NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Shriners Children's 500

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Shriners Children's 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 Shriners Children's 500 at Phoenix Raceway from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.

Track Primer

This week should be an important one to set the tone on NASCAR's most important track type -- short, flat ovals. With the final two races of the season at Martinsville Speedway and also right here at Phoenix Raceway, a driver can't win a Cup Series title without the ability to run toward the front on these particular circuits.

Phoenix's 1.0-mile length comes with a unique, dogleg-shaped frontstretch and variable banking in mismatched corners. It's one of the trickier puzzles on the entire schedule with maximum importance.

In general, it's still tough to pass on such a flat track, so track position is extremely important. That said, tire wear is significant enough that you'll see them changed early and often. A two-tire stop could work for an extremely short period, but you'd hate to be at that disadvantage for a full fuel run.

There are 312 laps scheduled for Sunday's race, creating 31.2 FanDuel points available for laps led. The top-two lap-leaders have combined to lead 252, 265, and 296 laps of that same distance in the last three stops for the Cup Series here, so laps led typically tend to be extremely concentrated between a pair of dominant cars.

General Lineup Strategy

Mirroring the recent trend at this track, I want one or two cars who profile from practice as the kind that might contend to lead a boatload of laps. Candidates to be one of those drivers exist even into the mid-range salaries on FanDuel, though.

As for value plays behind them, we are a long way from a Daytona or Atlanta "stack the back" mentality. Of the last 30 top-10 finishers at Phoenix Raceway, just 4 of them started outside the top-20 spots. As qualifying has returned to the Cup Series, the fastest cars are up front at a track where passing isn't simple.

Above all, Phoenix is a totally unique test in 2024 compared to the previous three races of the season. That means I'm leaning a bit harder into practice and qualifying data to select my drivers when pre-existing speed from late last season may not have survived an offseason's worth of research and development.

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 less 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:

  • Phoenix (Fall 2023) - 60%
  • Martinsville (Fall 2023) - 15%
  • Phoenix (Spring 2023) - 15%
  • Las Vegas (Spring 2024) - 10%

Swaim's Rank
Starting Spot
Practice Rank (5-Lap)
Practice Rank (10-Lap)
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1Christopher Bell $11,500 132210.14%6
2Denny Hamlin $12,500 181113.70%6
3Ross Chastain $12,000 121068.06%3
4Ryan Blaney $13,500 161289.30%1
5Martin Truex, Jr. $11,000 1111177.46%2
6Tyler Reddick $9,000 61575.62%17
7Joey Logano $10,000 23646.98%13
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Denny Hamlin ($12,500)

Toyota was the story on Saturday, earning four of the top-six starting spots. That's a continuation of what we saw in the tiny nibble of short, flat action we've seen in 2024 -- February's L.A. Clash exhibition race.

With that the case, Denny Hamlin from P1 is a tough guy to fade. Hamlin won that race, which made his pole-winning run a bit less surprising.

In terms of speed, D.H. entered the weekend tied for sixth in my median-lap blend. He was 8th in the 5-lap average charts on Friday, and he was 11th on the 10-lap charts. All of these are solid marks but don't quite imply complete domination like we saw last week.

The driver of the #11 leads all in Jim's win simulations (13.70%), but I might end up underweight on him in tournaments with his long-run speed lagging behind others -- especially his teammate to come.

Christopher Bell ($11,500)

That teammate is Christopher Bell, who didn't quite get the single-lap speed down. He'll start 13th.

Nonetheless, Bell looked like a car to beat in Friday's practice session, posting the second-best average time on both the 5-lap and 10-lap charts. Ironically, Bell was the driver tied for sixth with Hamlin in my MLT rankings entering the weekend.

Bell crashed in last fall's Phoenix race where he had a shot to win the title, and a spin also soiled his run in Las Vegas that was filled with speed.

It's a bit ambiguous how popular he'll be with those results in mind, but he's likely going to be the driver I'm most overweight on relative to the rest of the field. His place-differential upside is there, too.

Mid-Range Threats

Martin Truex Jr. ($11,000)

Martin Truex Jr. entered the weekend on a shortlist to contend at a track he's dominated as recently as 2021.

That year, MTJ picked up a pair of top-two finishes and led a combined 136 laps. Since this track has involved more shifting, he's struggled a bit, but I think he's a solid flex play even with fading chances to win or lead.

Truex Jr. entered the weekend second in my MLT blend, but he posted just the 11th and 17th-fastest times, respectively, on the 5-lap and 10-lap boards in practice. The 43-year-old veteran occasionally does play possum in practice, but he backed up that speed by earning the 11th-place starting spot.

I don't want to leave the accomplished vet behind when his manufacture seems to have a leg up this weekend.

Joey Logano ($10,000)

I pray for qualifying mistakes with how closely I'm paying attention to speed, and former Phoenix winner Joey Logano made one.

Logano will start 23rd with a car I'm fairly confident is significantly better than that. Joey was sixth on the 5-lap average charts, and he posted the fourth-fastest 10-lap average. Zooming out further, he leaped up to second on the charts in 20-lap speeds.

The #22 Pennzoil Ford could be a long-run threat that just couldn't hack it in time trials on Saturday. If that's the case, his place-differential upside is elite.

While not extremely confident that Logano rallies from 23rd to be one of our marquee lap-leaders, I'd argue he's potentially the best flex play on the board because of his starting spot.

Others to Consider:

  • Tyler Reddick ($9,000)

Value Plays

Bubba Wallace ($7,500)

Bubba Wallace has stalked Logano's path this weekend. He's gone from a contender in practice to a disappointment in qualifying -- but we love qualifying disappointments.

Wallace will start 22nd with the Toyota that led Friday's practice session on the 10-lap average charts. He checks the right boxes to contend for a win between that, his manufacture, and decent projected speed (12th in MLT rank) entering the weekend.

The track history checks out for Bubba, too. He posted two top-15 finishes a year ago at Phoenix when Chevrolet and Ford seemed to have more control of this venue. With boosted speed across the board for Toyota, Wallace is a very real top-10 threat.

At $7,500, I'm expecting tremendous popularity for such a fast car, but I have no choice but to follow the masses here.

Erik Jones ($6,500)

Place-differential points can be had elsewhere, but I can't definitively rule out Erik Jones as one of our lap-leaders at just $6,500.

Jones posted the fastest 5-lap average in practice on Friday, and he was fifth in 10-lap average. Unlike Wallace, Logano, or Bell, Jones backed that up in qualifying to make the final round, and he'll start fourth with clear access to the front.

This kind of came out of nowhere when Jones has just two top-15 finishes in his last nine Phoenix races, but his form relative to track history could change considerably in 2024 on certain track types. Legacy Motor Club made a significant upgrade from Chevrolet to Toyota in the offseason, and dividends appear to be on their way at short, flat ovals.

I typically don't roster value plays toward the front because the smaller teams face a tough task to stay there, but there's an argument Jones has been the best overall performer in "The Valley" this weekend.

Others to Consider:

  • Austin Cindric ($5,200)
  • Carson Hocevar ($5,000)

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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.