Last weekend at Auto Club Speedway, practice speed translated quite well with race speed.
If the same thing were to apply this weekend, there’s a clear top-four pecking order.
Last week’s winner, Kyle Larson, led the way in practice with the fastest five- and 10-lap average. Following him was his teammate William Byron. Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell rounded out the top four, with Bell grabbing the pole position.
One difference from Auto Club — there was only one wreck in all of practice and qualifying (although three additional drivers nearly spun out). Kyle Busch cut a tire and smacked the wall hard. He will move to a backup car and start dead last in the 37-car field.
That makes him a chalk play for DFS purposes, but is he a good tournament play?
Here are my thoughts on tomorrow’s Pennzoil 400 NASCAR DFS slate.
Pennzoil 400 DraftKings DFS Cash Game Picks
- Kyle Larson ($11,300): Larson starts second and had a really fast car in practice. Anytime he starts this far forward at a 1.5-mile track and shows immense practice speed, he’s nearly a lock for a ton of dominator points. Despite starting this far forward, my projections give him the second-highest floor on the slate, as well as the highest median and ceiling.
- Kyle Busch ($10,200): As mentioned, Kyle starts 37th, so the only place for him to go is up. If his teammates are any indication, he should be in contention for a top-five finish. This is as solid of a cash game lock as there is on a weekend where there isn’t too much chalk.
- Kurt Busch ($8900): Kyle’s older brother Kurt was one of those three drivers that nearly wrecked. His particular incident came during qualifying, where he had a big wiggle, relegating him to a 31st-place starting position. His 12th best five-lap average bodes well for his chances to come through the field.
- Cole Custer ($6700): Custer showed well last weekend at Auto Club running 13th in average green flag speed. This weekend he starts 23rd despite practicing several spots better. That means he should move forward at a nice cheap price. He was 17th out of 34 drivers over five consecutive laps and 13th out of 24 drivers over 10 consecutive laps. He likely has a car to run mid-pack or better.
Pennzoil 400 DraftKings DFS Tournament Picks
- William Byron ($9800): Byron was second quick to Larson in all the major practice metrics. Byron was the fastest car at the second Vegas race last year. He was a top-three car at Auto Club last weekend. He has the third-highest upside per my model. While Larson and Kyle Busch will draw a lot of usage, Byron will be right there in contention for the win, making him a great tournament play.
- Daniel Hemric ($5800): Hemric came back from six laps down last weekend to finish ninth. He didn’t have a fast car but made the most of attrition. The opposite might be true this weekend. Hemric was eighth in both five and 10-lap average in practice. His 16th-place qualifying effort means he may be able to move forward. Any finish ahead of where he starts may be enough to get him into the optimal lineup at this very cheap price tag.
Paul Menard Pick of the Week
Every week I’m giving you my super special tournament play of the week, called the Paul Menard Pick of the Week.
This is the driver that I expect to be far underplayed compared to his upside.
This weekend, that driver is the teammate of two other drivers I’ve mentioned, Chase Elliott ($11,000). If you plot ceiling vs. projected usage, Elliott is in the top three in this metric, meaning he could be among the most under-rostered drivers this weekend.
The two drivers that show slightly better than him are the Toyotas of Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. However, Elliott was faster than each of them in practice, and in general, the Chevy contingent has been faster than the Ford group over the first two intermediate-track races of the year.
If there’s a dominator from outside of the top-four in practice, it’s likely to be Elliott.