DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Pure Michigan 400
The Sprint Cup Series moves to the Irish Hills of Michigan for the second race of the season at the venue. It’s the third repeat track of the season, and each of the previous two repeat showings have led to very exciting races.
At the Quicken Loans 400 back in mid-June it was Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch ($9,900) picking up checkers for the third time in 29 career starts at Michigan. While that is rather impressive, and Busch has been running pretty well lately, even with the win he is not among the Top 10 according to NASCAR’s Loop Data for the past 10 starts at Michigan. In fact, while Busch has three wins at Michigan all-time, he also leads all active drivers with eight DNFs and he has a rather marginal 20.6 Average-Finish Position (AFP). Busch might be attractive from a Fantasy perspective since he qualified just 16th, so he could gain some spots in Place Differential, but it might be best to skip the No. 41 this weekend based on historical trends.
The powers that be in Detroit want Chevrolet and Ford to do well at MIS, so they had to absolutely detest the qualifying results from Friday. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota dominated, setting up a 1-2-3 starting grid with Matt Kenseth ($9,700) leading the charge from the pole. Denny Hamlin ($8,400) goes off second, while Carl Edwards ($9,000) is third and Kyle Busch ($10,100) will start sixth on the outside of Row 3. Needless to say, JGR cars will be a force to be reckoned with as they adjusted tremendously since the first race and are primed and ready to get Toyota to Victory Lane.
Of the JGR drivers it is Cousin Carl with the best recent history, albeit when he was running in a Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing. Edwards was a decent 12th last time out in June in his first run in a Toyota, and he ranks ninth in Driver Rating (92.2) over the past 10 starts. Kenseth also has a 102.9 Driver Rating, checking in third, while leading 78.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has been strong over the past 10 starts, checking in with an AFP of 10.8, so he rarely makes a mistake at MIS. In other words, if you are trying to choose a JGR driver or two, you can’t go wrong with Edwards or Kenseth for DFS purposes. However, remember that most of their success has come behind the wheel of a Ford, as they have each recently transitioned to the Toyota and that can make a bit of a difference, although they certainly qualified well.
Kevin Harvick ($10,600) is the highest priced driver on the board, but DFS players will want to take a good, long look at him. Over the past 10 races at Michigan he has a 99.3 Driver Rating, but he has really turned up the intensity over the past five runs. He is averaging a 105.6 Driver Rating over the past five starts at MIS, better than any other driver, leading 187 laps while running inside the Top 15 in 72.4 percent of his laps. In fact, he trails only Greg Biffle ($7,100) in laps led during the span. While Harvick is still running strong, ‘The Biff’ has tailed off significantly. Harvick goes off seventh Sunday, and he is positioned well for another strong run. While everyone is talking about the JGR machines, and will continually talk about the Hendrick assortment, don’t sleep on SHR making some noise with Kurt Busch, Harvick and even Tony Stewart ($7,600) who qualified well and will go off fifth.
Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski ($9,500) is from nearby Rochester Mills, Mich., and if you think racing on his home track doesn’t matter think again. It is important to the driver of the Blue Deuce to fare well, and he was a solid sixth at the track in June. In the past 10 starts at MIS he ranks fifth in Driver Rating (96.4) while running inside the Top 15 in 73.1 percent of his laps, leading 49 of them. He has actually never won at Michigan, but there is likely a white-hot burning desire to do so. Despite the goose egg in the wins column, he has a respectable 14.1 AFP, seventh-best among all drivers with at least two career starts at the track.
Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano ($9,600) is coming off a win on the road course at Watkins Glen, and probably should have won at a fuel-mileage race at Pocono before gassing out. He has been very good at Michigan over the past five races at MIS, including a win in August 2013.
Last, but certainly not least, Hendrick’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,300) is fifth in Driver Rating over the past 10 runs at Michigan, and he has two career wins with a 15.2 AFP in 32 career starts while leading 355 laps. Even when things were not going so good for Little E a few years back he found a way to shine at this track. Jeff Gordon ($8,500) makes what is his last scheduled start in Michigan, and he hopes to add to his win total of three. He has a 12.3 AFP in 45 starts, but was a rather marginal 21st in June. He’ll go off 21st Sunday, too. Jimmie Johnson ($9,700) is obviously a threat most anywhere, but he has just one win in 27 career starts at MIS. He runs well, though, leading 733 laps which is second-most among all active drivers at the track. J.J. starts eighth Sunday.
ON THE DOWN LOW
Another sleeper from that Stewart-Haas Racing stable might be Danica Patrick ($7,200) in her No. 10 Go Daddy Chevrolet. Believe it or not, she does still race and not just do commercials and yoga poses on the internet. Danica qualified fairly well, checking in 23rd in the starting grid, and she has run well in Michigan in the past. She has five career starts under her belt in the Irish Hills, finishing in the Top 20 in four of those outings, including a respectable 16th back in mid-June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her post a Top 15, helping DFS owners in Place Differential. It won’t take much for her to live up to DFS salary expectations, all the while saving you some bread to spend on studs at your first three starting spots.
We mentioned Biffle above, and he has had tremendous success in the past. However, his historical numbers have been pretty good at other tracks, and he has stumbled and bumbled his way through the season looking like a shell of his former self this year. He actually leads all active drivers with four wins at Michigan, and he has 10 Top 5s, 15 Top 10s and 21 Top 20 finishes in 25 career starts while never posting a DNF. However, he was a very disappointing 36th in the June race, and that was his second-worst finish ever at MIS. Over the course of a year or two Biffle has gone from contender to also-ran, but based on his historical numbers at Michigan ‘The Biff’ could be worth a roll of the dice as Roush-Fenway Racing looks to end their slump in the Irish Hills. Chalk up June’s run to bad luck and hope Biffle still has a little left in the tank of that Ford Fusion. At this price level he isn’t a terrible risk. He’ll go off 20th, and if he comes close to his AFP of 12.5 he will earn you some valuable DFS points.
David Ragan ($7,300) was another driver qualifying very well in a Toyota, managing to get into the 13th position to start Sunday’s race. He has never really threatened to win in Michigan, but in 21 career starts he has a Top 5, two Top 10s and seven Top 20s while even leading 12 laps. His AFP of 21.4 is rather respectable given his salary level, and he could be a driver who pays big dividends, especially now that you need six starting drivers at DraftKings.
Another low-priced driver that is continually overlooked from week to week is Ryan Newman ($7,100), who ranks 16th among active drivers with at least two starts at Michigan with an AFP of just 17.2. That includes two victories in 28 starts, while finishing in the Top 20 in 67.8 percent (19 of his 28) of his starts. Over the past few races Newman has fared well, starting 20th at Watkins Glen and finishing 15th. He starts 43rd in Indianapolis and managed to get up to 11th. The 11th place spot was his place at New Hampshire, too, after going off 26th. In fact, in seven of his past eight races he has a positive Place Differential, which is extremely helpful to DFS owners, especially at a cut-rate price.
Casey Mears ($7,200) is another low-end buy who could be a boon to DFS players. He has finished in the Top 20 in six of his past nine races, which is nice. He also has started 24 races at Michigan, giving him much more experience than some of the other cheaper options on the board. And he has Top 20 finishes in half of those career starts, including a 13th place showing back in June after going off 27th. If you plan to use a high-low strategy, Mears definitely has to be in your lineup based on his production recently.