The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is off and running as we try and prepare ourselves for the unknown of the sport’s new rules package. The racing will be closer and more exhilarating, but with that comes unpredictability, more so now than ever. Daily fantasy NASCAR will be a totally different animal beginning with Sunday’s (Feb. 24) Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500.
So whether you knocked it out of the park at Daytona (or crash and burned), leave it in the past. The new season starts this weekend in Hampton, Ga. as the cars turn to the intermediate track of Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR, with assistance from councils consisting of drivers, owners and, most importantly, the fans has created a rules package that lowers the speed of the premier series cars and raises the intensity of racing. Now it is your time to take advantage of the unknown… for your financial benefit.
Below are some drivers to keep in mind when filling out your DFS lineups. Note you will see some questionable names amongst the usual suspects as the sport heads to Hotlanta. Don’t be afraid; be empowered to get aggressive as this new package is truly unpredictable.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, FanDuel allows you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 267-lap race will only have a total of 26.7 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on mid-pack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for Sunday’s race.
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Kevin Harvick ($14,000)
Career at Atlanta: 28 starts, two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 16.7
You would be silly to not pick Happy in Hampton. Harvick has led 915 laps in his five starts at the track since pairing with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. That includes two poles, a win and (in the last four events) an average finish of 4.5. As previously mentioned, the need for a dominator is less important than building a winning lineup. It means with this pick you could have the best of both worlds as the two-time Atlanta winner has led over 70% of the laps in the past two events on the worn-out surface.
Harvick had a rough Friday as a problematic steering box left the No. 4 team out of the final round of qualifying. But remember, his three teammates all start inside the top five. It leaves plenty of room for improvement when the green flag drops on Sunday afternoon; expect Harvick to head to the front.
Joey Logano ($13,200)
Career at Atlanta: 12 starts, two top fives, four top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 16.7
It’s hard to bet against the defending MENCS champion of the sport. Logano has accumulated the second most driver points in the last six races at the 1.5-mile quad-oval, second only to Harvick. His stat line may not be the prettiest overall, but the Penske Racing star has an average finish of 7.3 in the previous six races held in Atlanta. That includes all of his top fives and top 10s as he’s showcased improvement here driving the No. 22 car.
In addition, Logano has the help of his Ford Performance teammates, which could be a factor as we enter the unknowns of the new package. He also completed the second most laps of anybody in Friday’s opening practice session, getting in crucial on-track time others didn’t. Penske as a whole didn’t qualify well; Logano is starting Sunday from the 27th position. But that means there is a ton of points to gain from position differential.
Chase Elliott ($12,200)
Career at Atlanta: Three starts, one top five, three top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 7.7
Consistency is Elliott’s middle name thus far in his Atlanta career. He’s got three starts with three top 10s, no laps led but an average of +13 differential between his start and finishing positions. He’s likely to add to that after a 22nd-place qualifying effort has him starting midpack for Sunday’s race.
Elliott is an expensive but safe pick as he is carrying one of the hottest streaks in the sport. He’s earned top-seven finishes in seven of his last ten races, all dating back to last season. You could tell all Daytona Speedweeks the driver of the No. 9 was eager to win, as he should be. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has won 18% of his points-paying starts since August 2018.
Kyle Busch ($13,500) – You never can count out the No. 18. Busch is always fast and his price is also not as expensive as one may think. His average finish in Atlanta is 14.8 and has completed all but 13 laps in his last 19 starts at the speedway. There’s also history in the making; Busch has his 500th MENCS start this weekend, which is remarkable considering he is only 33 years old.
Kyle Larson ($11,000) – Larson is always fast at the intermediate racetracks, a perfect baseline as this new package creates unknowns. But one thing is for certain Sunday: he will be aggressive. Larson’s runner-up in 2017 along with a ninth-place finish in 2018 at Atlanta shows he knows how to run well here. Chip Ganassi Racing also needs a good run after a hellacious Daytona Speedweeks.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Jimmie Johnson ($9,000) – Jimmie won a race! It was not points paying and it was controversial but his name is on the trophy and he got the check. The 2019 Advance Auto Parts Clash was also his first trip to Victory Lane since Dover in the spring of 2017. Armed with a new crew chief in Kevin Meendering, seven-time hopes to bring back the magic he has had in the past at Atlanta. That includes over half of his starts resulting in a top-five finish at the Georgia facility. Sure, he hasn’t been brilliant here lately, but it’s a new world over at Hendrick Motorsports. Don’t count him out.
Erik Jones ($8,800) – Jones is a solid pick this weekend. In his young MENCS career, he has scored over 30 top 10s in just two full-time seasons at the sport’s top level. Jones has five starts across the three national touring series with an average finish of 9.6. That number includes completing every lap in his two Atlanta MENCS starts.
The move to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 has seemed to rebuild the confidence Jones had in his younger career. Scoring only three DNFs last season, two of which came at restrictor plate tracks, Jones should be a good bet to finish. That also makes him a valued pick come Sunday.
BARGAIN TIER: $5,999 and below
Ty Dillon ($5,500)
Career at Atlanta: 4 starts, no top fives, no top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 20.8
Dillon has been consistently above average in the equipment he has competed in. He has run well at Atlanta in the past and was fast in Friday’s practice session. But after rising to 12th on that speed chart, qualifying 21st was probably a disappointment for the younger Dillon brother. A new handling package and continuous RCR support has the No. 13 looking at a playoff run, but if he wants to get there, a solid run must happen this weekend. He is a bargain after starting the year with a solid top-10 finish at Daytona.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,000)
Career at Atlanta: 3 starts, no top fives, no top 10s
Average finish at Atlanta: 29.3
What a Speedweeks DiBurrito had. He was fourth in his Gander RV Duel and led the most laps (49) in his inaugural week with Leavine Family Racing and their Joe Gibbs Racing alliance. He has done as expected in less-than top equipment, averaging a 29.3 finish in three starts. However, the No. 95 showed tremendous speed in Las Vegas at the most recent test with the new package. With the cars being closer together, the new alliance with JGR and Dibenedetto’s obvious talent behind the wheel, you can count on him being a steal in your DFS Lineup.
One-Time Weekly Bets
Clint Bowyer: 15/1 – (Led practice – first/first/third in Qualifying Rounds 1-3)
Erik Jones: 20/1 (Seventh in Practice – sixth/15th in Qualifying Rounds 1-2)
Austin Dillon: 50/1 – (Third in Practice – fifth/10th/10th in Qualifying Rounds 1-3)