The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series welcomes back the mile-and-a-half tracks with a trip to Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. Sunday's Camping World 400 will be the sixth race of 2019 at a 1.5-mile oval, and while we have still seen the big names from the top teams flex their muscles at these types of tracks, the degree to which they have been dominating has been altered a bit by the rules package being used this year. Needless to say, this has had an impact on how you need to approach your lineup construction at for NASCAR DFS at Fanduel.
I went back and looked at the first five races at mile-and-a-half tracks. At Atlanta, Kyle Larson led 142 laps while four other drivers topped 30 laps led. At Las Vegas, two drivers led more than 80 laps, but no one else led more than 23. At Texas, six drivers led at least 30 laps, but no one led more than 66. Kevin Harvick topped 100 laps led at Kansas with two other drivers leading at least 45 laps, and in the 600-miler at Charlotte, Martin Truex Jr. went over 100 laps led with two other drivers topped 70 laps led.
While the new rules have kept the field a little tighter, it actually seems to have made passing the leader under green harder. As a result, any driver that can grab the lead on pit road or on a restart is able to lead a chunk of laps, causing the laps led points to be spread out a bit more at the 1.5-mile ovals than in year's past.
You still want at least one high-priced dominator to anchor your lineup because we have consistently seen someone lead 80-100 laps at these tracks. However, you may want to think twice about rostering two high-priced drivers starting up front. You may be better off going with two or three quality midrange options instead, especially if they have a little place differential upside.
The trends so far this year suggest that you can find multiple drivers who will lead a small chunk of laps, and since we haven't seen these races completely dominated by one or two drivers, it is better to have three or more drivers who finish in the Top 10, gain a few spots and lead some laps than two expensive options and a punt play or two. In Fanduel's scoring, balanced lineups are going to be crucial.
Make sure to check back in after qualifying for updated driver picks and lineup strategies. In the meantime, take a closer look at the drivers I expect to target at Fanduel for Sunday's Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Kyle Busch ($15,000)
Busch picked up the win at Chicagoland last year, and he has been a lap leading machine at the track recently. He has led more than 20 laps in the last six races here, and he has led at least 46 laps five times. Busch has also led laps in four of the five races at mile-and-a-half tracks in 2019, leading the second-most laps overall in those starts. He is the safest bet to lead laps and contend for the win, and Busch is always capable of total domination.
Martin Truex Jr. ($14,500)
Truex just picked up his fourth win of the year last weekend at Sonoma, and he may not have to wait long for win No. 5. After all, he has two wins and a fourth-place finish in the last three races at Chicagoland, leading 30-plus laps in three of his last four starts here. Truex went to victory lane at Charlotte the last time the Cup Series visited a 1.5-mile track, and he could deliver a similar performance Sunday. He's a prime candidate to lead the most laps and pick up the win.
Kevin Harvick ($14,000)
You can focus on his lack of wins if you want, but I am going to focus on the fact that Harvick has led the most laps and scored the most points in the five races at mile-and-a-half tracks this year. In fact, he has led double-digit laps in four of those five races, leading 40-plus three times. Harvick has also been stout at Chicagoland. He has led double-digit laps in four of the last five races here, leading 59 laps and finishing third in 2017 and leading 39 laps and finishing third last season.
Difference Makers and Value Plays
Brad Keselowski ($13,000)
Keselowski has led double-digit laps in four of the five races at 1.5-mile ovals this season, and he is the only driver with multiple wins so far. He has also been one of the most reliable performers at Chicagoland. Keselowski has notched eight straight Top 10s here, picking up a pair of wins and leading laps in seven of those starts. He could be an excellent pivot to the drivers priced at $14,000 or more or a great partner to one of them at the top of a lineup.
Chase Elliott ($12,500)
Elliott has been coming on strong at the 1.5-mile ovals, logging back-to-back Top 5 finishes at Kansas and Charlotte and leading at least 35 laps in the last three races. His track record at Chicagoland is impressive, as well. Elliott has finished in the Top 3 and led more than 40 laps in two of his three starts here. He has the potential to lead a lot of laps and contend for the win, and he is priced well below the top options. He could be a great contrarian to build around this weekend.
Clint Bowyer ($10,700)
Believe it or not, Bowyer is one of only two driver who have managed three Top 5 finishes in the first five races at mile-and-a-half tracks this year. Clearly, there is something about the 2019 rules that are working in his favor. He also has six Top 10s in the last 10 races at Chicagoland, leading 21 laps and finishing fifth here a year ago. When you start hunting for cheaper options who could lead laps and run up front, Bowyer needs to be on the list.
Ryan Blaney ($10,300)
His 25.2 average finish at the 1.5-mile tracks is a little unsettling, but Blaney's results don't do him justice. Bad luck in those races has cost him at least a few Top 5s, possibly a win. He has led laps in three of those five starts, leading 40-plus laps twice. Blaney has also led laps in two of his three Chicagoland starts. Inconsistent results have caused his price tag to plummet, making him the perfect high-risk, high-reward option for GPP lineups.
Erik Jones ($10,000)
It has been an all-or-nothing year for Jones, but as bad as his luck has been, he has typically been at his best at the 1.5-mile tracks. He has notched three Top 10s in the first five races this season, including a pair of Top 5 efforts. He also finished sixth at Chicagoland last season. Mid-priced drivers with legitimate Top 5 upside are few and far between, so Jones needs to be on your radar heading into the weekend.
Aric Almirola ($9,500)
In terms of value, Almirola is one of my favorite options available this weekend. He has finished 12th or better in all five races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, posting a 9.0 average finish and gaining at least 14 spots three times. He also had a great car at Chicagoland last year, leading 70 laps before a loose wheel took him out of contention. Almirola is worth a look at this price no matter where he starts, but if he qualifies outside the Top 20, he's practically a must-own option.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,700)
He can still be wildly inconsistent overall, but Stenhouse has been locked in at the mile-and-a-half tracks in 2019. Heading into Sunday's race at Chicagoland, he has an 11.2 average finish in the five races at 1.5-mile ovals, and he has finished 18th or better in all five. Stenhouse also has two finishes sixth or better in those five starts, leading laps on three occasions. At the very least, he is a cheaper option to keep in mind for GPP contests.
Chris Buescher ($7,600)
For whatever reason, this year's rules have turned Buescher into a legitimate Top 10 threat at the mile-and-a-half tracks. He has posted a 12.6 average finish across the five races, gaining an average of 10.6 spots per race. He has gained at least eight spots in four of those five starts, and he has notched three Top 10s. If Buescher qualifies outside the Top 20 again this weekend at Chicagoland, he becomes a no-brainer option at this price.
Matt Tifft ($4,500)
Not only has Tifft cracked the Top 25 in each of the last three races at 1.5-mile ovals this year, but he has gained at least five spots in all of them and completed all but five total laps. He's actually finished 21st (Kansas) and 20th (Charlotte) in the two most recent trips to mile-and-a-half tracks, so the rookie seems to be trending in the right direction. If Tifft starts around the 30th spot, I'll look his way for cap relief.
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