NASCAR DFS Playbook Fr8 208: John Hunter Nemechek Becomes A Top Play
Published: Mar 18, 2023
Updated: Mar 18, 2023
The Craftsman Truck Series is back after a week off and we are going to my neck of the woods, Atlanta Motor Speedway. Personally, I’m very excited for this weekend. We have the first Saturday double-header of the year with both the Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series racing Saturday afternoon around the new configuration for AMS. We saw each series get their feet wet with this new configuration last year and it does lend itself more to the kind of racing we see on superspeedways. The losses of old Atlanta and, more recently, Auto Club Speedway mean that we’re seeing less and less high tire wear tracks on the NASCAR schedule. It kind of sucks depending on your prerogative, but the new layout for Atlanta does give smaller teams a chance to land a win. It’s not my favorite style of racing for DFS, but I love seeing this kind of racing live and I’m beyond excited for this weekend’s action so let’s dive into what we need to know for the Fr8 208!
Atlanta Motor Speedway is still a 1.5-mile tri-oval but with the new features, you could basically call it Atlanta Motor Sorta-Superspeedway. The banking in the corners used to be 24 degrees, but that’s changed to 28, but the corners have also been reduced to 40 feet in width, down from 55. But the front stretch is 52 feet wide while the back stretch is 42 feet. Last year’s inaugural Truck Series race on this track saw seven cautions for 40 laps. So 40 of the 135 laps were ran under caution and only 19 of the 36 drivers finished on the lead lap. And simply just watching the racing it’s clear, they’ve turned this intermediate into a superspeedway-hybrid with the required drafting that’s necessary to get around this track. Now, one change that they’re making this year is that pit road commitment is on the apron on entry into turn three. Without practice this may cause some confusion and it wouldn’t surprise me to see some drivers miss the commitment line, but hopefully we don’t see a massive wreck because of a blunder like that.
Saturday’s race for the Craftsman Truck Series will have 135 laps (30-30-75 lap segments) which is a nice bonus if we can nail them in DFS. In last year’s Truck Series race on the new configuration, we did see three drivers lead at least 20 laps (Corey Heim, Chandler Smith, and Stewart Friesen) while Friesen was the only one to lead at least 40. Fastest laps we more distributed. Losing 40 laps to caution wasn’t great, but only one driver collected double-digit fastest lap points and that was Tanner Gray. Nine drivers were able to gain at least ten positions while two others did gain nine positions in PD. PD and overall finishing position are what we’re looking for when building lineups for this type of race.
As far as contest selection goes, and bankroll management in general, I’m not going to go too heavy this week. I’m coming off back-to-back profitable weeks and I don’t want to throw it all back for this new Atlanta layout. Originally, I was going to do just one Cash lineup for each series and play it light. However, since qualifying was cancelled on Friday and the lineup was set by the metric, I’m going to be doing some Tournament builds for the Happy Hour, but still not playing incredibly heavy. I will be in the NASCAR DFS Discord channel from 9:00am-1:00pm ET on Saturday. As soon as the clock strikes 1:00 that day I will be heading down to the track to get there in time for this specific race. So I apologize if I miss a question just before the race goes green, but I will try and make myself as available to you all as I can. Given that we didn’t have a practice or qualifying session, this Playbook is essentially locked in and the Core Plays are available as well at the bottom.
NASCAR DFS Driver Pool
Before we dive into the following drivers, just know that no driver is truly off the table today. It’s really about nailing the winner, maybe a driver that leads 30+ laps, and getting six drivers to finish in the top ten. I don’t write up the whole field here including all the guys starting in the rear, but you should just know that you don’t want too many drivers starting up front. One or two is fine, hey maybe even three is optimal today if there isn’t a ton of chaos. But you will need some PD in your build to go with strong finishes.
Zane Smith ($11,100; Starting P1)
Smith was a virtual Cash game lock at this race a year ago. He started P25 and was one of the few drivers to actually gain 20+ spots of position as he finished fifth with some fastest laps at his disposal. He has historically thrived in this pack racing/drafting style as he’s won the last two Truck Series races at Daytona, although the win earlier this year was shortened because NASCAR was caught in a losing battle with the lightest of rain that wouldn’t stop. This price tag is kind of stupid for a “drafting” race because in addition to a good finish, he probably does need to lead a bunch of laps, which he certainly can do from the front row. Regardless he’s shown the ability to run up front at this style of track and we’re getting some win equity as well.
John Hunter Nemechek ($10,800; Starting P24)
JHN makes a return to the Truck Series as he will race for TRICON garage. The starting order was set by the metric so he’ll start outside the top 20 and a lot of folks will view him as a lock for Cash games and that’s fair. Last year in this race with Kyle Busch Motorsports he was consistently running in the top ten for the first two stages and led 11 laps. Ultimately he finished two laps down, but he still carries enough experience in this style of racing and the PD potential alone makes him an intriguing play. It shouldn’t be hard fitting him into lineups this week since salary isn’t really too much of a problem in races like this.
Corey Heim ($10,200; Starting P6)
I anticipate Heim will be popular in Tournaments on Saturday. He won this race a year ago leading 22 laps after starting P19. He’s also a Georgia boy, having grown up in Marietta, GA. Dating back to his time in the ARCA Series, he’s run very well on superspeedways. He won Daytona and Talladega in 2021 while winning again in 2022. He hasn’t had as much success on those two tracks so far in the Truck Series, but he did score a top ten at Daytona last month.
Stewart Friesen ($10,000; Starting P14)
Friesen had a very good showing here last year and is a great “lineup theory” play given that he’s starting P14 and has some PD on his side. He started on the front row in this race a year ago and led 49 laps on his way to a sixth-place finish, but he was regularly contending up front and I think he understands how important track position will be in this race. He may not get to the head of the pack until stage two, but he’ll be a popular target amongst drivers starting in the teens.
Grant Enfinger ($9,600; Starting P7)
Enfinger is just a smart, savvy driver. I know he finished 12th here last year after starting eighth, but he led 14 laps and almost pulled off an intelligent move to win stage one. Heading into turns three and four and got off of Friesen’s tail to kill his momentum while taking a push from the draft and it almost paid off as he gave Friesen one hell of a run to the green-white checkered flag. This is a guy who won at Daytona three years ago (and finished fifth there last month) and he has a win in his career at Talladega. There’s some win equity here, but overall this is just a driver that can deliver a very strong performance if he manages to keep the ride clean.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,800; Starting P10)
Matty D had a rather forgetful run in this race last season. He got into the wall on basically the second lap of the race and just struggled to make up ground from there and he finished 30th, 12 laps off the leaders. Not a great start. However, he did bounce back later in the year and scored his first career win at Talladega and he grabbed a top ten at Daytona last year as well. The equipment isn’t great, but this style of track might be his best bet at winning and getting into the playoffs. Even during his time in the Cup Series he grabbed a handful of top ten finishes at Daytona. Now you do have to roll the dice with this truck because you’re hoping it comes off the truck without any issues. If he stays clean then this is a race he can win, although he is a bit of a dark horse.
Tanner Gray ($8,500; Starting P11)
Gray is an interesting option for Saturday afternoon’s race. He looked comfortable in this race a year ago where he grabbed a top ten and ten fastest laps, without leading the race. He’s even finished top ten in his last two races at Daytona. He doesn’t have a great resume at Talladega, but it is nice to find a mid-range play that can run up front with the best drivers in this series and work his way into a top five finish.
Layne Riggs ($8,300; Starting P23)
As I began my analysis of this race earlier in the week I was pretty excited to see Layne Riggs would be running and making his 2023 debut. Add in the fact that he’ll be in a TRICON truck and that makes me even more intrigued. The price tag isn’t bad, likely elevated because of the equipment, but in three races a year ago he finished top 20 in them all with a couple top 15 finishes as well. But none of those tracks compare to what he’ll be running in on Saturday, and he isn’t getting practice. I’m not incredibly excited about this play, but he does offer PD and the equipment should hold up without a wreck.
Chase Purdy ($7,900; Starting P9)
I like to believe that Purdy is a pretty good driver in the draft. When he’s been able to run clean races, he’s finished pretty well. He finished 17th at Daytona last month, but did finish second in stage two. Last year in this race he started P20 and finished 14th with Hattori Racing Enterprises, and he even has a pair of top tens at Talladega. He’ll be starting a bit high, but I still like the play for tournaments.
Nick Sanchez ($7,600; Starting P20)
We can finally get ourselves some exposure to Sanchez. Casual players (if any exist for the Truck Series when it comes to DFS), will see the -13 and -9 scores on DraftKings and pass. But keep in mind, he started on the front row for the first two races this season. So nobody was playing him either way. The fact he started on the front row tells me he has a ton of pure speed and he has the KBM affiliation and other Chevy’s to draft with. He is one of my favorite Tournament plays on the slate and we finally have some PD with Sanchez as well.
Hailie Deegan ($7,100; Starting P32)
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m mentioning Deegan this week because on paper, she’s a good play. She’ll start toward the rear and really only needs a top 20 to be a good play. she’ll have plenty of manufacturer teammates to work with in the draft. My concern is that she really only has one top 15 finish in this type of track. She’s better suited for Cash games this week because of the floor, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t finish the race. She cut a tire early in this race a year ago, she wrecked in Daytona last month, and she really only has one top ten in a handful of races that cater to this style of racing. Deegan chalk never seems like a good thing so I would be underweight in tournaments, but you can still play her in Cash games for the floor.
Bret Holmes ($6,900; Starting P33)
Holmes is the nice play of the day for the Truck Series. He hasn’t finished either of the first two races this year, but I’m wiping the slate clean and starting him from this position. He was a part-time driver last year, but he had an average finish of 18.8 across his eight races in 2022 and that includes a top three finish at Talladega. He offers a ton of PD so his ownership will be elevated, but he’s just a great play overall as long as he can be on the lead lap when this race takes the white flag.
Bayley Currey ($6,700; Starting P30)
Earlier in the week we were mourning the loss of one of our favorite Xfinity value plays as Currey was released from JD Motorsports. And just a few days later… HE’S BACK! Currey is set to run the 41-truck for Niece Motorsports. Honestly, I hope he gets time in this ride for other tracks as well but I’m excited to see him in this race and he’ll be offering some juicy PD since he’ll be starting towards the rear. Is Currey an excellent “drafting” racer? Honestly, not really. I think in his time in the Xfinity Series between Daytona, Talladega, and the two races last year at Atlanta, he has maybe a pair of top 20 finishes. But the Niece Motorsports equipment is pretty good and it should hold up. Currey makes for a pretty strong Cash and GPP play this week with PD on his side.
Ryan Vargas ($6,300; Starting P35)
It’s a little wild to me that Vargas is more expensive than Jack Wood who is at least running in equipment we know won’t fail him. Vargas wasn’t able to get in on much of the West coast swing, which is a bummer because he’s endeared himself to West coast racing fans. But I’m glad he’s back for Atlanta. He’s in the 30-truck for On Point Motorsports and this truck grabbed a top 25 in the rain-shortened race at Daytona last month. We saw Tate Fogleman and Kaden Honeycutt get some good runs in “drafting” races a year ago in this raide. Vargas himself has some great results in this type of racing and he’ll be starting towards the rear for Saturday’s action, firmly putting him in play for those stacking the back.
Jack Wood ($6,100; Starting P17)
I’m trying to keep an open mind with Jack Wood. The equipment is great and he offers PD. He tends to wreck more than most, but he’s had some decent finishes in his career in the draft. He started P22 in this race last year and finished 13th and he was running in the top ten through the first two stages at Daytona this year. Don’t pay too much attention to the poor finish because that race was called off in stage three due to rain. So he didn’t even wreck, he just was running 27th at the time the race was waved off. So while we normally hate rostering this kid, try to keep an open mind this week because there is upside.
Spencer Boyd ($4,900; Starting P27)
Boyd won’t start as far back as we may like but he’ll still be outside the top 25. He likely won’t break the slate by any means, but there is still plenty to like about him for Cash games. Last year we saw him start P30 here and he finished 20th. In his four races at Daytona in the Truck Series from 2019-2022 he finished top 20 in them all including three finishes of 13th or better. Even in four races at Talladega he has a win and three finishes in the top 13. So while we hope the equipment holds up, he’s proven that he can keep the truck clean and ride around the back and move up as others potentially wreck out.
NASCAR DFS Core Plays
|Cash Games||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Tier|
|John Hunter Nemechek||Hailiee Deegan||Bayley Currey|
|Stewart Friesen||Bret Holmes||Ryan Vargas|
|Tournaments||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Tier|
|Zane Smith||Layne Riggs||Bayley Currey|
|Grant Enfinger||Nick Sanchez||Ryan Vargas|