Pennzoil 400

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The series is off to Las Vegas this week. There are several noteworthy things to know about this week’s race. First, it’s the home track of the Busch brothers. Second, it’s the ‘Pennzoil 400’. Pennzoil is one of the primary sponsors among Penske drivers (Keselowski, Logano, Blaney). All of the above drivers will have extra motivation to do well this week. Las Vegas is an intermediate track, and is the first track on this year’s schedule that will use the ‘complete’ new rules package which includes….

-Tapered Spacer

-Radiator Pan 37” front tapered to 31”

-Splitter 2” overhang

-Spoiler 8” x 61”

-Aero Ducts or Block Off/Brake Ducts

That means more unknowns. There’s still plenty of history we can use to put together some lines though. Las Vegas is a fast track. It has a better surface than last week’s Atlanta Motor Speedway. It does have a high line, giving a slight bump to several drivers. It’s only a 400 mile race, so expect drivers to be a little more aggressive than the past few weeks. Last, but certainly not least…Las Vegas is a track with a history of “the cream rises to the top”. Expect big names at the top when the checkered flag waves on race day. Cinderella finishes are few and far between at Las Vegas, as many of Nascar’s top drivers not only love the track, they’ve also had the success here to prove it. Dominator points have a little extra value this week. Here is a chart of the last four races in Las Vegas….

2018 – 2nd 2018 – 1st 2017 2016
1 Keselowski Harvick Keselowski Johnson
2 Truex Jr. Kyle Busch Truex Jr. Logano
3 Larson Larson Elliott Keselowski
4 Logano Truex Jr. Larson Kyle Busch
5 Harvick Blaney Kyle Busch Kenseth
6 Blaney Logano Logano Harvick
7 Kurt Busch Keselowski Harvick Kurt Busch
8 Elliott Kurt Busch Blaney Truex Jr.
9 Johnson Elliott Hamlin Blaney
10 Bowman Jones Johnson Dale Jr.

Many of our expected value priced drivers (Hemric/Dillon/McDowell) did well in qualifying which will make it that much more difficult to fill out the bottom of our rosters this week, but there’s still value to be found. As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, and I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays if anyone is interested. Let’s get to it.

Brad Keselowski (11400) – Keselowski is once again the best of the rest when it comes to this week’s track. He had an ironman like performance last week, winning at Atlanta despite battling flu like symptoms over the weekend. He’s won here 3 times in the last seven races, including last year. Along the way, he’s never finsihed outside the top 7, and sports a 3.4 average finish. Like Truex, Keselowski will be a favorite to win. Nobody in Nascar is hotter than Keselowski, having won 4 of the last 15 races, with 7 top five finishes to go with the wins. He gives us another great starting spot (19th) for positional points this week and would be an excellent play.

Edit: Keselowski looked great during happy hour.

Martin Truex Jr. (10100) – Truex Jr. is a Las Vegas favorite. He’s won at Las Vegas recently. In the last five races he has the best driver rating, an average finish of 4.2, and has led 255 laps. Truex won here in 2017 in dominant fashion, winning both stages, the race, and leading the most laps. If Atlanta is Harvick’s track, Las Vegas belongs to Truex. Last week he showed he’s still a major factor on 1.5 mile tracks, and you can expert more of the same again this week. Truex also leads the series in consecutive top ten finishes on this track type. Aric Almirola is second with six (more about him below). Truex is my second highest priority this week, and will be in my core lineup.

Edit: Truex struggled with handling in happy hour, but I still like him on race day.

Aric Almirola (8600) – One of a handful of drivers to sweep top ten finishes here last year, expect to see Almirola running up front again this week. I think the days of getting him at a bargain are over, and I expect to see him consistently compete for wins from here on out. He’s not only done well here for SHR, but had solid finishes dating back to his days with Petty Enterprises. He slipped in round one of qualifying and ended up 25th. That’s just a bonus for us. He’s my pick for the best value in the field this week and is priority number one in lines. He will be in my core lineup as well.

Erik Jones (8400) – Jones seems to be a lot of folks’ darling pick week in and week out. He was one of the benefactors of extreme attrition at Daytona, who didn’t really run up front much before all of the wrecks. He did have a nice run at Atlanta though. He’s one of only two drivers this season with consecutive top tens in the first two races. I still want to see more consistency from him before I buy in, and with Truex now in the Gibbs fold, he’s playing fourth fiddle in the pecking order. Gibbs is sure to make room for Christopher Bell in the very near future, so Jones needs to start winning. I expect a lot of experts to pick him to do well again this week, but it’s a track where there are a lot of drivers who excel here. Jones isn’t in that tier of drivers yet. He does give us a great starting position of 18th this week. He’s in the mix this week.

Kurt Busch (8200) – Busch is a Las Vegas native, but he rarely does well here, having just one top five finish in 18 starts. His average finish of 22.4 at Las Vegas is his worst of any track in the series. That said, Busch has been about as consistent as any driver in Nascar through the first two races. He’s shown that being in a Chevy hasn’t slowed him down at all. That says a lot about his talent level. I expect him to run moderately well at Las Vegas, but temper expectations. He missed in qualifying, and starts 28th this week providing some reasonable value. If not for that, he would be completely off my radar with all of the other plays this week. In 2016, Busch sat on the pole, and led 30 plus laps. If not for a pit road speeding penalty while leading the race, he might have won the race.

Edit: He had a great happy hour this week.

Daniel Suarez (7700) – Suarez finally showed some promise this past week. He’s the new guy at SHR but if you’re in an SHR car, you’re expected to compete, new guy or not. That said, Las Vegas hasn’t been a great track for Suarez. I would still temper expectations on race day. I would consider a top ten finish a noteworthy effort at this point. I’m expecting something more in the range of a mid-teen showing.

Ryan Newman (7200) – Newman is one of our lower salaried values this week. He has run well at Las Vegas, and as a veteran driver on a struggling team, he ran well at Atlanta in his new ride. I would expect about the same moving forward. He starts 29th this week, and is a driver capable of a top ten, that will more often than not be in that mid-teens range. This will most likely be his MO every week this season.

Paul Menard (6900) – There’s no question, Menard is a quality dark horse option nearly every week. He has breathed life into the Wood Brothers Racing team and I expect him to run reasonably well at Las Vegas. He’s been one of the stronger drivers in his price range thus far in 2019. Las Vegas has been a good track for him and he has consistently finished inside the top fifteen here (he starts 15th this week so positional points will be scarce). His average finish here is the 8th best in all of Nascar. That’s eye opening when you read how good some of the other top drivers have been at Las Vegas. He has marginal value this week if he fits as the last piece.

Edit: Menard struggled in happy hour, use with caution.

Ryan Preece (6100) – Preece has completely surprised me up to this point. He’s giving Hemric a serious run for his money as ROY at this early point in the season. He’s shown a remarkably mature and patient attitude. He, like Hemric, was impressive at Atlanta and looked to contend for a top ten. Unfortunately, a rare pit road wreck derailed his race. I expect him to come back to earth at some point, but until he does, he’s in play at this salary.

Fades for me this week are Hamlin (starting position), Ty Dillon (his worst track average).

A few notes about two missing drivers that I’m sure you’re wondering why they aren’t further up on this list…..

Kevin Harvick (12500) – Harvick is the defending champion of this particular event, and did so in dominating fashion. He won both stages, the race, and led the most laps for a perfect driver rating. Since 2015 in incident free races he’s won twice, and has a 3.0 average finish. On Sunday I would look for him to finish in the top five and be a serious threat to win. The problem is, he starts on the pole. I won’t fault you for rostering him if you want to spend 12.5k, but unless he eats up all of the dominator points, it’ll be a tough sell at his price given the multiple sacrifices that will need to be made at the other end of your lines, and that you can hardly afford at this track.

Kyle Busch (11900) – Las Vegas is Busch’s home track. That tells you a lot right there. He has an average finishing position of 5.6 since 2013. He hasn’t had the same success here as Truex, but he’s not far behind either. Expect him to be up front this week. Busch is one of just two drivers in Nascar to have a top ten in each of the first two races this year (his teammate Jones is the other). He’s in the same boat as Harvick though, needing to dominate the race in all aspects to account for his salary this week. It’s possible, but there are better ‘value’ picks out there at this salary level based on projections. One last note, he’s running all three series (Trucks, Xfinity, Monster Energy) here this weekend and is personally expecting to win all three.

There are many other good picks this week that could easily finish up front. Every week I get questions about why someone like Austin Dillon (very fast all week in practice) isn’t on the list. Or why Kyle Larson (three straight top 3 finishes here) isn’t on the list. They’re all solid for rostering. I actually put together write-ups for drivers such as those every week, but once the field is set, it gets pared down by week’s end. The final article ends up focusing on the best value, based on points projections relevant to their salaries. It’s simply playing the odds. There is a large degree of variance in Nascar due to late race wrecks, and many other factors. I like to focus on the odds for DFS purposes.

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