NASCAR

NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: Enjoy Illinois 300

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: Enjoy Illinois 300

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 Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.

NASCAR DFS Picks

Track Primer and General Lineup Strategy

Last week, one of the reasons I was so excited about NASCAR DFS was predictability. This week, I'm shivering since we haven't seen anything like World Wide Technology Raceway in 2024.

This flat, 1.25-mile oval will be run using the intermediate rules package we've seen at Kansas, Las Vegas, and last week at Charlotte. While that will likely help the quality of racing, it certainly adds ambiguity when this circuit's closest comparison so far, Phoenix, used NASCAR's short-track aero package. Who will be fast this weekend? I'm not quite sure.

Frankly, this circuit isn't conducive to competitive racing regardless of rule package. I'm expecting a follow-the-leader Phoenix style of race more than the chaotic action at Kansas and Charlotte, and recent results here have brought that concept to life. In 2023, 8 of the top-10 finishers started in the top 15. That was the same rate (80.0%) in 2022.

That sort of trend has manifested as a vast majority of the top practice performers qualified up front. Place-differential points are few and far between, allowing us to play things straight up looking for quality finishes and laps led.

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:

  • Gateway (Spring 2023) - 20%
  • Dover (Spring 2024) - 20%
  • Phoenix (Spring 2024) - 20%
  • Kansas (Spring 2024) - 20%
  • Las Vegas (Spring 2024) - 20%

Swaim's Rank
Driver
Salary
Starting Spot
Practice Rank (5-Lap)
Practice Rank (10-Lap)
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1Denny Hamlin $14,000 67412.48%1
2Ryan Blaney $10,500 3239.28%3
3Christopher Bell $12,000 4458.76%9
4Joey Logano $9,000 12119.00%13
5Tyler Reddick $11,500 51169.58%4
6Martin Truex, Jr. $13,000 198N/A8.38%2
7Ty Gibbs $9,500 9578.40%8
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Denny Hamlin ($14,000)

I'm not overly surprised that, when combining a bunch of different track types together, Denny Hamlin prevailed in my median lap rankings.

Hamlin has a top-six median lap in all five tracks I looked at, and it's not like he hasn't shown up this week, posting the seventh-best 5-lap average and fourth-best 10-lap average in practice on Saturday. He'll start a modest sixth on the grid.

D.H. also checks a vital "track history" component on this unique layout, finishing second here last year. If you recall, his 2022 endeavor was undone by the infamous incident with Ross Chastain. He crashed from fifth that afternoon.

There is no safer bet for a modest effort from Hamlin -- as Jim's simulations show (12.48% likely to win). Yet, I wouldn't call him a "can't-miss" option on an afternoon with several contenders.

Martin Truex, Jr. ($13,000)

Hamlin is the safest bet to contend, but Martin Truex Jr. looks like the safest bet to be a solid daily fantasy play.

Never a blazing qualifier, MTJ will start 19th on Sunday. That's far enough to provide some place-differential points without dramatic concerns of passing or going a lap down.

An older surface that will eat up tires should be in his wheelhouse, and it has been since being added to the Cup Series schedule. He's posted a pair of top-six finishes at Gateway.

Truex had the eighth-fastest 5-lap average in practice and packed it in before running 10 consecutive circuits. The sample size concerns are mostly gone there when he's also second in my median-lap blend. He's fast.

Others to Consider

  • Christopher Bell ($12,000)

Mid-Range Threats

Ryan Blaney ($10,500)

If there's a "horse for the course" that has emerged in two Gateway events, it's Ryan Blaney. He's keeping that reputation going this weekend.

Blaney also has a pair of top-six finishes here, but that's a larger leap from his usual form than a Hamlin or Truex. Driver #12 also led 83 laps in last year's event before ultimately succumbing to Kyle Busch.

He's definitely right at the top of the list in the "best performance on Saturday" rankings. In addition to posting a top-three mark on the 5-lap and 10-lap averages in practice, Blaney will start third. He's the highest starting car above $8,000, so if the surprise qualifiers in front of him falter, he could be the beneficiary.

I expected Blaney's current form to be a bit worrying after consecutive DNFs, but he's posted a top-nine median time at all five tracks in my sample. Entering one of his better venues, I'm expecting another race where he contends for the win.

Joey Logano ($9,000)

Joey Logano won the inaugural Cup Series event here, and he's trying his best to make it two out of three.

Before qualifying, Logano easily won the title of best car in the field. He was fastest on both the 5-lap and 10-lap average charts, but a slip in qualifying will mean he starts 12th.

At just $9,000, we're not even requiring Logano to go up and lead the race to be a solid lineup plug -- but he still might. That helps overlook some recent form that made Saturday's effort a bit surprising.

Joey's best median time at any of the five tracks in my sample was likely the least comparable to this track at Las Vegas, and it was ninth.

While still fully interested in what we saw at this unique track on Saturday, this is a competitive salary tier with Ty Gibbs, Chase Elliott, and Ross Chastain also deserving attention. I'm not sure any one of those guys will be extraordinarily popular as a result, and the #22 was significantly faster than all of them.

Others to Consider

  • Kyle Busch ($10,000)
  • Ty Gibbs ($9,500)
  • Chase Elliott ($8,500)

Value Plays

Josh Berry ($7,200)

On a week where Josh Berry's team, Stewart-Haas Racing, announced they're closing their doors at the end of 2024, Berry has a good chance to make a stellar first audition for a new home.

We knew Berry's 2024 season would be aided by getting to work with Kevin Harvick's longtime crew chief, Rodney Childers. It's probably even passed those expectations with six top-15 finishes in equipment that -- clearly given the closing of operations -- isn't normally that competitive.

The #4 flexed its muscle again this weekend. They were 13th on the 10-lap average charts -- a steady trait of this crew that aims toward speed longer into the run. Yet, as has been the case eight times in 2024, they will start outside the top 25. They just don't have the single-lap speed to snag a better starting spot (29th).

I'd point to Berry as the lone definite "yes" among the value tier in outperforming their qualifying effort. That's worth something at a friendly salary, and this track should play right into his hands; five of those six top 15s have come on short tracks or intermediate ovals.

Michael McDowell ($6,500)

NASCAR is so competitive now that it shouldn't shock me when a smaller team puts forth such a good weekend before the race. It still does.

Michael McDowell won Saturday's pole, and his breakout season in that realm continues. It was his third pole, and he's started in the top-16 spots in each of the last six races. That's muted his resurgent finishes in DFS without place-differential points, yet they are there. He's matched Berry with six top-15 finishes.

Now, we'll need a lot more than that in DFS from our polesitter, but his Ford seems capable of delivering. McDowell had the ninth-fastest 10-lap average and seems primed to contend for a top-10 finish. Heck, if clean air becomes a deciding factor, it's possible McDowell -- in the premium pit stall -- could even contend for his first victory on an intermediate oval.

Austin Cindric posted top-five averages in practice and will share the front row. Given recent trends at this track, I am leaning that those two will have an easier time maintaining their track position than banking on another value driver to find some from the back.

McDowell's teammate Todd Gilliland is the only other driver I could see sharing some notes and advancing forward.

Others to Consider

  • Ross Chastain ($8,000)
  • Bubba Wallace ($7,500)
  • Noah Gragson ($7,000)
  • Austin Cindric ($5,500)
  • Todd Gilliland ($4,500)

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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.