FREE NASCAR DFS Cup Series Watkins Glen Breakdown, Cheat Sheet, and Core Plays

Welcome to my FREE NASCAR DFS Breakdown for today’s race at Watkins Glen! We’re currently in the thick of road course season, with today marking the 2nd consecutive road course race in the Cup Series. And while some fans are eagerly anticipating the adrenaline-pumping action at Daytona next week, let’s not write off Watkins Glen just yet. Historically, its layout has been a hit with NASCAR, providing us with thrilling races and memorable moments. Need proof? Look no further than the edge-of-your-seat finishes in both the ARCA and Xfinity races this weekend. As we turn our eyes to the main event, we’re all hoping the Cup Series drivers deliver a spectacle to match. If not, well, the silver lining is that we only have one more road course race left in 2023 after today. Plus, let’s be honest: last weekend’s calmer race did wonders for many of our bankrolls. Without further ado, let’s dive into the breakdown and see if there’s been any shift in our strategy this weekend.

Breakdown

Just like our approach for last week’s race at Indianapolis, the spotlight today is on analyzing drivers’ performances on road courses during the next-gen era, particularly focusing on their 2023 showings. Moreover, given Watkins Glen’s storied place in the series, track history for each driver is another crucial metric we can use.

In our previous breakdown, we laid emphasis on the Place Differential (PD) scoring during road course (RC) races in 2023. And what did we notice at Indy GP? Five of the drivers who ended up in the winning lineup actually started within the top 13.

So, does this alter our strategy at the Glen? My stance remains unchanged: no.

Let’s discuss why:

Firstly, the Indy race witnessed over 80 laps without a single caution—a sequence that is more of an anomaly than a pattern in contemporary NASCAR races. This anomaly undoubtedly impacted the potential of PD plays. However, statistics provide a clearer perspective. Over the past five years, Watkins Glen races have averaged two cautions (excluding stage breaks) per race. Going back further, in the ten races before stage breaks were introduced at the Glen, there was an average of 5.6 cautions per race with not one race having less than four cautions. This isn’t to suggest mayhem this week, but running 80 consecutive green laps seems improbable.

Consider this: Despite that extensive green-flag stint at Indy, Byron emerged as the second-highest scorer on the slate, even after a pass-through penalty, and only a 14th-place finish. The Dinger, was on track to potentially top the slate from P26 before facing issues, while Jones had made it into the top 10 before mechanical troubles sidelined him. A single caution during that green run would’ve significantly altered the standings, benefiting drivers like Cindric, Blaney, and Chastain. We very easily could have saw 3 of the top 4 scorers last week come from 26th or worse.

Historical data from the Glen underscores the value of position differential. In the last three races here (with stage breaks), 53% of the top 5 scorers started their race from 19th or further back. Contrastingly, those starting within the top 5 accounted for just 4 of these performances.

What last weeks race did underscore for me is the limited upside for drivers starting within the top 10. This week, nine of the top 10 starters are priced at a hefty $8600 or above. Without affordable options in this bracket, like last week, these high-priced drivers must yield more than 45 DK points for true value. Looking at the previous three races at the Glen, on average, only three drivers per race starting in the top 10 exceed 45 DK points. 8 out of those 9 performances came from drivers starting 6th or better and 5 of those performances scored more than 10 dominator points.

For your roster today, the strategy is two-fold: First, pick 2-3 drivers who start within the top 10 and are poised for 10+ dominator point upside. Next, round out your lineup by selecting drivers positioned to score 10+ position differential points.

Cheat Sheet

Dive into my FREE NASCAR DFS Cheat Sheet for today’s Cup Series race at Watkins Glen! It’s crafted to equip you with all the essential metrics for building winning lineups. Not only does it capture critical data from yesterday’s Practice & Qualifying sessions, but it also encapsulates drivers’ performances on road courses during the Next Gen era and insights from the past three showdowns at The Glen. Furthermore, I’ve included a column showcasing the average position of drivers on road courses in 2023.

For your convenience, I’ve highlighted the drivers I’m bullish on for today’s slate. Those spotlighted in pink represent potentially underrated gems, making them excellent picks for those eyeing success in those big tournaments today!


Core Plays

Fav Top Tier: Elliott, Larson, Allmendinger, Buescher

Top Tier Pivots: Truex, Suarez, Hamlin

Chase Elliott sets up as the driver with the most upside on the slate today. Starts 15th and he could very well find his way to the front to score Dominator points to go with his position differential upside. Not a lot to dive into in this pick, this is Chase and Hendrick’s best RC track and Chase NEEDS the win today. Expect them to pull out all the tricks today.

Truex lines up with similar upside to Chase today but will likely be lower owned, making him a great pivot option. Unsure what to make of his speed in practice, but that will likely add to his ownership being down. The rest of JGR showed speed and this is historically a great track for Truex. He has a win here in 2017 and has the 3rd best avg position and is 2nd in terms of fast lap % in the last 3 races here at The Glen.

HMS has won the last 4 races here at the Glen, and the last two has been won by Kyle Larson. Kyle showed that he has  potential race winning speed again this weekend in yesterdays practice session. Could potentially go under owned today as well being sandwiched between two PD plays in pricing. He will also need to end up as the top Dom performer today to pay off this price tag and to score with those PD plays.

I really liked the Dinger heading into this week and he proved me right coming in with the fastest times in practice yesterday. Many people might be viewing Dinger’s season on RC’s as a disappointment, but he has had the pace this season, just has been plagued by issues. The Glen has always been the road course track that Dinger excelled at early in his career.  In 11 races here, he has 4 Top 5’s and 7 Top 10’s, this is also the home of his first career cup series win. Last years race he had a great run here, bringing it home for a 2nd place finish and 3rd most fast laps after starting in… 6th.

Buescher sets up as another solid play this week. Mr. Consistent on road courses now has 9 top 11 finishes in the 10 road course races in the next gen era. 4 of those 9 finishes has been inside the Top 6. Buescher showed Top 6 speed again in practice yesterday, which is right around where you will need him to finish today to pay off.

Suarez makes a nice pivot option in this range as well. His practice speed and being priced higher than Buescher/Dinger will keep his ownership down.  Though he was not fast in practice, this team has had speed all year on road courses and he looks to have found a bit more speed in qualifying than how he practiced. Last year’s race here he brought it home for a Top 5 finish after starting 9th, another performance like that today would easily have Suarez in the optimal line up today.

Denny Hamlin is very interesting today from the pole. I’m unsure what his ownership will look like, but I assume most will likely go to the “favorite” today in William Byron who starts 2nd. However, if you compare their performances here at the Glen then it is not particularly close, Hamlin is miles ahead. Not only does Hamlin have a win here, but he has 4 Top 5 finishes in the last 6 races here AND has the 5th best fast lap % in the last 3 races here.

I’m off of Michael McDowell and Byron today. For McDowell, his price has jumped drastically up AND I imagine his ownership will take a jump as well. Last week it was clear that he had the best car, not so sure that is the case today. I think he still has a solid run, but just think it will be hard for him to pay off this price tag. In last year’s race, he started 3rd as well, led 14 laps, finished 6th, and still only finished 10th in DK scoring. I think we se a similar stat line today for him. For Byron, I just don’t trust the practice speed to translate to a whole race. In the Next Gen era he only has 1 finish inside the Top 5 on a Road Course, and 8 finishes outside the Top 10. He has started inside the Top 4 in 3 of those races, his DK ranks in those 3 races were 9th, 32nd, and 24th. I smell a big bust inbound for Byron today.

Fav Mid Tier: Bowman, Cindric, Harvick

Mid Tier Pivots: Chastain, Briscoe

Bowman and Cindric both make solid PD options in the Mid Tier range today. Bowman has been much improved on the Road Courses this year with 2 Top 5’s and the 8th best Average running position on them in 2023. With Cindric, you always have to pay attention to him on road courses and it looks like he showed some solid speed in practice again. Both these guys will need to finish inside the Top 10 to pay off, and is I had to chose between the two, I think I’m going with HMS and Bowman.

A pivot off the two guys I just mentioned is going to be Ross Chastain. This has not been a great stretch for Chastain and his speed in practice was not great, but these are all the things that are going to contribute to him potentially coming in lower owned. He has finished inside the Top 10 in 2/4 Road Course races this season and he does have a RC win in the Next Gen era. He also finished 12th here in 2021.

We all know that Road Courses are not exactly Harvick’s expertise, but he makes a great security blanket this weekend and is a former Watkins Glen winner for only $7600. He comes in to the weekend with the 8th best average finish on RCs in the next gen era. 2 Top 5’s, 3 Top 10’s and 7 Top 20’s. He’s done all this while not qualifying better than 18th in any race, providing solid PD. This has resulted in him being in the Top 13 of DK scoring in 8 of those 10 races, and Top 8 in 6. He finished 12th in this race last year and his Avg Pos of 12.73 here the last 3 races is 6th best in the series. Not overreacting to poor practice speeds today.

If you do not want to go back to the Harvick well again this week then you can look to pivot to his younger, cheaper team mate, Chase Briscoe. Chase has been great on the road courses and he has the best Average Position on them of any driver priced $7800 or lower. Fresh off a great Top 10 run last week at Indy and now he gets another RC, one that he finished Top 10 at the first time he ran here in the Cup back in 2021.

Fav Value Tier: Jones, Stenhouse

Value Tier Pivots: Haley, T Dillon

I know, Jones burned a lot of us last week. But for all the same reasons we were playing him last week we are playing him again. Last week was looking good until it wasn’t. He was pushing the Top 10 before his mechanical issues. He has finished Top 10 in 2 of the last 3 races here at the Glen which includes a 10th place finish last year after starting 31st, same place he starts today.

Stenhouse’s numbers here at The Glen might surprise some people, but he has been pretty solid here. He has finished inside the Top 20 in 5 straight races here, and has done so in 7 of 9 total career starts. He has been boom or bust in 2023, with 2 finishes of 12th or better, and 2 of 26th or worse.

Looks like both the Kaulig cars have some speed when looking at the practice charts from yesterday. This makes Haley a potential value option we can target that might go overlooked by others. He tends to run much better on road courses that AJ also has speed at, and AJ has a TON of speed today. Haley has finished inside the Top 20 in 7 of 10 Next Gen RC races and has two Top 10’s to boot as well. Think he has Top 15 upside again today.

Look, there is not a lot to get excited about in the value tier today. The lack of value will only add to limiting the number of those Top 10 starters that end up in the optimal today. But if you really need the salary savings, then I do think Ty Dillon is in play today. The Glen has been a solid track for Dillon in his career, he finished 16th in this race last year. He has shown a glimmer of potential on RC’s this season with a 23rd place finish at Sonoma and a 27th place finish last week at Indy. Speed in practice wasn’t terrible and I think he easily beats the rest of the back markers with potential for competing for a Top 25. But a 27th place finish is all you need from him to pay off this price tag.

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