We complete this minor “west coast swing” this weekend with the Instacart 500 from Phoenix Raceway on Sunday afternoon. The NASCAR Cup Series will then head back for Atlanta and then the Bristol Dirt Race, but first we have 312 laps scheduled around this one-mile flat track in the desert on Sunday. We last raced here back in November with the Championship race, but as far as I’m concerned, you can just throw that race data out the window (more on that in my video).
Be sure to check out my Fantasy/Betting Preview that went up earlier this week, and you can read some of my early thoughts heading into this race. You can read that by clicking here. Also make sure to read my FanDuel post for the Instacart 500 by clicking here. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson are on the front row for Sunday’s race and you can check out the full starting lineup by clicking here. Now let’s goooo!!!!
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Flat Track Speed Report & Loop Data Driver Averages
Phoenix is a one-mile flat track that compares really well to Richmond. You can also throw in Martinsville in there, since it’s a flat short track, but the half-mile to mile difference isn’t great. The other flat track that we visit is New Hampshire, which is also one mile in length, but not shaped anything like Phoenix. Pocono and Indianapolis are both technically considered flat tracks but with how large those two venues are, I don’t really consider them when preparing for Phoenix.
There are two charts below. One is the flat track combined data from the 2020 season–which includes the two races at Phoenix, the two races at Martinsville, and then the Richmond and New Hampshire single races–while the other chart is data from the last two years at Phoenix. The following statistics are included in these charts. You can click on column headers to sort by that column.
- ARP = average running position
- DR = driver rating
- FL = fastest laps (total)
- LL = laps led (total)
- T15 = laps ran inside top 15 (total)
- Total Laps = laps completed (total)
2020 Driver Averages on Flat Tracks
|Martin Truex Jr||6||11.7||07.9||104.4||169||272||1985||2294|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||6||20.3||20.7||63.8||40||1||266||2321|
2019-2020 Driver Averages At Phoenix
|Martin Truex Jr||4||12.5||09.1||99.5||86||11||1060||1218|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||4||20.3||20.1||64.7||3||1||216||1249|
Front Row Woes Again?
This place in the article is typically reserved for my video breakdown with DraftKings lineup construction, but I’m going to switch it up a little bit this week. Instead, I’ll be doing a post and a video on Saturday sometime with that kind of strategy breakdown, so be sure to check back for that.
But anyway, we now have two straight races–well, actually three, kind of–where the pole sitter has done awful in DFS. Denny Hamlin kind of gets a pass at Homestead, but even then, the high starters there didn’t pick up the slack. And then at Las Vegas last week, we all saw how awful Kevin Harvick was.
This weekend at Phoenix, we have Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson set to lead the field to the green for the Instacart 500. Both have significant dominator potential. For Brad Keselowski, he had the 2nd-best average finish on flat tracks last year, the 3rd-best average running position, the 2nd-most fastest laps, and the 3rd-most laps led. Here at Phoenix, he led 82 laps in the spring race and had 30 fastest laps as well, and in the finale in the fall, the #2 Ford was arguably the best car, as Keselowski had the best Green Flag Speed and put up 47 fastest laps.
With Kyle Larson, he’s in a Hendrick car, and Chase Elliott put up plenty of dominator points here last season with a similar ride. My Projections (below) love Larson this week at his price, and also have him projected with the highest ceiling of all drivers despite starting 2nd. Larson was always able to run well here in Chip Ganassi equipment–four straight top 6 finishes, six in the last eight within that range–but never really put up any fastest laps, which is a bit concerning, but again, he’s in a better car now.
Both Keselowski and Larson have significant dominator potential here at Phoenix this weekend, and could easily end up being the two dominators we have on Sunday. DraftKings priced them soft enough that you can easily fit both into one lineup, but that’s also a very risky strategy. And hell, with how this season, even picking one of them on Sunday is risky! But, for what it’s worth, I think that changes this weekend.
GPP / Tournament Picks
Chase Elliott ($11,500) – Going back to this well. Chase Elliott now has three straight disappointing finishes but had great cars in at least two of those three races. So maybe third time is a charm with a great car? The #9 Chevrolet was great in both Phoenix races last season, as Chase finished 7th in the spring race after leading 93 laps and posting 60 fastest laps, and then of course he won the fall race for the Championship after leading 153 laps and posting 53 fastest laps. Chase starts 6th on Sunday so there’s a bit of place differential upside there as well. Yeah, he’s expensive in DraftKings, but he’s worth it. On flat tracks last season, Elliott had the 3rd-best average finish, 2nd-best average running position, the most fastest laps, and also led the most laps.
Denny Hamlin ($9,900) – For the second week in a row, we’re probably going to see Dennis Hamlin go under-owned in DraftKings. He’s starting 3rd, and with so many eyes on the two drivers on the front row, Hamlin will likely be overlooked due to just basic lineup construction. But if you want to get away from the front row starters, I don’t mind going with Hamlin in tournaments. He disappointed here last fall, but that’s just what Dennis does when there’s pressure. This race, there’s not much pressure. Additionally, over the last two years of Phoenix races, Hamlin has the 2nd-most fastest laps and he ranked 6th in that category on flat tracks in 2020. Joe Gibbs Racing has had better-than-expected speed out of the gates this year, and even though Penske and Hendrick were so strong on flat tracks in 2020, this is a new season so relying heavily on last year’s data could end up biting you on Sunday.
Ryan Blaney ($9,300) – I love this price on DraftKings for Ryan Blaney. We know that Penske was the class of the field at flat tracks last season, and while most people’s eyes are going to be on Brad Keselowski ($10,400) and Joey Logano ($11,100) for Sunday, I don’t mind being overweight on Ryan Blaney down here at $9,300. Blaney has ranked in the top 5 in Green Flag Speed in three of the last four Phoenix races with the only exception being last spring when he wrecked thanks to Denny Hamlin being a jackass. Blaney starts 8th on Sunday and could easily be a top 3 car, if not a potential race winner.
BONUS: Kurt Busch ($7,700) – I obviously love Tyler Reddick ($7,900) this weekend but a little diamond in the rough could be Kurt Busch. He starts a little higher than most DFS players would prefer (12th) but Kurt was sneaky strong on the flat tracks last year, including the 5th-best average running position (9.8) and the 6th-best average finish (10.3). Here at Phoenix specifically, Busch has an average finish of 9.0 over the last two years (6th-best) and an average running position of 11.1 (10th-best). The only downside here is that Kurt will likely get you no dominator points, so you’re heavily relying on a good finish. He has posted just 4 fastest laps and 8 laps led over the last two years here at Phoenix and only 22 fastest laps on flat tracks overall in 2020.
Cash Core Drivers
Joey Logano ($11,100) – Joey Logano has similar statistics to Chase Elliott ($11,500) that was mentioned earlier, but he comes with a slightly lower price tag and he starts three positions worse. I think Chase has higher dominator potential upside than Logano but, again, they’re close. Over the last two years at Phoenix, Logano has the 3rd-best average finish and is tied for the best average running position while also having the most laps led and the 4th-most fastest laps. On flat tracks in 2020, Logano was phenomenal, with the best average finish, best average running position, 3rd-most fastest laps, and 2nd-most laps led.
Tyler Reddick ($7,900) – A sub-$8,000 driver with top 10 upside starting 23rd? Yep, go ahead and plug him in for cash lineups. Tyler Reddick has two awful finishes here at Phoenix Raceway–33rd and 19th–but you really have to look further than finish. If you remember this race last year, Reddick had a solid top 10 car and even finished 9th and 4th in the two Stages before having issues…and that was after starting back in 29th! Reddick also finished 11th at Richmond (15th in Green Flag Speed) last season, as well as ending up 10th at Loudon (20th in Green Flag Speed), and 16th at Martinsville (17th in Green Flag Speed). He’s had some bad luck to start out the 2021 season, but his teammate, Austin Dillon, has plenty of speed. If Reddick stays out of trouble on Sunday he should be a great play in DraftKings.
Cole Custer ($6,700) – Taking away the apparent lack of speed that Stewart-Haas Racing has this season, when you compare Cole Custer with Ryan Newman ($6,600) in this price range, their numbers are pretty similar. On flat tracks in 2020, Custer had an average running position of 17.3 with an average finish of 16.8, while Newman had an average running position of 17.5 with an average finish of 19.6. With Sunday’s race at Phoenix, though, Custer starts five spots further back than Ryan Newman, so I have to roll with Custer in cash game lineups.
Phoenix Instacart 500 DraftKings Driver 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 factored in 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||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Starting Position||Ceiling Proj FPTS||Avg. Projected Finish||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10,100||52.65||5||74.10||05.7||$192|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$5,500||16.50||11||28.25||18.7||$333|