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NASCAR DFS Picks, Fades, Projections for Michigan

NASCAR heads to Michigan for 200 laps at the 2-mile track. As always, I’ll give you my NASCAR DFS picks, fades, and projections for this weekend’s race. Also, the NASCAR DFS Multi-Lineup OptimizerSim Scores, and Splits apps are updated for your NASCAR DFS needs.

Because there was no NASCAR podcast this week thanks to my tooth extraction, I’m going to also give my strategy thoughts in this article.. RotoViz Live will be in written Q+A form as well. Get me your questions on Twitter using #RVLive and Saturday night I’ll write up an article answering the best questions.

For betting insights into the race, check out my piece at The Action Network. In that article, I’ll highlight my favorite NASCAR bets for Michigan. Also, be sure to check out Matthew Freedman’s article on the top prop bets for Sunday’s race.

If you’re new to daily fantasy NASCAR, or simply need a refresher, check out the large oval section of my track types article. Brush up on your general GPP strategy and game theory if you want to have a shot at taking down first place. If you’re more of a cash game player, check out how to target high floor drivers, and remember to find any potential race dominators.

Let’s get to the NASCAR DFS picks, strategy, rankings, and projections for Michigan!


Before we get to the NASCAR DFS picks, we need to talk strategy. This weekend’s race promises a lot of unknowns. First, there is the potential for inclement weather on Sunday, but current forecasts show it’s likely they’ll get the full race in. However, because of the weekend weather, expect an early competition caution which could shake up the dominator field. Second, Goodyear is bringing a new tire package this weekend intended to allow for more tire fall-off than has been present at Michigan in the past, and some drivers (*cough* Brad Keselowski *cough*) have expressed caution in regards to endorsing the package.

Since the repave back in 2012, Michigan has been a bit hard to pass at, despite the wide surface, so track position has been key. If the tires fall off as intended, that could allow for more passing this weekend. The incident/DNF rate at Michigan is also quite low, at only 10.5 percent, and at Auto Club earlier this year, only Trevor Bayne failed to finish the race. Combined with a large separation of speed between the top cars and the back markers, and it makes for minimal usage of Joe Dirt cheap drivers this weekend.

The model consists of all Michigan data since 2014, except the second 2015 Michigan race where NASCAR tried a high-drag package (that was a bust), and I’ve also added in Auto Club Speedway from this year as well. The top factors in the model include:

  • Year-to-date driver rating
  • 10-lap speed or combined practice speed in the absence of 10-lap data (combined speed simply averages the top single-lap time for each driver from all the practice sessions)
  • Year-to-date dominance (laps led and fastest laps)
  • Track type driver rating

Additionally, dominator points also include starting position in the model, and focus a bit heavier on track type dominance instead of year-to-date dominance.

Because the race is only 200 laps, we don’t need to use 3 dominators, although it certainly is possible that it’s a three dominator race like the first Michigan race in 2017 where Kyle LarsonMartin Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch led all but two laps, with each leading at least 40 laps and each accumulating 60+ DraftKings points. However, it’s also just as likely to be a 2-dominator race, as Truex and Kyle Busch showed at Auto Club earlier this year. There have also been races where the dominator points are quite spread out, as in the second Michigan race of 2016 where five drivers led between 24-41 laps, diluting the dominator point pool.

In GPPs I think it makes most sense to target 2-3 dominators, leaning moderately more toward two dominators. In cash games, I think it makes sense to target one dominator, given how qualifying shook out, and with only 200 laps to run instead of 267-plus laps.


The model projections assume that the driver finishes the race – hence why you don’t see any average finishing positions worse than about 33rd. The Pts column shows the average projected DraftKings points for races when the driver finishes the race.

Kurt Busch17.2217.2512.9441.35800025.5%
Brad Keselowski27.2120.5315.1544.281010018.9%
Kyle Busch38.6732.6022.5649.091160025.4%
Kevin Harvick48.7932.3022.3449.671200037.2%
Joey Logano510.357.068.6734.39980014.6%
Aric Almirola614.340.351.5322.1782009.7%
Ricky Stenhouse Jr716.103.932.4821.03700010.7%
Erik Jones812.224.556.7532.0884009.5%
Ryan Blaney97.0013.6712.1048.47880014.9%
Denny Hamlin1011.438.267.5536.98920010.3%
Ryan Newman1114.151.142.7528.35770012.6%
Clint Bowyer1211.275.775.5537.68950020.8%
Chase Elliott1313.540.672.3631.27900023.6%
William Byron1415.780.211.8927.44630024.1%
Paul Menard1517.290.301.8225.41680012.6%
Austin Dillon1619.080.131.2522.49740010.1%
Martin Truex Jr178.0120.5413.8057.011070032.9%
Chris Buescher1824.220.080.4813.81590011.3%
Matt Kenseth1922.933.663.3219.7271009.0%
Jimmie Johnson2017.480.961.0629.82850022.4%
Alex Bowman2113.153.002.4340.67780013.4%
Daniel Suarez2219.810.350.9226.93730011.1%
Michael McDowell2321.520.340.4024.2558008.0%
Jamie McMurray2419.060.190.3730.12760027.8%
AJ Allmendinger2522.100.030.2424.93650012.3%
Kyle Larson267.1921.3810.9266.441050052.2%
David Ragan2722.170.040.2226.78570018.2%
Bubba Wallace2818.990.040.5034.28610030.1%
Kasey Kahne2923.890.500.5325.60660013.7%
Matt DiBenedetto3026.750.040.2020.6254006.3%
Ty Dillon3126.400.010.1822.29560029.4%
Corey Lajoie3229.990.010.1516.1050002.7%
Ross Chastain3330.210.010.2416.7051005.2%
Gray Gaulding3432.040.020.2512.0447002.6%
BJ McLeod3533.440.020.2612.2649000.8%
Landon Cassill3631.290.020.1917.5252003.4%
D.J. Kennington3730.380.010.2120.3448004.3%
Timmy Hill3833.580.020.2614.9745000.6%
Garrett Smithley3933.080.020.1716.9346001.9%


Kyle Larson ($10,500) — Larson has a three-race winning streak at Michigan and has six straight top-three finishes at the 2-mile ovals (Michigan and Auto Club). He starts 26th thanks to a poor qualifying lap, but practiced inside the top three in both single- and 10-lap times in final practice. Lock him in.

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,700) — Truex dominated the race at Michigan’s sister track earlier this year, leading 62.5 percent of the laps en route to his first of two wins this year. Truex also won the only other race this year at a track 2 miles in length or longer that doesn’t use restrictor plates, with his win at Pocono last weekend. Truex starts 17th, allowing for ample place differential, and had enough speed in final practice with the sixth best single lap time to justify playing him in cash.

Ty Dillon ($5600) — Dillon is a nice low-priced option to help you fit multiple high-priced drivers in your cash game lineups. If we plot graphs of starting position vs. practice speed, and salary vs. practice speed, Dillon falls above the trendline in both cases, meaning he’s a strong value play. Starting 31st, Dillon is almost guaranteed to move forward on speed alone if his race remains incident free. Add in a bit of attrition, and he could pick up 5-10 positions in the race, more than paying off value. In the graphs below, Dillon is the black dot.




Cash Game Ranks:

Here are my top 23 cash game ranks, which ranks each driver based on cash game playability factoring in expected performance, floor/safety, and salary.

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Ty Dillon
  5. Clint Bowyer
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Brad Keselowski
  8. Jamie McMurray
  9. Alex Bowman
  10. Daniel Suarez
  11. Bubba Wallace
  12. D.J. Kennington
  13. William Byron
  14. Kurt Busch
  15. Jimmie Johnson
  16. David Ragan
  17. Kasey Kahne
  18. A.J. Allmendinger
  19. Paul Menard
  20. Chase Elliott
  21. Erik Jones
  22. Joey Logano
  23. Ryan Newman


Kevin Harvick ($12,000) — Once again, Harvick looks like he has the dominant car, and I have no problem playing him in cash as well if you want to go that route. He had quite possibly the strongest car — even stronger than Truex — at Auto Club Speedway earlier this year, moving through the field quickly before wrecking in an incident with Larson. Harvick was far and away tops over the long run in practice, over 0.6 MPH faster than Kyle Busch in second.

Clint Bowyer ($9500) — Like a few other drivers, Bowyer is a value for both his starting position and his salary relative to practice speeds. Looking at the graph, all the drivers priced at $9500+ have similar speeds (other than Harvick who stands above them all), so why not take the cheapest driver among that group, who also starts the furthest back? Just more place differential potential at a cheaper price for a driver of similar speed. Additionally, Bowyer posted the fourth-best 10-lap average, so he did back up that single-lap time over the longer haul as well. The once concern is Bowyer’s history at Michigan, which isn’t spectacular, but that could keep his ownership lower than normal. If the new tire package make Michigan race a bit more like Auto Club, then that’s good news for Bowyer. Bowyer ran inside the top-1o for most of the race at Auto Club Speedway before fading late, and finished third at Auto Club last year.

William Byron ($6300) — Byron’s practice gives a lot of encouragement relative to both his starting position and his salary. Labeled in red on the graphs above, we can see Byron posted a single lap speed equivalent to a driver priced over $9500 and a top-seven starting position. Byron backed that time up over the long haul as well, posting a 10-lap average in line with Aric Almirola and Ryan Newman, both of whom are more expensive and start further forward. I do like Newman as a pivot off Byron, or pair Newman with Byron in GPPs to really save salary with a shot at high finishing positions. And while I like being overweight on Newman, don’t go too crazy on Newman exposure — he is risky.

Here are my top 24 GPP ranks, which ranks each driver based on GPP playability factoring in expected performance, upside, salary, and ownership. Note, rankings are subject to change as I construct lineups and decide I like certain drivers better or worse when lineup building.

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Martin Truex Jr.
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. William Byron
  5. Kyle Busch
  6. Clint Bowyer
  7. Brad Keselowski
  8. Kurt Busch
  9. Ty Dillon
  10. Ryan Newman
  11. Daniel Suarez
  12. Alex Bowman
  13. Jamie McMurray
  14. Joey Logano
  15. D.J. Kennington
  16. Paul Menard
  17. Erik Jones
  18. Jimmie Johnson
  19. Bubba Wallace
  20. Ryan Blaney
  21. Chase Elliott
  22. David Ragan
  23. Kasey Kahne
  24. A.J. Allmendinger


Denny Hamlin ($9200) — Hamlin does not project very well by the model, and he also failed to show speed in final practice. He posted only the 21st-best time in final practice despite running 22 laps, and did not make a 10-lap run. That’s the sign of a car that needed plenty of changes throughout practice. Hamlin has little shot of accruing significant dominator points, and doesn’t have a ton of place differential potential either, starting in 10th and unlikely to contend for a top three finish.

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