The NASCAR Cup Series runs a 500-kilometer race on Thursday after Wednesday’s race was rained out. This time, it will consist of 208 laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway, home to Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 which was won by Brad Keselowski after a late-race restart.
Like the Darlington Wednesday night race, finishers 1-20 will be inverted and start 20th through first. Since William Byron was the 20th-place finisher, that will put him on the pole for tonight’s race. The rest of the starting lineup can be found here.
This race is almost half the distance of Sunday’s race, so we should expect one to two dominators instead of two to three. I think with the invert that it’s more likely we’ll have a two dominator race than a one dominator race. With how hard it is to pass the leader, I’d be looking to roster whoever leads the early laps (more on that in a moment), plus one other potential dominator.
DraftKings has come out with some excellent pricing for tonight’s race. Jimmie Johnson got disqualified from the Coca-Cola 600 after failing post-race inspection, so he will start last (40th) tonight. DraftKings priced him as the most expensive driver, at $12,300. Clint Bowyer starts 39th and is priced second highest at $11,800. That means we will need to be even more selective on our place differential picks, because this is a rare situation in which DraftKings knows the starting lineup before releasing pricing.
With that, it’s still another night race at Charlotte, so most of the same rules as the Coca-Cola 600 apply.
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The early dominator pick comes down to the two front row starters, which are Hendrick Motor Sports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman. Byron is the pole-sitter, but Bowman has been completely dominant at the high-speed tracks this year (excluding Daytona). I don’t mind splitting exposure between these two drivers, but I actually like going with Byron. That clean air is king, and if the two HMS teammates play nice, they could pull away from the field early. Thanks to the invert, there really isn’t another dominator challenger starting anywhere near them, so I see no reason for them to duke it out and take the chance of falling back unnecessarily.
Strategically, it could be possible to fade both of these drivers in a chunk of lineups. There is rain in the forecast, which has the potential to shake things up and shorten the race. Byron and Bowman will not be worth playing if they don’t rack up at least 20 dominator points and pull off a top-10 finish.
Place Differential Picks
Despite being the most expensive driver, Johnson is still my top place differential pick. The Hendrick cars have been extremely fast all year, and 208 laps is more than enough time to get to the front. Even in a rain-shortened race, that opens up the possibility of strategy allowing Johnson to gamble and get track position. He should have the speed to stay there.
I prefer Johnson to Clint Bowyer. Johnson needs to finish only two positions ahead of Bowyer to make up the price difference, and that should be the case over the long run. However, Johnson is by no means a slam-dunk pick. At $12,300, you’ll want a top-10 finish from him, plus a handful of fastest laps.
Bowyer is still in play, but don’t go crazy here. Charlotte hasn’t been a great track for him historically. His last top-10 finish came in 2013. I’d use Bowyer in less than half of my lineups.
Bubba Wallace starts 38th, but DraftKings priced him up for tonight. At $8300, he’ll need to finish in the top 20 to make 5x value. He’s shown enough speed this year that we shouldn’t write him off for a finish at least that high, but my model gives that slightly less than a 50% chance.
The Second Dominators
So who will the second dominator be? It’s always hard to say, but these drivers should also be considered the race-winning contenders. The usual suspects of Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick come to mind.
Of these drivers, I’m most likely to eliminate Keselowski and Harvick from my driver pool. Hamlin starts way back in 29th, so that gives him place-differential opportunity. Truex and Busch should be considered favorites again. Elliott had the Coca-Cola 600 won until the final caution came out.
Harvick was not even a top-10 quality driver all night, but benefited from the late-race caution. Keselowski was a bit better, but his finishing result certainly was flattering as well, taking advantage of not one, but two timely cautions. Unless they make significant gains, I’d be hard pressed to include them as my second dominator. It’s certainly possible either driver wins, so you’ll want some exposure to them if you multi-enter. But they shouldn’t be highly-owned plays.
The Best of the Rest
I’m going right back to the Ryan Blaney well. He finished third on Sunday, and steadily worked his way forward all night. He fell back only once when teammate Joey Logano got loose and almost crashed into Blaney. He still recovered to finish third. He’s priced even lower at $7900, which is mind-boggling to me. He’s should be a top play again tonight.
Matt Kenseth starts 26th and is priced at $8100. A top-12 finish gets the job done here. That’s very achievable for Kenseth, who has top-eight upside.
Ryan Newman ($7500) starts 27th. A top-15 finish will put him in the conversation of being in the winning lineup, and he has more upside than that. He was highly owned despite starting 18th on Sunday, and now he starts nine spots further back. The $1000 higher price tag is not enough of an adjustment. He’s one of the better plays tonight on the whole slate.
After Daytona, Ty Dillon ($6300) has had finishes of 10th, 26th, 15th, 19th, 19th and 25th. The-10th place finish was at Las Vegas, another 1.5-mile track. He rolls off from 25th tonight, so there’s certainly a chance he moves forward if things get crazy. He should be considered in at least 20% of multi-entry portfolios.
The GPP Wildcard
Erik Jones ($7800) had the sixth-fastest average green flag speed on Sunday. If he replicates that speed, we’re looking at a GPP spoiler who could be in the neighborhood of 10% owned thanks to drivers like Kenseth, Blaney and Newman drawing much higher ownership in his price range.
If you want to be risky, I like taking a gamble on going overweight on Jones and hoping he pulls off a top-five finish. He is currently at +285 for a top five finish at the DraftKings Sportsbook, so bumping his exposure up to around 20%-25% is warranted if you want a shot at a big payday.