The 2020 preseason rankings had Michael McDowell listed 28th among 30 drivers, but his performance in the first four weeks should cause fantasy owners to rethink his value.
Consistently productive low-cap drivers are hard to find, and three of McDowell’s four races ended between 14th and 22nd this season.
We expected McDowell to run well in the Daytona 500.
His previous attempts on aero-restricted superspeedways as well as the overall record of the Front Row Motorsports organization suggested an ability to stay out of trouble. Most years, that is all that is needed to salvage a strong finish. McDowell ended the race on the lead lap, in the lead draft, with a 14th-place finish.
To date, that has been his best performance, but it is not the only time he has been a good fantasy value in 2020.
While McDowell has only one top-15 finish this year, that is not the metric by which he should be judged. The field is made up of 38 drivers most weeks. And the way they approach races in 2020 is substantially different than how they races a few years ago.
Through the past several seasons the competition to be inside the top 20 has grown as teams discontinued the practice of “starting and parking”.
Teams that once had to quit early to save their equipment can no longer do that and insure they will finish well enough to earn one of the 36 charters from NASCAR. As a result, drivers who would once clear off the track and allow others to move up the ranks via attrition now remain in the mix until the checkers wave.
Under the right circumstances, a 20th-place finish is acceptable.
When McDowell left Daytona, he headed to Las Vegas as the 12th-cheapest driver in the Draft Kings game. Nearly all of the drivers demanding less that week raced for lightly-funded teams. McDowell’s price tag of $5,800 may have caused a few players to consider him. In fact, he was on approximately 9% of the rosters that week.
He experienced mechanical issues on Lap 33 that caused him to lose 22 laps and finish poorly in 36th.
That caused his cap to drop $200 for Auto Club.
McDowell turned head at Auto Club with a top-10 qualification effort. At the time, we knew that would make him a modest earner because he was destined to lose place-differential points. McDowell finished respectably in 22nd, but he lost 14 points in the Draft Kings game.
His cap dropped fell at the Phoenix race to $5,500.
McDowell was priced attractively for the short, flat track race. He rewarded the players that took a risk on his with 34.5 points, which made him the 14th-best producer with the 30th-highest price.
McDowell’s price tag before Atlanta was $5,200 and there is no reason to believe Draft Kings will make him more expensive before another race is run.
McDowell narrowly missed finishing in the top 15 in the FanShield 500k. He crossed under the checkers 16th after starting 22nd. That was the second time in four races this year that he completed all the laps. It did not come as a complete surprise because one of the other track types that we regular focus on McDowell is the road courses.
Short, flat tracks have a lot of similarities to road courses. They are both drivers’ tracks where the man behind the wheel has a greater impact than on unrestricted, intermediate courses where speed is primarily made in the shop.
NASCAR intends to run all 36 races once the series returns to action and there are still a lot of races to be run on flat tracks. His performance at both Phoenix and Auto Club moves McDowell up the rankings in our estimation and could very well make him one of the best values several times before the season ends.
2020 Driver Profiles:
28. Michael McDowell