DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Pure Michigan 400
The Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway for the second time this season. Joey Logano ($10,400) will lead the pack in Sunday’s race from the inside of Row 1, as he is on the pole and searching for his third victory at the track. In 15 previous starts he has two wins, 10 Top 10s and 332 laps led, and over the past five starts at the track he has posted a 120.5 Driver Rating, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data, tops among all drivers with at least two starts during the span. Logano will cost a pretty penny, but he should lead plenty of laps and has the potential to go wire-to-wire in the Irish Hills this weekend. Remember, Ford has won four of the past eight races at this track.
Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski ($10,200) hasn’t won at Michigan, his home track, like Logano. However, he certainly has come close. Over the past five stops he has a 107.5 Driver Rating with 22 laps led and a ridiculous 95.9 percent of his laps turned inside the Top 15, most of any driver on the circuit. His Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 6.0 during the five-race span is second only to Logano, as Ford has really built a reputation lately with the NextGEN car at MIS. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Blue Deuce coast to Victory Lane for the first time, and the celebration would be extra special for the native of the Great Lakes state. Keselowski will start 18th, so he should pick up plenty of Place Differential points for his DFS owners.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion) will miss his fifth consecutive race this weekend, and he’ll be sidelined at Darlington next week as well. Jeff Gordon, who has been substituting for him, is unavailable due to a previously scheduled off-track engagement, so Alex Bowman ($8,100) steps behind the wheel of the No. 88 for the second time this season. He posted a 26th-place finish at New Hampshire in place of Dale Jr. back on July 17. He qualified well with a top speed of 201.207 mph, and will start sixth this weekend. He is an awfully attractive mid-tier DFS play based on his big speed in the practice and qualifying sessions.
Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates all did well in qualifying, and Jimmie Johnson ($9,300) will be one to watch, as per usual. He will start on Row 1 opposite the pole sitter Logano, as he looks for his second-career win in the Irish Hills. Johnson’s lone win came in the June 2014 race, but despite the lack of checkered flags he has been his usual dominant self at the track. In 29 starts he has five Top 5s and 11 Top 10s with 637 laps led, most of any active driver in the field. Kasey Kahne ($7,800) can often be overlooked due to his middling results, but don’t make that mistake this weekend.He has one win at Michigan with eight Top 5s and a 15.7 AFP which is actually better than Johnson. Kahne goes off in the 11th position.
Rookie Chase Elliott ($8,700) will also attract plenty of DFS owners after posting a runner-up finish in his initial Sprint Cup Series start at Michigan back in June when he fired off a season-high 31 fastest laps in the Firekeepers Casino 400. He has a car built for speed and it was evident again in practice this weekend, burning rubber at 201.303 mph to qualify for the fifth starting position.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin ($8,900) had an eventful qualifying and practice session, that’s for sure. He qualified for the third spot in the starting grid, but in the final practice Saturday he spun midway through the session. He avoided major damage, slightly scraping up the nose as he gave the MIS infield an unscheduled lawn job. The good news is that all indications are he will not need a backup ride, which would prompt him to start from the back of the field. He hasn’t had a lot of luck at MIS lately, but has two career wins in 21 starts with nine Top 10s and 15 Top 20s, so watch the No. 11. He could be a solid No. 3, and a bit of a contrarian play based on his recent string of poor showings. He doesn’t even make the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five at Michigan.
Teammate Kyle Busch ($10,000) has had tremendous difficulty at the track over the years. He has a dismal 20.5 AFP by his standards, managing just one win and six Top 10 showings in 23 career starts at Michigan. The fact he has only led 182 laps in the 12 1/2-year span is mind boggling given his talent, but there is just something about the track that doesn’t agree with him. He will start 16th, and is way too expensive to trust in DFS based on his past marginal showings.
If you want JGR drivers, Carl Edwards ($9,500) and Matt Kenseth ($9,700) are the ones to mark. Kenseth won the summer stop at Michigan last season, while Edwards has a 9.5 AFP in 24 career starts, posting two wins with nine Top 5s and 345 laps led. Over the past five races it is Kenseth with a better Driver Rating at 92.1, but both seem to like the track and perform well. Edwards goes off ninth Sunday, while Kenseth rolls from Lucky No. 13.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($10,700) is the highest-priced option on the board, but he isn’t a terrible play. He will start Sunday as he looks for his second-career win at the track. He is coming off a win at Bristol, and has a stellar 12.9 AFP in 31 career starts, finishing 20th or better on 25 occasions with just one DNF. The same cannot be said for teammate Kurt Busch ($9,100), who is more boom or bust. He has three wins in 31 starts which is nice, but he also has eight DNFs to lead all drivers and a rather marginal 20.2 AFP. It’s hit or miss for the elder Busch, who starts 19th.
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.
Rookie Ryan Blaney ($7,400) has been overshadowed by fellow first-year driver Elliott, but he continues to produce strong results. Blaney has eight Top 10s in 24 starts and is on the cusp of a berth in the Chase. He is set to start seventh in Sunday’s race, looking for his career-best finish at Michigan. He has finishes of 17th, 24th and 24th in three runs at the track in a Cup car.
Richard Childress Racing’s Paul Menard ($7,100) will be a popular low-priced pick, too, as he checks in 10th in Driver Rating over the past five starts with an AFP of 9.2, fifth-best in the field during the span. While he has led just one lap during the stretch, and he has 16 to his credit in 20 career starts, he has managed four Top 5s, six Top 10s and a solid 17.6 AFP at Michigan. Teammate Austin Dillon ($7,900) is another driver who has quietly done really well and is positioned for a Chase berth. He was fourth last weekend at Bristol, and has really come on lately. Michigan seems to be a track to his liking, posting a 16.6 AFP in eight starts with one Top 5 and five Top 20s while leading 21 laps. He’ll start 17th looking for valuable Place Differential points. Menard will go off from the 20th spot.
On the serious down low, Danica Patrick ($6,000) can save you plenty of salary. While she has just two Top 10s this season in 26 races, she usually handles herself well at the tracks you can go faster and drive with less finesse. Michigan certainly qualifies in that regard. She has seven starts under her belt in the Irish hills, posting a 19.0 AFP and four finishes inside the Top 20. There is value there. There is also value with Greg Biffle ($6,800), who has four wins in 27 starts with a 13.1 AFP at the track. He won as recently as June 2013 in Michigan, and he starts 22nd, one spot ahead of Danica. Both could grab some Place Differential points to make them attractive low-end plays.
Lastly, don’t forget about Chris Buescher ($6,600). Ford is pumping plenty of money into his ride, trying to get him into the Chase after his surprising victory at Pocono. He was a bit uneven at Watkins Glen, but bounced back nicely with a Top 5 at Bristol. He starts in the Blackjack position, No. 21, in Sunday’s race.