NASCAR

NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: Coca-Cola 600

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: Coca-Cola 600

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 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.

NASCAR DFS Picks

Track Primer and General Lineup Strategy

Because of this race's length, style, and ability to project speed, you could argue -- and I will -- that this is the best daily fantasy NASCAR event of the season.

A majority of 1.5-mile tracks now offer 400-mile races, but we'll still run 600 at Charlotte to renew the annual tradition of NASCAR's longest night. That means 400 laps (and 40.0 FanDuel points available for laps led) as if we were at a short track.

This didn't use to be the most captivating style of racing, but NASCAR's Next Gen car has continuously delivered on this track type this season, including the closest finish in NASCAR history earlier this month at Kansas. As an intermediate circuit with modest tire wear, we've seen a very similar style of race at both Kansas and Las Vegas in 2024, and the 1.5-miler in Texas isn't a horrible comparison, either.

We saw that in a deviation from trends in last year's Coke 600 with the new car. Instead of one dominant car, we saw two of them -- that finished first and second -- combine to lead 251 of 400 laps (62.8%). That checks out with the concentration we've seen at Kansas recently. As a result, I'm going to look to target one or two drivers that I believe can lead a chunk of the race in every lineup.

While this is no "stack the back" scenario, we absolutely will see passing and movement throughout the field. This isn't a place to ignore the rear of the field. Of the top-15 finishers last year, 5 of them started 18th or worse. There were 16 cautions for 83 laps in a race with a bit of attrition, too.

Because we have such quality data entering the weekend, I also want to remind myself not to heavily invest in a driver whose Vegas and Kansas speed doesn't back up an impressive flash in the pan on Saturday.

Regardless, I do want the fastest cars, drivers, and teams possible; 9 of the top-10 median lap times at Kansas translated to a top-12 finish. Speed is truly king on this configuration.

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:

  • Kansas (Spring 2024) - 40%
  • Las Vegas (Spring 2024) - 40%
  • Texas (Spring 2024) - 20%

Swaim's Rank
Driver
Salary
Starting Spot
Practice Rank (5-Lap)
Practice Rank (10-Lap)
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1Kyle Larson $14,000 101110.00%1
2Chris Buescher $10,000 39334.02%17
3Denny Hamlin $13,500 11578.38%2
4Martin Truex, Jr. $10,500 4656.06%4
5Ty Gibbs $9,000 1228.46%5
6Tyler Reddick $13,000 8141311.06%3
7William Byron $12,500 2N/AN/A8.68%9
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Kyle Larson ($14,000)

In case you're not a huge motorsports fan, it's worth noting that Kyle Larson is a bit busy this weekend.

Larson has been flying back and forth between this event and Indianapolis 500 festivities for weeks, and poor weather has delayed that race as we speak. He's stated the Coke 600 is his priority, and assuming he does take the green flag, you can't really point to anyone else as a favorite.

"Yung Money" won at both of the most similar tracks to Charlotte in Las Vegas and Kansas, leading a combined 244 laps in those events. He's got the best median lap blend in my sample as a result. Larson, himself, won the Coca-Cola 600 back in 2021.

The extra festivities don't seem to have hampered him this weekend at all. He was fastest on the 5-lap and 10-lap charts in practice and will start 10th.

Things could get dicey if we get surprising news that Larson won't be starting the race for some reason, but if he's in Charlotte, he'll be the man to beat.

**EDITOR'S NOTE: Larson is expected to now run the Indianapolis 500, which will likely coincide with missing the start of the Coca-Cola 600. Even if Larson accrues fantasy points after arriving, it is likely at the expense of finishing position and potential laps led at his salary.**

Brad Keselowski ($11,000)

I usually point out two potential dominators in this section, but Larson's closest competitor appears to be a mid-range driver. Instead, Brad Keselowski can't be ignored from his 30th starting spot.

Keselowski's largest improvement on a track type this season has been 1.5-mile tracks, holding the 11th-best median lap average in my sample. He had the 3rd-best median time at Kansas earlier this month while finishing 11th.

In NASCAR's longest race on the calendar, Keselowski will have plenty of time to tune his car and work toward the front. That's been a routine theme for the driver that's posted seven top-15 finishes this season after starting outside the top 15. Frankly, his salary is this high because he's been a place-differential machine recently.

With teammate Chris Buescher showing tremendous speed in practice, I'm totally good buying into Kes at salary even though I'm not expecting him to lead the race.

Others to Consider

  • Denny Hamlin ($13,500)
  • Tyler Reddick ($13,000)
  • William Byron ($12,500)

Mid-Range Threats

Chris Buescher ($10,000)

Speaking of Buescher, I've got him ranked as the second-best driver in the field for good reason.

C.B. looked to be a contender for the win in practice before a flat tire sent him into the outside wall. He posted the third-best time on the 5-lap and 10-lap average charts before the incident. Happening shortly before qualifying, Buescher wasn't able to make his time trial slot and will start 39th on the grid.

The way modern cars and teams operate, his new RFK Racing machine should be just as fast with the same setup once repaired. That's bad news for the competition. After all, Buescher was second to Larson in Kansas by quite literally the smallest margin in NASCAR history.

In a cash-game, single-entry, or tournament format, it'll take another odd tire failure or issue to keep Buescher out of the perfect lineup on FanDuel. As is, he's excelled in this marathon-style race with four top-10 finishes in his last six starts.

Ty Gibbs ($9,000)

Especially since this race will start in near-identical conditions to Saturday's practice and qualifying session, Ty Gibbs appears to be the odds-on favorite to give Larson a run for his money.

Sunday's polesitter wasn't a surprise to end up there. Gibbs was second to Larson on both the 5-lap and 10-lap charts in practice.

The lone surprise comes from the fact that the grandson of Joe had just the 15th-best median time at Kansas earlier this month. He had the fourth-fastest median at both Las Vegas and Texas, so it's odd that such a similar track produced dissimilar results. Nonetheless, it appears the #54 has turned it around in Charlotte this weekend.

Gibbs' salary could realistically be the fourth-highest in an individual lineup, and if he does lead a large portion of the race, that opens the door for Keselowski and Buescher's place-differential role in a huge way.

Others to Consider

  • Martin Truex Jr. ($10,500)
  • Kyle Busch ($8,500)

Value Plays

Noah Gragson ($7,200)

Though it's unknown if Stewart-Haas Racing will even exist this time next year, Noah Gragson is doing his best to live in the moment.

Gragson has posted six straight top-15 finishes, including a top-10 finish at both sister tracks to Charlotte (Las Vegas and Kansas) earlier this year. He's taken Kevin Harvick's old banner as SHR's top dog and run with it.

I had him on my radar entering the weekend given an 11th-place median-lap-time blend, and he's done nothing at the track to dissuade that notion. He posted a top-seven time on both the 5-lap and 10-lap average charts.

Thankfully, a slip in qualifying will see Gragson start 19th, providing a bit of place-differential juice. He's dominated this track type relative to those in his salary tier this weekend, and I love him as a pivot off the slower Joey Logano, who starts 28th and will be popular, in single-entry tournaments.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($5,500)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. probably showed up this weekend to one of his favorite race tracks some combination of irked and confident. It's translated to good results.

Stenhouse made headlines for a right hook that UFC fans would appreciate last week in North Wilkesboro, but he'll look to make headlines for a solid finish in Charlotte. Stenhouse Jr. has posted a top-12 finish at this track in each of his last four appearances.

It's no surprise when this -- not North Wilkesboro -- is his bread and butter. Ricky posted a top-18 finish at both Kansas and Las Vegas earlier this year, and Charlotte appears to be an even better fit given a top-10 lap time on both the 5-lap and 10-lap average charts in practice.

Like Gragson, Stenhouse's qualifying spot (23rd) provides some room for error to not need a top-10 finish. I'm actually not sure he'll be popular in fear that he and Kyle Busch's feud spills over to wrecked race cars on Sunday, but he's vowed that will not be the case.

Others to Consider

  • Joey Logano ($8,000)
  • Alex Bowman ($7,800)
  • Daniel Suarez ($6,500)
  • 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.