DraftKings Fantasy NASCAR Strategy – Learning the Basics for DFS for Auto Racing

NASCAR DraftKings

Are you a NASCAR fan, but have never played daily fantasy sports? Or are you a daily fantasy sports player that wants to learn more about NASCAR? Or both? We break down the new DraftKings contests based on stock-car racing, and how to play them.

For our review of DraftKings, go here.

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The basics

DraftKings just signed a three-year deal with NASCAR, and it immediately started offering fantasy contests in its lobby.

NASCAR races usually take place every weekend. Note that for now, DraftKings is offering only contests based on the top level series — Sprint Cup. NASCAR also stages a lower-level series (XFINITY) and a trucks series. You want to ignore these for the purposes of fantasy NASCAR, unless DraftKings expands its offerings in the future.

Daily fantasy sports for NASCAR is pretty much like any other DFS game. You pick a lineup of drivers — under a salary cap restriction — and your roster scores points based on the drivers’ performance in a race.

It’s much simpler to play than football, baseball, etc., and has more in common with fantasy golf, as you can pick anyone in the entire field — as long as your drivers fall under the salary cap.

Here are the basics:

  • You pick five drivers; you have a salary cap of $50,000 to work with. You can select from the pool of drivers expected to start the race.
  • The contest locks when the race begins.
  • There are a number of different ways for drivers to score fantasy points:
    -Drivers receive +1 point or -1 point based upon their starting position vs. their finishing position. For instance, if a driver starts in 10th place but finishes in second, they receive +8 points. Drivers’ starting positions are generally known a day or more in advance of the race, because of qualifying events held for NASCAR races.
    -Drivers receive +0.5 points every time they have the fastest time for a lap.
    -Drivers receive +0.25 points for every lap led.
    -Drivers receive +0.25 points for their pass differential: the total number of times they pass other cars minus the number of times they are passed, over the course of a race.
    -The most points are awarded for finishing position, on a sliding scale based on how close a driver comes to winning the race:
    1st: 46 points
    2nd: 42 points
    3rd: 41 points
    4th: 40 points
    5th: 39 points
    6th: 38 points
    7th: 37 points
    8th: 36 points
    9th: 35 points
    10th: 34 points
    11th: 33 points
    12th: 32 points
    13th: 31 points
    14th: 30 points
    15th: 29 points
    16th: 28 points
    17th: 27 points
    18th: 26 points
    19th: 25 points
    20th: 24 points
    21st: 23 points
    22nd: 22 points
    23rd: 21 points
    24th: 20 points
    25th: 19 points
    26th: 18 points
    27th: 17 points
    28th: 16 points
    29th: 15 points
    30th: 14 points
    31st: 13 points
    32nd: 12 points
    33rd: 11 points
    34th: 10 points
    35th: 9 points
    36th: 8 points
    37th: 7 points
    38th: 6 points
    39th: 5 points
    40th: 4 points
    41st: 3 points
    42nd: 2 points
    43rd: 1 point
  • Contests will be scored (unofficially) in real time, powered by a live data feed from NASCAR.

For the first weekend of NASCAR DFS contests — scheduled for May 24 and based on the Coca-Cola 600 — there are two contests that guarantee prize pools of $100,000. One has an entry fee of $3, the other $27.

NASCAR DraftKings lobby

Picking a lineup: What’s important?

DraftKings NASCAR contests are heavily weighted toward finishing position. So, you want to pick drivers who have a chance of winning, or at least have a good chance of finishing near the top of the field.

Another place to look for value is place differential. Some drivers might not do well in qualifying (resulting in a lower starting position), but do well on race day (resulting in a higher finishing position). These drivers represent good point-scoring possibilities. At the same time, you want to avoid drivers that do well in qualifying, but do not as well on race day. These drivers will often result in negative points. For instance, drivers that start from the pole position (starting position No. 1) can only lose you points for place differential. So that’s an important consideration in picking your lineup.

After that, the most points can generally be won from fastest laps and laps led. Drivers who are dominant over the course of a race will be able to rack up a lot of points through these two scoring mechanisms. More on that below.

Picking a lineup: Driver stats

Using the stats from NASCAR that DraftKings’ fantasy contests are based on is a great starting point for setting your fantasy NASCAR lineup. Here’s an overview of where you can find NASCAR stats:

  • The season Sprint Cup standings are a very basic way to tell how drivers are doing this season. They provide very little detail, but they give a snapshot of how consistent a driver has been in the current calendar year. It also offers how many times a driver has won, finished in the top five, finished in the top 10 and how many times they did not finish (because of a crash, mechanical problems, etc.). Drivers who are consistently finishing in the top 10 usually represent drivers you should get on your roster, unless their salary cap value is prohibitively high.
  • The main NASCAR stats page is perhaps the best resource you have in setting your lineup. You can find each drivers’ average start position, average finish position, laps run and laps led. All of those stats are sortable by clicking on them. You can also click on any driver to get more historical data.
  • NASCAR provides a weekly preview with driver and race-specific information that can be useful in setting your lineup.
  • Finding other data related to fantasy NASCAR means visiting other sites with sports content, and can be a little more difficult to track down. NBCSports has the total number of passes a driver has made. FoxSports.com has data for drivers on how many times they have passed other cars, and how many times they have been passed, along with their pass differential, for each individual race. NBCSports also has data for the drivers with the highest number of fastest laps.

Picking a lineup: Differences in tracks

Not all tracks in NASCAR were created equally. Races are contested in different locations every week. Some tracks feature wide-open racing with long straightaways, while others have tight turns that induce contact between cars. There are even road courses with dozens of turns that put an emphasis on skill.

As such, drivers have a tendency to do well over the same types of tracks historically. Yahoo has a great tool for finding stats by specific race, specific track and by track type.

For instance, if you want to see how every driver has done in the Coca-Cola 600 — the race the first DraftKings NASCAR contests are based on — you can view those here. You can see that Kasey Kahne has won there three times in the past 10 years, making him a possible good bet for adding to your lineup.

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Figuring out which drivers have done well historically at an individual track and at certain track types is arguably more important than how they are doing in the current season.

Picking a lineup: Using other sites

Like any DFS contest, finding value for drivers within the salary cap structure will be key. Sites like RotoGrinders and Rotowire will be helpful in identifying drivers who represent a good value based on the salary you have to pay to have them in your lineup.

Conclusion: Do your homework

Just like any DFS contest, you will likely do better if you put a decent amount of time into setting your lienup. At the start of DraftKings’ NASCAR contests, there may be a huge skill gap between the recreational NASCAR fan just giving DFS a try and a DFS regular who is used to putting research into their lineups. And moreso than other sports, NASCAR will also likely have a lot of people entering contests who are just picking their favorite drivers. So if you are doing your homework, you might end up having a huge edge on the rest of the field.