We’re in Phoenix, Arizona this weekend for the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway. This is a short, flat, 1-mile track that has recently been reconfigured. Last fall was the first time that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series raced on this “new” Phoenix, and you have to put a little asterisk next to those race results because 1.) it was a Playoff races, and those are always a little more different than normal, and 2.) we had a ton of issues in that race, to the tune of 10 cautions for 61 laps. There hadn’t been double-digit cautions at Phoenix since the 2015 season.
Typically the races at ISM Raceway are pretty predictable, at least for the first Stage. Then things tend to get a little weird. Phoenix is a mix between a short and an intermediate track, and the green flag runs are pretty long here. As far as finding success at this track, it’s up to the team to find the perfect balance between short- and long-run speed, and unfortunately that is something that is difficult to gauge by looking at practice data alone. But, as always, I’ll be giving my best with the Projections for Sunday down below.
Full Disclosure: I am personally taking a step back from DraftKings this weekend and just enjoying the race. I may play one or two contests, but not my normal amount by any means.
Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch?
It’s the question most people are debating: Kevin Harvick ($12,800) or Kyle Busch Busch ($12,200)? These two drivers are head-and-shoulders above anybody else at this track (just check out this week’s algorithm results) and unless both the #4 Ford and #18 Toyota have problems on Sunday, it’s probably going to be one of these two ending up with the most dominator points. Kyle Busch starts up in 4th for the TicketGuardian 500 while Kevin Harvick qualified 8th. So who should you pick?
Looking at the Projections below, these two are neck-and-neck in terms of both projected points (Harvick’s at 92.3 and Kyle Busch is at 91.7) as well as projected finish (both at 2.0). Busch has a better starting spot, thus is more likely to get dominator points early, but I think Harvick has a better car overall. It’s rare for him to be happy with his ride during practice, but Harvick was in a good mood Saturday. Additionally, Harvick starts a little further back, so he you have to factor in those additional place differential points in DraftKings. I like being heavier on Harvick than Kyle Busch, but having plenty of each.
DraftKings Strategy Tactics for Phoenix
Putting together a top DraftKings lineup is finding a good balance between place differential and dominator points. Luckily for the races at Phoenix, most of the dominator points are put up by guys like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, so unless we get an expected leader in there, you can focus on finish points and place differential.
We had three “big name” drivers struggle in qualifying this weekend, and they’re sure to each have a high ownership percentage on Sunday. Those guys are: Kyle Larson ($9,900), Clint Bowyer ($8,400), and Daniel Suarez ($7,600). They are starting 31st, 26th, and 28th (respectively) this weekend, and are all solid plays in cash games on DraftKings. As far as GPP contests go, though, you have to think of those guys more strategically. Suarez should grab more exposure there because of his lower price tag, but Bowyer and Larson will both have decent-sized ownership as well.
I’d say there’s an 80% chance that Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch are going to be in the top lineup on Sunday. Does that mean you can’t put together some rosters without them in it, though? Of course not. Historically, pole sitters other than the “normal contenders” here at Phoenix haven’t lived up to expectations, but Ryan Blaney ($8,200) is priced well and had a very strong car during all three practice sessions this weekend. I think the #12 Ford will lead for the first half of the Stage to start out, but whether or not Blaney continues to stay out front will depend on his team getting the balance in that car right; Ryan had very good short-run speed on Saturday but was significantly slower than guys like Kyle Busch when it came to lap 20 of a run.
GPP Drivers I Love for the TicketGuardian 500
Brad Keselowski ($11,600) – If you’re looking for a contrarian dominator this weekend, why not go with the team that’s arguably the hottest in the Cup Series garage right now? Brad Keselowski comes at a $600 and $1,200 discount compared to Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick (respectively) this weekend, but he starts in row 3 and the Penske Fords have been bad, bad fast this weekend. Here at Phoenix, Keselowski has taken a while to really dial in the setup for the track, but this #2 team thinks they hit on something big in the fall race last season, and I believe them. In the two races here in 2018, Kez led a combined 44 laps, which is more than he did in the five previous races at Phoenix combined. He also had 58 fastest laps in those two races, which was 5th-most in the series.
Chase Elliott ($9,300) – Chase Elliott starts 2nd for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500, which I will admit is way too high to seriously consider him in DraftKings. Chances are, Ryan Blaney is going to lead the early portion of the race, and then Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick is going to take over. If that goes as expected, Chase Elliott won’t be able to get many laps led points in DraftKings, and he’s ultra-risky considering he probably will only get negative place differential points. Add in the fact that the #9 Chevrolet looked average at best during practice on Saturday and chances are Chase Elliott is going to be one of the lowest-owned drivers on Sunday. That’s why I like being overweight on him this weekend–although I’d cap it to about 12-18% exposure. Here’s the thing: Chase Elliott runs really, really well at this track type, and he’s finished 2nd or 3rd in two of the last three Phoenix races. He also put up 32 and 34 fastest laps in the two races here last season, which are pretty significant numbers. If you’re in a gambling mood this weekend, Chase Elliott is your guy, in my opinion. I think he’s going to be overlooked by a bunch of people on Sunday.
Chris Buescher ($6,600) – There’s two drivers that qualified pretty high this weekend that I love in GPPs: Ty Dillon ($5,900) and Chris Buescher. Ty Dillon has more to do with his track history than anything else, so let’s talk about Buescher. This #37 team is coming off of back-to-back top 20 finishes at Atlanta and Las Vegas, and I think they’ll make it three in a row here at Phoenix on Sunday. Chris qualified 22nd for this weekend’s TicketGuardian 500, and while that’s a little higher than I’m comfortable with, when you combine that with the fact that Buescher is priced as high as he is, that’s going to keep his ownership percentage extremely low on Sunday–which is what I love in my GPP plays. Speed-wise, the #37 Chevrolet ranked 5th in ten-lap average during Saturday’s first practice session and then 21st-best during Happy Hour. Buescher came home with a career-best 18th-place finish when we were last here in November, and with the way this team is running right now, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him challenge for a top 15 on Sunday.
GPP Fade Options for Phoenix
We’ll start with the obvious fades of the weekend. These drivers qualified significantly higher than they will probably finish, and I would have limited to no exposure of them on Sunday: Daniel Hemric ($6,900), Paul Menard ($6,800), and Corey LaJoie ($5,300).
Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,900) – One of these times it’s going to bite me in the ass, but Truex is typically on my “do not run” list when it comes to Phoenix. That’s not to say he’s not capable of a top 5 finish–he is, in fact he’s finished there in two of the last three races here–but he’s just not worth the huge salary, with the reason being he doesn’t get dominator points. Looking at the last 13 races here, Martin Truex, Jr. has completed 3,581 laps yet he has a TOTAL of 11 laps led and 89 fastest laps. That’s it. We’re talking 0.3% laps led and 2.5% laps led. You wouldn’t pay $8,000 in salary for that kind of performance, let alone nearly $11,000. Truex starts 9th on Sunday and could compete for a top 5 finish, but the only way he makes it anywhere close to the winning lineup is if both Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have problems. And that’s just extremely unlikely.
Phoenix TicketGuardian 500 DraftKings Projections
You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||Starting Position||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||9||$10,900||44.1||07.6||5||10||$247|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||19||$7,500||27.1||18.2||0||1||$277|