After a wild Daytona 500 that saw rookie Austin Cindric capture his first career victory in the sport’s biggest race, things should calm down a little bit as the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Auto Club Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
Auto Club Speedway is a 2-mile oval with a very old and abrasive track surface. That means tires should wear out fast.
Practice and qualifying were wild. There were nearly a dozen cars involved in incidents in some form or another.
Whether this is due to the new car or the extremely windy conditions remains to be seen. However, the Xfinity drivers didn’t seem to have as many single-car issues as the Cup drivers despite similarly windy conditions.
That means it’s likely the Next Gen Cup car that drivers are still getting used to.
With the potential for plenty of spins and wrecks, there could be a lot of uncertainty. Thus, I’ll be gearing my picks to deal with that uncertainty.
My personal recommendation is to play a lower volume and expect more craziness than the typical tame Auto Club races of recent years.
Let’s dive into my top cash and tournament plays for today’s race.
Wise Power 400 DraftKings DFS Cash Game Picks
Because of all the qualifying incidents, we have several top-tier drivers starting in the back. That means lots of safety and place differential potential all boiled into one. Here are three drivers you should be rostering in all your cash game lineups.
- Kurt Busch ($8800): Kurt starts dead last in 36th place, meaning he can only move forward. That means he’s guaranteed to avoid a negative number in the place differential category. Yes, he will have to do a pass-through penalty at the start of the race for failing inspection three times. However, with all the incidents we’ve seen, he should easily get back on the lead lap. In fact, I think it’s likely he never even falls off the lead lap in the first place. Kurt has excelled at Auto Club and its most similar track, Atlanta, in recent years.
- Bubba Wallace ($7000): Kurt’s teammate, Bubba Wallace, wrecked in practice. However, prior to that, he had one of the fastest practice laps. Wallace averaged a 15th place finish at Atlanta last year and rolls off 34th out of 36 drivers. His price tag is a very comfortable $7000. I prefer him to Justin Haley, who starts one spot farther back and is $300 cheaper.
- Kevin Harvick ($9200): Harvick is a monster at high-wear tracks, and while Stewart-Haas Racing didn’t look great, Harvick has always been the elite driver on the team. My model gives Harvick the third-highest upside, as well as the fourth-highest floor among all drivers. The only drivers that have a higher floor are Kurt Busch and two drivers priced over $11000.
Wise Power 400 DraftKings DFS Tournament Picks
- Justin Haley ($6700): I think people will write off Haley because of the Kaulig teams’ struggles early in the year. Additionally, Haley doesn’t have a great record so far in Cup, but he’s only raced for a back-marker team. Kaulig Racing is for real, and Haley’s teammate, Daniel Hemric, made the top 10 in qualifying. Haley himself didn’t turn a qualifying lap thanks to some prior issues with the car, but he was fast in practice and shouldn’t be written off in a race that could get crazy.
- Christopher Bell ($8000): Bell is the driver that projects the highest in optimal lineup chances per my model. However, he only projects seventh-highest in usage. Bell was very strong in practice, posting a top-five time over ten consecutive laps, less than 0.1 seconds off the fastest time.
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. Last week, I nearly rode Todd Gilliland, who was in only 8.8% of lineups to a big payday, before he got caught up in a wreck with less than 15 laps to go.
This week, that driver is Alex Bowman ($9000). I believe most DFS lineups will contain at least two of Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, or Joey Logano (despite Logano going to the rear, he was super fast in practice).
And despite my projections saying Tyler Reddick will be in fewer lineups than Bowman, I personally think the Reddick hype is bigger than the Bowman hype. Reddick is also cheaper, which may factor in.
That leaves the perfect spot for Alex Bowman to go under-rostered despite being the defending race winner.
Bowman has traditionally excelled at high-wear tracks, winning races at high-wear tracks such as Chicagoland and Richmond, in addition to his win at Auto Club Speedway.
Bowman seemed pretty confident in his interview after his qualifying run, saying they were comfortable with the car in practice and just slightly missed it in qualifying.