It’s the first 1.5-mile race of the NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday, as we have the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We’re set to run 400 miles in the desert, which equates to 267 laps on the track. And now that we’re back to “normal” racing, lineup construction for DraftKings will get back to what we’re used to.
Before we get to strategy and everything, there’s a couple of things to go over: qualifying was rained out on Saturday–yes… rain in the desert–which means the starting lineup was set by last year’s Owner Points. Kyle Busch will technically start on the pole, but he will have to start from the rear along with Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell (and possibly others, depending on what happens Saturday night and Sunday morning). With that being said, all starting positions are final, so Kyle Busch will still be scored as if he’s starting 1st. Click here to see the starting lineup for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas on Sunday.
By the way, my projected driver scores for Las Vegas are posted at the bottom of this article. It’s kind of long so if you’re just here for those, scroll down.
DraftKings Strategy Tactics for the Pennzoil 400
The pole sitter at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been an interesting trend over the years, specifically because they haven’t really dominated. Looking at the Las Vegas Cup races since the 2013 season, pole sitters are averaging a finish of 12.6, while only leading an average of 29.6 laps. Just two of the last five pole sitters led more than one lap. Here’s a chart detailing this:
|Pole Sitter||Laps Led||Finish|
|LAST 9 RACES||AVERAGE||29.6||12.6|
With this weekend’s pole sitter, Kyle Busch, having to start at the rear on Sunday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this trend continue. But where will the dominator(s) come from? Looking at the two Las Vegas races last season, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano both led 85+ laps in the spring race here, while five other drivers led 10+ laps. In the fall, Logano led 105 laps while Harvick led 47, and Truex kicked in an additional 32 laps led while Suarez had 29. Michael McDowell and Chase Elliott both has over 10 laps led in that race as well.
Thanks to qualifying getting rained out, we have the best of the best starting up front, and chances are the top dominators are going to come from the top 5 or 6 starting spots. I think we’ll see Kevin Harvick lead the most laps on Sunday with Joey Logano and Martin Truex, Jr. possibly leading a good chunk as well.
Strategy-wise, I think the top DraftKings lineups are going to be the ones that are able to utilize the mid-to-high priced drivers the best. I’m talking about those in the mid-$7,000 to low $9,000 range. There is a ton of value in that range with drivers that could sneak in a top 5 finish is everything goes right on Sunday.
Another thing to note is the starting position of winners at 1.5-mile tracks last season. In the ten races on these tracks, seven of the winners started inside the top 10. Only at Kansas (winner started 13th), Las Vegas 2 (25th), and Kansas 2 (31st) did the winner not start in the top 10.
GPP Drivers I Love for Las Vegas
PLAY (TOURNAMENTS): Kyle Larson ($9,800) – Honestly, I don’t mind playing two drivers that start near the front this week, such as Kevin Harvick ($12,000) and Kyle Larson, or Joey Logano ($10,700) and Kyle Larson. I’d even throw in some Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,600) with Larson in there. But the common denominator here is Kyle Larson. Of all the 1.5-mile tracks on the schedule, Las Vegas ranks as Kyle’s 2nd-best (behind Chicagoland), and his career average finish of 11.0 here is 4th-best in the entire Cup garage. Over the last five races in Sin City, Larson has finished 2nd or 3rd three times, and 8th and 12th in the two other races. This weekend, the #42 Chevrolet looked to have top 5 speed in both practice sessions, and in Happy Hour, Larson ranked #1 in 25-lap average. A good long-run car and a slick track during the afternoon could lead to Larson dominating a good portion of this race on Sunday. My only concern is if we finish at night, because that’s when he tends to fade at these tracks.
PLAY (TOURNAMENTS): Kurt Busch ($8,900) – There’s so much value in this sub-$9,000 range this weekend that it’s going to be very fun putting together lineups for Sunday’s Pennzoil 400. One driver that has the possibility of flying under the radar a little bit is Kurt Busch, who has finished 21st or worse in four of his last five starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That doesn’t really do Kurt justice, though, because in the last eight Stage breaks, he’s finished inside the top 10 six times. In other words, he’s just had bad luck finishing races here at his home track. Like his teammate Kyle Larson, Kurt had some great long-run speed during Happy Hour on Friday, and this #1 Chevrolet averaged a finish of 12.5 on the 1.5-mile tracks last season–good enough for 10th-best in the series. Kurt did finish 5th in last year’s early race here at Vegas and starts 13th here on Sunday.
CHALK (CASH GAME) PLAY: Ross Chastain ($6,100) – Every time that he’s gotten the opportunity to race in better equipment than he currently has, Ross Chastain has made the most of it. And with Ryan Newman’s injury on Monday, Ross has the best opportunity he’s had thus far in the Cup Series by being able to race the #6 Ford. Newman finished 10th here at Las Vegas back in September in this car, and honestly it wouldn’t be surprising if Chastain had a top 10 run this weekend as well. In Happy Hour practice on Friday, Chastain had the best 15-lap average and ended up 2nd-best in 20-lap average, all the while ranking 14th-fastest in overall speed. To get potential top 10 value out of a driver priced at $6,100 is great, even though Chastain’s place differential potential is limited on Sunday since he’ll start 15th.
CHALK (CASH GAME) PLAY: Daniel Suarez ($6,000) – Qualifying getting rained out this weekend was about the best possible scenario for Daniel Suarez DFS stans, as the starting lineup was then set by Owners Points which means he’ll be scored from back in 35th. So yes, chalk pick. In the practice sessions on Friday, Suarez showed about the same amount of speed as a 30th-place car, and I expect him to be right around there on Sunday depending on if there’s any attrition (which isn’t expected). Last year in this #96 Toyota, Parker Kligerman finished 31st at Las Vegas, 27th at Texas, 26th at Charlotte, 29th at Kansas, and 22nd in the second Texas race. We’ll see how this team fares by going to a full-schedule organization in 2020, but I’m not expecting Suarez to cause any major improvements for them. In DraftKings, I love pivoting down to John Hunter Nemechek ($5,400) off of Suarez in this spot for tournaments. I also wouldn’t mind pairing Suarez and Nemechek together in a lineup in cash games to keep plenty of cap space for studs up top.
Las Vegas Pennzoil 400 DraftKings Projections
The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems. Also included are projected laps led for each driver. This doesn’t take into account fastest laps. 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||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||2||$11,600||48.1||04.2||42||$241|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||26||$7,600||32.4||18.8||0||$235|
|John H. Nemechek||29||$5,400||27.4||22.8||0||$197|