR is the team to beat in New Hampshire. Teammate Kyle Busch ($10,600) has two wins in 23 career starts with a 14.2 AFP and 12 finishes inside the Top 10. He has a high price tag, but his results speak for themselves at New Hampshire.
Another Toyota with a realistic chance to visit Victory Lane is the one driven by Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. ($10,400). The No. 78 is driven by the hottest driver on the circuit, as he has won two of the past three races while leading 253 laps. During the three-race span MTJ has turned in 198 fastest laps to make DFS owners smile from ear to ear. While he has never won in 21 tries at New Hampshire he does have a strong 14.1 AFP while posting 18 finishes of 20th or better. He starts on the outside of Row 1 with Edwards.
ON THE DOWN LOW
As far as the lower-priced options are concerned, there is plenty of good picks for a high-low DFS lineup strategy.
Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman ($8,000) isn’t in the Chase, but you can still expect the ‘Rocket Man’ to be going hard in search of checkers at the flat track in Loudon. Phoenix and New Hampshire are very similar tracks, and Newman done very well at both of the tracks with limited banking. He was seventh in the first stop at Loudon this season, and he has three career wins with 18 Top 10s in 29 starts at the track all-time while leading 722 laps. Newman is dominant at New Hampshire and you should be able to afford him as your No. 4 or 5 DFS driver, which makes him a steal. He does off from the third position Sunday.
Jamie McMurray ($7,800) and Chris Buescher ($6,900) are both in the Chase, and have plenty to race for as they pursue an unlikely championship. New Hampshire is a place both can keep their hopes afloat. Jamie Mac was sixth back in the mid-July race and he has seven Top 10s with 16 Top 20s in 27 career runs, posting a 20.0 AFP. McMurray will go off seventh in Sunday’s race. Buescher was 29th in his first attempt at New Hampshire in July, but he had a fifth and 14th in two Xfinity Series starts on the track, so he is definitely not inexperienced and has performed well at Loudon in the past. At this price level both Chase contenders are decent low-end buys.
Michael McDowell ($5,100) had a strong qualifying effort, moving himself up to 20th in the starting grid for Sunday’s race. In 12 previous starts he has finished as high as only 27th, but perhaps a career-best finish is in store for McDowell. At this low price level, he is worth a roll of the dice as your sixth driver, saving valuable salary to spread across your other five spots.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,700) starts right on McDowell’s heels in 21st, and he has had success at this track in the past. He was 10th in the mid-July run, his second Top 10 in seven career tries at the track. He also has four Top 20s and a 20.9 AFP. His Fastenal Ford Fusion will go off from the blackjack starting spot, No. 21, and Place Differential points could come cheaply if he repeats his July effort. Danica Patrick ($6,500) was 14th in July at the track, and she is working on a string of 10 straight starts finishing 24th or better, as improvement has been evident in her driving this season. At this price level a guaranteed Top 25 makes her a great value.