The NASCAR Cup Series started off the year with two longshot winners, but that trend is likely to end at Homestead-Miami Speedway today. Since the inception of the current playoff format, the Homestead winner has been among the race favorites.
In fact, this is the first race of the 2021 season where we’ll really want to focus on specific race favorites in DFS. These drivers, which we call “dominators” in DFS circles, are the drivers that lead the bulk of the laps and pick up the fastest laps as well. With a potential for earning 0.7 points per lap from leading a lap and having the fastest lap, there are tons of points available in a 267-lap race.
There are two drivers my model likes in particular when it comes to a dominant performance, and a collection of about eight other drivers that have some dominator potential as well. I’ll touch on this dominator pool and how we can use my machine learning driver projections in tandem with the FantasyLabs optimizer to produce lineups that will allow us to accurately capture the dominator pool.
Then I’ll also go over my favorite cash and tournament plays, as well as a fade for today’s race.
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Homestead DraftKings DFS Dominator Strategy
If you look at my projections, last year’s two dominant drivers in the win column, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, also dominate the upside column. Hamlin starts today’s race from the pole position, and Kevin Harvick starts one row behind in fourth place. That outside position is actually preferred, which could help Harvick claim second place behind Hamlin very quickly.
We’ll want at least one of these two drivers to be in the bulk of our lineups. In fact, these two are two of the top four drivers in my Perfect% metric, which is simply the percentage of the time you’ll see a driver in the winning lineup according to 50,000 race simulations from my model.
However, these two aren’t the only drivers with dominator potential. I mentioned eight other drivers that my model gives an outside shot at dominance. I personally would eliminate Brad Keselowski from that pool of drivers, since he’s led a total of two laps at Homestead in low downforce years (2016-2018, 2020). Additionally, Tyler Reddick is also a solid place differential play and comes in at a mid-tier price, so we can narrow that pool down to six additional drivers.
By applying these grouping rules, we can ensure that our lineups have at least one of Hamlin and Harvick, as well as at least two drivers from our eight-driver dominator pool. By setting it to at least two, we can still sometimes even have three drivers from this pool to cover situations where dominator points are more spread out.
I’d recommend doing this for a good chunk of your lineups. Obviously, there may be situations where both Hamlin and Harvick don’t dominate, so you’ll want to create a portion of your lineups with different rules, but this rule set should work for a solid portion of your DFS tournament portfolio.
Homestead DraftKings DFS Plays
Cash Games: Tyler Reddick is the obvious cash game play today. At $8,500, Reddick starts 35th, meaning there is massive place differential potential and an extremely high floor. Reddick led laps in last year’s race before bringing the car home in fourth place. In fact, he ran inside the top four for nearly the entire race after starting 24th.
Tournaments: I really like Erik Jones at $6,900 despite the equipment downgrade from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Petty Motorsports. RPM isn’t a bad team, and Bubba Wallace piloted that car to a 13th-place finish in last year’s race.
The thing I like about Jones is he’s consistently strong at this track type. He’s never had a finish worse than eighth at Homestead’s closest comparable track, Darlington, including one win in 2019. Additionally, he finished third at Homestead in 2019, and had the fifth fastest car in last year’s race before some late problems out of his control relegated him to a 21st place finish.
With the focus on drivers like Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain, and Austin Dillon from the $7,200-$7,500 price range, Jones is the under-the-radar play who has also burned DFS players in the first two races of the year. He’ll be very low owned, but can pull off a top-12 finish at Homestead despite the equipment downgrade.
Fade: As I mentioned above, Brad Keselowski is not very good at Homestead under low downforce rules. He’s had only two laps led, and only 23 fastest laps in a total of four starts. With a $9,900 price tag, that isn’t going to cut it. He starts seventh, which is not far enough forward to think he’ll lead the early laps, and it’s not far enough back to give him much place differential potential. My model projects him around 15% ownership, but I’m okay with a full fade of the 2012 champion.
Pictured above: Tyler Reddick
Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images