The Food City 500 on Sunday is the fifth race of the 2024 NASCAR season. Bristol Motor Speedway is back to it’s usual concrete surface for the Spring race bringing back it’s nickname of Thunder Valley. The famed short track in the Tennessee mountains is one of the shortest tracks on the NASCAR schedule but it packs a punch in excitement, racing, and speed. Looking at DraftKings and FanDuel for NASCAR DFS, what is the strategy for building lineups for Bristol? What are the race trends we’re looking at for the Food City 500? Which drivers are the top plays for NASCAR DFS? We’re breaking down everything for the Food City 500 below.

Bristol Motor Speedway Race Trends

Bristol is known as a track where it’s hard to pass. The bump and run will be used often on Sunday. When we look at the table below, we can see just how tough it is to move up here, in some respects. The top-10 has tended to stay the top-10 throughout most races here with just over 40-percent of the top-10 starting outside the top-12 in any given race. The race winner has also started inside the top-8 in all but one of the last seven races here. Getting large chunks of PD is tougher here than most places in general, unless the field is skewed in some way. The races with the most double-digit PD were ones where the field had fast cars in the back, much like this week. Dan and I were talking about laps led being key this week and as you can see in the chart, in four of the last five races, 479 or more laps led have come from the drivers starting in the top-10. Twice all 500 laps have come from drivers starting in the top-10.

Positive Place Differential151922222019.6
Six+ Place Differential Spots71611111311.6
Double-Digit Place Differential41048137.8
Double-Digit Fast Laps101012161312.2
20+ Laps Led555454.8
50+ Laps Led334353.6
100+ Laps Led332232.6
Lead Lap Finishers10121962213.8
Top-10 Finish %3435744%
Laps Led From Top-1047933150049250074%

Bristol NASCAR Practice and Qualifying Results

Below is a chart showing practice speeds compared to qualifying spots for the Food City 500. I have highlighted the drivers in Group B as their session was screwed up following a caution two laps into the run. The qualifying session was also topsy turvy since Group A hadn’t been on the track in the lower grip conditions. This is going to make for a interesting grid on Sunday throughout the race.

DriverAvg. Prac to QualQual1-Lap5-Lap10-lap15-lap20-Lap
Ryan Blaney0111111
Josh Berry-1922626241811
Denny Hamlin-223302422  
Joey Logano-145466 
Chase Elliott-175162920  
Chase Briscoe-146232216  
Michael McDowell-3771311  
William Byron386554 
Bubba Wallace6932326
Kyle Larson-8101718   
Martin Truex Jr-1411292323  
Christopher Bell7128643 
Harrison Burton-5131332211610
Kyle Busch5142718  
Erik Jones-15153327   
Zane Smith41620171285
Brad Keselowski-3172119   
Corey Lajoie31819151510 
Ty Gibbs-15193433   
Daniel Hemric32024201412 
Austin Cindric-921273627  
Noah Gragson14221511952
Tyler Reddick523322517117
Todd Gilliland924181413  
Ryan Preece-2252528   
John H. Nemechek182610101073
Ricky Stenhouse Jr5272235251712
Daniel Suarez15281116   
Alex Bowman5292821   
AJ Allmendinger213098714 
Austin Dillon931353019159
Justin Haley19321412   
Kaz Grala133363426  
Chris Buescher24341298138
Carson Hocevar4353131   
Ross Chastain323643294

DraftKings Bristol Scoring Trends

Below is a chart showing the scoring averages by position over the last five concrete races at Bristol. It’s solely based on the starting spot so as to get a better idea of the typical results that happen at this track.

FanDuel Bristol Scoring Trends

Below is a chart showing the scoring averages by position over the last five concrete races at Bristol. It’s solely based on the starting spot so as to get a better idea of the typical results that happen at this track.

Food City 500 DFS Strategy

Knowing everything we know above, how are we building lineups for this race? Well the top priority with builds is to get laps led into your lineups. It’s not solely about that but if you have hopes of moving up a leaderboard you need laps led. In the past few races here, we’ve seen that three drivers are capable of leading over 100 laps and even when it’s been just two topping 100, there are a few drivers between 50-90. Given the way the field is shaping up for Sunday, I’d imagine we see three drivers lead over 100 laps and given the nature of Bristol, they’ll come from inside the top-12.

In terms of hunting position differential, there are a lot of options out there thanks to the qualifying results. This should be a race where we see quite a few drivers moving up well and should get 7-8 posting 10+ spots of PD. On the podcast Dan and I mentioned that starting in the back here can be worrisome, but we have a few fast drivers that should move up well (a few  written up below).

So all told we’re looking for about half our builds to be laps led dominators and the other half to be high-end PD plays. If you’re building for cash perhaps four PD plays and two dominators instead. To get sneaky in GPPs we’ll be looking to play drivers who may have qualified higher than they should’ve because Bristol is a track where a driver can hold that spot better than most places.

Top Tier Salary Driver Plays

Kyle Larson

Larson is elite here. His average finish over the last six concrete races (of which he’s run four) is 3.7. That’s six spots better than the next closest. That includes a win and a runner-up as well. While he didn’t have the speed we expected at Phoenix last week, this is a different package on the car and one he’s been fast in so far. Starting P10 should give him the shot to move up but in all fairness we need him to lead a big chunk of laps at his price and that may be a tough ask.

Christopher Bell

Bell continues to be a speed demon and that should be no different here on Sunday. Assuming the practice speed holds, which it should, Bell should find his way up to the top-five in no time and be able to lead laps in a big chunk. Aside from Ryan Blaney, Bell might be the most popular pick in this range of drivers for his combo of PD and dominator upside.

Ryan Blaney

Blaney was all sorts of fast on Saturday. Not only is he on the pole but he led practice in pretty much every speed metric as you can see above. He’s been quick here before and has a propensity for leading laps at Bristol. That being said though, he’s yet to bring his fast cars home in victory lane here. If he has a pit issue or catches a lapped car the wrong way, it could spell the end of his shot to win.

Chris Buescher

Buescher has been great on the short tracks over the last year or so including a win here in 2022. He had good speed in practice before losing grip on his qualifying run and rolling off P34. That does give him great PD upside, and he’s moved up well before as he won from P20, however we need him to move up a ton to hit value. At this price tag he’ll need to finish P14 or better without counting fastest laps or laps led to hit 5x value. There’s risk here but if he uses the right pit strategy he could move up in chunks and hold that track position.

Mid-Tier Salary Driver Plays

Ross Chastain

With the cars having the intermediate package on them this week, that plays into Chastain’s hand quite well. He’s been fast in that package pretty much everywhere and at practice that was on display again. He’ll start P36 which can be frightening at Bristol, however historically the driver starting last do well here. Just check above.

Chase Elliott

Elliott is a bit opposite of Chastain. Practice speeds weren’t great but qualifying was. So which do we believe? How about track history? He’s posted four top-10s in the last six concrete races here and rolling off P5 gives him a great shot at doing that again. If he can lead some laps, get some fastest laps, and finish where he started, there’s value here and a shot to be under-played.

Ty Gibbs

It’s becoming hard to saying no to playing Gibbs. The youngster has had speed in every race this year and he’s building off a strong rookie campaign. Gibbs had issues at practice after getting into the wall but had enough speed to qualify P19. With the issues fixed in the car, he should be a threat for a top-10 finish.

Bubba Wallace

It’s been a theme we’ve been talking about for a little while now that Wallace is surprisingly good at short tracks. The 23-car has the speed once more to be good here once more. Granted it was in the unaffected practice group, but the Toyotas in general were quick. He’ll start P9 on Sunday and has the speed to stick there throughout the race. One word of caution though, a P9 would be a top finish for him in his Cup career at Bristol.

Value Tier Salary Driver Plays

Michael McDowell

The qualifying speed showed up again for McDowell as he’ll start P7 on Sunday. At a track where a whopping amount of cars who start in the top-10 hold on to that spot. The 34-car has not only finished top-10 in three of the last four similar races to Bristol but also in three of the last four Bristol races.

Noah Gragson

Gragson has been the bright spot for SHR this year. The speed in the 10-car has been real everywhere they’ve gone so far and it appears to be again this week. Gragson had success at Bristol in the Xfinity Series and he’s coming off a strong run at Phoenix last week. Gragson will have the speed to be a top-15 threat on Sunday on a team that usually runs well at a Bristol.

Todd Gilliland

Gilliland is starting P24 on Sunday but ran in the top-15 (assuming we can trust practice speeds) at practice. Aside from that though, he’s finished P18 and P16 in his two concrete runs at Bristol after starting P30 each time. He also has three top-20 finishes in the last four similar races he’s run. That’s enough to take a shot on cheap PD that’s under-the-radar.

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