This is part four of a multi-part series intended to help both newcomers and veterans learn profitable Daily Fantasy NASCAR strategy. In this series Nick Giffen (@RotoDoc) teaches you everything you need to know to jump right into the sport and succeed. Nick holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, has won multiple NASCAR GPP tournaments, and is a two-time qualifier for the DraftKings NASCAR Main Event Live Final – the King of the Speedway.
In part three I showed you why identifying a couple high upside drivers is important for your cash game lineup. If you hit on the driver that dominates a race, that will really launch you forward in cash game contests, as it will allow you to miss on one to two drivers and still profit. However, even if you miss out on the dominator, it is possible to cash in cash games, but it becomes harder, especially at a race with many laps.
The best way to do so is by filling out your other driver slots with high floor drivers. DraftKings (DK) NASCAR scoring means the absolute floor is negative 41 points if you picked the driver who qualified first, but finished dead last without leading a lap or recording a fastest lap. However, if you pick the driver starting 43rd, his absolute floor is exactly one point. The blue line in the graph below shows the floor for each starting position; drivers that start farther back have a higher floor.
Place Differential – High Floor with Upside
An added bonus is if the high floor drivers have a strong race and drive to the front, they will also score you a lot of points. It may not look like there’s a lot of upside in the graph above, but that’s because the graph includes all the dominators. If I remove the driver from each race that scored the most dominator points, look how the upside is nearly flat, regardless of starting position.1
However, if I remove all the drivers who led at least five percent of the laps in any given race and plot the maximum number of DK points scored from each starting position since 2005 it shows there’s upside to starting further back, in addition to the floor already observed.
Notice the small change in the best fit going from 20th starting spot to 43rd starting spot (approximately three DK points). Drivers in this range have similar upside to each other, but also have higher floors than the drivers starting inside the top-20. This is the range of starting positions from which you want to be selecting your drivers that don’t dominate the race. However, we can’t just select any random driver starting 20th or worse.
Selecting the Movers
Of these drivers starting 20th or worse, we want to find a driver that will finish inside the top-14 of DK points scored among all drivers for that particular race. This is because we need a driver to score the equivalent of 1.33 times as many points as the average driver. To find which of these drivers is likely to succeed, I ran a logistic regression on several factors that may correlate with the ability of a driver to finish inside the top-14 DK point scorers.
Practice Speed – The first metric I looked at is average practice speed rank compared to their qualifying rank. This uses the formula
Qual Rank – Avg Practice Rank
so a driver whose practice rank was better than his or her qualifying rank will have a positive value, and a driver whose practice rank was worse than his or her qualifying rank receives a negative value.
We can see from the graph that to have a 50 percent chance of finishing inside the top-14 in DK points, a driver had to practice about 12 spots better than they qualified. At 20 spots better, there’s a three in four chance of making value.
Driver Rating – Good drivers should have a better chance of moving forward if they happened to have a bad qualifying run. Since driver rating is the strongest predictor of finishing position, it stands to reason it will have strong correlation with ability to move forward from a bad starting spot.
A driver rating of 80+ over the last 15 races to has about a 50 percent chance of making value. If that driver rating is 100 or more, then there’s at least a 75 percent chance of making value.
If we combine these two metrics we really improve our chances of success. At any given race, drivers starting at or after the 20th position and who either practiced 12 or more spots better than they qualified, or had a driver rating of 80 or higher, posted a top-14 DK points finish 65 percent of the time. On average, there have been 3.7 drivers per race that fit this description. As a result, it should be possible to fill out most or all of the remaining driving slots with this type of driver.
At some races the salaries won’t quite work out, and you’ll have to sacrifice a little bit in driver rating, practice rank, or starting position.2 Even then, if we allow the range to expand to a practice-vs.-qualifying positional improvement of 8+ spots or a 70+ driver rating, 57 percent of these drivers have achieved a top-14 DK points finish. There are an average of 6.3 of these drivers per race.
Crashes and Other DNFs
Crashes can be a very frustrating part of daily fantasy NASCAR. However, crashes are not completely random. There is a statistically significant correlation between a driver’s crash percentage (CP) from one year to the next. Some drivers are just worse at keeping control of their car. I recommend avoiding drivers with a high CP value in cash games if at all possible, because these drivers end up at their floor more often than other drivers do. You can find CP values over at motorsportsanalytics.com.
Other causes for a driver dropping out of the race and receiving a did not finish (DNF) designation can be anything from a mechanical problem, to an engine failure, to running over debris that causes a tire to come apart thus damaging the car. These events are highly random and you shouldn’t worry about them when constructing your cash game lineup.
To be a successful daily fantasy NASCAR player, it all starts with sound cash game strategy. If you can hone your ability to identify the potential dominators of any given race and blend them with high floor drivers with potential for high finishes you’ll be well on your way to success. Remember that lap count matters, and adjust your lineups accordingly. Once you master the cash game lineup, you’ll have a strong foundation for transitioning over to GPP roster construction.