Welcome back to some more NASCAR DFS talk with this Intermediate Strategy Guide by Nillyjay! If you haven’t already, please be sure to check out my beginner’s guide HERE first. That will get you up to speed on the basics, as this article will assume you already know them. Also, consider getting a DFS Army VIP Membership and gain access to the NASCAR Research Station and the Domination Station Lineup Optimizer with our best in the industry projections!
This article will focus on helping you develop the fundamentals – creating a research process, how to approach/build for cash games, and a few words on GPP. Let’s get to it!
Having the right mindset
First and foremost, you have to learn to embrace NASCAR’s volatility. Proper bankroll management and utilizing ladders for cash games is important for all sports, but it’s vital for the volatile ones like NASCAR. We can’t afford to lose a significant portion of our bankroll from a random crash. It’s a long season, so make sure you can stick around for all of it!
Also, like any sport, you have to set aside personal bias. For those of you that follow NASCAR, that means you’ll have to roster drivers that you don’t like and will need to refrain from automatically picking your favorite(s). The goal is to have the right drivers at the right time, and personal bias will get in the way if you let it. Make lineups with your brain and enjoy the race with your heart.
Planning / initial research
Before you jump into making lineups, it helps to first decide how you want to approach the upcoming race. Start with some basic questions, such as:
- what’s the track, and who has a good/bad history at it?
- how many dominators/value plays/punts will I need for this track?
- if this is the second race at a track, how did everybody do the first time?
- who has been running hot/cold recently?
- are there playoff implications?
- which drivers consistently earn good finishes?
- which drivers are constantly falling off the lead lap and finishing poorly?
As you’re researching, I recommend using a worksheet of some sort to keep track of your findings. It’s easy to forget things after a few days, and you don’t want to remember a driver you liked (and forgot to roster) after the race has already started.
The track plays a big role in how we want to build our lineups and should be the first thing we consider. Unlike other sports, our approach can vary greatly from one race to the next. Some races are even worth fading in cash altogether. We’ll discuss the specifics every week in Slack.
As I research and get a feel for the upcoming race and drivers, I like to start sorting them into different groups (i.e. dominators, value plays, etc). Later on, this will help to piece together lineups methodically instead of just cramming in drivers that fit the salary cap.
The idea isn’t to start locking in drivers at this point. Rather, we’re trying to get an idea of who we think might be able to fill certain roles. There’s no point trying to build lineups before qualifying!
There are several different types of tracks in NASCAR. They have different lengths and banking angles (steepness) to produce varying speeds. Drivers often perform better at some of these more than others.
Intermediate: The most common type of track. Ranging from 1 to 2 miles in length, they offer lots of banking, speed, and a fair amount of laps.
Flat: Minimal banking, but otherwise similar to intermediate tracks.
Short: Small, low speed, crowded tracks that are less than 1 mile long. There are lots of lead laps available here.
Restrictor plate: Cars have restrictor plates installed to limit their top speed at these 2.5+ mile-long tracks, which causes them to be nose-to-bumper most of the race. They have a smaller number of laps than most tracks. Chaos is expected at these tracks.
Road course: These tracks have various turns/speeds which create a unique challenge. They also have the fewest number of laps.
Practice and qualifying
It’s very important to keep track of how the drivers perform in practice, and qualifying can turn potential chalk into to a fade and vice versa. If possible, I’d highly recommend watching these events. Numbers are great, but they don’t tell us everything.
Single lap/10-lap average times and lap speeds are the most common data points you’ll get from practice. These are of course no guarantee as to how a driver will perform at any single given race but can give you a good idea of what to expect.
Qualifying is the big question every week and part of what makes NASCAR DFS unique. Once we know where everybody qualified, we can start cross-referencing with our initial research to find the chalk, fades, value, and pivots.
Here are some good situations to look for:
- good drivers in fast cars who qualify poorly
- good value drivers who qualify with slower cars ahead of them
- studs who practice fast and win the pole
- good drivers with disallowed times or who miss qualifying
- good drivers that qualify significantly lower than they practiced
And some to be wary of:
- slower cars that qualify high
- slow/mediocre cars that qualify decently but have to start from the back
- drivers that qualify significantly higher than they practiced
- drivers who were struggling in practice
- cars in the same team of another car who had a critical mechanical/brake issue
- drivers that qualify significantly higher than where they could reasonably finish
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on social media outlets, namely Twitter and Facebook. Even if you don’t want to use them otherwise, you can make a bogus account (I recommend doing this for other sports too). Follow the drivers, tracks, and well-known people who are in the mix (i.e. Jeff Gluck and Claire B Lang).
If you have SiriusXM, keep it tuned to NASCAR on channel 90 (especially during practice/qualifying and before the race starts). If you’re at a race, consider renting a scanner/FanVision. You get live, unedited feed between the driver/team and you can be clued in on driver/car issues that aren’t talked about anywhere else. And yes, I have benefited from both of these!
Cash games in NASCAR aren’t too much different than other sports, except that we have less room for error with only 6 drivers. Outside of that, the usual cash game rules apply; play the chalk, avoid unnecessary risks, and focus on building the best/safest lineup you can.
There will often be situations that lead to some very chalky drivers. Usually, this happens when a good driver qualifies poorly/last, or when a stud gets the pole at a track they are very good at. When this happens, expect their ownership to be very high. It’s worth considering fading them in GPP, but since we’re discussing cash we want to target those drivers.
When an 80% owned driver crashes out, you can still salvage the day or turn a profit. But a $10k driver with low ownership can easily ruin your day if they give you a dud. Save that risk for your GPP lineups!
Cash games / NASCAR DKFP is earned, not produced
In other sports, players produce their own fantasy points independently of other players. If one player scores a touchdown or hits a home run, so can another. But here, if one driver earns all of the lead laps, none of the others can.
There are only so many points available in each race, and drivers have to earn them from the same pool as everybody else does. As there are only four sources of DKFP we want to build a lineup that can get as much as from every source as possible.
However, some drivers simply won’t have the same opportunity as others. The pole sitter cannot earn positive place differential, and slower cars don’t have a realistic chance to earn a lot of lead/fastest laps. With that in mind, I don’t consider any of them to be more important than the others, but I do consider which ones are easier to come by.
Cash games / roster construction
The first thing I do is identify the obvious chalk. If there is any, I lock them in and move on. If you want to fade them, do it in a GPP. But over the course of the season, fading these drivers in cash will hurt you more often than not. You don’t need to get cute in cash!
The second thing I do is go after fastest/lead laps. At most tracks, the majority of lead laps will be earned by a small handful of drivers. Anybody can earn fastest laps, but the drivers contending for lead laps usually get them too. These usually aren’t spread around very much, so dominators are worth paying up for!
Next, I want the cheapest driver(s) who can offer the best combination of place differential and finishing position. Drivers who can safely offer a lot of both are worth paying up for. In other words, don’t blindly pick the last place guy and hope for a big wreck. That’s a GPP move. It means play the $7.5k driver starting 30th (who should earn a top 15) over the $6k driver starting 25th who will likely finish 20th.
Finally, I want good mid/high priced drivers who should finish well. Look for drivers that tend to stay on the lead lap and finish strongly (top 10 or better preferred). Ideally, we want them to start 20th or worse so they give us two sources of DKFP.
Cash games / ladders
As mentioned before, utilizing ladders in cash games is crucial in NASCAR. We will occasionally find ourselves on the wrong side of volatility, so we need to capitalize on our good days.
Drivers that safely offer both a high floor and ceiling are the ones we want to target for our ladders. If you find yourself trying to decide between a few drivers to fill the same role, use that as a tie-breaker. If one of your choices has to rely on a big crash to raise their floor/ceiling, use that driver in GPP. For cash, go with the ones who should be able to do it under normal circumstances.
Cash vs GPP
Truth be told, there’s not a whole lot of difference between a cash and GPP lineup. Fundamentally they are the same; you want the most DKFP with the best lineup possible, and they can be built the same way.
The difference is that you put more emphasis on finding higher ceilings/lower ownership and disregard safety. Sometimes it’s as simple as using the right value play that nobody else was on, and sometimes it’s having the right drivers that benefit from a bunch of wrecks. Be creative in your thinking and cross your fingers, because anything can and will happen!
That about covers the Intermediate NASCAR Guide. Consider joining the DFS Army and gain access to the NASCAR Research Station and the Domination Station Lineup Optimizer with our best in the industry projections! You will also have access to our VIP Slack Chat where you can chat with me, our Coaches/Pros, and other likeminded DFS enthusiasts! You get access to all sports for one low price. Sign up here!