NASCAR DFS: 2019 Auto Club 400 DraftKings Preview

Brian Polking

The West Coast swing comes to a close this weekend when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits Auto Club Speedway for Sunday’s Auto Club 400. It will be the first of three races held at a 2-mile oval this year, with Michigan International Speedway hosting the other two over the summer.

Despite the wide surface and multiple grooves at Auto Club, it hasn't been uncommon for a couple of drivers, typically the usual suspects, to dominate long stretches of races at this track. Momentum is so important down the long straightaways, that clean becomes crucial.

The X-factor this weekend will be NASCAR's new rules package. Granted, I think fears of complete chaos with the package have been put to rest by the races at Atlanta and Las Vegas, and if anything, the slower speeds could lead to fewer wrecks and less attrition. That being said, I do think the draft could play its biggest role since Daytona this weekend, and I'll be interested to see if the leader has a tough time staying out front.

We won't know exactly what to expect at the 2-mile tracks until we see Sunday's race, but I still suspect that I will be anchoring most of my lineups this weekend with a couple of high-priced, big-name dominators. Qualifying could always have something to say about that, and if a bunch of big names end up starting deep in the field, I will likely flip to more one-dominator lineups.

As always, check back after practice and qualifying for updated picks and lineup strategies for both season-long and DFS contests. In the meantime, check out the drivers I'll be targeting for Sunday's Auto Club 400.

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Must-Own Drivers

Kyle Busch ($12,600)

Fresh off his win at Phoenix, Busch carries a 3.0 average finish into Sunday’s race at Auto Club. He’s a three-time winner at this track overall, and he led 62 laps on his way to a third-place finish a year ago. Busch actually finished fourth or better in all three races at 2-mile tracks last year, and he has led double-digit laps in four of the last five races at ACS and Michigan. I’m expecting another strong showing from the driver of the No. 18.

Kevin Harvick ($12,100)

His six Top 5s over the last 10 races at the 2-mile tracks are tied for the most in the series, and Harvick’s 347 laps led in that span rank second. He crashed while battling Kyle Larson for a spot in the Top 5 at Auto Club last year, but he rebounded with finishes of second and first at Michigan, leading 49 and 108 laps, respectively, in those starts.

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,000)

Over the last 10 races at 2-mile tracks, no driver has led more laps than Truex, and he has led 20-plus laps six times in that stretch. He led a race-high 125 laps on his way to the win at Auto Club last year, and he has led 50-plus laps in four of the last six races at the 2-milers. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Truex end up as the top scorer Sunday.

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Difference Makers and Value Plays

Brad Keselowski ($11,500)

He’s been one of the most dependable drivers at Auto Club and 2-mile ovals in general, but while Keselowski finished fourth, sixth and second in the three races at those tracks last year, he didn’t lead a single lap. He’s always capable of going out and piling up dominator points, but I view him as more of a contrarian to build around rather than a must-own option this weekend.

Kyle Larson ($10,800)

Larson owns four career wins at 2-mile tracks, sweeping all three races in 2017. He also finished second at Auto Club last year, but his dominance appears to be slipping a bit. After leading more than 40 laps in his first three wins, including 90-plus laps twice, Larson led just two laps in his win at Michigan in August of 2017. Last year, he led just a single lap in the three races at 2-mile tracks. I’m not writing him off by any means, but I’m not penciling him in for a bunch of dominator points just yet either.

Joey Logano ($10,400)

Logano has been the model of consistency at the 2-milers, piling up a series-best nine Top 10s in the last 10 races. On the flip side, he hasn’t exactly been dominant, leading just 11 total laps in the six races over the past two seasons. He’s a no-brainer cash play if he starts deeper in the field for some reason, but he’s not a lock for dominator points.

Kurt Busch ($9,100)

He’s off to an excellent start with Chip Ganassi Racing, and I don’t expect him to slow down this weekend. Busch has five straight Top 15s at 2-mile tracks, and he has four combined wins at Auto Club and Michigan. I love his Top 5 upside, even though his price tag is starting to creep up.

Erik Jones ($8,200)

Jones finished seventh at Auto Club a year ago, and in six starts at 2-mile tracks, he has a 10.5 average finish and has never finished outside the Top 15. Starting position will go a long way to determining his value, but Jones is on the short list of drivers priced below $9,000 who have a good chance at a Top 10 Sunday.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,600)

Stenhouse has been no more than a Top 20 driver at the 2-mile tracks throughout his career, but he’s been impressive so far in 2019. He has a 12.5 average finish after four races, and he has finished 13th or better three times. Keep him in mind for GPP lineups.

Austin Dillon ($7,400)

I’m not a Dillon fan by any means, but he’s been solid at the 2-mile tracks. He has five Top 10s in the last 10 races, including three in his last four starts, and he has finished 16th or better eight times in that stretch. If he qualifies in the middle of the pack or worse, I’ll probably have some exposure to him this weekend.

Ryan Newman ($7,300)

He’s not a force at the 2-milers by any means, but Newman does have seven Top 15s and a 14.2 average finish over the last 10 races at Auto Club and Michigan. At this price, there’s definite cash game potential for Newman if he qualifies in the back half of the field.

Sleeper Special

Bubba Wallace ($5,700)

His sophomore campaign is off to a horrendous start, but Wallace does have three Top 20s and a 20.2 average finish in four career starts at 2-mile ovals. If he qualifies around the 30th spot, I’ll be willing to take a flier on him to save the cap space.

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