Giffen: NASCAR DFS Picks and Strategy for Sunday’s FanShield 500 at Phoenix

Credit:

Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: William Byron

  • Building a DFS lineup for Sunday's NASCAR race (FanShield 500 at Phoenix)? You've come to right place.
  • Nick Giffen breaks down his strategy for picking drivers, including some dominators, mid-range plays and value plays.
  • Check out his picks below for Sunday's DraftKings and FanDuel contests.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix Raceway for 312 laps at the 1.022-mile oval. After a 2019 season that lacked competition at the short, flat tracks, NASCAR has changed the aerodynamic package. The current rules will resemble those from the 2016-2018 seasons at this track type. That means we shouldn’t look too much into data from last year’s two races at Phoenix, or at the other short, flat tracks. We certainly shouldn’t ignore 2019 completely, but certainly a word of caution is warranted when evaluating performance for today’s race.


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Lineup Construction Strategy

Dominators

To start, we always want to build our lineups around drivers that could dominate the race. From 2016 to 2018, there were 13 drivers that scored at least 35 DraftKings dominator points over the six races at Phoenix. That’s just over two per race. Additionally, every single one of those drivers had a 10 lap average inside the top 12 in final practice. Ten of the thirteen started inside the top 10. And all but Alex Bowman in 2016 — who moved up from an underfunded team to fill in for a concussed Dale Earnhardt Jr. — had a driver rating of at least 93.9 over the past 15 races. Notably, however, only two pole sitters have dominated in the six Phoenix races.

Your two best bets to dominate are front row starters Chase Elliott ($9,600) and Kevin Harvick ($11,300). Elliott had a driver rating above 100 at all six Phoenix races from 2016-2018 and will control the initial start of the race. He was fast in race trim, posting the second fastest single lap opening practice  despite running in race trim and the fifth fastest 15 lap average in final practice. Harvick, meanwhile has two wins at the track during the 2016-2018 time frame, and no finish worse than sixth. He was the fastest in final practice over 10 consecutive laps.

I like playing Chase Elliott in cash games, but going underweight on him in tournament structures. Pivot to the more expensive, and likely lower owned Harvick in these contests.

Two other drivers starting outside the top 10 also fit the mold of a potential dominator. That would be Penske teammates Joey Logano ($10,700) and Brad Keselowski ($10,400). I especially like Keselowski. He’s a $300 discount to Logano, starts one spot farther back, and had the smallest dropoff in time from 10 to 25 laps in final practice. Keselowski’s two top-five performances at Phoenix from 2016-2018 came when he also had a top-five car in practice.

With the potential dominators sorted out, we can turn to the combination of price, place differential, and raw finishing potential to round out the lineup with mid-range and value plays.

Mid-Range

My favorite mid-range play in tournaments is William Byron ($8,300) starting in 17th. This represents plenty of place differential potential for Byron, especially with a car that was in the top third of the field in final practice. He finished ninth and 12th in 2018 at Phoenix.

Austin Dillon ($7,500) is a solid cash game play. Hestarts 30th, so there is plenty of safety built into his starting spot. He has a strong record at Phoenix which also poses some upside, but that car was terrible in race trim in practice. It was slow over five laps, and he didn’t even make a 10 lap run. That’s a huge red flag, so I like being underweight on him in tournaments.

Value Plays

My favorite tournament value play is Cole Custer ($6,300). He is way under-priced for a driver at one of the top teams. He had a top-four finish in six of the seven short, flat track races in the Xfinity series last year, with the lone exception a DNF at the second Iowa race. His car was fast in final practice, with times over the short and long run comparable to Kurt Busch ($8,100) and Elliott. This is a tournament-only play though. His 16th place starting position is too high for cash games.

Tyler Reddick ($6,900) is the cash game option here. He starts just in front of teammate Austin Dillon in 29th and was 15th in final practice over 10 consecutive laps. I do like Reddick in tournaments as well. He made a 20-lap run in final practice which placed him 12th of the 16 drivers to do so. That shows enough speed and comfort with his car to inspire confidence in all formats for a positive result.

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