After three straight races in Florida to open the 2021 season, the NASCAR Cup Series heads west. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host Sunday's Pennzoil 400. While the race will be the second consecutive event at a mile-and-a-half oval, we have to be careful about using the same strategy as we did last weekend at Homestead when assembling NASCAR DFS lineups at DraftKings.
Yes, there does tend to be a strong correlation between driver performance across all the 1.5-mile tracks, and I am putting plenty of stock in what I saw on the track last weekend at Homestead. However, the tire wear at Homestead is much more aggressive than at Las Vegas, which means clean air and track position should prove more valuable.
As a result, I expect the big names starting closer to the front to have an edge in amassing dominator points. I am also more willing to roster mid-priced options starting in the 10th-to-20th range in GPP contests. I think this is the type of track where a driver in a strong equipment who can gain a handful of spots and finish in the top 15 will offer more upside than a driver in average stuff who is starting deep in the field.
Granted, there are still some quality options starting deeper in the field that I will target, especially in cash contests, but I think a driver will need a strong car or great pit strategy to move through the field quickly. I wouldn't go overboard rostering midrange drivers who need to gain a bunch of spots to reach value.
Chase Elliott ($10,600)
Don't let his lackluster finishes at Las Vegas last year fool you. Elliott was a force in both races, leading 70 laps and recording 48 fastest laps in the spring and leading 73 laps, and logging 50 fastest laps in the fall. He has topped 30 fastest laps and led double-digit laps in his last three starts here, and rolling off inside the top-10, the defending series champ is well-positioned to pile up dominator points again this weekend.
Kevin Harvick ($9,700)
I'm a little concerned about Harvick's lack of speed at Homestead last weekend, but you can't ignore his numbers at Las Vegas, especially with him starting from the pole. Sunday will mark his sixth start from inside the first two rows in the last seven races here, and in five of those starts, Harvick has led 40+ laps and logged 20+ fastest laps.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200)
His overall record at Las Vegas doesn't jump off the page, but the last time the series visited the track, Hamlin had the car to beat. He led a race-high 121 laps and recorded 51 fastest laps on his way to a third-place finish. Hamlin starts sixth and has been a consistent dominator candidate for more than a year now. This is a bargain price for the guy who dominated at this track last time out.
Ryan Blaney ($10,800)
It has been a miserable start to 2021 for Blaney, but a trip to Las Vegas could be just what the doctor ordered. He has seven finishes of 11th or better in nine starts here, and he was on his way to winning the spring race last season before a late caution. Blaney has logged double-digit fastest laps in his last four Vegas races and has posted a driver rating of 100+ in three straight. Set to start 26th, Blaney could gain 20+ spots and chip in some dominator points on his way to being one of the top scorers.
Joey Logano ($10,000)
Logano is my favorite addition to cash lineups this weekend. He has a 6.2 average finish in the last four Vegas races, winning twice and leading 50+ laps three times. Starting back in 15th, he also has more place differential points at his disposal than the other Vegas studs. He is the total package.
Matt DiBenedetto ($9,000)
He was the runner-up in both Vegas races a year ago, but while I am not even expecting DiBenedetto to challenge for a top-5 Sunday, I do think he can easily contend for a top-15. Starting way back in 30th, he should be one of the biggest movers and safest DFS plays.
Aric Almirola ($8,600)
It has been a rough start to the year for Almirola, and although Las Vegas won't make his list of top tracks, he has still managed a 14.5 average finish here over the past two seasons. Starting outside the top 25, Almirola is a safe bet for a solid score at a price tag that you can fit into a balanced lineup.
Erik Jones ($7,100)
An unscheduled stop ruined his race at Homestead, but prior to the problem, Jones was battling for a top-20. Granted, I think mid-pack finishes will be his ceiling with the No. 43 team this year, but that still gives him a solid floor this weekend when he rolls off 29th. Look for Jones to gain around 10 spots and deliver a decent point total for a cheap price.
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,100)
While Truex hasn't led a ton of laps at Las Vegas the last couple of years, he does have three top-10s, including a win, in his last four starts. He has also recorded double-digit fastest laps in all four of those races and seven straight starts at the track overall. Rolling off fourth, I think Truex is a great alternative to the likely popular dominator options like Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and Chase Elliott.
William Byron ($8,300)
Byron is sure to be on a lot of radars after his impressive win at Homestead last weekend, and while his Las Vegas record isn't pretty, some ill-timed cautions have cost him a few top-10s at the track. Starting on the front row, he could pile up plenty of dominator points Sunday. I like the idea of building around Byron instead of pole-sitter Kevin Harvick in the bigger contests.
Kurt Busch ($8,100)
He doesn't have the best record at his home-state track, but Busch led 29 laps in a win here last fall, and he has two top-5s in the last four races here. He has no differential upside from the seventh starting spot, which should cap his ownership. If he can pull off another top-5 and add in a few dominator points, he will be a serious X-factor.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,800)
It can be a roller coaster ride with Stenhouse, but he is coming off a top-15 effort at Homestead, and he has finishes of third and sixth in the last two spring races a Vegas. Last year, he even led 30 laps. If you want to fade the mid-priced options with a lot of place differential, Stenhouse could be a great contrarian play.
Cole Custer ($6,500)
You wouldn't know it by looking at his final result, but Custer had a strong car last weekend at Homestead, and he was running seventh when he cut a tire. He finished 19th and 16th in his two starts at Las Vegas as a rookie and at the finished seventh and 14th at Kansas, one of the closest comps to Vegas. I think he could be a sleeper top-10 pick Sunday.
Chris Buescher ($6,400)
Buescher faded in the latter stages of the Homestead race last weekend, but not before showing some legitimate muscle, leading 57 laps and logging 39 fastest laps. He finished 14th and ninth in the two Vegas races last year and has a 14.8 average finish in his last four starts at the track. Starting 18th, Buescher could be a sneaky top-10 contender and another potential pivot to guys like Aric Almirola and Erik Jones.
NASCAR guru Brian Polking has been committed to producing Fantasy NASCAR coverage for nearly a decade and written countless articles for his devoted audience who swear by his advice year after year.