NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: USA Today 301

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Picks and Helper: USA Today 301

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 USA Today 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.


Track Primer and General Lineup Strategy

As someone who uses prior speed marks to evaluate DFS potential, keep these short, flat tracks coming.

We've seen races at Gateway and Iowa this month, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway is another. "The Magic Mile" has been a staple on this track type -- correlating well with championship venue in Phoenix -- since 1993. There are barely two grooves on this 1.0-mile circuit, creating an environment where track position is truly everything -- even more than the three aforementioned circuits.

The "301" in this race's title is literal. There are 301 laps, leading to 30.1 FanDuel points available for laps led. We can expect the cars starting up front with track position to be contenders to lead the bulk of them, but a washout of qualifying means that the fastest cars aren't necessarily up front. We also had just a few minutes of practice due to rain.

That activity could lead to a few hidden gems deeper in this starting field, but in general, I don't want to get cute when passing is excruciatingly difficult and we have a growing sample of who continues to deliver on this track type.

The proof is in the pudding. In 2023, 7 of the top-10 finishers (70.0%) started inside the top 15. In 2022, 8 cars fit that description -- and none of the top-10 finishers started lower than 19th.

It's also worth mentioning one car led at least 172 laps in each of those events, and we're going to need to figure who that's going to be to win tournaments.

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:

  • Iowa (Spring 2024) - 35%
  • Gateway (Spring 2024) - 35%
  • Phoenix (Spring 2024) - 30%

Swaim's Rank
Starting Spot
Practice Rank (Single-Lap)
Practice Rank (5-Lap)
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1Christopher Bell $13,500 4N/AN/A9.78%2
2Martin Truex, Jr. $14,000 723328.46%12
3Ryan Blaney $12,000 21298.18%1
4William Byron $11,000 34107.04%3
5Chase Elliott $10,500 119207.90%4
6Joey Logano $11,500 6659.52%11
7Kyle Larson $12,500 1914118.96%7
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Christopher Bell ($13,500)

A crash from the pole in 2023 undersells exactly how much of a monster that Christopher Bell has been at Loudon.

Bell posted two top-two finishes in his first pair of Cup Series starts here with Joe Gibbs Racing, and that's just the beginning. Bell has also won all four Xfinity Series starts at this venue, including Saturday's.

Last year's wreck opened the door for Martin Truex Jr. to dominate the last two events here in terms of laps led, but Bell is in significantly better form on this track type in 2024. He won at Phoenix, blew an engine from the lead at Gateway, and finished fourth despite critical short-run setup issues at Iowa.

Truex has led just 56 laps at these three tracks -- with much worse finishes -- compared to 137 for C-Bell, and my process is based on current projected speed instead of track history. I had to give him the nod as Sunday's man to beat.

Ryan Blaney ($12,000)

One of my worst mistakes of the NASCAR season in daily fantasy was not giving more consideration to Ryan Blaney last week in Iowa.

After an early issue for Kyle Larson, Blaney scooped up the track position and never looked back. He led 201 laps en route to his first win of the season. That mistake came from not paying nearly enough attention to the defending champ's elite form on these short, flat ovals so long as they don't have severe tire wear.

Only Blaney and Bell have a top-five median lap time at all three tracks in this weekend's sample. Recent form at Iowa also nods them far closer together, and Blaney's starting spot on the outside of the first row gives him direct access to the front of the field. From fourth, Bell will need a bit of time.

Practice on Saturday was a bit of a sham, but Blaney's 12th-place time was the best of he, Bell, and Truex by a country mile. I wouldn't blame anyone who put him as the favorite for Sunday's race.

Others to Consider

  • Martin Truex Jr. ($14,000)

Mid-Range Threats

Brad Keselowski ($10,000)

Brad Keselowski's nickname when the Cup Series hits New England could easily be "Mr. Loudon".

"Bad Brad" has four straight top-seven finishes at this track, leading 237 laps in those starts. He's a two-time winner at this venue in all.

He definitely checks out in terms of recent form on short flats, too. Keselowski has a top-10 median time at all three tracks in this week's sample, and the best of those came last week in Iowa (6th), so improvement might be on the menu for one of NASCAR's most quickly improving teams.

Fortunately, Keselowski's year-long struggles with qualifying won't lead to crazy popularity from the back on Sunday. The washout due to rain put Keselowski a fair ninth on the starting grid, and he's sandwiched between polesitter Chase Elliott and Ty Gibbs starting deeper in the field.

As a result, Kes might be my favorite tournament play in the mid-range. He's a horse for the course that is heating up at the right time.

Ty Gibbs ($9,500)

However, attention to Gibbs below Keselowski is still more than fair.

A team car to Bell and Truex Jr., the 21-year-old is still looking for his first career win, and this type of track that's belonged to Joe Gibbs Racing could be a spot for it.

Due to the qualifying rainout, no driver in this range between $8,000 and $12,000 is starting outside the top 15 except Gibbs. As mentioned in the intro, I don't want to get cute targeting place-differential points, but Gibbs' 11th-place finish at Gateway and 3rd-place effort at Phoenix show the ability for him to exceed his starting spot (18th) on this track type. He also had a top-12 median time in both of those races.

I would have been more comfortable targeting Gibbs in droves with elite practice times, but 18th in the shortened session (and 21st over a 5-lap average) didn't exactly fit that bill.

While nervous, Gibbs is the next-best option to Keselowski in this tier in lineups that assume Blaney, Bell, and Truex take the early lead from Elliott.

Others to Consider

  • William Byron ($11,000)
  • Chase Elliott ($10,500)

Value Plays

Bubba Wallace ($7,800)

I didn't really recognize Loudon as a Bubba Wallace spot, but he's become a regular toward the front at The Magic Mile.

Wallace has qualified and finished in the top eight in each of his last two events, which coincide with the time his 23XII Toyota team has stepped their speed up to a level to compete for wins. Perhaps he can here.

It's an interesting argument of track history versus current form for him this weekend. Wallace's best median time at any of the tracks in the sample came at Gateway (15th), but his average results at the three tracks are also significantly worse than that of New Hampshire.

Before the delay, Wallace was ninth in practice on a single-lap basis, which is a decent reflection of speed. We've yet to get a poor sample from him at this particular venue.

Starting 18th, Wallace is a threat for a top-10 finish. The tiebreaker between he and Alex Bowman in this tier is Bowman's fifth-place starting spot -- which really only leaves room for him to score negative place-differential points among the contenders we've mentioned.

Michael McDowell ($6,000)

If NASCAR had a "Most Improved Driver" award, Michael McDowell would have it all but locked up at this point.

A tire issue thwarted McDowell's chances last week in Iowa, but he still had the eighth-fastest median time. This comes on the heels of leading 40 laps at Gateway and an 8th-place finish at Phoenix back in March. At all three tracks in this weekend's sample, McD has found a way to raise an eyebrow.

Though practice was a bit of a sham, it's at least interesting that McDowell was only one of two drivers in the top five on both the single-lap and 5-lap average charts. Carson Hocevar was the other.

The veteran's issues at Iowa led to a 25th-place starting spot at New Hampshire, so there's a bit of a floor if something were to happen again. He and Hocevar are both intriguing value plugs in lineups looking to load up on five-digit drivers.

Others to Consider

  • Chris Buescher ($8,000)
  • Kyle Busch ($7,500)
  • Noah Gragson ($7,000)
  • Ryan Preece ($5,800)
  • Carson Hocevar ($5,500)

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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.