DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Kentucky
The Sprint Cup Series moves to Sparta, Ky. for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, the sixth stop at the track the track debuted on the schedule in July 2011. Since then it has been happy times for Fords and Toyota, with Chevrolet out in the cold with zero victories in five tries.
That might change with Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($10,600) claiming the pole for Saturday’s race. He looks to change the fact he has never led a lap in five starts in Kentucky, although he is sixth among all drivers with a 97.1 Driver Rating, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data, while running 85.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. With a respectable 10.4 Average-Finish Position (AFP), he is also sixth among all drivers in that category. He also has two wins in the Xfinity Series (formerly Nationwide) in five tries on that circuit. As such, he is a strong DFS play since he is likely to lead plenty of laps for the first time in his career at the track.
Teammate Kurt Busch ($9,400) is right on Happy’s heels with an 11.2 AFP at Kentucky, posting three Top 10s and five Top 20s with 41 laps led. He has never had a Top 5 finish, but also has never been worse than 19th. He’ll go off third in Saturday’s night race. Team owner and driver Tony Stewart ($7,700) hasn’t had a great history at the track, posting an AFP of 21.6, but he does have three Top 20s and has been as high as 11th in the past with no DNFs. Stewart will start 22nd Saturday night, which is about where he usually ends up at the track. As such, he isn’t a great DFS value.
The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers will all be popular DFS selections this weekend, especially Kyle Busch ($10,200). He has two wins in five starts at the track while finishing Top 5 four times. In fact, Rowdy has never finished worse than 10th at the track while leading 437 laps, best among all drivers. He has a 3.8 AFP with 95.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He is about a sure of a thing as they come in Kentucky, at least to this point. Busch starts sixth Saturday night, and it won’t take much maneuvering for him to get to the front of the pack.
JGR’s Matt Kenseth ($8,700) also has one win under his belt in five tries at Sparta, and he has never finished worse than seventh in his five starts. His 4.6 AFP is slightly off the Busch’s mark, but he’ll cost you significantly less in salary. Denny Hamlin ($8,500) ranks ninth at the track in Driver Rating, leading 76 laps with a 18.8 AFP. He has never won at the track, but has a third-place showing. He’ll start 10th in Saturday’s race, while Kenseth is set to start 11th. Carl Edwards ($9,600), who starts fifth, has two Top 5s and a 13.4 AFP in five tries at Kentucky.
Penske Racing driver Brad Keselowski ($9,800) has the other two wins in Kentucky’s five-year history, and he has led 408 laps which is second to Kyle Busch. He has a 117.8 Driver Rating with 82.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Teammate Joey Logano ($10,100) checks in fifth with a 100.4 Driver Rating, leading 60 laps at the track. While he has never won, he is fifth among all drivers with a 10.2 AFP and four finishes inside the Top 20. A one-two Penske punch is a solid DFS lineup strategy. Kes starts on the outside of Row 1 with pole sitter Harvick, while Logano goes off fourth.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($10,000) will start ninth Saturday night, as he looks to get Chevy into Victory Lane. He has one Top 5 with five Top 10 finishes at Kentucky, never finishing worse than 10th while rolling out front for 203 laps. He has a 7.4 AFP, so J.J. is certainly worth a roster spot in DFS even though he is in a backup car after a wreck in Friday’s practice. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,200) has certainly had his ups and downs this season, and he isn’t a great DFS option in Kentucky. He has a 14.4 AFP in five starts at the track, but he has had varying results. He has two Top 10s, and three runs inside the Top 20, but he has also been as bad as 30th. Due to inconsistency, it’s best to skip Dale Jr. this weekend.
Rookie Chase Elliott ($9,000) has finished in the Top 10 on 14 different occasions in 20 starts, and he is set to start eighth in Saturday’s race. This will be his first-career Cup start at the track, although he has had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with two top 5s and 20 laps led, although he never won at the track on that circuit. Kasey Kahne ($8,100) has a 12.2 AFP with four Top 20s in five starts at Kentucky. He is set to start 18th.
Kyle Larson ($8,300) has struggled at Kentucky in his two previous Cup tries, although he has had success in the Xfinity Series. Larson finished seventh and ninth in the two Xfinity Series starts he finish, and he had one DNF in three tries. He has finished 35th and 40th in his two Cup starts, although he’ll get a head start going off 20th Saturday night.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,400) is set to start seventh in Saturday’s race. He has a 13.8 AFP in five starts at Kentucky, but just two Top 10s. However, he has never been lower than 19th in any of his five races. While MTJ hasn’t been terrible at the track, he isn’t worth the high salary with more consistent options at better prices.
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.
Austin Dillon ($7,900) has three starts at Kentucky in the Cup Series, and he has had decent success with finishes of 16th, 24th and 25th at the track. Perhaps he can tap into his success on the Xfinity Series, as he has four starts at Kentucky in that series, winning twice with 307 laps led while never finishing worse than sixth. He is set to start 12th Saturday night. Ryan Newman ($7,500) has two Top 5s and a 15.0 AFP with one DNF at Kentucky. His finishes have been a bit erratic, but there is a lot of good at Kentucky in his past and he comes with a cheap price tag.
Trevor Bayne ($6,900) finished 13th in his only previous start at the track, and he will go off 17th in the Quaker State 400. Bayne is coming off an impressive third-place finish in the Coke Zero 400, and he has been 15th or better in three of his past four races. As such, the Roush-Fenway Racing driver is a strong DFS value. Bayne starts in the 17th position. Casey Mears ($6,200) might also surprise, as he has three Top 20s in five starts while never finishing worse than 25th. He starts 28th, looking to build on his 12th-place finish last weekend.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,800) is another DFS driver who will see high exposure this weekend. In three Cup starts he has two Top 20s with a 17.7 AFP, posting finishes of 11th, 17th and 25th in his three tries. He also has three Top 10s in four Xfinity Series starts, never finishing worse than 17th. Look for Stenhouse Jr. to post a Top 15 finish, well exceeding DFS salary expectations.