It’s time for a duel in the desert as the NASCAR Cup Series head to Phoenix Raceway this weekend for its last stop on the West Coast swing.
Check out the drivers you should consider on daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings for Sunday’s (March 12) United Rentals Work United 500, airing at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
There’s a lot of unknowns coming into this race, as NASCAR is debuting a new package for the short tracks and road courses. The package, which includes a 2-inch spoiler, is designed to lower downforce on the Next Gen cars and hopefully create better racing on track. You can read more about the change here.
Since it’s different from last year’s combo, NASCAR gave teams a 50-minute practice session on Friday. Kyle Larson topped the charts in both single-lap and 10-lap average speeds.
Qualifying starts on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.
You can use the info from both practice and qualifying to create your DraftKings lineups. Also, look at who’s run well at Phoenix as well as other flat tracks, especially within the last few years. These tracks are New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and World Wide Technology Raceway. WWTR is a bit longer at 1.25 miles and is shaped more like an egg, but it’s still pretty flat. Since some drivers perform better on this track type, they’ll likely do well this week, even with changes to the car.
Before I share my DraftKings picks for Phoenix, let’s review the fantasy scores from Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
|DraftKings Salary||Driver||DraftKings Score|
|$9,500||Martin Truex Jr.||48.45|
Overall, these picks did fairly well on DraftKings, though both Ross Chastain and Denny Hamlin lost some spots on the last restart. Justin Haley scored the most out of these — a very good value for his salary.
Here’s a look at the DraftKings scoring rules:
The winner on the racetrack tallies 45 points, while second place gets 42, third 41 and so on. Tenth place scores 34, while 11th gets 32, and decreasing by one from there through 20th. This pattern repeats for 21st through 30th and 31st through 40th.
Additionally, drivers can earn or lose a point depending on where they finish. For example, if Christopher Bell started third and won, he would gain two points in addition to his finishing position points, totaling 47 fantasy points.
Drivers also can earn .45 for each fastest lap and .25 for each lap they lead.
Also, I will be hosting a free NASCAR DraftKings league that will run each week for the Cup Series only. It’s free to join, but as of now it’s just for bragging rights. You’ll get to compete against me and some of my colleagues.
Here is the link to the league:
Now, here are my picks!
DraftKings Picks: Top Tier ($9,000-$11,100)
Kyle Larson ($11,100)
Career at Phoenix: 17 starts, 1 win, 6 top fives, 10 top 10s
Average finish at Phoenix: 12.2
Larson has done fairly well at Phoenix, save for last year’s race when he retired early due to engine troubles. He has four top fives and seven top 10s in the last eight races there, which includes his 2021 title campaign victory when he led 107 laps. Last November, Larson closed out the season with a ninth-place finish.
The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports driver also had some good runs at other short tracks last year. Larson drove from 21st to fifth in the first Richmond race. Also, in the fall at Bristol and Martinsville he came home fifth and second, respectively.
Though he started off the season rough, he bounced back last week at Las Vegas and nearly won. Could he continue that momentum at Phoenix? I think so, especially since he was a tenth of a second faster in 10-lap averages in practice.
Ryan Blaney ($10,300)
Career at Phoenix: 14 starts, 0 wins, 5 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average finish at Phoenix: 12.6
Ryan Blaney also has some good statistics in the Grand Canyon State. He’s earned three consecutive top-five finishes as well as five straight top 10s. The Ohio native placed third in both races in 2019 and led over 30 laps in each race in 2021. Additionally, Blaney led over 100 circuits en route to fourth and second places, respectively, in both Phoenix races last season.
The No. 12 Team Penske pilot, who’s been a hot topic this week thanks to comments from Kyle Petty, also earned top 10s at both events at Richmond last year. Plus, at Gateway he finished fourth, while at Martinsville Blaney placed third.
Can he return to victory lane this year and earn his first win at the 1-mile desert oval? Maybe, maybe not, but as long as Blaney leads laps and finishes well, he’ll be fine for DraftKings. Blaney’s average speed over 10 straight laps during practice was second on the charts.
Kevin Harvick ($9,000)
Career at Phoenix: 40 starts, 9 wins, 19 top fives, 29 top 10s
Average finish at Phoenix: 8.7
The man. The myth. The legend. OK, maybe not myth, but Kevin Harvick’s certainly the man and legend at Phoenix. It’s simply incredible what he’s done there. He has 19(!) consecutive top 10s, an astounding number. Last year, he placed sixth and fifth in each event there. Though the Closer’s last win at Phoenix came in spring 2018, he should still continue that strong streak.
At some of the short, flat tracks in 2022, Harvick earned three top fives: a fifth at Loudon and a second and first at Richmond. He led 55 laps in the second Richmond race on the way to the checkered flag.
I’m sure Harvick would love nothing more than to snag his 10th victory at Phoenix in his final full Cup season. Even if he doesn’t, though, he’ll likely get his 20th-straight top 10.
Middle Tier ($7,300-$8,800)
Christopher Bell ($8,800)
Career at Phoenix: 6 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Phoenix: 15.8
Christopher Bell doesn’t have as much experience as some of the other drivers in the desert, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do well at Phoenix. In fact, he earned top 10s in each race in 2021 (ninth in both) and was 10th in last year’s season finale after his crewmember accidentally hurt his finger while changing tires.
The 28-year-old Oklahoman claimed two wins at some short, flat racetracks last year. Bell won New Hampshire and Martinsville, leading 150 laps in the latter race. Plus, he was sixth in the spring Richmond race and second in the fall.
And did I mention he was at the test in January? He may just be the best Toyota driver come Sunday and should be a nice addition to your DraftKings lineup.
Brad Keselowski ($7,800)
Career at Phoenix: 27 starts, 0 wins, 8 top fives, 13 top 10s
Average finish at Phoenix: 13.7
Brad Keselowski isn’t driving for a top tier team anymore, but he’s still working to improve the team he co-owns, RFK Racing. He showed improvement as the 2022 season went on, but never really recovered after an early 100-point penalty. He also finished in the teens at both Richmond events and was seventh at Loudon.
Over the years, Keselowski’s earned some good results at Phoenix. These include two second places in the fall 2018 and 2020 events. Also, he finished fourth and 10th in the spring and fall 2021 races, respectively.
Keselowski had a top-15 average speed during Friday’s practice session, showing that he could earn a good finish. If he doesn’t qualify as well, it might be better on DraftKings, as he could earn position differential points.
Low Tier ($4,600-$7,100)
Chris Buescher ($6,600)
Career at Phoenix: 14 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Phoenix: 22.6
Keselowski’s teammate Chris Buescher is a good value play on DraftKings. Though his Phoenix stats aren’t flashy, he does have a pair of teen finishes in spring 2020 and 2021. In last year’s event he drove from 26th to 10th, adding 16 bonus points to his DraftKings score thanks to the advancement.
The No. 17 Texas native added some top 10s on a few other short tracks in 2022. Buescher placed eighth at Dover and gained 15 spots at the fall Richmond race to finish in third.
If he can perform similarly this weekend, Buescher will provide a good fantasy score on DraftKings.
AJ Allmendinger ($6,200)
Career at Phoenix: 21 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Phoenix: 17.7
OK, so AJ Allmendinger hasn’t done very well at Phoenix. Both of his top 10s occurred way back in 2011 when he drove for Legacy Motor Club, then known as Richard Petty Motorsports.
However, I like his potential this weekend. Last year he gained 25 positions en route to 10th at WWT Raceway. Also, he was 16th at New Hampshire and 12th in the season finale at Phoenix.
Allmendinger hasn’t had the best start of the season that he would’ve liked; he’s had a lot of bad luck. Last week he was on his way to a top 20 when he got loose on the last lap, slid down the track and was hit by Ryan Preece. Surely this misfortune will end sometime soon, right? Let’s hope it’s this weekend.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.
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