The first five races of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season have produced five different race winners. It’s time to find out if there will be a sixth new champion when the 39-driver field hits the pavement Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Atlanta is a 1.5-mile quad-oval with a very old track. This ancient surface causes the track to become incredibly abrasive, wearing tires down in a matter of a few laps. This requires a specific driving skill, with certain drivers thrive under these conditions more than others.
When trying to build a sample size, we should consider that the NASCAR Cup Series has been racing with similar aerodynamic and horsepower rules since 2019. Adding in other intermediate tracks with high tire wear, we can build up a sample size of Atlanta, Auto Club, Chicagoland and Homestead as tracks with high tire wear.
There might also be consideration given to tracks like Darlington or the Charlotte oval, which are smaller or have slightly less tire wear, but still compare somewhat well to Atlanta.
My machine learning statistical model takes all of these factors into consideration to help you build your NASCAR DFS lineups.
NASCAR at Atlanta DraftKings DFS Dominator Strategy
Dominators are tough to gauge at Atlanta, because tires are so important. Fastest laps can be misleading, but over a larger sample size, laps led and average running position are quite representative.
With that said, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. have easily been cream of the crop the last two years. Their average driver rating over the two races is higher than any single driver rating of the rest of the 37 drivers combined. However, let’s not put too much stock into a two-race sample size.
The usual suspects make up the dominator pool, but If you want to find two underrated drivers, my model likes Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman relative to their predicted ownership percentages.
NASCAR at Atlanta DraftKings DFS Picks
Cash Games: The cash game play of the week will come as no surprise to anyone, but it’s Austin Cindric, who costs only $8,600 on DraftKings and starts dead last in 39th place. He can only move forward, and the reigning XFINITY Xeries champion should have no problem posting a top-20 finish with an incident-free race. He has top-10 upside for a moderate price, with a guaranteed floor.
If you want another play outside of the obvious, Ryan Newman ($7,100) is very solid. He starts way back in 29th place, giving him plenty of safety. Under high downforce rules (2014-2015 and 2019-2020), he has an average finish of 11.0 entering this race.
Tournaments: If you take my model’s Perfect% metric and subtract the projected ownership, that leaves a series of drivers that should be under-utilized for DFS purposes. The top driver in this metric (Chris Buescher) is quite risky, but I do recommend him if you can embrace the risk.
If you’re a little more gun-shy, Chase Briscoe has had low ownership throughout the season, and projects to be under-owned again. Even better, he starts back in 25th, so for the risk averse, he’s still a solid play if you are just looking for a min-cash or better.
When you can play a nine-time race winner in the XFINITY Series last year now in a top-tier Cup ride, I think you have to take the opportunity with him starting near the back while everyone else is off him.