The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or at least, that’s the case for the front-row starters in Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (4:00 p.m. ET, FS1).
For the second year in a row, Hendrick teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott make up the front row, with Larson taking the pole. In last year’s race, Larson swept the stages en route to a dominant victory, with Elliott grabbing the runner-up spot.
That surely will lead to the two drivers being favorites again in today’s race.
However, the Cup Series is reverting to the shorter layout that they used prior to 2019. On this layout, no polesitter since loop data started in 2005 has ended up in the top six in DraftKings points. That doesn’t mean Larson can’t do it, but it is likely to be a challenge.
That means, when I’m looking at cash-game builds, I’ll likely be staying away from Larson and Elliott, because it’s likely the field will get shaken up at some point.
The question then is, what do we do with these two in tournaments?
Before we jump into my picks, don’t forget all my NASCAR projections can be found in the NASCAR Models on FantasyLabs, complete with floor, ceiling, median, and ownership projections.
Let’s not skip the best part — my Perfect% metric — a metric that tells you how often certain racers appear in the optimal lineup when running 10,000 race simulations.
And don’t forget about the tools that FantasyLabs has to offer, like our Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 150 lineups, or use our Lineup Builder if you like to hand-build your lineups.
Let’s jump into today’s NASCAR DFS picks for the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.
Toyota / Save Mart 350 DraftKings DFS Cash Game Picks
Christopher Bell ($8900): This race is all about place differential in cash-game formats, and because Bell had issues in practice and qualifying, he’ll start 31st in today’s race.
This is as simple as it gets. Play a good road-course racer, in top-tier equipment, starting in the back. He has both floor and upside baked in as a result.
Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,000): These same principles apply to Truex as well. Truex is one of the best road-course racers on the circuit, and while he may have lost a step in the past year and might not be considered among the favorites anymore, he’s still one of the best in the business.
His 28th-place starting position provides him with plenty of floor, and his talent provides him with plenty of upside.
Erik Jones ($7500): Jones actually has the best average finish among all drivers at Sonoma and starts only three spots from the tail end of the field. Jones had a similarly poor qualifying effort at this year’s first road course race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) and turned that into a top-10 finish.
Toyota / Save Mart 350 DraftKings DFS Tournament Picks
Kyle Larson OR Chase Elliott ($10,600 OR 10,400): This is a one-or-the-other play. You absolutely cannot play these two in the same lineup because of how road course racing works. Place differential is king, but it’s certainly possible one of the two drivers dominates and takes the win.
I’d lean Larson here, thanks to his better record at Sonoma and his pole position giving him the early jump on laps led and fastest laps, but Elliott may be the better tournament play if Larson is in more lineups.
Either way, my model says their combined ownership is optimal at 36%, so don’t go crazy on these guys.
Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano ($9600 and $9000): The and here means both drivers are viable in the same lineup, but you certainly can play one or the other (or neither). These two drivers do have some negative correlation, as they’ll likely be on the same strategy as each has two wins in the bag, locking both drivers into the playoffs.
That means both drivers can play for the winning strategy. While it’s possible they both pull off top-five finishes, they’d both absolutely need them starting 10th (Hamlin) and ninth (Logano).
In 2016, when the car is most similar to how it is now, Hamlin finished second and first at the two road courses, while Logano finished third and second. They can each come home with a good result.
My model says their combined ownership should be around 36 percent, favoring Hamlin 22 to 14 percent. However, I think they should run closer together, and with so many other expensive drivers starting midpack or worse, plus Larson, Elliott, and Kyle Busch drawing a lot of attention, I think each will go underutilized in DFS. I like playing both around 20-25%, mixing whether you play either zero or one in most lineups. You can also throw in a splash of both in the same lineup.
Todd Gilliland ($5100): Looking at my model, Gilliland is in the same ballpark as several other drivers in his price range when it comes to my Perfect% metric. However, because he starts further forward than a handful of them, he’s also likely to be in fewer lineups.
Gilliland is a fine road-course racer as well. He won at COTA last year in the Truck Series and backed that up with two fourth-place finishes in the other two road-course races.
At COTA earlier this year, Gilliland started 29th and finished 16th. A similar result could get him in the optimal lineup Sunday.
Toyota / Save Mart 350 DraftKings Paul Menard Pick of the Week
Several drivers within $1000 of Kurt Busch ($8200) will will be quite popular in tournaments. Chase Briscoe, A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell, and Erik Jones all start 15th or worse.
All are solid, if not spectacular, at road courses, making them enticing place-differential plays.
Kurt Busch, on the other hand, starts in that awkward 11th spot. That should keep his usage down.
The elder Busch brother is a very strong road-course racer, especially at Sonoma. Since 2011, Busch has an average finish of 6.4, with no finish worse than 13th. That includes seven finishes inside the top seven in those 10 races. Accomplishing that would very likely get him into the optimal lineup at his price tag.