NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: 400

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: 400

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!

numberFire 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 the 400 at Pocono Raceway on FanDuel.

Weekend Primer

PracticeSaturday, July 22nd
2:35 p.m. EST
QualifyingSaturday, July 22nd
3:35 p.m. EST

We haven't been on a non-drafting oval larger than 1.5 miles since Fontana in February, and the extreme tire wear on that d-shaped oval doesn't do much for forecasting this triangle-shaped, 2.5-mile track with below-average tire wear.

That'll make the practice and qualifying session on Saturday that much more crucial, and I'll heavily lean into those results above our formula this week.

General Lineup Strategy

There are only 160 laps in the race, leading to 16.0 FanDuel points for laps led. Beyond the reduction of lap count from previous weeks, laps also aren't concentrated here.

Due to the length of the track, cars that don't need points will pit right before the end of the stage. That shuffles the lead a bit in this race. In 2022, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were the primary lap leaders, but they combined for just 84 total laps led. In 2021, Busch and Brad Keselowski combined to pace just 61 circuits as the top-two lap leaders.

That means we don't need to overly prioritize laps led, but -- of course -- we still want the top drivers and finishers. That'll still be drivers who qualify up front and show speed in practice.

We can absolutely embrace drivers starting further in the back, though. In 2021, 8 of the top-10 finishers started outside the top-10 spots. In 2022, 5 of the top-10 finishers started outside the top 10.

Because of strategy and distinct three passing zones, this isn't an overly difficult place to pass. On these long straightaways, speed is king above all.

Driver Rankings

Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level -- in that order. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations or a top-20 finish this season were included.

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

  • 2023 Charlotte (Spring) - 20%
  • 2023 Kansas (Spring) - 20%
  • 2023 Las Vegas (Spring) - 20%
  • 2022 Fontana (Spring) - 20%
  • 2022 Pocono (Fall) - 20%

For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is among the favorites to win the race, and a "0" has no realistic chance of leading the race at any point.

For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale of potentially finishing inside the top 15 spots. These drivers will be better daily fantasy plays the further back in the field they start for optimal place-differential points.

Swaim's Rank
Sannes' Sims
MLT Rank
Dominator Viability
Flex Viability
1Denny Hamlin $13,500 13.38%11010
2Kyle Larson $13,000 8.68%4910
3Ross Chastain $11,000 8.20%7910
4William Byron $12,500 8.22%9910
5Martin Truex, Jr. $14,000 8.56%3810
6Kyle Busch $12,000 7.56%2810
7Tyler Reddick $9,500 6.38%5710
View Full Table

No matter how you try and prepare for this week, Denny Hamlin ($13,500) looks like the favorite.

Hamlin has a top-four median time at every track in this week's sample, and he tops Jim Sannes' model based on projected average running position. Hamlin finished second before an equipment disqualification last year here, and he's a six-time Pocono winner.

From there, I'd point to Kyle Larson ($13,000), who has been a mainstay at all non-drafting ovals this year. Larson had the third-fastest median time last year at Pocono, and he's scored three straight top-nine finishes here since shifting to Hendrick Motorsports. Teammates William Byron ($12,500) and last year's winner Chase Elliott ($10,500) should also be sporty.

Ross Chastain ($11,000) has been a constant at larger tracks, finishing second at Fontana to Kyle Busch ($12,000). Those runs in SoCal should inspire confidence to believe in practice times -- if they're good -- on Saturday.

If there's a driver on whom I'm lower than consensus, it's Martin Truex Jr. ($14,000) off last week's dominant win at a totally different track in Loudon. He's got a top-11 median time at every track in the sample, but he hasn't quite shown the same race-winning speed on larger ovals.

I don't think you can count out Ford despite the Chevys and Toyotas mentioned already. Ryan Blaney ($11,500) won at Charlotte -- a speed-based oval with comparable tire wear -- to immediately put them on the map, but Kevin Harvick ($9,000) also has a top-10 finish in 13 of the last 16 races here with good speed in the sample.

We've got value plays from teammates of these studs, too. Alex Bowman ($8,200) is a former Pocono winner who will get to jot down notes from Larson and Byron. Bubba Wallace ($8,200) and Ty Gibbs ($7,200) will share from the Toyotas, and Daniel Suarez ($8,000) has shown flashes at larger ovals as a team car to Chastain.

Jim's betting guide featured Erik Jones ($6,000) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($5,500), and their top-16 median blends do show excellent speed on these larger ovals, as well. Jones finished ninth here last July.

In RFK Racing's breakout season, this has been the track type that has been a bit shaky. Brad Keselowski ($7,800) and Chris Buescher ($6,800) will have to show me quite a bit in practice to believe they won't be overdrafted after being optimal value plays last week in New Hampshire.

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.