NASCAR

NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Echopark Automotive Grand Prix

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Echopark Automotive Grand Prix

If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America.

NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!

FanDuel Research is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide.

With all of this in mind, let's preview this weekend's EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.

Track Primer and General Lineup Strategy

It's great to get this race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) right after a 500-lap race at Bristol to show how track environment can change DFS strategy.

With just 68 laps on the docket at this 3.4-mile road course, the laps-led points available on FanDuel (6.8) are worth roughly the same as 14 positions worth of place-differential points, shifting our focus to drivers who improve from their starting spot more than leading laps. Of course, finding the best finishers is always the top goal.

Passing at road courses in 2023 was a challenge, but an offseason to retool the package could merit different results on Sunday. Nonetheless, we can largely expect most of the top contenders to stay toward the front all race. We saw that in 2023's race; all top-6 finishers started inside the first 12 spots on the starting grid.

Therefore, we'll be looking for one or two car(s) at the front contending for the win, but the value plays in our lineup might be best served starting closer to the back. Last year's event was a crashfest as 17 of the 75 total laps (including overtime) were run under caution, and 8 of the top-20 finishers started outside the top 20.

This balance can be tricky -- especially heading into the first road course race of 2024. We've already seen some new faces and teams at the top of the charts in practice and qualifying this weekend.

Driver Rankings

Below are my post-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, starting order, recent form, track history, and overall talent level -- in that order.

Starting Spot is where the drivers will roll off the grid. For potential lap leaders (i.e. high-salaried drivers), closer access to the front is better. For value plays, a lower starting spot gives a higher floor and access to 0.5 points on FanDuel for each position advanced in the order.

Practice Ranks are provided for both 5-lap and 10-lap average data. Those can typically be found at iFantasyRace.com for all times, including different intervals that may be more appropriate for the track type.

Jim's Sims are the win simulations run by FanDuel Research's Jim Sannes. This week's sims were updated after practice and qualifying. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in the sims or a top-15 finish this season were included in the rankings.

MLT Rank, the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar racetracks to this weekend, is a great indicator of overall speed. The prior races in the sample (with weight percentage) this week are:

  • Circuit of the Americas (Spring 2023) - 55%
  • Charlotte ROVAL (Fall 2023) - 15%
  • Indianapolis Road Course (Fall 2023) - 15%
  • Sonoma (Spring 2023) - 15%

Swaim's Rank
Driver
Salary
Starting Spot
Practice Rank (Single-Lap)
Practice Rank (5-Lap)
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1William Byron $12,500 11N/A7.66%4
2Tyler Reddick $14,000 312N/A10.62%2
3Ty Gibbs $11,500 22112.54%15
4Michael McDowell $10,000 272632.90%11
5Christopher Bell $13,000 45510.08%5
6A.J. Allmendinger $11,000 1417N/A7.32%1
7Shane van Gisbergen $12,000 1210N/A5.92%31
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Tyler Reddick ($14,000)

Tyler Reddick has put up a good enough weekend to maintain his status among the favorites to win Sunday's race, according to the NASCAR odds at FanDuel.

Reddick won this race at COTA a year ago with the event's fastest median lap time, so I'd have pointed to him as the favorite entering Saturday's festivities. Reddick was just 12th in practice, but a 3rd-place effort in qualifying offers hope he's got top-shelf speed once again.

At this moment, I'd refer to him as as NASCAR's road-course king with 9 top-10 finishes in his last 10 races -- including three wins. The exception was a mechanical issue. I don't know how you'd entirely fade him out of a tournament build despite the hefty salary.

William Byron ($12,500)

Two clear favorites have emerged past Reddick based on speed -- and neither have shabby road-course histories themselves.

William Byron is one of them, and as Sunday's polesitter, he'll have the opportunity to get clear air heading into Turn 1. Byron was also fastest in Saturday's single-lap speeds during practice but never ran enough laps to qualify for the 5-lap-average charts.

Byron won at Watkins Glen -- a smaller, faster road course -- last August, leading 66 laps in the process. He followed that up with a runner-up effort at the Charlotte ROVAL, the final road course of 2023. He's on fire when including this weekend.

Ty Gibbs ($11,500) has been in Byron's tire tracks all weekend and will start second. He even topped the 5-lap charts with Byronnot eligible. I'd personally place Byron and Gibbs as co-favorites for Sunday's race in Austin.

Others to Consider

  • Ty Gibbs ($11,500)

Mid-Range Threats

A.J. Allmendinger ($11,000)

I wish A.J. Allmendinger was driving Kaulig Racing's #16 car, but he did enough on road courses last year to justify a roster spot even driving for the part-time #13 team.

Dinger had the fastest median lap blend in my sample this week, including a third-place median time at COTA last March. Allmendinger led 46 laps and won at the Charlotte ROVAL in October, so the last time the Cup Series was turning left and right, A.J. was on top. That was one of three top-six finishes at road courses in 2023.

Though some might be enamored with Shane van Gisbergen's prospects in that #16, I find the Australian Supercars star to be a bit overvalued following just a 10th-place effort in his last Cup Series attempt at Indy.

I prefer Allmendinger's superior resumé at a lower salary. He starts 14th for decent place-differential upside.

Michael McDowell ($10,000)

Road-course winners is a theme of this helper, and it won't stop with Michael McDowell.

McDowell punched his playoff ticket last year by winning Indy, and he sets up as a significantly better DFS play than any of these aforementioned contenders. That's due to starting 27th, a concerning show of speed when he was also 26th on the single-lap charts in practice.

However, that's why we dive deeper. McD had the third-best 5-lap average in practice, and he had the 12th-best median lap time at COTA a year ago. There's plenty of speed in this Love's Travel Stops Ford.

Even if McDowell's day culminates in the back half of the top 10, he'll likely top every driver that doesn't win the race in raw FanDuel points.

Others to Consider

  • Kyle Busch ($9,500)
  • Ross Chastain ($9,000)
  • Chris Buescher ($8,500)

Value Plays

Chase Briscoe ($6,500)

Amidst Stewart-Haas Racing's overall struggles, I'm still not sure we've seen the best of Chase Briscoe on road courses in the Cup Series.

A two-time Xfinity Series winner on left-and-right-handers, Briscoe showed a small flash of speed with a sixth-place effort in Indianapolis last August. His speed profile -- especially for a value play -- is pretty decent entering Sunday.

In last year's event at COTA, Chase had the 20th-best median time and finished 15th. He really showed out in practice on Saturday with the 14th-best time on the overall charts, and that got even better with the 4th-best time within the 5-lap averages.

Luckily, any concerns about true upside were erased with a 32nd-place qualifying effort. He's got an extremely high floor from there and could make FanDuel's perfect DFS lineup with a repeat of his effort at Indy.

Kamui Kobayashi ($5,800)

For the daring, Kamui Kobayashi likely has the best upside of any driver below $6,000 in salary.

Kobayashi, the former Formula 1 veteran from Japan, underwhelmed in a massive way during his first Cup Series start at Indianapolis last August. Driving as a teammate to Reddick, he finished 33rd after a few on-track spins. It's a significant risk he's improved enough to put together a quality effort at COTA.

However, the equipment at 23XII Racing is obviously phenomenal, and unlike at Indy, he's shown a pulse of speed. Kobayashi was eighth in single-lap practice speed and didn't run five consecutive laps to qualify for the other speed chart.

His starting spot (25th) allows a decent floor if he encounters more trouble on Sunday, but there's also a chance for a really positive DFS outcome if his speed can turn into results during the race.

Others to Consider

  • Austin Cindric ($7,500)
  • Alex Bowman ($7,000)
  • Noah Gragson ($6,200)

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.