Despite the race’s title sponsor being a casino, you shouldn’t take too many gambles when filling out your daily fantasy NASCAR FanDuel roster for the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
The drivers of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will battle it out at the Brooklyn, Mich., two-mile oval — one of the fastest on the NASCAR circuit. In the past, cars reached well over 200 miles per hour at Michigan, but with the new high-downforce and tapered spacer package, the cars will be restricted in speeds. This should make the draft all the more important, so expect this race to be different from recent ones at the track.
There’s a handful of drivers who seem to run well every time NASCAR visits the Irish Hills, but occasionally, there’s the race where someone wins on a fuel mileage strategy or a gamble with rain close in the area. That’s how Clint Bowyer, who doesn’t typically run well at Michigan, won this race one year ago.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, they allow 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 200-lap race will only have a total of 20.0 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on midpack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for Sunday afternoon’s race (June 9).
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Brad Keselowski ($13,000)
Career at Michigan: 19 starts, 0 wins, 6 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average Finish at Michigan: 11.9
Despite never winning at his home track, Keselowski is one of the best at Michigan. He has the third best average finish among active drivers and the highest among active drivers with more than six starts at the track. He finished in the top 10 in both races last year, including a runner up in the the August race. In the August 2017 Michigan race, Keselowski led 105 laps and won a stage before settling for 17th place.
Keselowski is also one of the hottest drivers this season. He already has three wins in 2019 and finished second one week ago at Pocono Raceway. The 2012 Cup champion has said in the past that winning at Michigan would be like winning the Daytona 500 to him, so he’s clearly hungry to win this week. This could be the time he finally breaks through.
Chase Elliott ($12,500)
Career at Michigan: 6 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average Finish at Michigan: 5.3
Similar to Keselowski, Elliott has yet to win at Michigan but is still one of the best at the track. Elliott has the highest average Michigan finish among active drivers and the second highest in the track’s entire 50-year history. He has never finished outside the top 10 at Michigan and started his career with three consecutive second-place finishes at the track. He’s overdue a Michigan win.
Elliott is also good for positions gained points, as he’s improved upon his starting position in five of his six starts. He’s enjoying a good bit of success in 2019 as well, as he’s currently enjoying a career-high streak of five consecutive top fives. Look for Elliott to continue that streak and potentially battle for the win.
Kyle Larson ($12,000)
Career at Michigan: 10 starts, 3 wins, 4 top fives, 5 top 10s
Average Finish at Michigan: 13.2
You can’t fill out a lineup without considering Larson. He struggled at Michigan last year, but from 2016-2017, Larson won three straight races at the track. David Pearson and Bill Elliott are the only other drivers to accomplish that feat. Those three wins tie Larson with Kurt Busch as the most among active drivers.
If Larson’s car has the speed to run with the leaders and he doesn’t have the bad luck he’s had most of 2019, then there’s a good chance he’ll win.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Aric Almirola ($9,500)
Career at Michigan: 13 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10s
Average Finish at Michigan: 18.5
Almirola doesn’t have the best track record at Michigan, but a large part of that is because his first 11 races were in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43, where he lacked the speed to be ultra-competitive. Now, Almirola is with Stewart-Haas Racing, the team that swept the Michigan races one year ago. SHR has yet to win this year, but they’ve still been solid — Almirola has one top five and eight top 10s so far this season.
In his two Michigan races last year, Almirola finished 11th and seventh. In seven of his past eight races at the track, he’s improved upon his starting position and scored positions gained points. Don’t expect Almirola to dominate the race, but he’ll likely be around the top 10 all day. If a situation like rain or fuel mileage comes into play, Almirola will be in a situation to gamble for the race win.
Paul Menard ($7,500)
Career at Michigan: 25 starts, 0 wins, 5 top fives, 7 top 10s
Average Finish at Michigan: 17.8
When I think of Michigan, I think of the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 car. After all, the team has won at the track 11 times (Pearson, 8; Cale Yarborough, 2; Dale Jarrett, 1).
Menard is no Pearson, but he’s not bad at Michigan either. He finished fifth and led laps in this race one year ago. From 2013-14, Menard had three consecutive fourth places at the track.
The Wood Brothers have an alliance with Team Penske, who has been the second best team so far in 2019. That means Menard should have plenty of speed on Sunday, and that’s all you can ask for from a driver at that low of a price point.