Las Vegas provided us some interesting data, and to be honest I was shocked we saw one driver dominate the race. Kevin Harvick lost the win and playoff points, but he was fast before the windshield issue, and the Fords continued to stay strong.
Looking towards this week, this is one of my favorite tracks. I love the different design of this racetrack, as I’m always a bigger fan of the smaller tracks (less than 1.5 miles). With 312 laps, this is the most laps we’ve had in a race this season, meaning it will be important to nail the dominators.
Just a quick reminder that this is a preview article, and I write it before we have starting positions. If you want even more in-depth information, consider my NASCAR DFS package over at the RotoGrinders Marketplace.
This weekend we have the Ticket Guardian 500 at ISM Raceway. It's a 1-mile dogleg-oval track, and it's a 312-mile/312-lap race. It’s a three-stage race; stage one and two are 75 laps each, while the final stage is 162 laps. ISM Raceway is a different kind of oval, but it’s still a flat-banked track. I think the best comp for the track is New Hampshire – when comparing data, it’s a great track to use when researching for this weekend. The aero package is a little different this season, but I still like looking at the last four races from ISM and New Hampshire. Be ready for some crazy restarts, and embrace the variance of tires blowing out, because that’s typically what causes cautions on long runs here.
Drivers To Watch
Kevin Harvick – You’re going to hear his name a lot this weekend. He has a driver rating of at least 97 in 14 of the last 15 races and his career average finish is 9.73 in 30 races here. Harvick has also won six of the last 11 races at this track. He’s finished sixth or better in nine straight races here, and he’s led at least 70 laps in six of those nine races. He’s looked dominant in two of three races this season, and if he qualifies towards the front, expect him to lead some laps this weekend. Harvick has also finished fifth or better in three of the last four races at New Hampshire. He excels at this type of track, so it will be interesting to see where he qualifies this weekend.
Kyle Busch – Kyle was leading with six laps to go here last March, but he ended up losing to Ryan Newman, who stayed out on old tires and hung on. He’s finished seventh or better in five straight races, and he’s finished top five in four of those races. Busch has led at least 75 laps in the last two spring races here, won the last race at New Hampshire last year, and has led at least 95 laps in three of the last four races at New Hampshire. He’s averaging 68.75 DraftKings points over the last four races at ISM, which is the second most behind Kevin Harvick. Since 2005, Kyle has a 99.6 driver rating, but over the last three years here, he has a 111.7 driver rating. If you’re playing on FantasyLive, it’s a great weekend to use up one of your Kyle Busch plays.
Chase Elliott – There’s a good chance Elliott picks up his first career win at ISM this weekend. In four career races here, he has an average finish of 7.75. He was leading late last year but couldn’t hold off Matt Kenseth with less than 30 laps to go. Elliott's average running position is 6.2 in those four races, and his driver rating is 109.1, which is the third best among active drivers since 2015. Chase had an average finish of 12.5 with a 100.1 driver rating at the eight races on flat-banked tracks last season. This track sets up well for his driving style and the types of tracks he’s excelled at in his first two seasons.
Erik Jones – Jones is another driver that could pick up his first career win this weekend at ISM Raceway. He finished eighth and four in the two races here last season, and he finished 19th in the rain-shortened race here in November 2015. Jones averaged 47.5 DraftKings points in two races here last season, and his average finish makes him interesting for FantasyLive as well. He also ran really well at New Hampshire in September, and he had four top ten finishes in eight races at flat-banked tracks last season. Jones also performed well at shorter-tracks (under 1.5-miles) last season.
Ty Dillon – I always like to write up a different tier driver, and that guy is Ty Dillon for me this weekend. He finished 16th and 11th in two races here last season, and he finished 15th in March of 2016 when filling in for Tony Stewart. I feel like some teams are at a disadvantage at 1.5-mile tracks, and that’s why I like this 1-mile racetrack. Dillon finished 22nd and 16th at New Hampshire last season as well. He struggled with qualifying in his rookie season, and if he fall short again this weekend, he’s going to be a great value option on DraftKings.
Drivers Running Well
Denny Hamlin – Any time we go to a flat-banked track, Denny Hamlin becomes someone we’re looking at. He’s very good at this type of track, and he dominated the fall race here last year. Hamlin and Chase Elliott had contact late in the race, and it ended up with Hamlin cutting a tire and ending his day. He led 193 of 312 laps in that race. Hamlin had five top 10 finishes in the eight flat-banked races last season, and he had three top five finishes. He’s averaging 47.25 DraftKings points over the last four races here, which is the fifth highest among active drivers. Hamlin also won at New Hampshire in July of last season, and he has five career wins at Martinsville.
Brad Keselowski – Keselowski was one of the best on flat-banked tracks last season, which makes him interesting this weekend. He had an average finish of 6.5 with a driver rating of 111.2 at the eight flat-banked races last season. Keselowski had five top five finishes in those eight races, which was the most by any driver. He’s had up and down success at Phoenix and only has one top 10 finish in the last four races, but he has five top 10 finishes in five of the last eight races here. Depending on where Keselowski qualifies, I think he’s a sneaky good option for fantasy this weekend.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – When digging into the stats, there is always that one driver that surprises me, and this week it is Stenhouse Jr. He had five top 10 finishes at the eight flat-banked races last season, and he had the fourth highest (10.5) average finish in those eight races. Stenhouse Jr. finished eight and fourth here last season, and he had two top 15 finishes at New Hampshire. He started his career poorly at Martinsville, but he also had two top 10 finishes there last season. He’s improved at this track type, and I doubt people will realize it, which makes him an appealing target.