Last week at Phoenix, we had a pretty predictable race on Sunday, although there were a few drivers that ruined a bunch of Fantasy NASCAR rosters. A couple of those drivers–specifically Ryan Newman and Paul Menard–were on our list of “Ultimate Value” DraftKings picks for Phoenix, which further underlines the importance of making the right selections in those mid-tier options.
This week, we have some “heavy hitters” starting mid-pack along with those other mid-tier drivers, so there are a plethora of DraftKings rosters that you could put together this week. Below we outline some of the highest value picks that are available for the race this weekend, and we’d recommend building your rosters around them.
For Sunday’s Auto Club 400 starting lineup, please click here.
Ultimate Value DraftKings Picks for the Auto Club 400
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ($9,600) – Here’s one of those “heavy hitter” drivers we talked about in the opening. Yeah, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has a hefty price tag associated with him, but he should be well worth the money on Sunday. The #88 Chevrolet will roll off the grid in 27th, which means there’s plenty of room to gain place differential points and not that much of a risk of losing them. For whatever reason, this #88 team is just not very good at qualifying–an issue that plagued them in 2015 as well. Last week, however, we saw Junior start from 26th and quickly make his way (and finish) in the top 5, so we’re not concerned about his starting spot this week very much. Earnhardt finished 6th in the 2015 Auto Club 400 and hasn’t finished worse than 12th here since the 2010 season. In Happy Hour on Saturday, the #88 Chevrolet was 13th in overall speed and ranked 22nd in ten-lap average–although it should be noted that their run came later on in the session. Even just a 10th-place result out of Junior on Sunday would net around 50 points in DraftKings.
Kurt Busch ($9,500) – If you remember earlier this week, Kurt Busch was actually one of our picks to win this race, so the fact that he will start 26th for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday is great news for us in games like NASCAR.com Fantasy Live and, yes, DraftKings. This #41 team have been the qualifying kings of 2016 but, for whatever reason, had a slip up here at Fontana on Friday. As we all know, however, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish–especially with DraftKings. Not many drivers have been better than Kurt Busch here at Fontana as of late, as he’s currently on a three-race streak of top 5 finishes here, and probably should have won last year’s event. This is arguably Kurt Busch’s best track on the Sprint Cup circuit and he hasn’t finished worse than 10th in the 2016 Sprint Cup season thus far. Now for the bad news. Kurt hit the wall in Practice #2 and did enough damage to the car that he will have to go to a backup machine and start from the rear. However, we believe that this might actually help Busch, as his primary car wasn’t that great. Kurt was just 24th-fastest in Happy Hour on Saturday but he has a teammate (Kevin Harvick) with a whole bunch of speed to borrow notes from before the Auto Club 400 on Sunday.
Martin Truex, Jr. ($8,800) – At this price, Truex is right on the edge between the high-priced drivers and the mid-range drivers for the Auto Club 400, but he has the potential to be one of the top scoring drivers this week. The #78 Toyota qualified 17th for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, but the race car is far better than that–at least judging by the practice speeds. In Practice #2, Truex was 2nd on the overall speed chart and ranked 2nd in ten-lap average as well. However, we don’t put much stock in that session. Looking at Happy Hour, though, the #78 Toyota ranked 7th on the speed chart and had the best ten-lap average to go along with it. Truex ran 8th in this race one year ago but has the potential to finish better than that this weekend. At only $8,800, it’s hard to turn down a potential top 5 finisher in DraftKings, especially one that starts mid-pack.
Kyle Larson ($8,200) – Now we’re getting down to the lower priced drivers instead of those that are going to take a big chunk of money for your roster. Kyle Larson is the ultimate high risk/high reward pick this week. He’ll, we’d almost put him in the “super high risk” category. If he would have qualified in the top 15, we would have avoided him like the plague. However, the #42 Chevrolet ended up 32nd on the qualifying board on Friday, so that opened the door to some consideration. He went on to wreck his primary car in Happy Hour, so Kyle will start in the rear on Sunday–although still be credited with the 32nd-place starting spot. However, maybe this team will find more speed in the backup car than the primary. It seemed like the #41 team did this week. In the two intermediate races this season (Atlanta and Las Vegas), Larson has finished 26th and 34th, respectively. However, he’s coming off of a 12th-place run at Phoenix, and that’s actually a pretty accurate representation of him as a Fantasy NASCAR pick–inconsistent and unreliable. Looking at Fontana specifically, Larson finished 2nd here in his rookie campaign and wound up 26th in last year’s event. At the $8,200 price point this week, he’s going to be an attractive option, but realistically Larson will need to finish around 15th on Sunday for him to be worth that kind of money. It’s certainly possible that that happens, but it’s nowhere near guaranteed–and we probably won’t be taking the gamble to find out.
Paul Menard ($6,500) – We love this pick. Getting Paul Menard at $6,500 is one of the best fantasy options you have in DraftKings this week. First, let’s consider the fact that Paul finished 4th in this race one year ago, and he’s currently on a three-race streak of top 10s at Auto Club Speedway. Now, looking at this season, Menard came home 18th at Atlanta, and 15th at Las Vegas. Those finishes aren’t great, we know, but they’re decent. This weekend, Menard will start the race from 13th, which is a little higher than we’d like, but the potential for a top 10 finish is there. In Practice #2 on Saturday morning, the #27 Chevrolet was 6th-fastest in overall speed and on the ten-lap average chart, and then in Happy Hour Menard ranked 18th and 8th, respectively. When you compare the drivers that are at the same price point (or lower) as Menard this week, you have to give the nod to the driver of the #27 Chevrolet, although you could make a case for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. at $6,500 as well.
Brian Vickers ($5,400) – Here’s the driver that’s probably going to fill out a lot of DraftKings rosters this week. At the $5,400 price point, it’s hard not to consider Brian Vickers. He’s in the #14 Chevrolet, which we all know has the potential to run top 10, and Vickers isn’t too bad here at Fontana; in his last nine starts at this race track, Brian has came home in 12th place or better in eight of them. Do we think that he will be able to run that well in the 2016 Auto Club 400? No. But a top 15 isn’t out of the question for this #14 team on Sunday. Vickers will start from 24th-place this weekend, which means you’re not really going to lose points unless he hits the wall or has a mechanical issue, two things Brian actually has the tendency to do. Again, at this price, picking Vickers will allow you to afford some of the higher-priced drivers, which should be where all the points are gained this weekend.