Randomness and unpredictability has been the name of the game so far in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
However, that may change today as teams and drivers race at the 1-mile flat track at Phoenix Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Shorter flat tracks tend to have more predictability, and if practice and qualifying are any indication, the number of incidents compared to the previous two weeks should be reduced.
That doesn’t mean this race will be incident-free. There were still several times cars got loose, and Joey Logano even slightly tagged the wall during his qualifying lap.
However, we should expect a bit more predictability when it comes to today’s race.
With that in mind, here’s my NASCAR DFS breakdown for today’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
As always, I will be referring to my projections, which includes ownership projections, as well as statistical modeling of how frequently a driver will end up in the optimal lineup.
Ruoff Mortgage 500 DraftKings DFS Cash Game Picks
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7000): Stenhouse was the only driver not to make a qualifying lap. That means he’ll start dead last in the 36-car field. He practiced in the middle of the pack and traditionally runs in the middle of the pack at short, flat tracks. That’s perfectly fine for a cash game play at his price tag — he’ll only move forward.
- Ryan Blaney ($9600): Blaney starts on the pole and was extremely quick in practice. Of the drivers starting in the first three rows, no driver was quicker over a 15 lap run or longer. That means he’s extremely likely to get several dominator points and should run up front all day. He comes in second in my model in winning percentage, which in combination with the pole position, makes him a solid cash game play.
- Kevin Harvick ($9100): People might sleep on Harvick because he hasn’t been flashy, but he gets it done at Phoenix. Harvick has never finished outside the top nine at Phoenix while racing for his current team. That’s a total of 16 races! While he’s maybe lost a step in pure winning ability, his experience will allow him to keep moving forward throughout the race. He still has speed too. He posted the fourth-best 20-lap average, ahead of drivers such as Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano, and Aric Almirola.
Ruoff Mortgage 500 DraftKings DFS Tournament Picks
- Denny Hamlin ($10,100): Hamlin may not have been the fastest driver in practice or even in the top 10. In fact, his lack of practice speed may lower his ownership, especially in higher dollar contests. But Hamlin qualified on the front row. That raw speed has to count for something. He had the best average finish and best average green flat speed at short flat tracks in 2021. Don’t sleep on a guy who consistently gets it done in place of flashier names that will draw more usage in tournament contests.
- Joey Logano ($10,400): While we’re on the topic of guys who can get it done, Joey Logano should be near the top of that list. Logano has three top-three finishes in the last four Phoenix races and came in second only to Hamlin in average finish at short flat tracks last year. Logano and Hamlin should be considered alternate dominators to Ryan Blaney. They have some negative correlation with each other, but it’s not impossible to start them together.
- Austin Cindric ($7700): When you get below Kevin Harvick at $9100, things get weird. The only driver you can be comfortable starting below $9100 is A.J. Allmendinger at $7200 simply because of his safe 29th-place starting position. However, that means he should draw plenty of usage too. With cash game play Stenhouse at $7000, the tournament options below $9100 but above Chris Buescher $6700 get murky. Step in Austin Cindric. In Cindric’s last three Xfinity races at Phoenix, he has two wins and a second-place finish in three dominating performances. He was among the top drivers in practice. That makes him a great tournament play despite starting near the front in eighth place. A win isn’t out of the question, and he certainly should be considered for a top-five finish. That would be more than enough to get him in the winning lineup at $7700.
Ruoff Mortgage 500 Paul Menard Pick of the Week
That means I’ll be focusing on a cheaper play for my Paul Menard (read: surprise) pick of the week.
I am looking at three drivers when it comes to this pick, and here’s my thought process.
A.J. Allmendinger and Bubba Wallace will draw a lot of usage just being two name drivers who didn’t practice poorly.
Ty Dillon and Justin Haley each posted decent times in practice and have solid track or similar track history (Dillon is great at Phoenix, and Haley was one of the fastest at the preseason exhibition Busch Clash).
Cole Custer falls into each of the previous two categories.
These three drivers are all good tournament plays.
However, the driver that has absolutely no mention but was incredibly fast in practice is the teammate of the driver that fell into this pattern last week.
Daniel Suarez ($6600) was 13th out of 36 drivers in five-lap average in practice. That’s reminiscent of his teammate, Ross Chastain, who was hovering around the top ten before putting in a dominant effort last weekend at Las Vegas. Chastain was the lowest used driver outside of the absolute bottom-tier drivers.
I can see that repeat with Suarez, given all of the options starting around him, either cheaper or farther back, and with better track history.
People might point out he was slowest in 20-lap average, but only nine drivers ran 20 laps. Every driver that was slower than Suarez in 15-lap average didn’t even hit the 20 lap mark!
That means he was both faster than them over 15 laps and happy enough with his car to run another five laps.
My model projects Suarez for around 10% usage. Yes, the model gives him only an 11.5% chance of being in the perfect lineup, but I think it’s discounting practice times early in the year.
While I don’t want to give too much weight to practice, it also shouldn’t be ignored.
Give me Suarez, with a mediocre track and type history, starting 23rd, who hasn’t been flashy this year, for the tournament play of the week.