DailyFanRacing NASCAR Preview - Phoenix Raceway
What’s up, everyone?! It’s Dustin Maybin (@CUPharmDFS) back again with your weekly DailyFanRacing newsletter!
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Weekend in Review
Chevrolet had a phenomenal weekend as they were able to come away with wins in all three NASCAR series. Kyle Busch continued his Truck Series dominance with a win on Friday night. The switch from Toyota to Chevrolet seemed to have little impact on Kyle Busch Motorsports. Unfortunately, Busch wasn’t able to complete the sweep as he came up short in the Xfinity Series race. Austin Hill held off a dominant Chandler Smith and hard-charging Allgaier to score his second win of the season. Sunday’s Cup race looked more similar to the racing we were used to with the previous generation of race cars. William Byron and teammate Kyle Larson absolutely dominated the race, leading a combined 239 of 267 laps! Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished 1-2-3 and topped the practice speed charts as well, which may be something to take note of moving forward.
F1 successfully kicked off its season with the Bahrain GP on Sunday. Per usual, Max Verstappen won, while his Red Bull Racing teammate, Sergio Perez, finished runner-up, albeit nearly 12 seconds behind. Fernando Alonso topped the practice charts all week and demonstrated that speed in the race with a 3rd-place podium finish despite a rough start to the race. F1 will take this week off before returning for the Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia.
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NASCAR will be wrapping up its west coast swing this weekend in Arizona. Phoenix Raceway will host the Xfinity and Cup Series this weekend, while the Truck Series has the week off. The racing will be quite different than anything we’ve seen yet in 2023. It’s also important since Phoenix is the site of the championship race at the end of the season.
Phoenix Raceway is a 1.0 mile tri-oval with relatively flat banking that races mostly like a short track. Unlike races at intermediate tracks or superspeedways, nailing the right combination of dominators is essential to DFS success at short tracks due to the increased number of laps and thus, dominator points available. However, the potential for attrition through wrecks remains high, allowing the possibility of punt plays having some success.
Comparable short, flat tracks include Richmond, New Hampshire, and, to a lesser extent, Martinsville, all of which are flatter tracks less than or equal to 1 mile in length. While Richmond and Phoenix have rounded front stretches and wider corners requiring more throttle control, New Hampshire and Martinsville resemble paperclips, putting more emphasis on precise braking. Hence why some drivers succeed at two of them but not the others (e.g. Aric Almirola).
Restarts are some of the craziest on the schedule as drivers fan out to the apron just past the start/finish line in an attempt to gain some positions before diving into turn 1. Last year, the debut of the Next Gen car saw a little bit less of this because of concerns with the underbody of the car across the transition in banking. Speaking of the car’s underbody, NASCAR is debuting its new short track package for the Cup Series this week. There have been modifications made to the rear spoiler and underbody diffuser to lower downforce by approximately 30% in an attempt to improve the racing, make the cars harder to drive, and create passing opportunities.
United Rentals 200 - Xfinity Series
Saturday, March 11, 2023
Saturday’s United Rentals 200 is scheduled for 200 laps, yielding a maximum possible 136 dominator points. As we have become accustomed to, same-day practice and qualifying are in effect again this week, despite the fact that Cup’s schedule is spread out from Friday to Sunday. Have no fear though; Ryan Larkin’s breakdown will give you all the information needed to win your DFS contests!
In last spring’s race, Noah Gragson dominated, leading 114 laps on his way to the victory. The JGR cars were also fast with all three drivers (and JGR-affiliated Sam Hunt Racing) finishing in the top 6. Surprisingly though, Ty Gibbs was the only one of them who did not lead a lap.
He made up for it in the fall, however, winning the championship race here at Phoenix. The JR Motorsports cars of Noah Gragson and Justin Allgaier gave a valiant effort but could not keep up with the #54 Toyota Camry. Needless to say, it’s expected that JRM and JGR are set for a Saturday evening desert showdown. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Kyle Busch is racing again this week for Kaulig Racing. While they ran in the 5th to 10th range mostly here last year, Busch can never be counted out.
Over the past 10 Xfinity Series races at Phoenix, the polesitter has scored an average of 34 dominator points. In fact, they have led 33 or more laps (average: 74.3) and earned at least 10 fastest laps (average: 35.3) on each occasion. The polesitter has been in the optimal lineup in five of the past six Phoenix races and will likely be a prime target for lineups this Saturday.
Since the track reconfiguration in 2018, 55% of drivers with a top 10 DraftKings score came from a top 10 starting position. It can be very hard to pass at Phoenix. Therefore, place differential points are harder to come by unless chaos ensues or a top tier team has to start in the rear. Furthermore, 31% of top 10 scores came from the top five, while just 23% of the occurrences came from drivers starting worse than 20th!
Fun Fact: 36 of the 42 (85.7%) Xfinity Series races at Phoenix have been won by a driver starting in the top 5.
Be sure to check out the DailyFanRacing DFS Preview show on YouTube. Ryan Larkin and company will be previewing this weekend’s NASCAR Cup action from Phoenix.
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United Rentals Work United 500 - Cup Series
Sunday, March 12, 2023
The green flag for Sunday’s race is scheduled to drop at 3:30 pm ET. The race length is set for 312 laps (500 kilometers), yielding a maximum 214.8 dominator points.
Last spring’s race featured some surprising contenders, all vying for their first Cup Series win. In the end, Chase Briscoe led 101 laps and held off Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick for the win. It was a great day for the Ford camp as Ryan Blaney also led 143 laps from the pole and finished 4th.
That success continued in the championship race here in the fall as Joey Logano was crowned the 2023 Cup Series champion. He and Blaney started on the front row, combined to lead 94.8% of the race, and finished 1-2. The next closest amount of dominator points was scored by fellow Ford driver, Briscoe, who finished 4th.
After last week, no one knows what to expect. The Ford drivers struggled mightily in Vegas, while the Chevrolets were the class of the field. This is a different track type, however, where aerodynamics are not nearly as important. I expect the Fords to bounce back and be as strong as usual in Phoenix, but practice on Friday evening will give us a clearer picture.
Over the past 9 Cup Series races at Phoenix, 69% of the laps have been led by drivers starting on the front two rows (positions 1 through 4). When targeting potential dominators for the race, it’s likely they come from the top 5, though others starting further back may be good pivots at lower ownership.
Since the track was reconfigured in 2018, 81% of the top 10 DraftKings scores have come from drivers starting 20th or better. Passing is difficult at Phoenix with little deviation in running position, unless there are issues or pit road strategy comes into play. Then again, there has been slight improvement with the addition of resin creating multiple racing grooves in the corners. On the other hand, only 2% of top 10 scores have been by drivers starting 30th or worse. One was Kyle Larson, an elite driver, and the other was Aric Almirola, whose best average finishes are here and at comparable track, Richmond.
Fun fact: 31 of the past 36 Phoenix races, albeit on different configurations, have been won by either a Cup Series champion or NASCAR Hall of Fame driver.
This track isn’t always the most interesting to watch on TV, but it’s great from a DFS perspective. Racing can get pretty spread out, and it’s difficult to pass, making it easier to predict.
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As usual, for premium members, we will have full driver-by-driver breakdowns, expert rankings, and projections for both races this weekend, in addition to a slate strategy article and podcast for Cup.
Have a great week, and we’ll look forward to you winning with us again this weekend!
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