Last week we suggested that Kyle Busch was the marquee driver most likely to earn maximum points. He was the last man standing in a late-race, round robin of rubs, spins, and wrecks and as a result was well worth his salary cap.
This week, it is difficult not to say the same thing about Martin Truex Jr. despite a price tag of $11,000 that makes him the most expensive driver in the game. To be clear, however, the circumstances are not the same because wild card dark horses are more difficult to come by on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks than the short, flat versions.
Truex has won six of the past eight races on this track type including the most recent four. At Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Bank of America 500, he even gained 16 place-differential points so it doesn’t seem to matter where he qualifies. Simply putting him on the Draft Kings roster moves the needle so that the remaining drivers have to be acquired for an average of $7,800, and that means one is going to have to take some serious risks.
One might wish to move the slider down now and look only at those drivers below that mark—not just for the next one or two picks, but probably at least three.
Luckily, we still have some strong and fairly consistent racers in the mid- to low-$7,000s. Daniel Suarez does not have a win in him as a rookie, but he has been one of the best values on a number of occasions. At least two of these came on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks with a seventh at Kansas Speedway in the spring and sixth at Charlotte this fall. In the three races between those two top-10s, he scored two more top-15s and an 18th. In his last outing, he crashed in the Hollywood Casino 400 and that might have him flying under the radar.
Trevor Bayne is another hidden gem. He got off to a strong start this season with a string of top-15s on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks that culminated in a 10th at Kansas in the spring. His next showing was a 16th in the World 600 and while he has only one top-15 in the past four races on this track type, he has some other solid showings on other track types in recent events. For $7,200, he is worth the risk.
Both Dillon brothers are also below the new average line, Ty is significantly cheaper than Austin and he could be this week’s top differentiator. In nine races on this track type in 2017, he has finished 17th or better four times and earned positive place-differential points on five occasions. His most recent race at Kansas was one of his better attempts when he finished 16th after climbing 13 positions from his 29th-place start.
Now the average per driver is back to a manageable $8,800 and players have to decide whether to take two drivers in that range or one who is costly and one who is cheap. We are going to go with two drivers close to the midline.
Ryan Blaney was the fastest driver in the first practice session Friday and he has a compelling reason to race consistently near the front. He had a good points day at Martinsville Speedway and needs another to stay in contact with the top four. The similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks have been kind to the Wood Bros in the past and there is every reason to believe Blaney will earn a top-10. Equally important, his $8,500 price tag allows players to take his sophomore rival.
Chase Elliott is now in a must win situation after getting wrecked by Denny Hamlin at Martinsville. It is not only the 26 points he has to make up on fourth in the standings, but also because he has to make up almost as much ground on every playoff contender. Elliott finished fourth at Texas in the spring and has a four-race streak of top-fives going on this track type that includes runner-up finishes at Chicagoland Speedway and Charlotte.