We’ve made it to the end of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, as the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday will mark the end of another NASCAR Fantasy year. What a ride. Many things that once seemed impossible turned out to be true this year: we actually got the full season in during a pandemic; not having qualifying and practice didn’t turn into a wreck-fest on race day; and Kevin Harvick missed the Championship race after having one of the best seasons in the last 20 years. What a ride. Thanks for following along and I hope you’re as excited as I am to get back going next year. Daytona will be here before we know.
BREAKING NEWS: Chase Elliott failed pre-race inspection and will have to start from the rear today. He will still be scored from 1st starting spot but this limits his dominator potential. Projections have been updated to account for this.
Looking at the tires this weekend, Goodyear is bringing the exact same combination that was ran here at Phoenix back in March. This combination was also ran at New Hampshire and Richmond this year, which are both the closest comparisons to Phoenix. You can also throw Martinsville in to the mix of the “shorter flat track” category.
Chase Elliott is on the pole for Sunday’s finale at Phoenix and you can see the full starting lineup by clicking here. Now let’s gooo!!!!
Speed Report in 2020 After Martinsville 2
Yep, Chase Elliott had the fastest car at Martinsville in terms of Green Flag Speed with Martin Truex, Jr. coming in 2nd. Somewhat suprisingly, that’s only Chase’s second Green Flag Speed “win” of the season even though he ranks 2nd in that category for the year.
Over the last six races here are the fastest drivers in terms of Green Flag Speed:
- Chase Elliott (4.5 average rank)
- Kevin Harvick (5.8 average rank)
- Kyle Busch (6.3 average rank)
- Alex Bowman (6.7 average rank)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (7.0 average rank)
You can click here to check out the updated Cheat Sheet on Green Flag Speed and see how every driver ranks in that category plus more, not only for the last six races but for the whole season.
When you just isolate the shorter flat track races from this season–so the first Phoenix race, the Richmond race, the New Hampshire race, and both Martinsville races–the top drivers in Green Flag Speed look like this:
- Joey Logano (3.4 average rank)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (4.2 average rank).
- Chase Elliott (4.4 average rank)
- Brad Keselowski (5.2 average rank)
- Kevin Harvick (6.6 average rank)
Take out the two Martinsville races and the fastest drivers have been:
- Brad Keselowski (2.7 average rank)
- Kevin Harvick (3.0 average rank)
- Joey Logano (4.0 average rank)
- Kyle Busch (4.3 average rank)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (5.3 average rank)
DraftKings Strategy for the Season Finale 500 at Phoenix
The races at Phoenix Raceway can tend to get a little crazy. Just look at Friday’s Truck race and how that thing ended. It’s very possible that Sunday’s Cup Series race ends the same way, especially when you have four drivers trying to simply beat each other and the rest of the field only going for the win. Honestly, I sometimes think of Phoenix of a little superspeedway without the wrecks. Restarts are crazy here and things can get more and more shuffled up with each caution.
As far as dominators go, Phoenix is typically a 2- or 3-dominator race. When we were last here in March, it turned into a 4-dominator race thanks to the in-race problems that Chase Elliott had. In that race, four drivers led 60 or more laps, and those four were: Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, and Brad Keselowski. Ironically, three of those four make up the Championship Four this weekend, and honestly Harvick should be in there, too, if you ask me.
When it comes to building a lineup, it’s easy to have dominator points at the forefront of your mind, but don’t discount the mid-range drivers and their finishing potential. Yes, it’s important to have the top dominator in your lineup, and probably the second dominator as well depending on salaries, but I don’t think this is the week to go with three studs and three duds in your lineup. There’s a lot of top 10 finishing potential in the mid-$7,000 to $9,000 range this weekend, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the top lineup on Sunday is one that takes a more balanced approach salary wise.
With the four Championship drivers, in years past I usually took the strategy of trying to fit as many in to one lineup as I could. That was before this qualifying format, though. Yes, you can still make a decent lineup with two (and maybe even three) of those four guys, but that lineup isn’t going to work out very well if two of those drivers (at least) don’t pick up significant dominator points. All four starting inside the first two rows on Sunday makes that a necessity. If you’re mass entering you obviously need to cover those bases but my early lineups for Sunday’s Phoenix race include just one Championship driver, and some have none.
As mentioned before, similar tracks include Richmond and New Hampshire this season, and you can also throw in the two Martinsville races. With that being a half-mile track, though, I’d weigh it significantly less than the other two. Don’t forget we also ran a race here at Phoenix back in March. Between Richmond and New Hampshire, the former is the most similar to Phoenix. They actually compare really well, although Ryan Blaney flat out sucks at Richmond and nobody really knows why.
In total, we’re looking at just around 210 DraftKings dominator FPTS up for grabs on sunday–78 for laps led, and around 132 for fastest laps.
GPP / Tournament Picks I Love for Phoenix
Joey Logano ($10,000) – You will see below that my projections don’t like Joey Logano as much as the other Championship drivers this weekend. It’ll also be interesting to see how ownership percentages end up on Sunday because even though Joey is the lowest-priced of the Final Four drivers, you have to assume Chase Elliott ($10,600) is going to be the highest owned, and I’d be surprised if that many people combine the 1st- and 2nd-place starters in one lineup. With that being said, I do like being overweight on Logano in tournaments/GPPs, and obviously in Single Entry contests. If you look back to the first Phoenix race this season, Logano ended up in victory lane that day, but this #22 team sure made it difficult to get there, including an uncontrolled tire penalty halfway through the race, and then a jack problem on the final pit stop that lost Logano eight spots on pit road. Still, the #22 Ford was just that good. Now Joey has a solid front row starting spot, a good pit stall, and his pit crew has been blazing fast lately. And speaking of blazing fast, Logano has the best Green Flag Speed average ranking on the shorter flat tracks this year (3.4) and also the best average finish in the Phoenix/Richmond/New Hampshire races (2.7). My only concern with Logano is that he doesn’t really rack up a lot of dominator points in DraftKings but if he gets a lead early he could easily prove me wrong.
Aric Almirola ($7,800) – With William Byron ($8,400) and Tyler Reddick (8,100) sitting right there in the same vicinity of Aric Almirola on the DraftKings player lineup, you’d have to assume that the other two drivers are going to get the larger share of ownership on Sunday considering they both start outside of the top 20… right? So if that holds true, give me Almirola as a pivot. He’s finished 9th or better in five of the last six Phoenix races (including two top 5s) and when you look at the Phoenix/New Hampshire/Richmond races this season, he has an average running position of 8.4 and an average finish of 7.7. Almirola’s Green Flag Speed in those races has an average rank of 7.7, which is 7th-best in the series. A 6th-place finish out of Almirola on Sunday nets 42 DraftKings FPTS. Byron would need to finish 12th to beat that, while Reddick would need to finish 11th. Now it’s certainly possible that those two finish up there, but strategy-wise, I like the pivot to Almirola and the salary savings that comes along with it.
Cole Custer ($6,900) – Cole Custer is my favorite Daily Fantasy NASCAR play this weekend, so take that for what it’s worth. He’s my 3rd-highest owned driver on FanDuel and he’s going to be on plenty of my DraftKings lineups when I build them as well. Momentum-wise, Custer has finished 14th or better in each of the last four Cup Series races overall, and looking at the shorter flat tracks this season he has finishes of 9th at Phoenix, 8th at New Hampshire, 14th at Richmond, and 13th at Martinsville last weekend. Pivot off of Chris Buescher ($7,200)? Absolutely. I also don’t hate Christopher Bell ($7,300) and Austin Dillon ($7,400) as pivots there. Looking at Green Flag Speed lately compared to the whole season, the two drivers that are significantly faster lately compared to the whole year are Bell and Alex Bowman. And as far as Austin Dillon? Don’t forget that the #3 Chevrolet could’ve legitimately won the race at Richmond this year…
Cash Core Drivers I Love for Phoenix
Kevin Harvick ($11,100) – There’s no rule that says that the winner of the race has to be a Championship Four driver, and I’m sure there’s nothing Kevin Harvick would like more than to go out there and absolutely dominate this race on Sunday. If you don’t know about Phoenix and Kevin Harvick, then I hope you just started watching NASCAR, because lately it’s been him and Kyle Busch and then a wide gap to everyone else. Harvick hasn’t finished worse than 9th here since the 2013 season, and 13 of his last 14 starts here have been top 6 results. This weekend, Harvick starts back in 11th, and has legitimate dominator potential on top of place differential potential. Also, this #4 team has had this car ready for Phoenix for a while assuming they’d be challenging for the title, so you have to assume this is a hot rod.
Chase Elliott ($10,600) – NOTE: With the inspection failure, I now consider Chase Elliott a GPP/Tournament play. He still has a great car and will get back to the front quickly but his early dominator potential is gone. I’d now consider Brad Keselowski ($10,800) or Joey Logano ($10,000) as a cash lineup option alongside Harvick. The text following this was originally written with Elliott in mind as a cash play. The strategy is simple here: plug in Chase Elliott for the early dominator points to go alongside Kevin Harvick for the later dominator points. Going back to the first Phoenix race this season, the #9 Chevrolet was dominant. Not only did Chase put up 93 laps led that day, but also 60 fastest laps–both more than anyone else in the field. He ended up finishing 7th but that’s only because he had a loose wheel with 33 laps to go in Stage 2. There’s potential here that Chase puts up a similar dominating effort on Sunday, if not better. On the shorter flat tracks this season, Elliott has the 3rd-best average running position (6.5) and also ranks 3rd in Green Flag Speed with an average ranking of 4.4.
Ryan Preece ($5,800) – I can understand dipping down a little further and rolling with John Hunter Nemechek ($5,500) here for the larger place differential potential, but I really don’t like the fact that his best finish on the shorter flat tracks this season is 25th. Meanwhile, Ryan Preece starts 24th on Sunday and has finishes of 18th here at Phoenix, 16th at New Hampshire, and 20th at Richmond under his belt this season. Also, I touched on this last week, but don’t discount Preece’s momentum: he’s finished inside the top 20 in eight of the last nine Cup Series Races overall this season. If Preece finishes 20th here on Sunday, Nemechek would have to finish 21st or better to out-score him, just FYI.
Phoenix Season Finale 500 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 six different ranking systems. Also included are projected laps led and fastest laps for each driver. 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||13||$11,400||51.5||06.0||8||9||$221|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||20||$6,200||31.7||17.7||0||4||$196|
|John H. Nemechek||27||$5,500||26.3||23.0||0||0||$209|