DFS NASCAR: Pennzoil 400 Playbook
Matt Selz pores over all of that stats, speeds, and qualifying spots to find the best DFS NASCAR plays for the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The NASCAR Goes West starts this week with the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. On the face it is a 1.5-mile track with progressive banking of 12 degrees on the bottom groove and 20 degrees up by the wall and no out of bounds in the Tri-Oval so you will see drivers passing down on the apron around the start/finish line throughout the race.
Tires are not a big issue here as the tire fall off is minimal so there won’t be quite as many four-tire stops as there were last week but when drivers do come to pit road, it is a tricky entrance to get to under green and there’s a bit of curve on both ends of it which can effect the speeding measurements and induce several speeding penalties during the race. The surface is relatively smooth though there are big bumps in the entrance of Turns 1 and 2 which can throw your car’s balance off especially if it’s a windy day like it was on Saturday.
Track position will be key during the race since there are only five drivers in the field with a +5 position differential mark in the last five races here but that being said there have been five or more drivers with double-digit positive position differential marks in four of the last five races meaning that passing is fairly easy but moving well into the top-10 after starting back in the pack is harder to do. There has only been one driver in the last 11 races here to win from the pole while three of the last five winners have started P2 and four of five started P4 or better.
Sunday’s race consists of 267 scheduled laps and in three of the last five races there has been one driver to lead 100+ laps while there have been five or more drivers to record double-digit fastest laps. All told 18 of the 22 races that have been held here have seen eight or fewer cautions with the most common number being six which has occurred nearly a third of the time (seven times) but only once in those 22 races has there been more than 20% of laps run under caution flags. Twelve of the races have seen 20+ lead changes with the most being 28 back in 2007 and the fourth most was the 23 that occurred last September.
Las Vegas Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Props Challenge
- Last year’s race had 23 lead changes. O/U 23.5 for this year’s race? This prop is always tough to read because it changes every year. And to be honest, I’m a little confused why NASCAR’s Props Challenge says there were 23 lead changes last season. Racing-Reference and another source(the ever-so-reliable Wikipedia) claim there were only 11 lead changes in last year’s race so that’s a big disparity. 23.5 is quite a bit and Harvick’s on the pole so he could potentially lead a good chunk of laps without a lead change early on. I’m going to take the UNDER on this one.
- Which young driver will finish higher at Las Vegas Motor Speedway? Chase Elliott or Ryan Blaney? They’re both starting 12th and 13th respectively and Blaney has a better track record here with five Top 20 finishes to Chase’s one. Blaney’s car has also looked pretty good in practice so we’ll play the numbers and go with Ryan Blaney.
- After showing speed at Atlanta, will rookie Daniel Hemric finish in the top 15? It wasn’t just Atlanta because he also looked pretty impressive in Daytona as well, but the overall finish just hasn’t been there for Hemric. He’s looked great and shown he can run towards the front. Top 15 seems within reach so I’ll say YES, he finishes Top 15 this week in Vegas.
- The average starting position for the last three Las Vegas March winners is 2.67. O/U starting position of 4.5 for this year’s race? If taking the under you are thinking Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Austin Dillon will win the race. This is tough because logic says to take the field but the Top 2 rows do feature guys that could win. Kyle Busch has finished Top 6 in the two races this year and seems on the brink of getting his first win in 2019, plus he runs well at Vegas as does Harvick. Austin Dillon had one of the fastest cars in qualifying so he could potentially pull out a win as well. Surprisingly I’m going to take the UNDER here and pick one of those four drivers to win.
- Las Vegas has averaged 17 lead changes in the past four races. O/U 17.5 lead changes for this year’s race? I don’t know why there’s another lead change prop, but here we are. Since I took the UNDER on the first one, I’ll take the UNDER here as well. If taking the Under on the first one and the over for this prop then I’m painting myself into a corner hoping for 18-23 lead changes. For the sake of continuity I’ll again take the under and hope for 16 or fewer lead changes to get both lead change props correct.
- Will the same driver win Stage 1 and 2? This is an easy NO for me. The stages really mix things up for NASCAR and sure it could happen, but we’ll play the odds and assume different drivers win each of the first two stages today.
- Kyle Larson was dominant at Atlanta, but was undone by a late pit-road speeding penalty. Will he rally for a top 5 finish at Las Vegas? I’m going to say YES with some hesitancy. There’s no denying how well he’s run at Vegas with three Top 5 finishes in his last five races here. Not to mention he is also starting seventh overall. Top 5 is tough, but Larson can get there. What worries me is that he was outside the Top 15 in single lap runs at practice. A little worried about this one, but I’ll say he finished Top 5.
- Ford had five drivers in the Top 10 at Atlanta last week. O/U 5.5 this week? I’m going to take the UNDER because five seems reasonable. Six seems like a challenge. I’ve already picked Larson (Chevy) to finish Top 5 and Kyle Busch (Toyota), Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota), Denny Hamlin (Toyota), Austin Dillon (Chevy), and Daniel Hemric (Chevy) could crack Top 10 also. The Fords have looked great so far, but six or more in the Top 10 is a tall order.
- Which team will have the highest-finishing driver? Stewart-Haas or Joe Gibbs? Alright to break this one down Stewart-Haas features Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, and Daniel Suarez. Joe Gibbs Racing features Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones. Kevin Harvick has a solid track history here with two wins, but if you listened to the podcast this week he qualified on the pole in group qualifying, but didn’t have one of the particularly faster cars. Plus we really like Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. and even Denny Hamlin’s starting second and could surprise some people. I’m going to go with Joe Gibbs Racing for this one.
- Will Martin Truex Jr. lead the most laps at Las Vegas? Truex owns Vegas. Over his last three races he has a win, three Top 5’s, and has led 252 laps in that span. Here’s the problem, he’s starting 23rd and there are 267 laps with Kevin Harvick and big names towards the front. If he does get to the lead it might not happen until Stage 2 when 80 laps have already been completed. He’s a great DFS play and could run incredibly well as he has in the past here. So we will timidly say NO and take the field here.