Welcome fellow race fans to FakePigskin’s coverage of NASCAR DFS for the 2018 season! Last week Brad Keselowski stole the race from Kyle Larson, who was dominating at the time, at the Southern 500 at Darlington. None of the “Big 3”: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. were a factor for the win during the race, but don’t expect that to be the norm, especially this weekend at Indianapolis where car performance is so key.
This week, the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series returns to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to the famous Indianapolis 500 Indy Car race, but don’t expect the same race you see with the open wheel cars. This is the first year the race is in September, as opposed to the traditional late July- early August date. The reason for the move was to give this race more importance as this is the last race before the Playoffs begin next weekend in Las Vegas.
Historically this race has been a snooze fest as the track was not designed for heavy stock cars so it’s very tough to pass, which leads to many boring races. The track is a 2.5 mile “rectangular “ oval with two long straightaways with 90-degree turns into two smaller “chutes”. The less agile, heavy stock cars, along with the track’s aerodynamic sensitivity, allow for the bigger teams to dominate this race with their superior performance advantage in regards to engine power and aerodynamic handling of their cars. The thought process of moving the race to right before the playoffs is to make drivers more aggressive in their pit strategies (such as taking two tires instead of four to improve their track position), or make more aggressive passes in order to break into the playoff or improve their seeding into the first round.
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The current playoff picture involves only a few drivers. Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, both of Hendrick Motorsports, are 15th and 16th in the point standings respectively. Both drivers have a safe point cushion as long as they keep all four fenders on the car and finish. The only obstacle would be if a driver, not currently in the top-16 in the point standings, would win the race and bump out the 16th place driver, either Johnson or Bowman. The biggest factors for an upset win would be Ryan Newman (former winner), Daniel Suarez, Paul Menard (former winner), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
With rain cancelling all of practice and qualifying laps, the first laps these drivers make at the track will be race day, thus there are many wild cards coming into this race. Drivers up front might miss the setup and fall back, and mid-pack drivers can hit the setup right and work their way to the front. Due to the cancellation of qualifying, the starting lineup is set by the points standings, leaving Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. as the top three qualifiers. However, Truex Jr. will have to fall to the rear of the race for an unapproved adjustment to the car, while his other cars are “impounded” and not allowed to have any work on them. With the top drivers starting at the front, there may not be much passing come Sunday.
For those of you not familiar with how NASCAR DFS is played, here is the basic rundown of how it works:
- You must select five to six drivers to race, but each driver has a salary assigned to them and you must fit their salaries within a $50,000 cap. So you cannot just load up on the top five to six drivers in the points standings.
- Points are scored by a driver’s place differential (Starting position – finishing position), fastest laps posted, laps led, pass differential (amount of cars passed – times being passed), and their finishing position.
- You will need to find the balance between your front-running drivers and your sleeper drivers, who you can count on to outperform their salary ranking and finish in the top 15.
Beginning last week, instead of giving you readers eight to nine options to field your team, I will be giving you the lineup I would play, Pigskin Performance. Who’s ready to either burn rubber, or burn up a motor? Either way it smells like bacon.
Pigskin Performance Lineup
Lead Drivers: Kevin Harvick ($12,200) and Joey Logano ($8,600)
Your first strategy is being able to draft a Big 3 driver and try to fit other drivers into the cap and hope you hit on the correct driver. Harvick has a career average finish of 9th place in 17 starts and has the top average finish of all drivers with more than one start (Suarez has a seventh place average with one start). Harvick only has one victory, but has 16 top 20 finishes and has led 160+ laps.
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Joey Logano has an average of 11th place in his nine starts at the Brickyard, with six top-10’s and has led 60 laps. With a strong second place finish last week behind his teammate Brad Keselowski, Logano is looking to end his regular season strong with a top five finish.
Top-10 Threats: Jamie McMurray ($7,900) and Daniel Suarez ($7,500)
Jamie McMurray in his 15 starts has an average finish of…15th, how satisfying! McMurray is a former winner of the Brickyard 400 and is currently on the outside of the top 16 in points and needs a win to advance to the playoffs with his teammate Kyle Larson. A lot of rumors are circulating in regards to McMurray’s #1 car next year possibly having a new driver. McMurray will be plenty motivated to prove to his team, other teams, and himself that he can still get the job done.
Suarez has one career start at Indy, and it was a strong seventh place finish. Like McMurray, he is also on the outside of the top 16 in points and his ride is also in question with the strong rumors of Joe Gibbs replacing him with current champion Martin Truex Jr. Suarez and his sponsor, Arris, shouldn’t have trouble securing a new ride, but how good that ride is may be dependent on if he can secure a win this season.
Top 15 Hopefuls, Surprises, and Sleepers: Ryan Newman ($7,200) and Chris Buescher ($6,500)
Newman is a former winner of the Brickyard 400 and has an average finish of 16th in 17 starts. Newman is from Indiana and worked his way up through the open wheel racing scene in the USAC series where racing at Indianapolis is the crown jewel track. Newman needs a win to get into the playoffs where he hopes to play spoiler as he nearly won the championship in 2016 without winning a race!
Chris Buescher and his team have steadily improved over the last two races at Bristol and Darlington with top-20 finishes and has an average finish of 11th in his two starts. Buescher stole a win in the rain, the same forecast for Sunday, in 2016 and snuck into the playoffs, so let’s hope for the same tomorrow!
This leaves us a spare $100 to spend on a quality umbrella in case the rains do come. For race analysis and interaction, follow me @ScottYoungLV and let’s hope to keep the fenders clean and get some great finishes!
Driver salaries taken from DraftKings.com
Driver average finishes taken from DriverAverages.com