After an off-weekend following the rain-shortened race at Michigan International Speedway, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams are now on the west coast in Sonoma, California for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday–which is also one of the three road course events of the year. These races always have a significant amount of strategy implemented in them, and fuel mileage is possible as well. You also can’t forget about the random spins and off-roading done by a handful of drivers, as well as NASCAR’s inability to consistently throw cautions. One thing I can guarantee this weekend, though: within the first 15 or 20 laps, how you thought this race was going to play out, probably isn’t going to be the case any more.
As far as DraftKings strategy this weekend, it’s going to be best to focus on place differential and finishing position. The reason? There’s only 110 laps scheduled for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, which means just 27.5 FPTS up for grabs when it comes to laps led. As far as fastest laps go, with the cautions for Stages and possible wrecks, we’re probably only looking at about 45 FPTS maximum there, and really those get spread around similarly to restrictor plate races; in the Sonoma race last season, Martin Truex, Jr. led the way with 16 fastest laps while Jimmie Johnson came in second with 11. Overall, 19 different drivers posted at least one fastest lap in that race.
GPP Drivers I Love For The Sonoma Toyota/Save Mart 350
The Chalk Picks – So here’s the case this week: Kurt Busch ($8,600) and Clint Bowyer ($9,300) are two of the top road course racers in the garage, and they’ll be starting from back in 23rd and 19th (respectively) when the Toyota/Save Mart 350 goes green. Both are capable of pulling off top 5 finishes, and they’re projected as my top two drivers in DraftKings scoring for Sonoma. You can also add in Denny Hamlin ($9,100) to this category, as he qualified back in 21st and showed last season that he can definitely contend for top 5 finishes at these serpentine tracks. So, we got three pretty chalky picks here at relatively affordable prices–four if you count Aric Almirola ($8,200), who starts 24th–so it’s definitely possible to build a lineup with all of them in it. However, it is nowhere near a guarantee of all of them ending up near the front at the checkered flag, so you’ll have to do some playing around with the salaries. Speed-wise, I’d rank them: 1.) Bowyer, 2.) Kurt Busch, 3.) Hamlin, 4.) Almirola. From a strategy perspective, I think Kurt Busch will be the highest owned of the four, so even pivoting down to Almirola from Kurt could give you a nice opportunity. Additionally, Almirola has a terrible track record here, so there’s dark horse potential there.
Kevin Harvick ($11,700) – I wanted to put Kyle Busch ($11,200) in this spot because of his 9th-place starting spot (thus more room to move up), but the #4 Ford is really fast and has that dominator potential so we’re going to stick with Harvick here. “Happy” is the defending champion of this race, and even though there have been nine different winners in the last nine Sonoma events, there’s a very good chance that he goes back-to-back on Sunday. And while he doesn’t start quite as far back as Rowdy does, Harvick did qualify 6th this weekend, so he should get a few place differential points. As far as speed goes, the #4 Ford was just 12th-fastest in Practice #1 but ended up 5th-fastest in Happy Hour while also having the best ten-lap average during that session. In fact, Harvick was out there for a run of 20+ laps, which means one thing and one thing only: he loves his very fast race car. This #4 team should’ve went to victory lane at Michigan two weeks ago, but they have another great shot this weekend at Sonoma to grab their sixth win of the season before the calendar turns to July.
Daniel Suarez ($7,500) – I really like Daniel Suarez as a GPP play this weekend. He qualified 16th for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350, which is right in the range where most DraftKings players will make up more reasons not to use him than to use him. In addition to that, I think Suarez has a real shot at coming home with a legitimate top 10 finish on Sunday. He was interviewed after qualifying on Saturday and made a comment how good the car was on the long run, and it doesn’t hurt that he ran the K&N race this weekend as well. Additionally, Suarez performed well on the road courses last season (for a rookie), with an average running position of 13.5 between the two and an average finish of 9.5. He was better at Watkins Glen than Sonoma but, still, those numbers are respectable. Suarez ranked 7th in ten-lap average during the Happy Hour practice session on Friday.
Kasey Kahne ($6,600) – Kasey Kahne was one of those drivers who went out early in qualifying while the speedy dry was still on the track, and because of that he will start from back in 26th when Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 goes green. I’m not too concerned about that, though, because Kahne is an established road course racer, and Sonoma is a track where driver talent can bump a mediocre car up a few spots by the end of the day. Now, Kasey will be working with a new crew chief this weekend, but maybe that’ll give this team an added boost? You never know. Kahne finished 24th here at Sonoma last season but before that had a four-race streak of top 10 finishes with Hendrick Motorsports. Obviously he’s not in equipment of that caliber this time around, but Michael McDowell finished 14th in this #95 Chevrolet last season at Sonoma, for what that’s worth. From a value standpoint, I’m projecting Kahne to be one of the best dollar-for-dollar drivers in the sub-$7,000 price range in DraftKings on Sunday. His ten-lap average in Happy Hour ranked 8th-best out of the 14 drivers who made long runs, for what that’s worth.
Salary Cap Relief at Sonoma
Both Front Row Motorsports cars (Michael McDowell ($5,900) and David Ragan ($5,800)) looked sporty on Friday, and are in the sub-$6,000 price range. Between the two, McDowell is definitely the safer option on track, but he qualified up in 22nd, so that makes him a little riskier of a pick in DraftKings. With that being said, McDowell did finish 14th at Sonoma last season and followed that up with a 12th-place finish at Watkins Glen, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with what should be better equipment. Ragan, on the other hand, has never finished better than 24th at Sonoma, but this #38 team is on a roll right now (20.8 average finish over the last six races) and he was 11th-fastest here in Happy Hour on Friday–right behind McDowell, who was 10th-fastest. Ragan also starts further back (28th), so there’s more room for place differential points. Still, if I had to pick between the two, McDowell would be my choice.
If you need to go a little further down, I actually don’t hate Cole Whitt at $5,300. He’s starting back in 32nd, but this #72 Chevrolet has been the king of staying out of trouble and getting a decent finish. Whitt ended up 21st in the Sonoma race last season and also has a 22nd-place finish on his resumé here (in 2015). My biggest concern there is that the car is not sponsored this weekend, and it seems like more often than not, it has mechanical issues when that’s the case (or it’s just Corey LaJoie driving like a jackass and blowing the engine).
Thoughts on the Front Row — Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr.
Kyle Larson ($10,600) – The pole sitter typically gets plenty of exposure in the DraftKings world, and this weekend should be no different–especially when you consider that Kyle Larson ranked 4th in five-lap average during Happy Hour on Friday. With that being said, it’s hard to imagine Larson in the winning DraftKings lineup, and it’s also hard to imagine him not disappointing. He’s got the whole qualifying thing down here at Sonoma–this is his second straight pole and fifth straight top 5 starting spot–but racing here is a completely different scenario, and Larson doesn’t have that quite figured out. He did lead nine laps here last season but that’s not really what you’re looking for out of the pole sitter. As far as this weekend goes, Larson says he’s been working on race trim and long run speed, but there’s no reason to think he has the car to beat heading into Sunday. I think Larson will be happy to come away with a top 10 finish this weekend, which is good for him, but wouldn’t be great for DraftKings owners. I may have a lineup or two with Larson in it, but for the most part I’ll be going with other options.
Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,700) – Yes, I preached about the importance of place differential at the beginning of this article, so it may be a little surprising that I have Martin Truex, Jr. sitting here under the “Drivers I Love” heading, but let me tell you why. The #78 Toyota led a race-high 25 laps in this race last year, and that’s pretty impressive considering the engine blew with about 25 laps to go on the day. Truex was, without a doubt, a top 3 car last year, and should be coming for vengeance here on Sunday. He is a previous winner here at Sonoma (2013) but Martin is one of those guys that feels the need to get what he deserves, especially when he’s been wronged. As far as this weekend goes, the #78 Toyota is going to roll off the grid from 2nd on Sunday (which I’m not a big fan of) but there’s a very good chance that Truex leads the most laps once again at Sonoma. Really, the only car that may be stronger heading into Sunday is Harvick, and he’s starting a couple of rows back so Truex has the advantage there. Martin is averaging 9.7 fastest laps per race over the last three Sonoma events (2nd-best) and averaged 18 fastest laps per race on the road courses last season. He’s going to need a dominating performance to make it work in DraftKings but Truex is plenty capable of doing that on a road course.
Driver Point Projections for the Toyota/Save Mart 350
The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.
|Driver||DraftKings Salary||Avg Proj FPTS||Starting Position||Avg. Projected Finish||Proj Laps Led||Proj Fastest Laps||Dollar Per FPT|
|Martin Truex Jr||$10,700||53.6||2||04.2||25||17||$200|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||$6,900||15.2||18||23.4||0||0||$454|