Welcome to my FREE NASCAR DFS breakdown for today’s Cup Series race at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. This long 3.41-mile road course, with its vibrant layout and colors, is the most visually stunning track the series goes to. But that might be the highlight of the afternoon as the racing here can be a snoozer. As the first road course race of the 2023 season and the inaugural event featuring the new aero package AND the elimination of stage break cautions, there is some questions to sort through surrounding this race.
I do want to acknowledge that this article will be shorter than usual, as I am currently without power due to heavy winds today. I’m writing this on generator power, and with the current gas prices and economy, I’m already behind the 8 ball in turning a profit! Nonetheless, I’ll still provide you with everything you need to hopefully help you build your winning DFS lineup for today’s contests.
COTA is one of the more challenging road courses on the circuit, featuring 20 turns that combine tight hairpins, sweeping curves, and elevation changes, which put driver’s skills to the test. As the Cup Series tackles the twists and turns of the Circuit of The Americas, you’ll want to build your DFS lineup around drivers with proven road course prowess, as COTA’s layout rewards those with road course skills.
With only 68 laps scheduled for this race, there are about 47 total dominator points up for grabs, which is significantly lower than a typical NASCAR DFS week. This scarcity of dominator points has a considerable impact on how we approach the slate. In last year’s six road course races, we saw just 10 drivers score more than 10 dominator points in a race. Of those 10 drivers, only seven finished inside the top 10 in DraftKing’s scoring.
Expanding on DraftKings scoring, let’s look at the significance of position differential on road courses last season. In contrast to the limited dominator points available, last year saw a much higher number of drivers achieving substantial PD points. While only 10 drivers scored 10+ dominator points in those races last year, an impressive 55 drivers managed to earn more than 10 PD points! Furthermore, 32 of those performances secured a spot in the top 10 in DraftKings scoring.
Today’s COTA race also offers several attractive PD options, which should make it the main focus of your lineup strategy. To optimize your DFS lineup, aim for at least 4-5 drivers with the potential to secure 10+ PD points. By prioritizing position differential, you’ll increase your odds of success while maximizing your line ups upside.
Another significant change for today’s race is the elimination of cautions at the end of the stages. This change is expected to have a big impact on the race dynamics and open up new strategic possibilities for the teams.
Without stage-ending cautions, teams will have more flexibility than last year in planning their pit strategies. Crew chiefs will need to carefully consider the optimal time for pit stops, as decision on when to make that green-flag pit stop will become more critical. This will lead to varying strategies among teams, creating more opportunities for track position to be gained or lost and adding an element of unpredictability to the race.
For example, both the Truck and Xfinity Series races yesterday saw their outcomes influenced by untimely cautions. In both instances, the leader and fastest car got buried in the field, forcing them to fight their way back to the front. Although they ultimately reclaimed their positions, their upside was undoubtedly suppressed. And it might be a lot harder for a comeback to be made in this field of drivers today.
The absence of stage cautions will reduce the number of guaranteed opportunities for drivers to close gaps and bunch up the field. This places a greater emphasis on a driver’s and team’s who can maintain track position and can also grind there way through the field on long runs. From a DFS perspective, this change reinforces the importance of focusing on position differential and selecting drivers who excel at road courses.
Below is my cheat sheet for todays Cup Series race from COTA. I have included data from all 6 road courses with the new car since the start of the 2022 season. I have also included fast lap and 5 lap averages from Friday’s extended practice session. I would not put a whole lot of weight in to the 5 lap averages. Drivers in green are drivers I like today.
We have some HEAVY hitters up top today, Larson, Busch, Chastain and Reddick. This group makes up the 4 highest priced drivers, and they look like they have the 4 fastest cars. Either 1 of these 4 can win this race.
Reddick was lightning quick in practice and is the odds on favorite. Top driver in every category on RC’s last year, this is the home of his first career RC Top 10 as well, 1st win came at Road America, which is COTAish. He will be popular from P2.
Larson, Busch and Chastain all give you some PD upside with potential to get to the front and lead. Larson was fast on RC’s last year, but struggled to close. Practice indicates he will have the speed, but will he end up on the right side of strategy?
COTA has ben a solid track for Busch as well. He led a portion of the inaugural race here and was running Top 5 before a late race incident last year. He was able to get some extra seat time in the Truck race yesterday which you love to see. Also in the 8 car that had a ton of success on road courses last year.
Both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series races had a repeat winners from last year’s COTA races, can Chastain make it the 3 peat? I think the melon can. He had Top 3 speed in practice and was the guy to beat in yesterday’s truck race before mechanical issues, he has a knack for getting around this race track. Both Trackhouse cars look fast. You all know I’m a Chastian homer.
With 4 solid options up here and with the potential for this race getting flipped, one could make a solid case for a Reddick fade given what his ownership will be and the many ways he could be outscored by the other three in this range.
Can’t come to a Road Course without talking about Dinger the Ringer! Probably the best pure Road Course driver in the series, but is his equipment up to par with the other teams? He was battling for the win here last year before his last lap incident with Chastain. He has dominated the last 2 Xfinity Series races here as well. Could be low owned considering his start position.
I’m sure no Byron is going to burn me once again… But I just do not trust his Road Course racing ability to be able to score enough points from the pole here to be a good option in DFS contests. He has led some laps on RCs in the past, but he will likely need a career day to compete with the other contenders today.
Blaney is a free square if you want it. Needs to finish 17th to hit value, he did better than that in 3/6 road course races last year. Should have the speed to hit that today if he keeps it clean.
Like Bell as a potentially low owned pivot in this range. Toyotas look better this year on the road circuits. Bell has 2 RC wins in his career, 1 last year at the Roval. He also had 2 Top 5s with the 5th best Avg finish in 2022, all this while Toyota sucked on road courses. Good enough car and driver to hold the lead if he finds himself there.
Truex, Harvick, Keslowski and Buescher is another 4some to cover, and these guys have big PD potential. Truex struggled like his Toyota teammates last year but he has historically been solid at turning right. Probably my least favorite of the 4 so I’m sure he smashes.
Harvick, the savvy veteran, should keep his car clean while grinding his way to solid finish. Also, you know his crew chief, Rodney Childers has an ace or two up his sleeve to help gain some track positon. Harvick had 5 finishes of 13th or better on RC’s last year.
The RFK duo of Keselowski and Buescher bring plenty of upside as well. Keselowski finished 14th here last year and 19th in 2021. His teammate Buescher was a RC stud with 5 Top 10s. His worse finish did come here though with a 21st place finish. However, he did finish 13th in 2021.
Michael McDowell might get overlooked a little bit today with all the other PD on the slate. He had the 2nd best driver rating on RC’s last season and had 4 finishes inside the Top 8.Finishes of 13th and 7th in both COTA races.
Like Ty Gibbs as another potential low owned option today. Starts 17th, he showed Top 10 speed in practice and had the best pace out of the JGR bunch. Also got extra seat time yesterday in the Xfinity series race as well.
Almirola is another “free square” if you want it. He is not great at road courses but for this price and starting 39th he doesnt have to be, he only needs to finish 26th to hit value. I might end up fading here though cause I do think his upside is limited.
I’m only rolling with a single bullet today so you are only getting one core out of me today. Going to be a chalky slate and not 1 I think you need to build a ton of line ups for. Pick a driver to win/lead then fill in with other PD options.