NASCAR DFS: Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway Fanduel Preview
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to ISM Raceway for the second race of the year at the low-banked, one-mile oval and the final race of the Round of 8 of the playoffs. Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are already locked into the Championship 4, but when the checkered flag waves over Sunday's Bluegreen Vacations 500, we will know all four drivers who compete for the 2019 series crown.
From a DFS standpoint, Sunday's trip at Phoenix could be more of a boom-or-bust type of race. While we have seen the 2019 rules package spread out the dominator points at some of the bigger, faster ovals, it has actually had the opposite effect at some of the shorter tracks.
Passing has always been difficult at Phoenix, and clean air and track position seems to be more important than ever. Back in March, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney combined to lead 271 of the 312 laps, and all but eight of the laps were led by drivers who finished in the Top 5. Three of those drivers also started in the Top 5.
I think you are going to have to anchor your lineups with a couple of studs in order to maximize your exposure to the laps led points and finish in the money. If you miss on one of the dominators, I don't think you are going to be able to make up the difference simply with a balanced roster of drivers who log solid finishes. Your top priority this weekend needs to be nailing the top scorers.
Kyle Busch ($15,000)
Busch has emerged as the man to beat in the desert recently, winning back-to-back races here and reeling off eight straight Top 10s. He has cracked the Top 10 in seven of those starts, leading more than 100 laps in four of the last five races. Busch led 177 laps in his win here in March, and as good as he has been at this track, a Phoenix three-peat and a massive point total could be on tap.
Kevin Harvick ($14,000)
His numbers are Phoenix are second to none. Harvick is a nine-time winner here, and since joining Stewart-Haas Racing, he has compiled a ridiculous 3.27 average finish in 11 starts. Harvick has led at least 139 laps five times in that stretch, finishing in the Top 10 in all 11 races. He should be a lock to contend for the win and lead laps Sunday, and he could easily finish as the top scorer at Fanduel.
Difference Makers and Value Plays
Chase Elliott ($12,500)
He rolls into Phoenix facing a must-win situation if he plans to keep his title hopes alive, but the good news for Elliott is that he is no stranger to running well here. Overall, he has six Top 15s in seven starts at the track, finishing third or better twice. He has led double-digit laps in three of those races, and his current crew chief, Alan Gustafson, has won at Phoenix with three different drivers. I like Elliott as a pivot to the top-priced dominators.
Ryan Blaney ($12,000)
Blaney sat on the pole in the March race at Phoenix, and he went on to lead 94 laps and finish third in what was by far his best performance at the track to date. His price tag is higher than I expected this weekend, but after the upside he showed earlier this year, you have to at least keep him in mind for GPP contests.
Kurt Busch ($9,500)
He is an underrated option at flat tracks, and over the last 10 races at Phoenix, Busch has seven Top 10s and has scored the sixth-most driver points. He picked up a seventh-place finish in the March race earlier this year, and he led 52 laps in the fall race last season. Busch offers a blend of reliability and upside that could make him a real X-factor in bigger GPPs.
Aric Almirola ($8,500)
Armed with momentum from a runner-up finish at Texas, Almirola heads to one of his best tracks on the schedule. Not only does he have four straight Top 10s at Phoenix, but he has finished seventh or better in all three starts here with Stewart-Haas Racing. Almirola even led 26 laps and finished fourth in the March race earlier this year, so he could outperform this price tag by a wide margin Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson ($7,800)
He hasn't been a threat to win at Phoenix in a while, but Johnson has still managed to deliver solid results at the track. He has seven Top 15s in his last nine starts here, including three straight. Johnson logged an eighth-place finish in the March race at Phoenix, and I'll take a driver with a Top 15 floor and Top 10 upside at this price any day of the week.
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700)
DiBenedetto was on his way to a Top 15 finish at Phoenix in March before having issues late, and he has shown in the second half of the year that he can make some noise at shorter, flatter tracks. He had a Top 5 finish at New Hampshire over the summer, and he has finishes of 14th at Richmond and 16th at Martinsville during the playoffs. DiBenedetto should at least be able to challenge for a Top 15 at a cap-friendly price.
Ryan Newman ($7,000)
If you are looking for an early favorite for the best value of the weekend, look no further than Newman. He has notched 10 finishes of 12th or better in his last 12 starts at Phoenix, including three straight. This is a steal of a price for a driver who has basically been a lock to finish in or around the Top 10 at Phoenix. At the very least, plan to load up on Newman in cash games.
Chris Buescher ($5,500)
While Phoenix hasn't been his strongest track, this is still a great price for a driver who has run inside the Top 20 all season, showing occasional Top 10 upside. He's also been trending in the right direction at Phoenix. Buescher gained seven spots and finished 18th in the fall race last year, and he gained six spots and finished 16th back in March.
Ty Dillon ($5,000)
Dillon seems to have a knack for delivering decent finishes at Phoenix, and in five starts for his current No. 13 team, he has four Top 20s. He has completed all but five laps in those starts, gaining at least five spots in three of them. Dillon delivered a Top 15 finish at Phoenix in March, and he should end up being one of the safest sources of cap relief this weekend.
John Hunter Nemechek ($3,000)
His Cup Series debut last weekend was a successful one as Nemechek managed a 21st-place finish at Texas, gaining eight spots and completing all but one lap. For such a cheap price, I'm willing to roll the dice and see if he can come close to matching that performance this weekend at Phoenix.
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