DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Toyota Save Mart 350
The Sprint Cup Series returns after a week off and we will get our first road course of the 2015 season.
The Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma, California can be a difficult race for Daily Fantasy players, especially since we tend to see a handful of ringers, or specialty racers, stepping behind the wheel for the road course. However, I’ve found in the past when setting a Fantasy lineup that these ringers rarely (if ever) make a splash. Sure, they finish a little higher than your standard park-and-ride guys, but generally the subs will not turn in a Top 10 or Top 20 finish.
In practice Friday we saw a few unheralded drivers turn in solid efforts and those guys are worth a look as your No. 4 or 5 driver at Sonoma. If you plan to use a high-low strategy setting your lineup, you can select two of the guys below while affording three of the higher-end DFS options. It could be quite the winning combination.
“15 of the 26 races from Sonoma have been won from a driver starting in the Top 5 and 19 of the 26 winners have come from a starting spot in the Top 10.”
Germain Racing’s Casey Mears ($7,600) has had a measure of success in wine country in the past and his experience is a little more extensive than some of his lower-priced counterparts. He has made 11 career starts at the California road course, posting a Top 5, two Top 10s, and seven Top 20 finishes. That’s a pretty solid conversion rate of success for DFS owners. He was a respectable 11th in practice Friday so don’t forget about him when filling out the final spots of your lineup.
Richard Petty Motorsports driver Sam Hornish Jr. ($7,600) turned in a tremendous practice effort Friday, posting the eighth-fastest speed. He and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer look to get the No. 9 machine into the Top 10 this weekend and if Hornish can run like he did in practice that is a good possibility. He has an Average-Finish Position of 35.0 in three starts but things are looking up for SHJ.
The Leavine Family Racing team could be in line for a season-best run from Michael McDowell ($7,300). He was another lower-tier driver turning heads in practice, posting the ninth-best speed in his KLOVE Radio No. 95 Ford. He has had slightly better success than Hornish at Sonoma, posting a 25.0 AFP in three career starts. If you’re in a salary pinch for your fifth driver, you can certainly do much worse.
Front Row Motorsports driver David Gilliland ($7,400), like McDowell, could be ready for a season-best finish. The California native has a Top 5, one Top 10, and three Top 20 finishes in nine career starts at Sonoma, posting a 21.2 AFP. He was 16th in practice Friday and if he could duplicate that kind of success on the track Sunday he would be a solid DFS start.
Toyota’s dominated practice, turning in the first, second and fourth-best speeds. DFS owners will want to save a place for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Carl Edwards ($10,500). He was second in practice Friday and he usually runs well at Sonoma on race day, including last year when he broke through for his first-career road course checkered flag. In 10 career starts he has three Top 5s, five Top 10s, and seven Top 20s with 40 career laps led. Cousin Carl won’t be the only Toyota to watch. Clint Bowyer ($8,900) is an intermediate DFS option with some upside. He was fourth in practice Friday and he ranks second among all active drivers with an AFP of 9.22. He has one win at Sonoma while finishing outside of the Top 20 just once in nine career starts. According to NASCAR’s Loop Data, Bowyer has run inside the Top 15 in 75.3 percent of his laps, fourth-best among all active drivers at the road course.
Another intermediate option worth keeping an eye on is A.J. Allmendinger ($8,300). He was so-so in practice at 23rd but Loop Data shows he is ninth in Driver Rating average over the past five runs at Sonoma, posting a respectable 18.0 AFP with 35 laps led. He has never had a Top 5 at the course but he has two Top 10s and four Top 20s in six career starts at the road course.
If you use two or more of the options below, you should have no problem finding DFS salary for one or two of the Hendrick Motorsports studs. Jimmie Johnson ($13,100) is a bit pricey, but the California native usually shows well at home, and he has a win, four Top 5s, and 11 Top 20s in 13 career starts. Over the past five outings at Sonoma it is J.J. who sits atop the charts in Driver Rating (117.2) and he has run an amazing 92.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 while turning in a 5.8 AFP since June 2010. Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon ($11,300) leads all active drivers with a stellar 7.9 AFP, posting five career wins with 19 Top 20s in 22 starts. He has 457 laps led with the second-best active driver having led 154 laps. Gordon was sixth in practice Friday and he leads all drivers with a 3.4 AFP over his past five races at the California road course.
Gordon and Johnson might have the better averages over time but Kasey Kahne ($10,700) is no slouch. He was seventh in practice and that mirrors his Average Driver Rating (97.6) over the past five seasons, which ranks him sixth. While he hasn’t led any laps during the span, he has run inside the Top 15 in 74.4 percent of his laps while turning in an AFP of 10.0. He has a win and two Top 5s in 11 career starts and is a little more affordable than his teammates.
If you have a little more DFS salary flexibility, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch ($12,400) leads all active drivers with a 106.5 Driver Rating and he is second-best with 154 laps led. Busch once drove the Blue Deuce to Victory Lane at the track and he has six Top 5s in 14 career starts.
Lastly, remember that 15 of the 26 races from Sonoma have been won from a driver starting in the Top 5, and 19 of the 26 winners have come from a starting spot in the Top 10, so the starting grid is key. And unlike some other tracks where there is plenty of passing, keep in mind that the most lead changes we have ever seen at Sonoma is 12, and there were as few as three.