You’ve probably played daily fantasy football. There’s also a good chance you’ve competed in fantasy baseball and fantasy basketball contests. You may have even entered a few fantasy golf events.
But if you’re like most DFS players, you have yet to try fantasy NASCAR. And whether that’s due to your lack of familiarity with car racing or a general indifference to the sport, you may be leaving a ton of prize money on the table.
DraftKings is one of the only high-profile DFS sites to offer fantasy auto racing, having added it in May 2015. Although I fully expect FanDuel to do the same at some point in the future, there’s no telling when that will happen. So for now, if you want to add a little flavor to your daily fantasy sports activity with NASCAR events, DraftKings is your best bet.
Because fantasy NASCAR is still new to most folks, few know how to build a strong roster. I’m going to give you a crash course for doing so below. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll stand a better-than-average chance of outmaneuvering your competition and walking away with a cash prize.
Let’s start with the basics.
The Basics Of Real Money Fantasy NASCAR At DraftKings
I’ve covered the fundamentals of fantasy NASCAR contests on this page. If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to do so before entering your first event.
Having said that, here’s a brief recap…
DraftKings gives you a $50,000 budget with which to draft 6 drivers. Each contest reflects a single race, which means all 6 of your drivers will be competing against each other. It goes without saying that you can’t change your roster once the race begins.
If one of your drivers gets injured on the track, he will, of course, be unable to continue earning points. The good news is that you’ll earn points based on the performance of his replacement.
There are four ways to score points in DFS auto racing at DraftKings, not just finish position! They are:
- 1. finishing position
- 2. laps led
- 3. fastest lap
- 4. place differential
Check out my fantasy NASCAR guide for a brief description of each.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s dive into a few fantasy car racing tips.
9 Tips And Strategies
#1 – Know The Track & Which Scoring Stats Rise In Value
Some tracks are shorter than others, a circumstance that can significantly affect your score. Other variables remaining the same, a driver who regularly leads a large number of laps will earn more points on a shorter track than he will on a longer track. Each lap he leads will earn you 0.25 points. That can add up during the course of a 400-lap race.
On longer tracks – for example, Talladega and Daytona – you’ll have fewer opportunities to earn points for laps lead and fastest laps recorded. There, you’ll want to focus on the place differential. That’s where you’ll earn a healthy chunk of your bonus points (one point for each position your drivers advance).
#2 – Beware The Pole Position
The pole winner seems to be in a great position. He (or she) finished first in the trials, so naturally he’ll finish near the top in the actual race, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The pole winner rarely comes in first. In fact, data show that being in pole position is a terrible gauge of how the pole winner will perform in the event. It’s not uncommon for the driver to finish in the bottom half of the field.
That’s obviously important in the context of your drivers’ finishing positions. After all, the higher they place, the more points you’ll earn.
But it’s also important with regard to the place differential. As I noted earlier, at DraftKings, you’ll earn 1 point for each position your drivers advance. You’ll lose a point for each position they lose. The problem with the pole winner is that he doesn’t have any upward mobility. He can’t advance positions since there’s no one ahead of him. He can only lose position, costing you valuable points in the process.
#3 – Don’t Focus Exclusively On Finishing Position
This should go without saying, especially since I’ve highlighted place differential and laps led as important factors in fantasy NASCAR. Nevertheless, it’s worth underscoring.
You’ll be tempted to draft drivers you think stand the best chance of finishing in the top of the field. But remember, finishing position is just one of several ways to earn points at DraftKings. You can also accumulate points by picking drivers who lead laps, turn in the fastest lap times and leapfrog other drivers.
Also, note that there’s a lot of variance in who finishes at the top. A single hard bump can send your star driver spinning off the track, derailing his chances of winning the race or even finishing in the top 10. Drafting a lineup that accrues a large number of bonus points is a safer bet.
#4 – Watch How Drivers Perform During Practice Sessions
A driver’s performance during his practice runs is usually a good indicator of his performance during the actual race. In fact, it can be more revealing than his qualifying time. Practice sessions involve a larger number of laps than qualifiers, which allows you to calculate an average lap time with more accuracy.
That’s not to say a driver who performs well during his practice sessions won’t choke during the actual event. That can happen to anybody. Having said that, it’s a still a good gauge.
#5 – Build Your Lineup Around A “Backbone” Driver
In fantasy football and fantasy basketball, draft strategy often involves picking one or two studs and creating the rest of your roster around them. Although auto racing is a completely different animal, you can – and should – use the same strategy.
Your ideal NASCAR driver is the one who offers the most upside in all areas concerning points. He should lead a considerable number of laps; he should turn in the fastest lap time on multiple occasions during a race; and he should be primed to advance multiple positions.
Once you find that driver, add him to your lineup. Then, build the rest of your roster around him.
#6 – Treat Every Driver Like He Matters
After you’ve rostered your top pick and filled a few slots with other hopefuls, it’s tempting to draft a couple of low-salary, low-promise options with your remaining cash.
Doing so is a mistake. Every driver in your lineup counts. The guy who finishes in last place while qualifying can accumulate a huge number of points if he manages to advance past a large portion of the field and finish in the top 10.
Expect that by the time you’re ready to draft your 5th and 6th picks, your budget will be sorely strained. Resist the temptation to select “throwaway” drivers based solely on their affordability. Instead, look closely at their track records and performances in recent races. If they’re finishing events and performing consistently, they could break out and earn you a substantial number of points.
#7 – Ignore Past Glories
Just because a driver did well many years ago doesn’t mean he’ll do well today. Take Bobby Labonte for an example. He won the Sprint Cup Championship in 2000. But he hasn’t performed at that level for 15 years. He’s a good driver, but his Sprint Cup win doesn’t reflect his current prospects.
Along the same lines, a driver who has performed well on a specific track in the past may not perform as well on that track today. His pit crew may be different; the track may have been renovated; or he may be driving a different car. A lot may have changed, making his past glories unreliable as a performance gauge.
Bottom line: ignore major victories of the distant past. Focus instead on how the driver has performed during his last 10 races. Has he finished the events? How did he place? Did he avoid getting spun off the track?
#8 – Pay Attention To Hot Streaks
NASCAR drivers are a lot like professional ball players. They’re streaky. It’s not uncommon for them to post win after win, which is something you can take advantage of. If Jeff Gordon has turned in 60 fantasy points during each of his last 3 races, he’s a pretty solid bet for an upcoming event.
There’s a flip side to this argument, of course. Every streak must end at some point. The key is to abandon Gordon (or whoever) before it does.
#9 – Fade Danica Patrick
I don’t get the hype around Danica Patrick. She’s an okay driver and even wins the occasional series pole. But when it comes to the actual race, she’s rarely a contender.
That’s not to say she won’t turn in a respectable number of fantasy points. But in most of the fantasy NASCAR contests I’ve seen at DraftKings, there are always better draft selections available.
I recommend fading Patrick as a general rule. Enjoy the youtube video instead, and draft someone else.
Play This Week – Legal & Legit
You can learn all about DraftKings in my in-depth review. The short answer is that they are legal, legit and a U.S.A based company. Your money is safe there and when you win you will get paid.
If you haven’t yet played fantasy NASCAR, visit DraftKings.com and register your account.
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