Hello everyone, nillyJay here! I’m a coach/contributor inside the DFS Army and my main focuses are NASCAR, MLB, bankroll management/cash ladders, and building various tools/models with Excel. You can find and follow me here on Twitter or, for DFS Army members, in our Slack chat (@nillyJay or just swing by my channel #nillys-garage-nas-mlb).
Part of what I do for our members is to give my final thoughts/notes for every NASCAR Cup and Xfinity race in my Slack channel an hour or two before lock. Along with those notes, I also make a sheet that lists every driver and how I best see them being used. This article will go over my driver reference sheet as well as some thoughts/theory that I use in my research.
A few of our many NASCAR Xfinity wins – three DFS Army members tied for first in the Beast at Phoenix ISM
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Before we begin…
I’ll use terminology here that should be pretty basic to most NASCAR DFS players, but if you’re unfamiliar with any of it please take some time to read through my beginner’s and intermediate guides. For DFS Army members, you can also check out my Studs & Dominators and Winning Lineup Correlation articles to get even more insight on driver selection.
NASCAR reference sheet – quick guide
I like having every driver (and my thoughts about them) all at a quick glance, as it has helped me tremendously while I’m building lineups. I wanted to make it useful for you guys too; something easy to look at to see my recommendations without having to go back through notes if you were just looking for a quick answer. While it’s not overly complex, I use some terminology in it that some of you might not be familiar with, so I wanted to make a quick guide to answer any questions you may have. Let’s start off by looking at the five main categories:
Format – The type(s) of contests this driver is best suited for.
Role – The role that each driver needs to fill in the formats they’re recommended for.
Driver – The name of each driver.
Salary – Each driver’s salary (this sheet is always sorted by salary).
Start – The qualifying position that each driver will be scored from.
Driver, salary, and starting position are pretty obvious so I won’t go into detail about them. Let’s take a look at the others instead, starting with formats:
All – Drivers that have both a high floor and ceiling.
Cash – Drivers that have a high floor but a limited ceiling.
GPP – Riskier drivers that have a low floor but a high ceiling.
GPP/fade – Same as GPP but with a much lower chance of reaching their ceiling.
Fade – Drivers with a low floor and ceiling, with little to no realistic chance of returning enough value for any type of contest.
There are also several different roles for drivers to fill:
Stud – Elite drivers that can finish strongly and pay off their salary without needing to lead laps.
Dom – Reliable dominators that can lead a large portion of the race.
Stud/dom – Elite drivers that can pay off their salary with or without needing a bunch of lead laps.
Dom pivot – GPP pivot options; they have the capability of dominating but are less likely to do it than others (they won’t return enough value if they don’t).
Mid fin – Mid-priced drivers that can finish somewhere around 15th to 20th or better.
Value – Cheaper options that can generally finish in the top 25.
Punt – The cheap drivers that we don’t expect a lot out of, but can sometimes bring everything together.
Detailed format breakdowns
Next, let’s dig a little deeper and go over some examples of things I’m looking for when compiling my sheet. You’ll probably notice that the theme here is comparing drivers with similar salaries and finding which ones have the best/safest paths to reaching their floors and ceilings. That’s largely what separates a cash play from a GPP pivot, and is something you should be considering for every driver when building lineups.
This is a driver that offers both a solid floor and a high ceiling and can be used for both cash games and tournaments alike. Often times you’ll have to pay up for them, but as we’ve learned, it’s worth paying up for drivers who can safely exceed value. This isn’t simply determined by just the driver, but also the situation they find themselves in. Plenty of drivers are safe and can finish a race, but would we want a mid-ranged driver starting in 2nd? Probably not, as it’s very unlikely that they will be able to pay off their salary starting so high in the field.
All example 1 – Two drivers near the top stand out: Driver A and Driver C. It’s pretty easy to spot ones like Driver A because one of the first things we should be looking at is where everybody is starting and who is in a position they “shouldn’t normally” be in. Driver C is a pretty easy choice in this example too, as they start next to Driver J who is very unlikely to take/hold the lead from them.
All example 2 – When we have drivers starting farther back with slower cars ahead of them, that’s a great time to gain some extra place differential on top of a good finish. In this example, we see that Drivers H, N, and Q are all in such positions, so we could consider them for use in all formats.
As you can see, these are all scores that could help take down any tournament, and these drivers aren’t having to do anything that’s way out of the ordinary or beyond their capability. I’m sure by just looking at the numbers you can think of a few drivers who often find themselves in these exact scenarios.
These are drivers that offer a solid floor but aren’t in a position where I believe they can reach a high ceiling. Often times this will be a good driver who is starting too high to earn place differential, doesn’t have dominator potential, but still offers a very strong finish for their price.
Cash example – We can look at Driver E and Driver I for examples of this:
Would you be happy with a safe 45 and 34 DKFP from these two? In cash, sure, but in tournaments that’s just not going to cut it. Knowing when and where to use different drivers (and who to use them with) is extremely important!
These are drivers that DO have a higher ceiling but are also riskier with a much lower floor than others priced around them. A lot of these are going to dominator pivots, as the only way they’re going to pay off their salary is to dominate a large portion of the race. While they may still have a good finish, there are often drivers that are cheaper who offer a higher floor (and sometimes the same ceiling), so we want to keep these drivers for when we’re trying to take down a big tournament with a lower owned play.
Just because a driver is labeled as a GPP pivot doesn’t mean I think they’re a bad driver or are a roll of the dice at best. If there’s at all a reasonable chance that they could find a high ceiling, I’ll find some exposure to them. But as we know, the cards aren’t always in play for every driver, so we have to determine when and where to use these riskier plays.
GPP example – Let’s use Driver B and Driver G for this example. I’ll show two outcomes for each driver; the top one being where they finish decently but don’t pay off their salary, and the bottom being where they do (bolded):
As you can see, when they were able to get out front and lead for a while, they earned plenty of extra DKFP. Unfortunately, their other scores would not have done the same. While they wound up being okay for cash, we could have taken Drivers C, D, or H who were cheaper and offered a higher/safer floor (and potentially the same/higher ceiling). However, since it is NASCAR and anything can happen, we’d still want some exposure to them in tournaments in case they do get up front and lead the way. That’s the place we embrace that risk, not our cash games! While it’s always okay to pay up for certain drivers, it’s also okay to pay down when the situation calls for it.
GPP / Fade
These are drivers that I feel have a minimal chance to pay off their salary and are worth going underweight on. This could be due them being at a track they aren’t very good at, being in a low-quality backup car, or in some other less than ideal situation.
GPP / Fade example – Take a look at Driver K. Starting 15th is fine for some drivers (i.e. studs) because they have reliable top-5 potential. A 5th place finish with +10 place differential can pretty easily see 60+ DKFP without any lead laps, but starting 15th and having a mediocre top-20 finish isn’t helping us any. Let’s look at this in action:
In the top example, we see a decent finish for our driver, but with a pretty unexciting result. On the bottom, we see the result of a race that favored them a bit more. While most drivers in this price range could see a top-5 finish, they aren’t doing it with any regularity, so they aren’t somebody we want to go heavy on. It’s still worth taking a few shares of them just in case, especially since their ownership will likely be low. However, as they are in a bit of a “longshot” spot, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to simply fade them and concentrate on other drivers instead.
Another example of this could be a driver that’s starting in that same area at a track they historically have performed poorly at. There are some tracks that you get better at over time, but some drivers’ skill set simply doesn’t bode well for certain tracks, and we need to pay attention to those quirks.
As you can imagine, these are drivers that I don’t believe have any sort of realistic chance to return anywhere near enough value to be worth taking, even as a super-risky GPP play. These are actually the drivers I look for first as it helps me narrow down my driver pool.
Fade example 1 – We have a pretty easy one here with Driver J. Even without seeing a name, we know a $7,900 driver most likely isn’t going to outrun the studs. If they could, they wouldn’t be $7,900. The ONLY way they’re paying off their salary is if they can manage to dominate some and get a top-5 finish, which is asking a lot for any driver in that salary range.
Fade example 2 – Our other fade is Driver R, who is starting way too high. We can pay a little more/less and find drivers in much better positions, as Driver R is more than likely going to finish with somewhere around -10 DKFP.
The driver’s roles should be mostly covered with the examples above, but if you have any specific questions feel free to get in touch with me in Slack or on Twitter so we can fill in the blanks. Either way, I hope this cleared up any questions and provided some more insight on selecting drivers. For everybody else out there, I’d encourage you to give us a look and consider signing up. Articles like these are just the tip of the iceberg of everything we do in the DFS Army, so come join our winning team and see it for yourself. Don’t forget to use promo code NILLY for that 10% savings. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys in Slack!