The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen on August 7th for the Cheeze-It 355. Watkins Glen is the second of two road courses the series travels to in 2016.
The weekend was headlined by the return of Dale Earnhardt Jr., but not to competition. Junior will miss the next two races with continuing concussion symptoms, but he did make an appearance at the track, answering questions for the media during a half hour long press conference.
A second hot topic this weekend comes along the lines of safety. Brad Keselowski suffered another nasty road-course test session wreck, raising questions about the safety of turn one at Watkins Glen. Throughout practice sessions we saw many cars, driven by both veterans and rookies lose control amongst the same corner.
With a new surface, and a new tire from Goodyear, this race may be unlike any Watkins Glen race of years past.
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when constructing your Watkins Glen DraftKings lineup for Sunday.
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Kurt Busch ($10,400) FPPR: 41.1 – Career at Watkins Glen: 15 starts, 3 top-5s, 7 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 17.7
Kurt Busch has three straight top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen, including two top-fives since making the move to Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch has the third best average finish on the season and the sixth best average daily fantasy points mark.
Kevin Harvick ($10,300) FPPR: 63 – Career at Watkins Glen: 15 starts, 1 win, 3 top-5s, 8 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 12
Harvick has six straight top-15 finishes at Watkins Glen. He was in position to win the race last season until he ran out of gas on the
final lap, allowing Joey Logano to pass for the win. Harvick still has the highest points per race total of all drivers this season.
Kyle Busch ($10,100) FPPR: 50.1 – Career at Watkins Glen: 11 starts, 2 wins, 5 top-5s, 9 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 10.5
Kyle Busch also took advantage of Kevin Harvick’s fuel shortage last season en-route to a second place finish. That marked his ninth top-10 finish in the past ten Watkins Glen races. During that span, Kyle also managed two wins. The defending Sprint Cup champion has the second highest points per race average this season.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,500 – $9,999
AJ Allmendinger ($9,900) FPPR: 26.1 – Career at Watkins Glen: 7 starts, 1 win, 2 top-5s, 4 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 10.1
Allmendinger had finished in the top-10 in all six tries heading into last season’s race. A disappointing 24th-place finish after a number of mental mistakes led to his worst career finish at the track. Allmendinger earned his first and only Sprint Cup Series win here back in 2014. Treat AJ Allmendinger like a superstar when setting lineups for this weekend.
Joey Logano ($9,500) FPPR: 38.4 – Career at Watkins Glen: 7 starts, 1 win, 2 top-5s, 4 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 14.3
As mentioned before, Joey Logano was the beneficiary of a fuel mileage race to the checkered flag in 2015. Over the past two seasons, Logano has the best average finish at the track (3.5) and has three consecutive top-10s. Logano also finished third at Sonoma back in June, proving that road-courses are becoming a strength for him.
Tony Stewart ($9,100) FPPR: 30.6 – Career at Watkins Glen: 15 starts, 5 wins, 7 top-5s, 10 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 10.3
Tony Stewart is the all-time winningest driver at Watkins Glen. The last of his five wins came back in 2009. In a span from 2004-2009, Stewart either won or finished runner-up. Watkins Glen is one of Tony Stewart’s best tracks, and with how “Smoke” has been running lately, he is a serious contender to find victory lane on Sunday.
MID TIER: $7,500 – $8,499
Kyle Larson: ($8,200) FPPR: 34.8 – Career at Watkins Glen: 2 starts, 1 top-5, 1 top-10
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 8
Even though the sample size is small, Kyle Larson has the best average finish at Watkins Glen out of all active drivers. Larson is on the fringe for the Chase cutoff and is heading into a track where he has found success over the past two races. Larson finished fifth at Indy and sixth at Pocono and beat his average fantasy score by more than 10 points in both races. Kyle Larson is heating up at the perfect time.
Matt Kenseth: ($8,100) FPPR: 37.5 – Career at Watkins Glen: 16 starts, 1 top-5, 6 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 14.4
Matt Kenseth has the highest points per race average out of all drivers within this tier. Although he is not known for his skill on road-courses, Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in the last two races at Watkins Glen. Kenseth has a top-15 finish in eight of the last 10 races at the track, and has an average finish of 14.4 in his 16 starts.
Greg Biffle: ($7,700) FPPR: 24.5 – Career at Watkins Glen: 13 starts, 1 top-5s, 4 top-10s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 21.2
Greg Biffle has two top 10s in the last four races at Watkins Glen. Biffle’s average finish of 21.2 is skewed by a streak from 2003-2006 where he did not record a finish better than 30th. If we take out those four races, his average finish at Watkins Glen bumps up to a respectable 15th. Biffle has top-10 finishes in three of the last five races this season and will look add another on Sunday.
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,499
Casey Mears: ($6.600) FPPR: 19.2 – Career at Watkins Glen: 12 starts, 1 top-5, 1 top-10
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 18.7
Casey Mears has eight straight top-20 finishes at Watkins Glen and has a positive place differential in five straight. Mears is not a name that is thrown around often when it comes to daily fantasy sports, but he deserves strong consideration this Sunday. The low price of $6,600 is far too good to pass up for a driver with a proven track record of success at this track.
Danica Patrick: ($6,100) FPPR 27.1 – Career at Watkins Glen: 3 starts, 2 top-20s
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 19.3
Danica does not qualify well at Watkins Glen, which can help if you like to play the position differential game. She is averaging a +14 differential through three races. Patrick seems to be improving as the season rolls on as she has six top-25 finishes in the last seven races.
Michael McDowell: ($5,500) FPPR 22.1 – Career at Watkins Glen: 7 starts, 1 top-20
Average finish at Watkins Glen: 35
McDowell’s numbers look horrendous, but don’t let that scare you away entirely. The number one reason to select McDowell for a lineup this weekend is the low price. For a driver coming off of two consecutive top-25 finishes, the price is full of value. McDowell is having an under the radar season which includes a top 10 in the Coke Zero 400 last month, and seven top 25s in 17 races.
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Who will make his last pit stop and then have a caution fly for a hot dog wrapper on the front stretch and lead the rest of the way? 88? 48? Where’s Jeb when you need him?
If Gordon wins in the 88 and doesn’t have enough points, does the 88 get into the ludicrous chase?