The roar of engines is back and the green flag is just around the corner, signaling the start of the 2023 NASCAR DFS season. I am beyond excited to kick off my 5th season of providing analysis and strategy for YOU! We will be kicking off the season on Sunday, February 5th with the Busch Clash inside the historic LA Coliseum, adding an extra layer of excitement to an iconic event. But the real highlight of the season, as always, is the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. The high-speed action, fierce competition, and drama make it one of the most highly-anticipated events in all of sports.
In my preview, I’ll be sharing everything you need to start the 2023 season. I will be covering proper strategy for each track type and will lay out my driver rankings for each. The who to play and how to approach each slate varies so much from week to week in NASCAR depending on the track and race. I’ve put in the research that will hopefully help you make informed decisions when building your DFS lineups.
To make sure you don’t miss a beat of the 2023 NASCAR DFS season, make sure to follow me on Twitter at @dfsnascar and look for my weekly article breaking down EVERY Cup Series race, right here at Run Pure Sports. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on all the analysis and DFS strategy, all for FREE! But if you find yourself wanting more, sign up with Run Pure Sports to get even more NASCAR insight from the great minds of Reed Cooper and Matty Ice! New members can use promo code NASCAR15 to receive 15% off for the life of your membership! Now, let’s get to why your here!
Short Flat Tracks
High Tire Wear
Steep Banked Short
2023 Overall Driver Rankings
Driver Best and Worst Track Type
- Kyle Busch: Moving from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing in the No. 8 Chevrolet.
- Tyler Reddick: Moving from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing in the No. 45 Toyota.
- Ty Gibbs: Moving from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series with Joe Gibbs Racing in the No. 54 Toyota.
- Ryan Preece: Moving from being a reserve driver to a full-time driver for Stewart-Haas Racing in the No. 41 Ford.
- Jimmie Johnson: Ol’ 7 time will be returning to racing with a part-ownership stake in Petty GMS and making select starts in the Cup Series.
- AJ Allmendinger: Returning to the Cup Series full-time with Kaulig Racing in the No. 16 Chevrolet.
- Noah Gragson: Moving from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series with Petty GMS in the No. 42 Chevrolet.
- Ty Dillon: Moving from the No. 42 Chevrolet to the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.
Kyle Busch, who I currently have ranked 13th in my overall rankings, gets a bump down heading into 2023 with his move to RCR. This switch is likely to have a significant impact on his performance on short flats, where RCR really struggled at last year with only having 3 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 18.17 in 9 races. In contrast, JGR had 3 wins and 8 top 5 finishes on the same track type. However, Kyle Busch may still be a contender on intermediates where he had the most fast laps in 2022 with 130, Reddick was just behind him in the 8 car Busch will be piloting with 118 fast laps. Additionally, Reddick was a beast on road courses in 2022 on and Toyota really struggled on them. So could also be a bump for KFB on that track type as well.
On the other hand, Tyler Reddick, who I currently have ranked 6th overall, gets a bump from me. I expect a big upgrade in performance due to the added resources of team Toyota. Toyota had a TON of speed on intermediates, which was also Reddick’s strength in 2022. 23X1 cars won 2 races on Intermediates in 2022. Reddick should run much better on short flats as well, as JGR is a BIG upgrade on those tracks. He could also perform better on Super Speedways, Toyota has FAST cars and he has an upgrade in drafting help with his new Toyota teammates. However, Reddick may experience a downgrade on road courses as Chevy was the class of the field on them in 2022. Will be interesting to see the impact when we get to COTA.
Two rookie drivers will be making their debut in the Cup Series, Ty Gibbs and Noah Gragson. When it comes to expectations, I have Ty Gibbs ranked 5 spots higher than Gragson. This is primarily due to the fact that Gibbs will be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, a team and organization that has a proven track record of success in the sport. On the other hand, Gragson will be driving for Petty/GMS, a team that is building momentum, but still has a lot of ground to make up on a perennial powerhouse like JGR. I do think it’s possible that Gragson may have the edge on Super Speedways. However, I expect Gibbs to perform better on every other track type, thanks to the resources and support that JGR can provide. Overall, it will be a lot of fun to see these two rookies on the track in their first full season in the Cup Series.
Super Speedways, such as the Daytona 500, are known for their chaotic and high-variance nature due to the potential for big wrecks that can take out a significant portion of the field. This is why the key strategy when building lineups for these races is to “stack the back,” focusing on position differential points. In fact, of the top 12 DraftKings scorers on Super Speedways in 2022, 62% came from drivers who scored significant PD.
When playing cash games, it is important to only focus on PD and drivers starting from 25th on back. This minimizes risk and maximizes the potential for a big score. However, in GPPs, there is potential for leverage by targeting drivers starting towards the front. This is a much higher risk strategy, but it can pay off big if it goes well. In 2022, 26% of those top DraftKings scorers came from drivers who achieved a good finish with little to no PD.
Another strategy to consider is targeting low-owned drivers from lower-funded teams or “un-sexy” drivers like Todd Gilliland or Harrison Burton, who may offer PD and also fly under the radar of many other players. Super Speedways can be a tricky track type to navigate in DFS, but understanding the importance of PD and being strategic with lineup construction will give you an edge on the competition.
2023 Super Speedway Driver Rankings
For Super Speedways, I have Chase Elliott ranked in the top spot heading into 2023. He was the only driver with multiple Super Speedway wins in 2022 and tied for the best average finish with Ryan Blaney at 9.0. Elliott also led the most laps on Super Speedways in 2022 with 166 and had a series-best 5 Top 10 finishes.
Coming in at second is Ross Chastain of the #1 team Trackhouse Chevrolet. He had 1 win and 4 Top 4 finishes on Super Speedways in 2022. The only two races he didn’t finish in the Top 4 in were ones he wrecked out in. Chastain is a guy that is not afraid to take risks on the track. As I said on The DailyFanRacing Podcast with Ryan Larkin, “Ross Chastain didn’t get his nickname because he grew up on a watermelon farm, they call him “The Melon Man” because that’s what he has hanging between his legs, a big ol’ pair of melons” That’s a Super Speedway edge you can’t teach.
Team Penske is a team to keep an eye on as well, with all three of their drivers, Blaney, Logano, and Cindric, ranked inside my Top 10. All three have Super Speedway wins under their belt and combined for 6 Top 5 finishes and 8 Top 10 finishes in 2022.
I am also projecting a win for Erik Jones on a Super Speedway this year. In 2022, he had a knack for finding his way to the front of the field late in a Super Speedway race. Jones seemed to always find his way into the first three rows on late race restarts, but unfortunately, luck wasn’t on his side with no wins and only one Top 5 finish. But being in position is half the battle.
Finally, Gragson, Dinger, and Preece are all “new” faces that I expect to have solid upside on Super Speedways. All three have shown a knack for pack racing and drafting, making them drivers to watch out for.
Short Flat Tracks
- New Hampshire
- LA Coliseum (Exhibition – Busch Clash)
- North Wilksboro (Exhibition – All Star Race)
Short flat tracks, such as Martinsville and Richmond, tend to have a TON of laps which puts a heavy emphasis on Dominator points. When building your lineups for these slates, it’s important to focus on both Dominator points and finishing position. The key to success before anything on short flats is hitting the right dominators, as they have the potential to score 100+ points with all the laps on the slate and it will be near impossible to cash without them.
It’s important to note that these tracks tend to be very difficult to pass and as a result, position differential makes up the lowest percentage of the top DK scorers compared to all other track types. Track position is king on these tracks, if you get it, you can likely hold it.
When building your lineups, look for leverage in guys starting in the teens that can finish strong and resist the urge to chase PD. 27% of the top DK performances came from guys who scored little to no PD. It’s also important to note that Short flat tracks tend to have the lowest variance in finishing position amongst the top 20 rated drivers than any other track type. This makes them typically easier to predict and we should be more willing to eat a bit more chalk when it comes to these tracks as often times the guys we think will be good end up being good.
2023 Short Flat Driver Rankings
My driver rankings for short flat tracks are led by the powerhouse duo at Team Penske. Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano combined for an impressive 9 top 5 finishes and 15 top 10 finishes on this track type in 2022. Logano even managed to pick up 2 wins during the season. After a winless 2022, I expect Blaney to finally get a win on a short flat this year, as he was number 1 in just about every major statistical category in 2022. I also predict that their teammate, Austin Cindric, will have a breakthrough year and turn his 5 finishes just outside the top 10 into top 10 finishes and could even compete for for Top 5’s in 2023.
Coming in at third is Christopher Bell, who lived up to his potential on short flat tracks in 2022. He picked up his first career oval win at New Hampshire and closed the season with a win at Martinsville to make the Championship 4.
Kevin Harvick is still a force to be reckoned with on short flat tracks. He picked up another Richmond win in 2022 and had 4 top 5 finishes. I have him projected for another short flat track victory in his final season and he comes in as my 5th ranked driver.
Ranking 15th is Ty Gibbs, the rookie who has already shown success on this track type in the Xfinity Series, winning at Phoenix, Richmond, and Martinsville. This is also a track type that his JGR team showed a ton of speed on in 2022.
And finally, at 18th is Ryan Preece, who has had success on short flat tracks in his career and this track type is right in the wheelhouse of what Stewart-Haas Racing does well, as short flat tracks were their best track type in 2022.
- Las Vegas
Intermediate tracks in NASCAR have become increasingly chaotic in recent years, with a higher variance in finishes amongst the top 20 rated drivers than even Super Speedways in 2022. This makes them one of the more difficult track types to predict.
When building your lineups, it is important to focus on Position Differential (PD) and Dominator (Dom) points as these are the two key areas that will drive success on this track type. 80% of the top scores on Intermediate tracks come from PD and Dom performances, making them the primary focus for both cash and GPP lineups. I consider them the quintessential NASCAR DFS track type as this is the standard approach that most novice players take on any given week.
In cash games, it is important to focus mostly on Position Differential as it makes up the majority of the points scored and are easier to predict. However, when it comes to Dominator points, they are harder to predict on intermediates. In 2022, we saw 8 different drivers score between 100-150 fast laps and 10 different drivers led over 100 laps. This means that there is an opportunity to find leverage in GPPs by going against the field with your dominator plays. This offers a great opportunity to hit on a low-owned, slate-breaking play.
2023 Intermediate Driver Rankings
In my driver rankings for intermediate tracks, I have Tyler Reddick in the top spot. Reddick had the 2nd most fast laps on intermediates in 2022 and scored 13 Dominator points in 5 of 8 intermediate races. His move to Toyota and the 23X1 team is also an upgrade in team and organization, as Toyota drivers combined for over 430 Dominator points on intermediates.
Coming in at 2 in my rankings is Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was lights out on this track type in 2022, as he was the only driver to record multiple wins on intermediates. He also had the best Driver Rating, best average finish, and the most Top 5’s. Hamlin was the class of the field by almost all metrics, and is definitely going to be a driver to target on Intermediates again in 2023.
Christopher Bell comes in at fourth on my rankings. Bell had a breakout season in 2022 and took a big step forward on intermediates. He had 3 Top 5’s, 107 fast laps, and led 10+ laps in 5 of 8 races. Are you starting to see a theme here with all these Toyota drivers on intermediates? You should be…
Fifth on my list is Kyle Larson. It’s no surprise to see Larson towards the top of this list, but it is a surprise that he failed to get even 1 win at a track type he dominated in 2021. Despite this, he still managed to end with the 3rd most laps led and 10+ fast laps in 6 out of 8 races. Race flow and luck was not on his side, but expect that luck to change in 2023.
At ninth is Bubba Wallace, who proved he can also get it done in a Toyota on intermediates with his Kansas win. He recorded 62 fast laps and 114 laps led in 2022.
Lastly at 14th is Daniel Suarez, who benefited from the speed of Team Trackhouse on intermediates in 2022. He had the 4th most fast laps with 110, but struggled to finish with only 1 Top 5 and 2 Top 10s. His average running position was 5 spots better than his average finish, which further proves his added upside if he can start closing races.
- Chicago Street Course
- Indy GP
- Watkins Glen
- Charlotte Roval
Road Course races tend to be my favorite track type when it comes to DFS. Similar to short flat tracks, road courses have a low variance in finishing position amongst the top drivers, which at times can make them easier to predict. This makes them a great spot to make some dough in DFS if you know the drivers to target and strategy to implement. However, that variance can shift if rain shows up to the track, introducing chaos and unpredictability. So pay attention to the weather on race day.
One key strategy to keep in mind for road courses is the importance of position differential points. Drivers who scored significant PD accounted for 50% of the top 12 DraftKings scorers on road courses in 2022. Again, we can find a ton of value by targeting drivers who start lower in the pack but are able to finish higher.
Another aspect to keep in mind is the low lap totals on road courses, which makes dominator points less valuable and less of a focus in builds. While it’s still important to hit the main dominator in GPPs, cash builds can focus more on PD.
It’s also worth noting that road courses had the highest percentage of non-PD, non-dominators, amongst their top 12 DraftKings scorers in each race. This means that drivers who solely relied on a strong finish to score well were more common on road courses. These types of plays can often be overlooked and can provide great opportunities to find leverage in GPPs.
2023 Road Course Driver Rankings
In terms of road course driver rankings, Chase Elliott takes the top spot. Despite not having a road course win in 2022, he still had the best driver rating, best average finish, and the most fast laps and laps led. I expect that he will get back to his road course winning form in 2023 and secure a couple of wins this season.
AJ Allmendinger takes the second spot in my rankings. As an elite level road course racer, he had 4 Top 10s and 2 Top 5s in 2022. However, the stats only tell half the story. He was fast at the Roval, in contention late at the Indy GP and the Glenn, and was even wrecked out of first on the last lap at COTA.
Chris Buescher ranks 8th for me on Road Courses entering 2023. He was consistent on them in 2022, tied for the best average finish with Chase. He had 5 Top 10 finishes and was consistent on DK as well, scoring 5x value in 4 out of 6 races. With an improved team and high confidence, I expect him to perform well again in the 6 road course races in 2023.
Team Toyota had struggles on road courses outside of Christopher Bell in 2022. They rated out as the 8th best team on road courses, behind Kaulig, RFK, and Front Row Motorsports. Improvement will be needed before considering them for road course races.
Lastly, Justin Haley takes the 22nd spot. He was a solid source for value on road courses in 2022. He had 5 top 20 finishes and a Top 5 at the Charlotte Roval. I expect another step forward for him this year. AJ Allmendinger has proven to be a great mentor for his teammates on Road Courses, Haley will only get better with more time together.
High Tire Wear
High Tire Wear tracks are a unique track type that only appear four times during the 2023 NASCAR season and they bring their own little nuances to the table. Like intermediates, position differential and dominator points should be the key focus when building lineups. These tracks tend to be more predictable than intermediates, since saving your tires is an art and certain drivers are just better at it. Generally, the line moves higher on these tracks as tires wear and drivers who can rim ride inches from the wall have an advantage.
Opportunities for combo performances can also be found on these tracks at a higher percentage than other track types. Combo performances are drivers who can score both Position Differential and Dominator points. Tire wear creates comers and goers, and drivers who don’t qualify well can still have fast long-run speed and compete for fast laps. Hitting on these combo-type plays can be key to scoring big in GPPs.
Also keep in mind that you should not overreact to practice on these tracks, as there are generally not enough laps in the short practices to truly show who will rise to the top. Instead, look for drivers who have a history of success on high tire wear tracks, and keep an eye out for those practice underperformers who could surprise with a strong performance.
2023 High Tire Wear Driver Rankings
At the top of my rankings for High Tire Wear tracks is Kyle Larson. Many would consider him the king of riding the wall and his performance on these tracks in the past season solidifies this claim. He won at California and Homestead in 2022 and had an impressive 154 Fast Laps on these tracks, nearly double the amount of second-place Ross Chastain with 82.
At number two in my rankings is Joey Logano, the 2022 champion. He had a Darlington win and went 3 out of 4 for Top 5’s on High Tire wear tracks. Logano also had the second-most laps led with 185, making him a valuable play in DFS. I consider him one of the smartest drivers in the series and he really understands how to read a track as it changes, which is a big advantage on these tracks.
Tyler Reddick slots in number 3 for me. He is another wall rider who will contend on each of these tracks in the 2023 season. In 2022, he had 2 Top 5’s, the fourth-best Driver Rating, and 74 Fast laps on high tire wear tracks. Plus, I’ve already stated a few times that I believe Reddick will see a big bump in his performance this season in his new ride, so we will naturally want to target him on this track type.
Coming in at ninth place is Erik Jones. Two out of the four High Tire wear races take place at Darlington and Jones is a stud at this historic racetrack. He won the Southern 500 last year in this ride and also had a third-place finish at California. With the team now having added resources and much more hype with the addition of Jimmie Johnson in an ownership role, Jones should once again be a solid pick on High Tire Wear tracks in 2023.
At 14th place is Austin Dillon, another driver who excels at tire management. In 2022, he had the second-best average finish behind only Joey Logano. He had two Top 5’s, three Top 10’s and never finished worse than 17th. I might actually be too low on him here at 14th place now that I lay it out there like that…
Finally, at 25th place is Noah Gragson. He could surprise some people on this track type this season. This type of racing suits his driving style and GMS Petty has shown that they can bring speed to these track types with the performance of Erik Jones.
Steep Banked Short
Steep banked short tracks are a unique and exciting challenge for NASCAR drivers and DFS players alike. With only two races per year at Bristol and Dover, these events are the smallest track grouping on the schedule.
When it comes to building lineups for these races, track history is of the utmost importance. Drivers who have had success in the past on these tracks are more likely to have success again in the future. These two tracks combine for a total of 900 laps, making dominator points a primary focus. In fact, these are the only track groupings where dominator scorers accounted for a higher percentage of the top 12 DFS scores than position differential scorers. Drivers have the opportunity to score 150+ points in one of these races and can completely break the slate, which can make these slates a little dicey for cash games.
In GPP contests, a 3-4 dominator build is ideal. You want as many guys with dominator upside as you can get in a line up. Hitting on one of those huge scorers at a low ownership like we saw with Buescher or Keselowski at Bristol last year will rake in the dough in those big tourneys. However, it’s also important to target position differential, as unlike the short flat tracks, passing is possible on these steep banked tracks. Dominator and PD scorers made up 83% of the top 12 DFS scorers from each race, making it a less favorable track for mid-range starting drivers who can’t score dominator points but might finish well.
Another effective strategy for steep banked short tracks is punting, which can free up salary to allow you to target more dominators. Your basically just looking for someone to not kill your line up and hoping to hit the Dominators to carry you to the promise land.
2023 Steep Banked Short Driver Rankings
For steep banked short tracks, I have Christopher Bell ranked as my top driver for 2023. Bell had a strong showing on this track type in 2022, with two fourth place finishes and the most fast laps. With his success on this track type in the lower series and his recent progress in the Cup Series, I expect him to compete for the win at both Bristol and Dover.
Coming in at number two is Chase Elliott, who had a stellar performance on steep banked short tracks in 2022. He picked up his second career win at Dover and finished second at Bristol after starting 23rd. Despite not having a points race win at Bristol yet, he has led 439 laps there in his career and won the 2020 All-Star race at Bristol.
Rounding out my top picks for steep banked short tracks are the RFK duo of Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski, coming in at fourth and eighth respectively in my rankings. Though RFK had a challenging first season, they excelled on steep banked short tracks. They were the top-rated team on these tracks in 2022, ahead of HMS and JGR. Buescher picked up the win at Bristol and finished 8th at Dover, while Keselowski had a strong showing at Bristol scoring over 50 dominator points with 52 fast laps and 109 laps led. Don’t forget his four career wins on this track type, three of which came at Bristol.
Another duo of teammates to keep an eye on are Justin Haley and AJ Allmendinger, who I have ranked 14th and 15th respectively. Haley tied for the 7th best average finish with 11th and 12th place finishes. Allmendinger has also shown his prowess on steep banked short tracks with an Xfinity Series win at Bristol and a 7th place finish in the Cup Series Bristol race last year.
2023 Overall Driver Rankings
Below is how the composite of all of my individual driver track type rankings shape up for the season as a whole. Season long NASCAR leagues are not too common, so I’m unsure how useful these rankings even are since who to play in NASCAR DFS is so dependent on the track in a given week. But it was fun to do nonetheless and maybe some of you do play season long. I also included my projected win totals for each driver in these rankings.
Drivers that I feel I am likely HIGHER on than most others in the industry are:
- Ross Chastain
- Christopher Bell
- Tyler Reddick
- Austin Cindric
- Daniel Suarez
Drivers that I feel I am likely LOWER on than most others in the industry are:
- Kyle Busch
- Chase Briscoe
- Ty Gibbs
- Noah Gragson
- Michael McDowell
Driver Best and Worst Track Type
The table below lists each driver’s best and worst track types. This is a valuable resource to reference for the NASCAR DFS season. It allows you to quickly identify which track types to target particular drivers. This information can help you make more informed decisions when building lineups and can also aid in identifying potential low-owned, high-upside options for GPP contests. Additionally, by knowing a driver’s worst track type, you can avoid rostering them in those races and focus on drivers who are more likely to succeed.
Thank you for reading my article previewing the entire 2023 NASCAR DFS season. I hope the information and driver rankings provided will be a valuable resource throughout the season. Remember to always gamble within your means and never play with money you can’t afford to lose. Follow me on twitter @dfsnascar for updates and analysis. And don’t forget to check out my weekly FREE article every race day right here at Run Pure Sports.