NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Food City 500

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Food City 500

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 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.

Track Primer and General Lineup Strategy

It's Bristol, baby.

A track that needs no introduction to NASCAR's diehards, the 0.5-mile bullring known as Bristol Motor Speedway brings some of the most chaotic racing on the planet any time that stock cars make a trip to the mountains of Tennessee. This banked oval will see laps click off around 15 seconds, so the 500-lap duration of this race isn't too intimidating from a driver's perspective.

Tires will definitely help on green-flag runs; the progressive banking allows for multiple grooves and passing lanes for multiple cars. That said, they're still close enough that we see plenty of incidents to bring out caution flags.

From a DFS perspective, the 50.0 FanDuel points available for laps led make finding cars that run toward the front of the utmost priority. A majority of cars in the field also fall off the lead lap, capping their finishing position. Even despite an elevated amount of mayhem, there truly isn't a reason to get cute targeting place-differential points just for the sake of doing so.

Recent trends back this up. Of the last 30 top-10 finishers on Bristol's concrete surface, just 6 started in 20th position or worse. An early green-flag run can trap quality cars a lap down if they're not able to pass their way through the field quick enough.

As an added note, last week's short, flat oval in Phoenix wasn't a superb comparison for this week's high-banked one. I'm leaning on last year's median laps and track history, but as has been the case every week thus far, I have been malleable to my position on most drivers based on what we've seen in practice and qualifying.

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 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:

  • Bristol (Fall 2023) - 60%
  • Phoenix (Spring 2024) - 40%

Swaim's Rank
Starting Spot
Practice Rank (5-Lap)
Practice Rank (10-Lap)
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1Ryan Blaney $12,000 11110.98%15
2William Byron $12,500 8557.98%9
3Joey Logano $8,200 4464.88%26
4Christopher Bell $13,000 12647.98%1
5Denny Hamlin $13,500 324227.20%2
6Bubba Wallace $7,800 9265.44%11
7Kyle Larson $14,000 1018N/A11.68%5
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Kyle Larson ($14,000)

I can't really start a conversation about Bristol on the concrete surface anywhere besides Kyle Larson.

Larson has three top-five finishes in three starts with Hendrick Motorsports, leading 229 combined laps in them. He led over 200 laps in two other races with Chip Ganassi Racing. The dirt ace's skills translate extremely well to this fast oval that will challenge decision making -- including running right against the wall at times.

Frankly, I'd have loved to see more speed from the #5 this weekend to call him a favorite as Jim's sims do (11.68% win rate; best in the field). He was just 18th on the 5-lap average charts and never ran 10 consecutive laps.

While I'll have exposure to the driver with the best average finish here since the start of 2021 (2.7), I can't declare him my pick to win.

Ryan Blaney ($12,000)

This guy I am declaring my pick to win.

Reigning champ Ryan Blaney has brought a missle to BMS this weekend. Blaney led the 5-lap, 10-lap, 15-lap, and 20-lap average charts in practice, and I was looking forward to potentially coming in heavy on Blaney in tournaments in light of a different polesitter.

The problem? Blaney went out and won that, too. The #12 isn't sneaking up on anyone today.

Now, there is a path to failure here. First of all, it's a bit of an unknown as to what we'll see today after tire and surface oddities in practice. If we get entirely different track conditions, Blaney's form yesterday might not matter, and his fifth-place median lap time (MLT) at Phoenix might be a better indication of a good-but-not-great effort during the race.

Nonetheless, I couldn't point to you a driver with a better case to lead a boatload of the Food City 500, so he's easily the top-ranked driver on the grid.

Others to Consider

  • Christopher Bell ($13,000)
  • William Byron ($12,500)

Mid-Range Threats

Chris Buescher ($11,000)

I really emphatically emphasized to not chase place-differential points, but there are exceptions to that rule, and Chris Buescher seemingly deserves one.

Buescher, the 2022 winner at this track, has consecutive top-four finishes in the mountains, and he's backed that up in practice. He posted a top-nine time on both the 5-lap and 10-lap practice boards. This came after entering the weekend with my seventh-best MLT blend between last fall at Bristol and last week at Phoenix.

The Texan's issue came during time trials, posting the 34th-best time, and that's where he'll start on Sunday's grid.

He'll be popular due to a high salary starting toward the back (which is always how it kind of goes in NASCAR DFS), but my warning about getting trapped down a lap still applies here. Modest exposure seems like the right call with both him and Ross Chastain ($8,500) in fast cars toward the back.

Kyle Busch ($9,000)

There was a point in time where Kyle Busch, usually looking to complete some sort of weekend sweep from NASCAR's lower series, was a no-doubt favorite at Bristol Motor Speedway. He ripped off four straight top-four finishes in 2019 and 2020 and, at one point, won three of four races between 2018 and 2019.

Busch's change to Richard Childress Racing definitely hurt his weekly chances to dominate, and others like Larson and Blaney have emerged as new concrete specialists. While K.B. is no favorite, I do think he's plenty viable at this salary.

Busch's 14th-place starting spot still checks out as a decent spot to avoid getting lapped while still having some upside if he's able to pass toward the top five.

However, the practice speed is a little concerning. The 5-lap charts (7th) are a friendlier prognosis than the 10-lap charts (18th), and after Busch wasn't able to get much going last week in Phoenix, he entered the weekend just 17th in my MLT blend.

Despite these worries, I feel like trusting an old "horse for the course" as a contrarian pivot within single-entry tournaments.

Others to Consider

  • Ross Chastain ($8,500)
  • Joey Logano ($8,200)

Value Plays

Noah Gragson ($6,200)

It appears Stewart-Haas Racing's new top dog might be Noah Gragson.

Gragson has posted three top-12 finishes in three weeks, so this salary might still be lagging behind what we've already seen from the Vegas native. Now, we're at a track where I'd expect him to be successful in the Cup Series as a two-time Xfinity Series winner -- including September 2022.

Noah backed that up in practice, posting the 11th-best time on 5-lap charts, and he was 9th on the 10-lap speed listings. Taking it even further, Gragson skyrocketed to second on the 20-lap and 25-lap averages.

That type of speed is a dark horse to win the race -- much less pay off a $6,200 salary. Plus, I think he's in a really nice sweet spot on the starting grid (22nd) to balance place-differential upside and avoiding the leader early.

Brimming with confidence, #10 might just crack the perfect lineup on FanDuel again.

A.J. Allmendinger ($5,000)

I'm not letting my MLT ranking weigh down my opinion of A.J. Allmendinger. It's going to be wrong about a driver that had mechanical issues last September at Bristol and sat out last week in Phoenix entirely.

The last time Allmendinger got to complete a Bristol race in one piece, he finished seventh. Despite poor equipment at nearly every spot, Dinger has posted five top-15 finishes at Bristol in the Cup Series and won the 2021 Xfinity Series event here.

Therefore, it wasn't incredibly surprising A.J. had one of the strongest efforts overall in practice, posting a top-eight average on the 5-lap and 10-lap charts.

Allmendinger's 30th-place starting spot is a bit of a risk, but I trust the veteran in a few of my lineups aiming to fit Larson, Blaney, and other key front-runners in one build.

Others to Consider

  • Bubba Wallace ($7,800)
  • Michael McDowell ($6,800)
  • Corey Lajoie ($4,200)
  • Zane Smith ($2,500)

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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.