The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for Sunday. The order is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
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1. Kyle Larson ($10,500) — Every statistic in the 550 package lines up for Larson. Finishing position, hog points (fast laps and laps led) and Real Rating all point toward another 100 fantasy point day for the Michael Jordan of NASCAR. The only driver that can beat Larson is himself.
2. Denny Hamlin ($9,900) — When Kyle Larson makes a mistake, Hamlin steps up (Las Vegas win). In the 550 package (low horsepower, high downforce), Hamlin’s 89/100 Real Rating (my own statistical creation that weighs a driver’s average position along with the amount of laps led and laps driven inside the top 5, top 10, top 20, top 25 and top 30) is the second highest behind Larson.
3. Kyle Busch ($9,800) — Hamlin and Harvick were involved in early race wrecks that knocked them out of contention at Texas last season, but that should take nothing away from Kyle Busch’s win. The No. 18 Skittles car was fast and that sponsor cannot be kept out of Victory Lane.
4. Ryan Blaney ($9,500) — In the July Texas race, Blaney had the best car and would have won, if not for a late race caution at an inopportune time. In the fall, the track was 50 degrees cooler, but crew chief Todd Gordon was still able to guess the right setup. Seeing that they were good in both circumstances, it is likely that Blaney will unload fast this weekend.
5. Chase Elliott ($10,100) — If the No. 9 car is going to turn it on, now is the time. Now that his silly feud with Harvick is over, the spotlight is back on Elliott’s inadequacies. He is not winning despite having a race winning car in three of the last four 550 package races.
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6. William Byron ($9,600) — Kyle Larson has run the most laps inside the top 5 in the 550 package (91%). William Byron has recorded the second-most in this package (77%). If not for three bad breaks in the last intermediate track race, William Byron could have possibly won at Las Vegas.
7. Kevin Harvick ($10,900) — Several years ago, Harvick was busted cheating at Texas. A couple years ago, he may have gotten away with cheating at Texas. Now that he has been eliminated from the playoffs, why not push the envelope?
8. Brad Keselowski ($8,500) — This has been a forgettable final season with Penske for Keselowski, but it’s not surprising to see the veteran driver become less productive. Although he’s no longer a dominant force, Keselowski is not very far off. He is a two-tire pit call away from leading 50 laps.
9. Martin Truex Jr ($10,300) — The No. 19 JGR Toyota is a high horsepower, low downforce car. Truex and Cole Pearn routinely destroyed the field at intermediate tracks in the real race car prior to 2019. Pearn has since quit the sport, and while Truex runs well at the high horsepower short tracks, he’s never been able to rekindle the intermediate track magic in the 550 package.
10. Tyler Reddick ($7,700) — This season did not start out well for Reddick with Real Ratings of 54, 46 and 21. At Kansas, he turned it around in the 550 package and has recorded top-10 Real Ratings in four of the last five races.
11. Alex Bowman ($9,300) — The No. 48 car has been very fast in the 550 package and better than most cars, but not his teammates’ cars. Bowman has been the weakest of the Hendrick cars in the 550 package, but at Texas, pit strategy can sometimes be more important than speed.
12. Kurt Busch ($8,700) — In the two Atlanta races and the Homestead race, Kurt Busch had one of the best 550 package cars. Both of those tracks are worn out and have low grip, but Texas is not a worn out race track.
13. Joey Logano ($9,100) — Here comes a big list of numbers, but it’s to illustrate a point: 14th, 11th, 13th, 17th, 13th, 13th, 12th and 12th. Those are Logano’s average running positions at the 550 package ovals this season. That’s not good.
14. Ryan Newman ($7,000) — An average Newman finish used to be 15th, but now it’s 19th. An average day likely will not get the job done, but a slightly above-average finish — his old average — will be a 6x day.
15. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,200) — The last three intermediate track races have not been good races for Stenhouse, but his first five were a different story. His average running position in those races was 15th — a strong showing for a JTG Daugherty car.
16. Michael McDowell ($5,800) — It’s shocking, but McDowell is a top-20 driver in this package. It shouldn’t be shocking anymore because he’s been doing it for two seasons. His average running position has been 21st or better in seven of the eight 550 package races this season.
17. Austin Dillon ($7,500) — His win at Texas last season was incredibly lucky, but a win is a win. The late race caution was fortuitous, but RCR earned the Texas win by investing in AI software that predicts the best pit strategy. Dillon took the lead on pit road and held on for the win.
18. Matt DiBenedetto ($7,400) — He’s been strong in this package with a 68/100 Real Rating (tied for 12th). The biggest concern for DiBenedetto in this race is that the restarts are generally tame at this one-groove race track and his main strength will be neutralized.
19. Bubba Wallace ($6,400) — This is hardly a ringing endorsement, but he’s been around a 15th- to 20th-place driver in this package this season. Bubba should be able to hang onto the lead lap and possibly move forward as long as there aren’t long green flag runs.
20. Chris Buescher ($6,500) — No one is playing Chris Buescher, so there will be GPP appeal. Is it a crazy play? Not quite, but it’s close. Buescher has a below-average Real Rating in his last three 550 package races, but in the first five, he averaged a top-12 rating.
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