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.
The DraftKings NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter at World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) slate locks at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
1. Ross Chastain ($10,000) — Pick your stat. Chastain has been the best driver over the last month and it’s not even close. Go through the 1,821 laps. He’s the best driver in the Cup Series. Not enough? He finished second at Nashville last season (comparable track). Don’t like that one? He won the 2019 Gateway Truck Series race.
2. Kyle Larson ($11,300) — It seems like every week, Larson overcomes a new issue and nearly wins. That can only happen if a driver is on top of his game and has a great car. Nashville is the closest comparable track. Larson was clean in that race last season, and he cleaned house.
3. William Byron ($9,800) — Is Gateway a short track or an intermediate track? If it’s short, then it’s fast and flat. At the short, flat tracks, Byron had a 0.89 Real Rating at Phoenix, 0.89 at Richmond and a perfect 1.00 at Martinsville. Those short tracks are slow. Perhaps Nashville is the leading indicator. William Byron had the best car at Nashville last season and finished third.
4. Kyle Busch ($10,900) — Gateway is a difficult track for passing. Pit road will be the best way to move forward. That, and a fast car. Busch has both.
5. Denny Hamlin ($10,600) — He wasn’t the best driver in the best car, but that didn’t matter amidst the chaos that was the Coca-Cola 600. Frankly, being the best and having the best car hasn’t mattered much this season. If it did, then Hamlin would have a lot more wins.
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6. Martin Truex Jr ($10,400) — Let’s take a theoretical approach. Truex mastered the flat track in Richmond. He also raced well in the last high-horsepower race at Kentucky. Those comparisons could be off base, but there will be practice. It will be clear whether Truex is comfortable at this flat, intermediate track.
7. Chase Elliott ($10,200) — Half of the schedule to this point has been made up of plate tracks, a road course and a dirt track. The No. 9 Hendrick Chevy has been fast at the tracks that matter — the ovals. Elliott scored 33 hog points (fast laps and laps led points) at Charlotte and Dover, 77 at Martinsville and 29 at Phoenix.
8. Ryan Blaney ($9,600) — When the crew chiefs had to guess setups each week at the changing tracks earlier this season, Jonathan Hassler was the best at setting up the Next Gen car. Gateway is another guessing game and this could be an advantage for Blaney.
9. Joey Logano ($8,900) — His win at Darlington seems like a little bit of a surprise, but Logano has been a top-5 driver all season. It was only a matter of time before a race fell his way. Logano has followed the same script for the last several seasons. He’s consistently a top-5 driver, and occasionally a race goes his way.
10. Christopher Bell ($9,200) — Everyone remembers the spins and sometimes we’re too quick to dismiss the finishing position stat. Believe it or not, Bell has been a top-5 driver over the last month, and those tracks are significant in determining outcomes moving forward.
11. Alex Bowman ($8,700) — Maybe Kyle Busch was on to something. Alex Bowman has not looked good this season and his Las Vegas win is starting to look like a backdoor win. Kyle Larson and William Byron are battling to be the best Hendrick driver, but it’s settled who is the slowest of the stable — Bowman.
12. Kevin Harvick ($8,500) — Once again, Harvick is on the verge of being dropped from the rankings. The May races are a good indicator of speed. Harvick earned three top-10 finishes in the four races (two top 5s), but his highest driver rating in those races was 10th.
13. Tyler Reddick ($9,400) — If nothing changes, then we’ll be forced to call him “Tire” Reddick. Everyone is having tire issues this season, but the No. 8 RCR car’s struggles are ridiculous. Reddick’s speed so far has been ruined by tire issues.
14. Bubba Wallace ($6,700) — Think of it this way: If a JGR Toyota were $6,700, it would be one of the best plays on the slate. For all intents and purposes, that’s what this is. The car is a little better than the driver at the moment, but Bubba is catching up.
15. Todd Gilliland ($4,900) — Few drivers have experience at Gateway. Being that Gilliand was a Truck Series regular until this season, Gilliland has the most experience at this track, and he’s good at this track despite what is on the stat sheet.
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