We’re off to Atlanta, and then Martinsville! Which means there’s some great racing action coming up over the next four days. But for now, we’re focusing on Atlanta Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile track that is old and worn out. This means tires are at a premium, and by a large margin. If a driver has to make an unexpected pit stop in the middle of a green flag run on Sunday, you can expect him to grab fastest laps immediately because he will be one or two seconds faster than the leaders.
Timing on green flag stops will be very important on Sunday, as will tire management by the drivers. This is what I consider a skill track, and the cream always rises to the top. There’s a reason why we see the same faces up front over and over at Atlanta. This is also a 500-mile race, which is 100 miles more than a typical one at a 1.5-mile track. This allows more time for strategies to play out, and also gives us more dominator points available in DraftKings.
NEW THIS WEEK! I have included two projection charts below: one without projected fastest laps, and one with.
If you need the starting lineup for Sunday’s QuikTrip Folds of Honor 500, click here to see it. It actually unfolded quite nicely, and there’s many ways you can go with lineups in DraftKings, even though their driver pricing is a bit off this weekend (more on that later).
Speed Report in 2020 After Bristol
Green Flag Speed. We talk about it every week, so let’s go over that really quick. At Bristol last weekend, Chase Elliott ranked outside of the top 10 in that category for the first time all season. Still, he almost won the race, had 39 fastest laps, and 88 laps led. The #9 team is on fire right now, and they’re on the pole for Sunday’s race at Atlanta. I’m sure the rest of the Cup garage is simply saying… really!? Now let’s look at the updated top 5 in average rank in Green Flag Speed since Daytona:
- Chase Elliott (4.3 average rank)
- Brad Keselowski (7.0 average rank)
- Kevin Harvick (7.3 average rank)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (7.9 average rank)
- Joey Logano (8.4 average rank)
You can click here to check out the Cheat Sheet on Green Flag Speed and see how every driver ranks in that category plus more.
It’s worth noting that Kyle Busch ranked #1 in Green Flag Speed at Bristol–his first top 5 ranking in that statistical category since the Phoenix race before the COVID hiatus. The same can be said for Jimmie Johnson, who ranked #2 at Bristol. As far as speed for the upcoming race at Atlanta, I’ll be heavily factoring in season-long Green Flag Speed, but also looking closely at this year’s races at Fontana and Darlington (also high-wear tracks) as well as Las Vegas and Charlotte (other 1.5-mile tracks).
DraftKings Strategy for Atlanta
I’m 100% convinced that DraftKings used a random draw to determine the driver pricing this week, just like NASCAR used one to determine the starting lineup. A lot of these salaries just make no sense at all, such as pole sitter Chase Elliott ($9,900) being priced under $10,000 despite having the fastest car all year, and Brad Keselowski ($8,900) priced under $9,000 despite averaging the 2nd-most DraftKings points per race this season, as well as winning two of the last three races this season, in addition to winning two of the last three races here at Atlanta. Just baffling. And don’t even get me started at how under-priced Erik Jones ($6,600) this week. Less than Daniel Suarez… really!? Jones is averaging the 8th-most DraftKings points per race this season–more than Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Alex Bowman, just to name a few.
What this does is create a ton of chalk. You can easily fit five legitimate top 5 contenders into a single lineup. Typically at Atlanta, that would never be possible, because we see a lot of the same faces up front here, but with this pricing I could see it happening this weekend. So from a strategy perspective, you have to find strategic ways to move off of that chalk. Now I’m not saying avoid all of these drivers and put together some off-the-wall lineup, just know that with how easy some of these drivers fit together in a lineup, their ownership percentages are naturally going to be inflated. We’ll talk about this more down in my GPP / Tournament Plays I Love for Atlanta.
Drivers Most Likely to Dominate
The obvious choice here is Chase Elliott ($9,900). I mean, come on. He’s priced cheap, he’s on the pole, and he’s had the fastest car (by a pretty good margin) over the first nine races of the season. His Green Flag Speed Ranking averages 4.3 this year, while the next best is Brad Keselowski ($8,900) at 7.0 (click here for the Green Flag Speed Cheat Sheet). Don’t be surprised if Chase pushes 50% ownership this weekend, especially in Single Entry contests.
Going through some other potential dominators… Aric Almirola ($6,800) starts 2nd and has better-than-expected speed this season. Her led 36 laps here at Atlanta from the pole last season, and I don’t mind being overweight on him at that price, but it’s hard to imagine him getting around Chase Elliott early. Joey Logano ($10,500) rolls off third and is by no means a super dominator at Atlanta, but he had a couple races in 2013 and 2015 that he led 78 and 84 laps here. He also led 22 laps in last year’s Folds of Honor 500. Joey has also averaged 19.5 fastest laps per race over the last six races at this track, which is 3rd-best in the series. He’s a pivot option off of Elliott.
Other guys to keep an eye on are Brad Keselowski ($8,900), who we touched on earlier. He rolls off 6th on Sunday and is 2nd-best in fastest laps per race at Atlanta over the last six years, averaging 20.8 per race. He’s also won two of the last three events here, with a 2nd-place finish smashed in between. Oh, and don’t forget he’s won two of the last three Cup Series races overall and ranks 2nd in average Green Flag Speed for the season. The heavy hitter at Atlanta, though, is Kevin Harvick ($11,700), who is averaging a ridiculous 60.8 fastest laps per race here over the last six events (40 more per race than everyone else) and has led 1,061 laps over his last eight starts here. He rolls off the grid from 9th on Sunday.
Drivers To Fade
Daniel Suarez ($6,900). He’s coming off his best finish of the season (18th) at Bristol, and he’s starting back in 37th thanks to the charter rules for these random draws, but he’s over-priced, and he’s finished between 27th and 30th in the similar races this year (Las Vegas, Fontana, and Charlotte). It took 18 cautions for Suarez to get a top 20 last week. He’ll score around 25 DraftKings FPTS on Sunday at Atlanta–definitely not worth the $6,900 price tag.
Others that drew too high of a qualifying spot for me to use them are: Joey Gase ($4,500), JJ Yeley ($4,600), Josh Bilicki ($4,800), and Garrett Smithley ($5,000).
GPP / Tournament Plays I Love for the QuikTrip Folds of Honor 500
Before we get into my favorite GPP/tournament plays for Sunday’s race at Atlanta, let’s talk about the chalk drivers. Just with how DraftKings priced everyone this week, as well as how the qualifying draw played out, I see these guys being chalk: Chase Elliott, Martin Truex, Jr., Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, Cole Custer, Michael McDowell. I think you could also throw Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick in there, and probably Christopher Bell since he starts 27th and has finished 11th or better in three of the last four races.. So keep that in mind as we get to my strategy plays. Like I said before, the key to taking down a GPP/tournament on Sunday is going to be strategically moving off the chalk, at least in my opinion.
Kevin Harvick ($11,700) – Okay, let me explain this one, because you’re probably saying, “no shit, Sherlock” … I’ll be the first to admit that my projections for driver ownership aren’t good at all, but with so much value in drivers under the $10,000 mark this weekend, I feel like most lineups are going to have Chase Elliott as the highest-priced driver in them. So I like being overweight on Kevin Harvick in GPPs for sure. The guy’s record at Atlanta is ridiculous. He’s averaging 60.8 fastest laps PER RACE over the last six. He’s led over 1,000 laps over the past eight. Plus he starts back in 9th so there’s some place differential potential as well. This is a 500-mile race, and Kevin Harvick should be up front at some point. I really like pairing him with Chase Elliott to try and capture the early and late dominators (which is how I see this race playing out). Harvick had the most fastest laps in the most recent 1.5-mile race (Charlotte) and ranked 3rd in that category behind Chase Elliott and William Byron at Las Vegas earlier this year.
EDIT — Saturday Morning Addition: The more I think about it, the more I think Kyle Busch ($11,200) is also a great contrarian play, especially in single entry GPP tournaments. He’s coming off of his best performance of the year at Bristol and had the best green flag speed in that race. He hasn’t dominated here at Atlanta recently, but since he starts 4th, he could easily grab the lead early on Sunday if something happens to Chase Elliott. Rowdy is also a two-time Cup winner at Atlanta. It also feels like the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are building speed up and laying down more fastest laps each week. If Kyle gets the lead on Sunday he could put up some significant dominator points.
Kurt Busch ($9,400) – There’s one way to describe Kurt Busch this season: getting the job done. It may surprise some people, but Kurt has the 3rd-best average finish in the Cup Series since Daytona, right behind Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. They’re both at 6.1 while Kurt is averaging a finish of 8.9 in those eight races. I guess finishing inside the top 7 in six of the last seven races, like Busch has done, will get your average down there. Only those three and Joey Logano are averaging a finish under 10 during that span. On Sunday, Kurt will roll off from 12th when the green flag waves, but has a legitimate shot at a top 5. He’s finished between 3rd and 8th in five of his last six Atlanta races, as well as in 11 of his last 15. With that being said, I think Kurt is going to have to lead some laps for him to be in the optimal lineup on Sunday, because he doesn’t typically put up a ton of fastest laps. With that being said, he’s averaging 27.4 laps led over the past five Atlanta races, with only one top 5 starting spot during that span. I like Kurt as a pivot off of the Truex or Keselowski chalk.
Alex Bowman ($9,100) – Just like Kurt Busch, I like Alex Bowman as a pivot off of the Truex or Keselowski chalk. One thing I’m very interested in seeing on Sunday is Bowman’s ownership percentage. He’s really been nothing but disappointment for fantasy owners this season outside of his win at Fontana, with an average finish of 16.9 since Daytona. In the last four Cup Series races, he’s finished 18th or worse. Still, Bowman is one of the best drivers when it comes to high-wear race tracks, as well as 1.5-mile venues. His fastest lap rankings this season on these types of tracks: 1st at Fontana, 5th at Las Vegas, 2nd at both Charlotte races, and 2nd and 10th in the two Darlington races. Bowman has never finished better than 15th at Atlanta but that should just drive his ownership percentage lower. He also starts 8th, which doesn’t boost it any. The #88 Chevrolet might be my favorite GPP play on this slate.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,600) – I’ll take Stenhouse as a pivot off of chalk Christopher Bell on Sunday. I really like the speed that this #47 team has found recently, as they ranked 9th in Green Flag Speed at both Bristol and Charlotte. Additionally, Stenhouse is pretty good here at Atlanta, with six top 20s in his seven career starts here, and finishes between 10th and 16th in three of the last four. Of course, Ricky typically qualifies very well at Atlanta, which helps him out there, but starting 22nd here on Sunday isn’t awful. For what it’s worth, Ricky has finished top 5 at both Las Vegas and Charlotte this year. If he can pull off another race like that here this weekend, there’s no doubt he’ll be in the optimal lineup.
Atlanta DraftKings Projections Without Fastest Laps
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||11||$9,600||49.0||04.4||11||$166|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||22||$7,600||30.8||17.6||0||$194|
|John H. Nemechek||18||$6,000||17.2||22.4||0||$350|
Atlanta DraftKings Projections With Fastest Laps
The following chart is the same as the one above but does include fastest laps projections. Admittedly, I’m not great with projecting fastest laps, but might as well give it a shot.
|Driver||Starting Position||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||11||$9,600||56.0||04.4||11||14||$172|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||22||$7,600||31.8||17.6||0||2||$239|
|John H. Nemechek||18||$6,000||17.2||22.4||0||0||$349|