We have finally made it to the final weekend of the year for the 2023 NASCAR season. The Craftsman Truck Series will crown a new champion after Zane Smith failed to qualify for the championship four. Corey Heim, Carson Hocevar, Ben Rhodes, and Grant Enfinger will battle it out amongst themselves to determine who will be the new champion. Rhodes is the only driver of the group who has previously been crowned champion of this series and surprisingly, he’s had three different crew chiefs this year. Corey Heim is arguably the favorite to be crowned champion and he’s a coveted prospect in the TRD camp. But we can’t discount Hocevar or Enfinger. Hocevar broke through with multiple wins this year and will be racing in the Cup Series next year. Regarding Enfinger, he is basically racing for a job next year so he arguably has the most to gain from being named the 2023 Craftsman Truck Series champion. With GMS Racing closing shop in the offseason, he’ll look to build his resume up and land a full-time ride (hopefully) with another top team. But we can’t solely build our lineups around championship contenders so let’s take a look at the top plays and strategies for Friday night’s Craftsman 150!
Phoenix Raceway is a one-mile flat track that underwent a re-configuration about four years ago. It has a unique oval shape but it has its own dog leg that will allow the trucks to fan out wide and run the apron. The track does draw comparisons to others like New Hampshire and Richmond while we can also consider some like Gateway, IRP, and Milwaukee as well. As excited as I am for this weekend’s racing, I will get on my soap box and say how dumb it is that we didn’t/don’t have televised practice and qualifying for this race. It’s arguably the biggest race of the year for this series and Fox can’t find a way to televise this in any way. Not to mention, the race is buried in a 10:00pm ET time slot on FS1 Friday night. But either way, we are DFS players and fans of the sport so we’ll tune in, but it would be nice to get eyes on practice and qualifying to get an explanation as to why certain drivers may have qualified great or poorly.
Friday night’s race is scheduled for 150 laps broken into 45-45-60 laps segments with the green flag dropping around 10:11pm ET. We’ll have at most 100 dominator points at our disposal when we account for cautions and stage breaks. While the Xfinity and Cup Series did race here in the Spring, the Truck Series runs Phoenix just once and it’s historically been for the playoffs. Two of the last five championship races have not been won by the driver that ultimately wins the season championship. So while we do possibly see the winner of this race come from a championship-eligible driver, we shouldn’t assume they’ll win. With only 100-ish dominator points available we likely only need two dominators in our lineups while filling the rest of the build our with mid-range and value plays that can score well. In the last two races here we’ve primarily seen two distinct dominators. Three years ago there were three but I’m mostly leaning towards building with two. The championship drivers are the most expensive by far on the slate. It will become difficult to play three of them and it’s impossible to play all four. Be sure to check back later this evening for notes in RED following qualifying.
The Championship Four
Carson Hocevar ($11,200)
It’s crazy how the seasons of Carson Hocevar and Sam Mayer have paralleled each other. Both have raw talent within their respective series and once they both got their first win, it was like the flood gates had opened up. We saw something similar in the Cup Series with Chris Buescher this year, but he did previously have two wins on his resume prior to 2023. Hocevar did get off to a shaky start to the season. He won Texas in the Spring but finished outside the top 30 in four of the first eight races. Since the Kansas Spring race where he wrecked, he finished top 12 in 14 straight races including top five finishes at North Wilkesboro, Gateway, Richmond (winner), IRP, and Milwaukee (runner-up). He’s raced Phoenix four times in his career and has back-to-back top 10 finishes. The track history is okay but with how he’s raced this season you can play him with some confidence. Update: Starts P13. Hocevar/Heim stacks will be popular as both have plenty of win equity. Heim can lead the early laps while Hocevar potentially gets to the front later on.
Corey Heim ($11,000)
Despite the insane level of consistency we saw from Heim this year, he’s not the most expensive driver in the field. In 21 races this year, Heim finished outside the top 15 just once, and outside the top eight on just two occasions. That’s absurd. He’s finished eighth or better in 15 straight races with three wins baked into that sample size and plenty of laps led. He won Martinsville in the Spring and finished fourth at Milwaukee with 35 laps led and he was eighth at IRP with 18 laps led. He’s only run Phoenix once and that came last year where he registered a 111.3 driver rating and was consistently running in the top five but finished seventh. He’s my personal pick to win this season’s championship and possibly the race. Heim posted the second-fastest single lap, and second-fastest 10-lap metric during Thursday’s practice. Update: On the pole and has a great chance to lead plenty of laps, which we're used to from him. Plenty of win equity as well.
Grant Enfinger ($10,800)
You have to love Enfinger on a slate like this. We’ve been spot on with the analysis of him all year and have hit big on the tracks he’s won at. When Enfinger wins, he’s usually dominating the race. He led 232 laps all year and 225 of those came in his three wins. So when he does win, he’s putting up a monster score and I think if building 20 lineups you include him as a solo dominator in two of those. He won at Gateway and Milwaukee earlier this year. Those tracks vary in size but are similarly flat in nature. He also has some narratives working in his favor as he is essentially auditioning for his next team. He’ll likely land a job in good equipment especially after a year where he logged three wins. And it’s also doesn’t hurt that his daughter was born within the last week or so as well. Update: Will be popular after qualifying P17. Likely has top five ceiling but I'm a little off him simply because he doesn't have as easy of a path to dominator points as Heim and Hocevar do.
Ben Rhodes ($10,500)
Hard to believe that the only driver of the Championship Four with an actual championship is probably the one I’m most bearish on. Rhodes has had a fine season, no doubt about that, but he only carries one win at Charlotte while the other three drivers have multiple wins. But in the round of eight in the playoffs he came through finishing seventh at Bristol, second at Talladega, and second at Homestead where he led 22 laps. He wasn’t very good on the flat tracks this year aside from Martinsville in the Spring and he’s struggled with qualifying throughout the year. Even the year he won the Truck Series championship, he didn’t even win that year’s final race. Regardless, he’s probably the championship driver that offers the most PD following qualifying and he may be forced onto a different strategy than the others because of that. Update: Qualified P5 surprisingly so not as much PD as I was anticipating. Still a good contrarian play.
NASCAR DFS Driver Pool
Ty Majeski ($9,800)
As tempting as it is to put Zane Smith ($10,200) in the Playbook, I’m partial to Majeski pre-qualifying. I’m sure Zane will be a fine play but Majeski was right behind Heim in speed in practice. Remember, Majeski was without his crew chief for the last handful of races. Joe Shear Jr. is back after serving his penalty and the truck looks to have regained some speed from where it was a couple months ago. Majeski’s truck was top four in single-lap and 10-lap runs in practice Thursday night. He ran this race last year and finished second but he had good runs on flat tracks this year finishing fourth at Martinsville, second at North Wilkesboro, second at Richmond (168 laps led), and he was the winner at IRP (179 laps led). But remember for those last two races it’s largely believed that the team was cheating. But the truck looks fast and if anyone is looking to win this race that didn’t qualify for the championship, it might be Majeski but let’s see where he and Zane qualify. Update: Starts P2 and may have lower ownership if everyone tries to focus solely on the championship drivers. phenomenal GPP play and has some appeal for cash games.
Christian Eckes ($9,400)
Eckes came extremely close to qualifying for the championship especially when he led 150 laps at Bristol but finished second. Unfortunately, he had poor results at Talladega and Homestead so he’s out of the picture. But he still has three wins this year and prior to last year he had three straight top 10 finishes at Phoenix. He finished top three at Gateway, IRP, and Milwaukee but I’m not sure there’s too much win equity tonight. Update: Qualified P8. He's a decent play but I'd rather pay up or pay down from here.
Stewart Friesen ($8,700)
Qualified P20 and despite the down year, he still has top 10 upside. Given that Crafton saves you a ton of salary and starts further in the field, there may be some leverage here.
Nicholas Sanchez ($8,300)
Sanchez appears to have brought a fast truck as has been the case a few times this year. The affiliation with Kyle Busch Motorsports has certainly helped. Sanchez doesn’t have a win this year. He’s still pretty young and green and has a lot of maturing to do. However, he has led 25+ laps on four occasions this season, and his only experience at Phoenix came in the ARCA Series. He only ran 21 laps in practice and it doesn’t appear that he ran 10 consecutive laps, but his fastest lap was his last lap so he must have liked the speed at the end of the session to bring the truck in afterward… Or they slapped on a pair of fresh tires for a short run and called it a night. Update: Qualified P3 and I'd be surprised if he got around Heim or Majeski.
Matt Crafton ($8,000)
It was a toss-up between Crafton and Chase Purdy ($7,800). Purdy showcased great speed early in the practice session but that was also when there was less rubber on the track. So I’ll pass on Purdy for now and give the lean to Crafton. We’re going to need to identify some position differential to go with our dominators. Crafton has been pretty bad at qualifying this year so I’m banking on that being the case again for Friday’s race. He’s not the driver he used to be but he’s still in great equipment and grabbed nine top 10 finishes this year and he has plenty of experience at this track. Updated: Qualified P28. You know the drill. Derek Kraus has some appeal as well in this range if you need a little leverage.
Bayley Currey ($7,700)
It was announced in the last few weeks Currey would join Niece Motorsports full-time next season which is great to see because he’s had some great results in a small sample size this year. He grabbed top five finishes at Atlanta-1, Nashville, and Homestead. Overall for DFS, he’s been a solid mid-tier play at times as well and he’s never really qualified well since he usually goes out earlier in the session. He’s only run one race at Phoenix in the Truck Series, but he has additional experience from his time in the Xfinity Series. Currey, like several drivers, had a fast 10-lap average early in the practice session but I still think we have enough of a sample size to know he can score well and he’s likely mis-priced. Update: Qualified P11 so a good tournament-only play.
Tanner Gray ($7,500)
Gray qualified P25 and has top 15 appeal. He's had a bit of a down year considering his brother and teammates have seemingly been more consistent. For DFS, he offers PD at a good price tag.
Marco Andretti ($7,400)
If Currey is underpriced, then Andretti may be an even better value. He’s running the 7-truck for Spire Motorsports and we know this truck will have speed. Kyle Larson won with this truck at North Wilkesboro, Layne Riggs finished third at IRP, Derek Kraus grabbed a top 10 at Milwaukee, and even Carson Kvapil finished 12th at Bristol. Andretti may have not quite reached his ceiling at Homestead, but this ride has grabbed wins on shorter, flat tracks the last two seasons. But even at this price tag, we just need a good performance out of this play and there’s potentially 40-point upside depending on qualifying. Update: Prefer him more in cash games because he qualified poorly. If he doesn't move up then he's a driver we want leverage on and let everyone else roster him.
Jesse Love ($7,200)
Jesse Love received quite the promotion for the 2024 season. He will bypass a full-time season in the Truck Series as he will take over for Sheldon Creed in the 2-car for Richard Childress Racing. We know Love’s equipment on Friday will be top notch. It’s a TRICON truck which is on par with Corey Heim’s equipment. Love previously grabbed a top 10 at Gateway over the Summer and he was 13th at Kansas in September. He may just have the highest ceiling of anybody in this $7K range given the prospect pedigree and equipment. Update: Qualified P10 and has plenty of potential to finish where he starts or even move up a couple spots.
Jake Drew ($6,900)
Here’s the nice play for the final Truck Series race of the season. Drew has top 20 finishes in all five of his Truck Series races this season. But to his detriment for DFS, he’s qualified pretty well the last few so if he goes out and qualifies inside the top 18 he may be relegated to being a GPP play. But he’s in Hattori Racing Enterprises equipment so he’s capable of a top 15 as we’ve seen. Update: He literally qualified P18. Can't make this up.
Colby Howard ($6,300)
I have some interest in Conner Jones ($6,400) as well. We’ve seen him run well in his Thorsport equipment, but we have a larger sample size with Colby Howard. Howard has that boom-or-bust aspect to his fantasy profile, but he grabbed a top 15 here last Fall and he earned top 20’s at flat tracks like Martinsville, Gateway, and Milwaukee. I will say he did not finish five races this year so that speaks to the “bust” side of his potential. The practice metrics weren’t great and it doesn’t help us that the session wasn’t televised. But I’m guessing he qualifies outside the top 25 and offers up some position differential for this race. Update: Qualified P26. Don't love him as much for Cash games but I'm fine with the play for Tournaments.
Kaden Honeycutt ($6,100)
Honeycutt is in the 02-truck for Young’s Motorsports so he’s not a lock, but he can get the most out of this ride. As long as he isn’t starting too high I like the play from a GPP perspective. He finished 17th in this ride at North Wilkesboro and he grabbed a top 10 in this race a year ago with On Point Motorsports. You may find a better point-per-dollar play in the $5K range but Honeycutt does tend to run better than where he finishes. If he can string together a clean race and finish well then we’ll be incredibly happy with that. Update: Good value PD here with some top 20 appeal.
Stefan Parsons ($5,800)
Parsons could potentially be the chalk value play heading into qualifying. We’re used to him running in bad equipment, but he’ll be in the 25-truck for Rackley W.A.R. which is the truck Matt DiBenedetto drove all of last year and most of this year. Trevor Bayne drove this truck from the rear to a top 15 finish at Homestead a couple weeks ago and it was top 10 on flat tracks like Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Gateway, and IRP. Parsons doesn’t have the ceiling of the other drivers that previously drove this truck but there’s great value here if he can keep the truck clean. Update: Starts P24. Perfectly fine value play right here.
Tyler Hill ($5,600)
At this price tag you are basically hoping Hill goes out and does what he does best. You hope he qualifies outside the top 30 and that he finishes inside the top 30. He’s finished top 25 in four of his seven races this year and he’s never scored fewer than 15 fantasy points on DraftKings. 15 points at this price tag may not sound great but he’s a value play after all. He’s gone for 20+ points in five-of-seven races this year and nobody seems to ever play him because he’s not as consistent as his brother, Timmy. Update: Value chalk for Cash games because he starts dead last.
Sean Hingorani ($5,300)
Hingorani made his Truck Series debut this year with HRE where he finished 23rd at Milwaukee. He’s in the 75-truck this time around. This truck only runs a handful of races and it got off to a horrendous start this year with four finishes outside the top 30. It yielded much better results last year but Hingorani is dirt cheap. He has previous experience at Phoenix from the ARCA Series. There is risk because he’s only 17 years old and a bit of a hot head on the track. But I do think he has the upside to finish top 20 if the equipment holds up. Update: Hard to trust him in cash games because he qualified pretty well. But he won the ARCA West title today and I'm still impressed by the qualifying effort so I won't write him off for tournaments.
NASCAR DFS Core Drivers
|Cash Games||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Plays|
|Carson Hocevar ($11,200; Starting P13)||Stewart Friesen ($8,700; Starting P20)||Kaden Honeycutt ($6,100; Starting P27)|
|Corey Heim ($11,000; Starting P1)||Matt Crafton ($8,000; Starting P28)||Tyler Hill ($5,600; Starting P36)|
|GPP Plays/Pivots||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Plays|
|Grant Enfinger ($10,800; Starting P17)||Bayley Currey ($7,700; Starting P11)||Jesse Love ($7,200; Starting P10)|
|Ty Majeski ($9,800; Starting P2)||Tanner Gray ($7,500; Starting P25)||Stefan Parsons ($5,800; Starting P24)|