The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend for its first road course race of the season. This means it is a whole new ballgame when it comes to filling out your daily fantasy NASCAR FanDuel roster, as you’ll need to pick the drivers who are good at turning left and right.
In this race, it won’t be as much about who has the fastest cars, but rather who is the best driver. Add in that this year the Cup Series is racing the full 2.52-mile course for the first time since 1997. Previously, NASCAR skipped turns 4 and 5, known as the Carousel portion of the track, which shortened the track to just under two miles long. Now, the stars of the Cup series will have two more grueling turns, and it should provide more passing opportunities.
With the change making Sonoma that much more of a technical course, it is wildly important to look at who has been good at the road courses in the past and stick to those drivers in your lineup.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, they allow you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 90-lap race will only have a total of 9.0 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on midpack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
Here are a few drivers to keep an eye on for Sunday afternoon’s race (June 23).
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Kevin Harvick ($14,500)
Career at Sonoma: 18 starts, 1 wins, 6 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average Finish at Sonoma: 13.1
Despite only winning once at Sonoma so far in his career, Harvick is solid at the track nearly every single visit. He seems to have only gotten better at road racing with age, as he has four straight top 10s and has finished in the top five in three of the last four races at the track. In each of those races, he improved upon his starting position.
The California native won at Sonoma two years ago and finished second last year. He’s led 23 laps or more in three of the past five races at the track.
Harvick has yet to win this year so he is due. He picked up his first win of 2017 at Sonoma and he could do the same this year.
Clint Bowyer ($12,000)
Career at Sonoma: 13 starts, 1 wins, 8 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average Finish at Sonoma: 10.1
Bowyer might quietly be the best active driver at Sonoma. He has the best average finish, as he’s the only driver who averages top 10s at the track. He has the most top fives among active drivers and is tied with Kurt Busch for most top 10s.
He won the 2012 race at Sonoma and finished in the top three in three of the past four races. The only exception was when he finished 40th due to electrical issues in the HScott Motorports car.
Stewart-Haas Racing has yet to win in 2019, and if Harvick isn’t the guy to snap that streak, then it could certainly be Bowyer. Regardless, he’s a dependable guy to have in your lineup this week.
Kurt Busch ($11,000)
Career at Sonoma: 18 starts, 1 wins, 7 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average Finish at Sonoma: 13.6
Sonoma is one of those tracks where Busch’s talent as a wheel-man really shines. He won at the track in 2011, but his most memorable performance was the following year when he finished third in James Finch’s No. 51 with a broken sway bar.
Since that 2011 win, Busch’s worst finish at the track is 12th, and he has the best average finish among active drivers at 5.6. Busch also has four straight Sonoma top 10s, and he’s tied with Bowyer for the most top 10s among active drivers.
There’s a good change Busch will get you a top five. Combine him with Chip Ganassi Racing’s road racing prowess and Busch could end up in the winner’s circle.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Ryan Newman ($8,300)
Career at Sonoma: 17 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 7 top 10s
Average Finish at Sonoma: 13.2
He isn’t going to set the world on fire this weekend, but Newman is ultra consistent at Sonoma. He’s finished on the lead lap in all but one race at the track and he’s never finished worse than 25th. Newman finished 24th last year, but prior to that, he had a streak of five straight top 15s at Sonoma, including two top 10s.
Newman was the runner up in the 2006 Sonoma race and has the fifth best average finish among active drivers. For a driver at this price level, you can’t ask for much more.
BARGAIN TIER: $5,999 and below
Ryan Preece ($5,500)
Career at Sonoma: 0 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average Finish at Sonoma: 0.0
Rounding out this list with another “Ryan,” rookie Ryan Preece could be a steal in your lineup on Sunday. He’s never raced at Sonoma or any other road courses in Cup, but he did well at turning right and left in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year, finishing fourth at both Watkins Glen International and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. Plus, Preece’s team JTG Daugherty is no stranger to victory lane at road courses, having won at Watkins Glen with AJ Allmendinger.
Preece is racing in the K&N Pro Series West race at Sonoma the day before to get some extra laps on the track. If he excels in that race, then it wouldn’t be a bad call to add him into your lineup — especially considering how cheap he is.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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