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DraftKings NASCAR: Pure Michigan 400

C.J. Radune

Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the 2015 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Pure Michigan 400

Location: Brooklyn, Mich.
Course: Michigan International Speedway
Format: 2.5-mile D-shaped oval
Laps: 200

Race Preview

Martin Truex Jr. used fuel strategy to continue his winning ways last week at Watkins Glen International. He and Kyle Busch were again two of the fastest cars on the course, but it was Truex who encountered fewer setbacks and played pit strategy to perfection. This week, the series makes its return to Michigan International Speedway where Kyle Larson has been the driver to beat. Larson won the two latest races at the track with Chase Elliott running second both times. Only one Toyota finished in the top five there earlier this year, and it was Denny Hamlin who came home fourth for Joe Gibbs Racing. Ford, usually strong in Michigan, also placed only one of their drivers in a top five that featured three Chevrolets. Larson led 96 laps en route to his second victory at the track, but Truex and Busch each led for significant periods as well. It will be easy to see Truex and Busch as early favorites this week, but Larson may see a return to this track as his opportunity to banish his recent slump. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver enters this week’s race on the heels of three consecutive finishes outside of the top 20. Pressure also ramp ups on drivers like Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano who continue their quest for a victory that earns them a shot at this year’s championship playoffs.

Key Stats at Michigan International Speedway

Number of previous races: 96
Winners from pole: 20
Winners from top-5 starters: 57
Winners from top-10 starters: 72
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 7
Fastest race: 173.997 mph

Last 10 Michigan Winners

2017 spring - Kyle Larson
2016 fall - Kyle Larson
2016 spring - Joey Logano
2015 fall - Matt Kenseth
2015 spring - Kurt Busch
2014 fall - Jeff Gordon
2014 spring - Jimmie Johnson
2013 fall - Joey Logano
2013 spring - Greg Biffle
2012 fall - Greg Biffle

While Michigan is a fast and wide track where drivers can move around to suit their needs, the best car doesn’t always win. The track has a history of fuel-mileage races, and Larson snagged his second victory of the season there earlier this year by taking advantage of late restarts and positive track position. The lesson learned for fantasy owners is that having the correct strategy could be more important than having the fastest car this weekend. Truex and his team have been the kings of positioning themselves to maximize playoff points and their chances to win, so they will be one of the early favorites this week. Penske Racing also can call a strategy race to near perfection, so it’s no surprise that one of their cars has been in the top five at the track in the last two races, too. It isn't just fuel strategy, however. Michigan’s hot and humid Midwestern afternoons are likely to play havoc on grip, which could give a premium to drivers choosing four-tire stops over track position. The timing of any late cautions could dictate who gambles on either not pitting or just taking two tires to gain track position to see if they can hold on for the win. Expect those drivers on the fringes of the playoff spots to be first to take those risks.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Martin Truex Jr. - $10,600
Kyle Busch - $10,500
Kyle Larson - $10,300

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Chase Elliott - $9,800
Brad Keselowski - $9,400
Matt Kenseth - $9,300
Joey Logano - $9,000

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Ryan Blaney - $8,900
Erik Jones - $8,400
Kurt Busch - $8,000
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $7,900

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Ryan Newman - $7,300
Trevor Bayne - $6,700
Aric Almirola - $6,000
David Ragan - $5,200

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Kyle Busch - $10,500
Kyle Larson - $10,300
Brad Keselowski - $9,400
Erik Jones - $8,400
Paul Menard - $6,500
Reed Sorenson - $4,900

Kyle Busch led 40 laps at Michigan earlier this season before finishing seventh, and his continued ability to outpace the majority of the competition makes him an easy choice this week. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Larson will be going for the Michigan sweep this weekend, as well as his third-consecutive victory at the track. He has been in a three-race slump, and this week’s return to a track where he has the utmost confidence should see him break that trend. This track is also a good one for Keselowski. Ford seems to be more competitive recently, and Keselowski has been taking advantage of that this weekend by taking the pole for Sunday’s race. He led two laps here earlier this year and hasn’t finished worse than 16th here since 2011. Jones is on an impressive run with three top-10 finishes in the last five races. He finished 13th at Michigan earlier this season. The current season hasn’t been the greatest for Menard, but he has started showing signs of life. He picked up three top-20 finishes in the last three races and should be capable of grabbing a top-15 this week. To round off the lower-risk lineup we add Reed Sorenson. He has a bit more upside potential than other drivers in this price range given his ability to finish in the top 30 at times this season.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Chase Elliott - $9,800
Matt Kenseth - $9,300
Jimmie Johnson - $9,100
Joey Logano - $9,000
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $7,900
Corey LaJoie - $4,600

Leading the higher-risk lineup is Elliott. Michigan could be the place Elliott gets his first series win, and after finishing second in all three of his career starts at the track it wouldn’t be a big surprise. Kenseth may not have a ride next season at the moment, but his results have been consistent and trending upward. He’s on the bubble of playoff contention, but has three top-five finishes in the last five races. Johnson has been much less consistent than Kenseth lately, but he has three victories this season and brings back-to-back Michigan top-10 finishes into this weekend's race. That’s good reason to see him as a viable roster option this week. Logano’s woes have persisted, but he’s ripe for a breakthrough after qualifying alongside his teammate on the front row. He was third at Michigan last time out and is in a “must-win” situation to make the playoffs. Another driver in a similar situation is Earnhardt. The veteran could right the ship at this track. He won here in 2008 and 2012, and only has one finish outside of the top 10 in the last five Michigan races. Finally, LaJoie finishes the selections based on his basement-level price point. Sorenson could also be a potential option in his place if choosing this option.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.