Everything’s bigger in Texas, including Circuit of the Americas, a 3.41-mile road course NASCAR Cup Series drivers will take on for the first time this weekend. Let’s get your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings rosters set for Sunday’s (May 23) EchoPark Texas Grand Prix.
Circuit of the Americas (or COTA) has 20 turns — some sharp, some sweeping and others like an “S” — all with varying degrees of elevation. It will be quite the challenge for these drivers, as most (if not all) have never run at the Austin, Texas course except in the sim and on the virtual racetrack.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 20, 2021
Though COTA is a new course, you can still make good daily fantasy lineups based on a driver’s history on road courses. Those who have performed well in the past are likely to do so again at COTA. Keep in mind Sunday’s race is the first road course not run at a ROVAL since Watkins Glen International in August 2019.
But at least practice and qualifying are back, right? Cup teams will practice Saturday at 10:05 a.m. ET (FS2) and qualify on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET (FS1). That’s only one practice and qualifying session, which isn’t very much track time for these drivers. Still, you can see which competitors adapted well to the new environment.
Also, since qualifying is Sunday morning, you don’t have much time to adjust your DraftKings lineups if you need to. If someone like Michael McDowell began within the top 10, I’d be less likely to consider him because he might drop back in the race, which certainly doesn’t help in daily fantasy. Keep an eye out for value plays that start mid-pack and those beginning in the top five.
Lastly, rain is in the forecast for this weekend and could throw a wrench into the race sequence. Cars could slip and slide off course; if they’re in your lineup, it could really set you back in your DraftKings contests. You might want to consider using drivers who have run well in the rain before at road course events.
Before I move onto my picks, here’s my results from Dover International Speedway:
|$11,900.00||Martin Truex Jr.||13.6|
Hendrick Motorsports dominated the race and swept the first four positions. Unfortunately, this lineup went a different route. If I had played Kyle Larson instead of Martin Truex Jr., though the roster would’ve won the double up easily.
A DraftKings score of 314.45 earned $2 in the $1 Happy Hour tournament, while 228.9 was the minimum cashing score in the $1 single entry double up.
DraftKings lowered the points for each fastest lap to 0.45 this season, as well as the points awarded for first place to 45. DraftKings has also put more emphasis on drivers who finish inside the top 10 and top 20. For example, the gap between 10th and 11th place is now two points instead of one: 10th gets 34 points, while 11th gets 32, etc.
You can view this year’s full DraftKings rules below.
Note: the following is a sample DraftKings lineup; you can use the information to create your own.
Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings Picks: 2021 EchoPark Texas Grand Prix (COTA)
Chase Elliott ($10,500)
Career at road courses: 13 starts, 5 wins, 6 top fives, 8 top 10s
Average finish at road courses: 9.8
Elliott is the obvious favorite for Sunday’s race due to four wins in the last five road course events. He was on his way to a fifth at the Daytona International Speedway road course when a few sprinkles started coming down on part of the track. NASCAR threw out the caution, and Elliott ended up pitting while others stayed out. He likely had the speed to get back through the field but unfortunately veered off course (with a little help from his competitors) and finished 21s in that February event.
Still, Elliott led 44 laps that afternoon and recorded 20 fastest laps. In fact, in each of the past five road course events, the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports pilot led 27 or more laps, including 80 at Watkins Glen in 2019. Eighty out of 90 laps run is just insane to think about.
There are only 68 laps at COTA this time, so Elliott won’t score as many DraftKings points for laps led. Still, he’s a sure bet to contend for the win or at least redeem himself from Daytona. Plus, he has two top fives and three top 10s in the past three events this year and could ride that wave of momentum into Sunday’s race at COTA.
AJ Allmendinger ($8,500)
Career at road courses: 22 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at road courses: 16.0
The last time Allmendinger raced in the Cup Series, he drove his No. 16 Kaulig Racing car to seventh after starting 34th at the Daytona road course. The charge boosted his DraftKings score to 65.4 points. However, there’s qualifying this weekend, which means Allmendinger might earn a good starting position Sunday.
But even with a good qualifying effort, the ‘Dinger should be worth a spot on your roster. His first Cup victory came at WGI in 2014 when he drove for JTG-Daugherty Racing. Though he hasn’t had much Cup experience on road courses since 2018, Allmendinger did well in several NASCAR Xfinity Series events. He won back-to-back NXS races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL the past two years and led 32 total circuits. He also finished fourth at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last season.
Allmendinger’s salary is much lower than it was in February, which put him at a near-lock for me on DraftKings.
Christopher Bell ($8,300)
Career at road courses: 3 starts, 1 win, 1 top five, 1 top 10
Average finish at road courses: 15.3
Bell hasn’t competed at as many road courses as his Cup peers, but he showed his skill this past February at Daytona. Bell began the race 12th and passed Joey Logano within the final two laps to earn his first Cup victory. He also notched 12 fastest laps in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, increasing his DraftKings score to 62.7.
In Xfinity, Bell became quite talented at this track type, earning one win at Road America as well as four top fives and five top 10s in nine events. At WGI, he wound up ninth and second in the 2018 and 2019 races, respectively. He also earned one top five each at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the Charlotte ROVAL. Although Xfinity cars run much differently than Cup cars, his skill still shines on road courses. Don’t leave Bell off your roster.
Kurt Busch ($8,100)
Career at road courses: 43 starts, 1 win, 13 top fives, 23 top 10s
Average finish at road courses: 14.1
Busch took his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to fourth place at the Daytona road course earlier this season after leading two laps. He also ended fourth last year at the Charlotte ROVAL after starting 10th. Also, at WGI in 2019 Busch ended 10th, his third straight top 10 at the New York track.
Busch is actually a skilled road course racer, though he only has one career victory (Sonoma Raceway, 2011). He has seven top fives and 10 top 10s at the California racetrack and two top fives in three events at the Charlotte ROVAL. Keep a lookout for where Busch starts on Sunday though; if he qualifies inside the top 10, you might want to look elsewhere as Busch may not be able to inch up further than that.
Erik Jones ($7,500)
Career at road courses: 11 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average finish at road courses: 14.3
Jones may be driving for the underfunded No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t benefit your DraftKings lineup. His salary is a little bit less than what it was at the Daytona road course where he gained 23 positions to finish 14th. That may not look as good on the track but it’s superb for daily fantasy. According to Linestar, his 53 DraftKings points placed him in the perfect lineup that day.
That’s one good thing about Jones is he’s really good about ending further up from where he started. Last season at the Charlotte ROVAL, he took home a podium finish after beginning 14th; prior to that, at the Daytona road course, he ended 11th, nine spots up from his starting position. Road courses are a good place for a driver to use his skill to move through the field, and Jones should be able to do just that at COTA.
Dark Horse Performer
Daniel Suarez ($6,600)
Career at road courses: 11 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at road courses: 17.7
I still don’t know why Suarez remains at this price point; it’s truly baffling. He should be priced at least in the $7,000 range, but since he isn’t, you need to take advantage of it. Yes, even at a road course. Suarez wheeled his No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet to a 16th at the Daytona road course — nearly 20 positions ahead of where he started. His salary was much lower back then, allowing him to fit into the perfect lineup with a DraftKings score of 47.5.
Although Suarez’s last top 10 on a road course came in 2018 at Watkins Glen, he still has the skill to earn a good finish this Sunday. He’ll run the same package used at some shorter ovals where he showed speed, like Martinsville Speedway and Dover International Speedway. Last week at the Monster Mile, Suarez earned a ninth-place finish after starting 24th; his DraftKings score was 50.5 as a result. If the young talent can figure out this new course right away, he’ll be sure to have another solid finish.