This week, NASCAR will be in Austin, Texas as all three series compete at Circuit of the Americas (COTA). It is the first of several road courses on the schedule in 2022, but luckily for us, road courses have been historically more predictable than what we’ve been trying to decipher the past few weeks.

The Camping World Trucks Series and Xfinity Series put on good shows yesterday. While there was certainly action throughout, few drivers wrecked out of the race. Sunday’s Cup Series race may prove different due to the NextGen car, but overall, a road course is still a road course; data is still data; and NASCAR DFS is still NASCAR DFS. Though it will be a change of pace from previous weeks, COTA should continue the excitement and forward momentum of the 2022 season!

Pace Laps: Info to Know

COTA is a 3.426-mile road course, famously used for F1, IndyCar, MotoGP, and now NASCAR among others. 2021 marked the first time NASCAR raced here, but conditions were much different than will likely be seen this weekend. Last year, the Cup Series race was run during a torrential downpour, while today, the weather is sunny with temperatures around 90 degrees. With the new car, minimal practice time, and different weather conditions, things could get ugly. Then again, the race could follow suit with the lower series, which would be beneficial for DFS purposes. How results and strategy will be affected remains to be seen, but we have a decent sample size of other road course races that should provide at least some insight as to what to expect.

Stage 1: Trends to Follow

Normally, trends would be extremely useful for projecting future results. However, with so many unknowns and changes, they may not be as applicable this week. Among other changes since last year, qualifying set the starting lineup, rather than using a calculation, and teams have been warned about a possible penalty for shortcutting the track through the “esses.” While it may seem unlikely for that penalty to matter and/or occur, just ask Jeb Burton and Jeremy Clements, who went from potential top 5 finishes to ruined days after serving the drive-through penalty late in the Xfinity Series race yesterday. Some notable trends are listed below, but remember, their utility may be limited.

  • Over the last 12 Cup Series road course races (since 2019), drivers starting in the top 5 have achieved top 10 DraftKings scores more often than drivers starting worse than 30th. 

Though laps led are not as essential to strong fantasy performances at road courses due to less laps being run, drivers staying consistently near the front have fared better than drivers with the highest place differential upside starting in the back.

  • 68.3% of top 10 DraftKings scores over the last 12 road courses came from drivers starting in the top 20. On the other hand, a majority of drivers posting a bottom 10 DK score started worse than 20th.

Though restarts can be hectic at road courses, drivers tend to get spread out fairly quickly, thus diminishing the chance for big swings in place differential. Again, if chaos ensues due to the new cars, drivers starting near the back could have strong fantasy performances if attrition takes out other cars.

  • Only 3 of last 12 optimal lineups at road courses have spent less than $49,000.

Two of those three came in 2021 at COTA and Indy GP, which makes sense given the heavy downpour last year here and the turtles launching cars in Indianapolis. With regard to pricing, all but one optimal lineup at road courses since 2019 has rostered 2 to 3 drivers priced above $9,000.

Stage 2: Drivers to Watch

Kyle Larson ($10,400) – Another week, another blurb. The defending series champion was the best driver on road courses last season, though he was edged out here at COTA by teammate, Chase Elliott. Larson did not sound confident in his car after practice and hasn’t been the dominant driver of 2021 so far this season. However, he does provide some place differential upside and should contend for the win as he gets stronger throughout the race.

William Byron ($9,300) – If you listened to the Stacking Dennys podcast this week, Jordan and Nick discussed how recent performance has been the strongest predictor of future success at road courses. Byron has also ran well at this track type, though admittedly more so at “hybrids” like ROVAL, but he has not gotten the strong finishes. His upside is unmatched by others in this price range and thus should be pretty chalky.

AJ Allmendinger ($8,800) – The amount of laps during yesterday’s Xfinity Series race around this unfamiliar track should prove beneficial to Allmendinger. He won in dominating fashion, demonstrating his exceptional road racing skills. As seen last year in Indianapolis, he has winning upside even here in the Cup Series. Starting 20th, AJ also provides some place differential.

Ross Chastain ($8,200) – Man, what an improvement Chastain has made over the past year! Whether it’s the new car or a willingness to be less aggressive, he has run consistently up front in 2022. Despite being in inferior equipment, he led double-digit laps and finished 2nd in yesterday’s Xfinity Series race. It’s a small sample size, but Chastain ranked 2nd in average lap time in practice. Could his first Cup win come here at COTA?

Daniel Suarez ($7,100) – If not Chastain, why not his Trackhouse Racing teammate? Suarez appears to be a strong bet to get his first win as well this week. After ranking 1st in average lap time in yesterday’s practice, he followed it up with a strong 2nd-place qualifying effort. Suarez has sounded confident all weekend and said earlier this week that COTA is his best chance for a win. He was running top 5 here last season until transmission issues ended his day early.

Michael McDowell ($6,200) – Death, taxes, and recommending McDowell at road courses. He isn’t in the top tier or road racers in the Cup Series, but he does have an extensive history in road course racing prior to his NASCAR career. Don’t let his recent results fool you; he’s a constant threat for a top 15 finish at this track type. Then again, joining the Fantasy Racing Online #GillyGang for $600 cheaper could be just as successful. Todd Gilliland ($5,600) did win the inaugural Truck Series race here last spring…

Final Lap

Given the unknowns associated with this race, it may be a good idea to lower individual exposures to each driver in the event of chaos if entering multiple lineups. When constructing single-entry lineups, prioritize place differential and top 15 finishing potential and roster no more than 2 drivers starting in the top 10. 

Other drivers to consider (in order of salary): Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Tyler Reddick, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace, Cole Custer, Harrison Burton, Corey Lajoie, Ty Dillon

For any questions or comments, you can always find me on Twitter. Best of luck this weekend! Enjoy the somewhat predictable nature of this race before a new track in Atlanta next week.

I am a lifelong NASCAR and avid DFS player, coming just short of making it to the King Of The Speedway final the past two years. I have written content for Fantasy Sports Degens and Down To Fantasy in 2020 and 2021, allowing me to sharpen my research and lineup-building process. Now, with Fantasy Racing Online, my commitment remains to help casual fans and degenerates alike make smarter decisions and win money.