NASCAR DFS Playbook North Carolina Education Lottery 200: Top DraftKings Picks
Published: May 26, 2023
Updated: May 26, 2023
With NASCAR’s All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro a thing of the past, we now turn our attention to Memorial Day Weekend and every year this is easily the best weekend if you’re a motorsports fan. On Sunday, the F1 World Championship will be running the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 that afternoon, and then we cap it all off with the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Over 1,200 miles of racing in one day and we get to kick this phenomenal weekend off with the Craftsman Truck Series running under the lights for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. This marks the first race of the 2023 Triple Truck Challenge, so with some extra money hanging in the balance for these drivers, we should see a very exciting race. Here are the top NASCAR DFS plays on DraftKings for Friday’s Craftsman Truck Series race.
The Triple Truck Challenge is a simple format, somewhat similar to the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash. We get three races for the Truck Series and if a driver wins one race, they earn an extra $50,000. If they win two of the three, they win $200,000. And if they win all three races then they earn $500,000. Only full-time Truck Series drivers are eligible, so we won’t see any full-time Cup or Xfinity Series drivers competing in the TTC. It’s a great incentive program established by NASCAR to hopefully draw extra eyes to this series and these drivers and what better time to kick off the contest than the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend?
Charlotte Motor Speedway is what we call one of those “cookie cutter” 1.5-mile tri-oval intermediates. It’s very similar to the shape/layout of Vegas, Kansas, and Texas. This is considered a “crown jewel” track for NASCAR, especially since this is the home of NASCAR and the longest race every year for the NASCAR Cup Series. But we don’t need to limit ourselves to just looking at data from these similar tracks. I’m not opposed to looking at drivers who ran well at Darlington a few weeks ago, in addition to Vegas, Kansas, and Texas. The good news is the Truck Series has run those tracks already this season so we know who is fast entering this week and who has had success on these tracks throughout the season.
The NASCAR DFS contests on DraftKings this week are MUCH better than they have been in recent weeks. For example, the $1 Happy Hour contest has a $6,000 prize pool with $600 going to first place. That’s down a little from recent weeks where it had been $1,000, but I’m fine with 10% going to first place. Tenth place earns $60 which is 10% of first and 1% of the overall prize pool so I’m okay with that flatter, more balanced payout structure. The $4 Chrome Horn has a similar structure with a $10,000 prize pool. $1,000 goes to first (10%) and $100 goes to tenth. If you can afford the $10 Piston, by all means get some action in there. The payout structure falls off a little bit outside the top six but you do expect that more for the big GPP. But for the contests I typically target, the Chrome Horn and Happy Hour, they’re much more playable than they have been in recent weeks.
We get a true Craftsman Truck Series field this week with no full-time Cup or Xfinity Series drivers. So pricing is a bit normalized this week. No one is a heavy discount, but there are some drivers that may seem overpriced. We’ll have 134 laps for Friday’s race with practice and qualifying being run Friday afternoon starting at 1:35pm ET. We’ll know the starting order around 3:00pm ET and we’ll be able to build our lineups accordingly over the next five-to-six hours. The stages will be broken into 30-30-74 lap segments and we have roughly 85-90 dominator points on the table. Taking a two-dominator approach is where I’m at ahead of practice and qualifying, but if there’s a fast truck on the pole that can go dominate the first two stages and possibly the whole race then we can aim for a one-dominator build and try to find five other drivers with top ten equity or some drivers offering PD. The last three Charlotte races for the Truck Series have seen at least two trucks leading 25+ laps and collecting those precious dominator points. And fortunately, we’ve seen a few intermediate tracks already this year so we know how to approach our roster construction.
NASCAR DFS Driver Pool
As always, this Playbook will have updates in RED following practice and qualifying Friday afternoon.
Zane Smith ($10,800)
He makes the Playbook most weeks, and for good reason. He’s the defending series champion, has win equity every week, and he’s performed well at Charlotte and on intermediates. In his last three races at Charlotte he’s finished in the top ten in each (including two finishes in the top five) while leading double-digit laps in each race as well. Already this year he’s finished second at Vegas and third at Kansas. He’s finished outside the top 20 the last two races entering Charlotte, especially after he showed speed moving through the field last week at North Wilkesboro. He’s looking to get back on track and this is a great track for him to do so. Update: Qualified P14 so he has some work to do, but is probably okay for Cash games.
Corey Heim ($10,400)
I do like Ty Majeski as well this week for $200 more and will have exposure in my 20 Tournament lineups, but I’m going to highlight Heim simply because he’s been fast in each of the last four races. It doesn’t matter the track type or the surface, Heim’s truck has had speed everywhere. He won Martinsville last month, finished second at Kansas while collecting a few dominator points as well, and he was fast at Darlington before his crew chief made a moronic decision to stay out on older tires when everyone else took fresh tires. Strangely enough, that strategy almost paid off. Even last week at North Wilkesboro, Heim led 75 laps on that old short track. After not leading a single lap during the first six races he’s now led 236 laps over the last four. He finished fourth at Vegas and seventh at Texas so it’s safe to assume he’ll be in contention this week alongside Zane and Majeski. Update: Both Majeski and Heim were impressive in practice and qualifying. Majeski was fasted across most metrics and he'll start on the front row next to Tanner Gray. Majeski could have won the pole, but ran a slightly higher line on his qualifying lap. If he was more inside he probably wins the pole. But I have faith he can get around Gray early on just based on speed. Heim qualified P3 and is a good GPP play as well. I'm not opposed to playing Heim and Majeski together in Tournament builds.
Carson Hocevar ($10,200)
Hocevar has had great form the last two weeks. He was outstanding at Darlington where he grabbed a top five in the Truck Series race and finished sixth in the Xfinity race as well, plus he grabbed a top five finish last week at North Wilkesboro. Kansas was disappointing because he wrecked when he was in a chalky position starting P20, but he did score his first career win at Texas at the beginning of April and he finished seventh at Vegas with 19 laps led. Plus, he almost won last Fall’s Kansas race so he clearly has upside on intermediate tracks. The price tag is elevated this week and paying over $10K might be something most DFS players won’t want to do for Hocevar, but he’s shown the ability to run up front lately and could have some speed for this race.
Christian Eckes ($9,800)
Similar to Corey Heim’s write-up, I was torn between two drivers here: Eckes and Stewart Friesen. I’m leaning Eckes as of Friday morning simply because there’s more win equity here, considering Eckes has two wins on the year and Friesen maybe has one win in the last three years (it did come at Texas at least). Eckes has really put us through the ringer over his last eight races. In that span he has two wins (Atlanta and Darlington), but he’s also finished 15th (twice), 30th (thrice), and he finished 25th last week at North Wilkesboro. So clearly, this is mostly a GPP-only recommendation. He looked outstanding in practice and qualifying at Kansas where he won the pole but lost the lead early and ultimately wrecked out of the race. There’s a lot more variance here, but again, Friesen is live as well. His results on intermediates this year have been a little more consistent than Eckes, but he’s not as likely to win and collect dominator points.
Ben Rhodes ($9,400)
A tough year became even more difficult for Rhodes after he finished 33rd last week at North Wilkesboro. The former series champion has some top tens on his resume this year, but no wins and only two top five finishes. He did start P9 at Vegas and finished third, and while he started and finished tenth at Texas, he did have speed in the truck with 12 fastest laps and only one lap led. Kansas and Darlington were fairly disappointing races for him, but he has good track history at Charlotte. He’s finished tenth or better in six straight races here with three top five finishes baked into that sample size. He’s probably a Tournament-only play that likely won’t carry a ton of ownership. Update: I really can't explain what's going on with him but he qualified P19 so he's a good play for PD with some equity to finish in the top eight.
Matt Crafton ($9,100)
This $9K range is a little tough to read ahead of practice and qualifying, but I feel like ole reliable, Matt Crafton, is probably going to be on the safer end of the spectrum for Friday’s race, but that could change after qualifying. Crafton started and finished 11th at Vegas, started P21 and finished 13th at Texas, started P21 and finished 11th at Kansas, and he started P19 and finished 12th at Darlington. I will acknowledge that none of these results would pay off the $9,100 price tag on DraftKings, but they’d probably do well enough in Cash games to still score well. He’s probably a few hundred bucks too expensive, but he likely qualifies just inside the top 20 (again) and has top ten upside for 40+ points on DraftKings. Update: Crafton actually qualified worse than I anticipated at P24, but that just gives us more PD to work with. He's actually the only driver in the field with a win at Charlotte. He doesn't have a great chance to win tonight, but is likely optimal if he finishes top 12. Matt DiBenedetto is viable in this range since he qualified P20. He's been very hit-or-miss this year and hasn't had the greatest luck on intermediates.
David Gilliland ($8,900)
Kind of an interesting option here this week. Gillliland makes his first appearance in the Truck Series in two years under the new team of TRICON Garage that he co-owns with Johnny Gray (the grandfather of Tanner and Taylor Gray). Gilliland will be in the 1-truck which has been fast and has had decent results with less qualified drivers. William Sawalich, a very promising TRD driver, grabbed a top ten in this truck at Martinsville and Toni Breidinger impressed with a top 15 at Kansas a few weeks ago. More recently, Bubba Wallace finished seventh in this ride at Darlington and he was top five last week at North Wilkesboro. He'll be one worth watching during Friday afternoon’s practice and qualifying sessions, but we can at least take solace in that he has plenty of experience and he’s in a truck that’s had the right setup recently.
Nick Sanchez ($8,300)
Well we don’t have too many drivers that are discounted this week, but DraftKings is a bit reactionary with the pricing on Sanchez. I would limit exposure to just Tournaments because his overall finishes leave a lot to be desired. But we’ve seen the 2-truck for Rev Racing have speed on intermediates this year. He collected some dominator points at Vegas but wrecked in stage three. But the speed was still there. At Texas he won the pole and led 168 laps because the truck was once again incredible. A late-race incident dropped him outside the top ten but the abundance of dominator points early on still helped him make the optimal lineup. I expect the speed to be there once again given the partnership with Kyle Busch Motorsports and this is the kind of track he can regain his form at. Update: Sanchez was fast in practice, however some debris on the track cut his oil line and the team had to make repairs to fix it in time for tonight's race. Because of that, he couldn't qualify and starts outside the top 30. He will be very heavily-owned so he's an easy Cash game play, but don't be too irresponsible here in Cash games.
Jake Garcia ($7,700)
Not in love with this price tag for Garcia, but compared to some drivers priced above him I feel most confident in him despite this being his rookie campaign. He wasn’t great at Darlington, but that’s fine because he wasn’t on our DFS radar after he qualified in the top five. But he finished top ten at Vegas, Texas, and Kansas including a top five finish at Kansas that came from a little chaos. It might be another situation to fade him if he qualifies in the top five once again, but I’m on board if he qualifies outside the top ten, but we’ll need as much PD as possible out of him for him to pay off the price tag. Update: Qualified P15 so love him once again for Tournaments.
Tyler Ankrum, ($7,400)
This is not a slam dunk, but Ankrum starts outside the top 30 because of an engine issue and he didn't post a qualifying lap. He's not as easy of a play as Sanchez is, but he's live for Cash games but the engine swap is somewhat concerning.
Rajah Caruth ($7,200)
The last couple weeks I’ve written up Caruth because he’s been looking more comfortable and he’s flashed plenty of speed. He arguably had a top five ride at Kansas before he wrecked himself trying to throw a block on Ty Majeski. But he started P13 at Darlington and finished sixth with six fastest laps and even I had my reservations about him given how tough that track can be on rookies, but he crushed it. I’m hoping the speed and recent form translates to Friday’s race because if he starts in the top 15 again, he could be an outstanding Tournament play if he’s fast in practice. Update: Only live for GPP's and Tournaments. Truthfully you should limit exposure to maybe 10-12% of your Tournament lineups since he qualified so well, but the speed was there once again for Caruth.
Colby Howard ($6,800)
This will come down to where everyone qualifies in this range. Hailie Deegan is cheaper and might have more top 20 equity than Howard. But she’s been qualifying better and we could very well consider Tyler Hill if he qualifies outside the top 25 like he did at Kansas. But in looking at Howard, he started P27 at Vegas and finished 18th, started P24 at Texas and finished 20th, and he started P36 and finished 17th at Darlington. Kansas was a poor race but he also qualified P15 so he wasn’t a driver we were locking in. But assuming he qualifies near P25 or worse, he’ll be a good value play that should pay off the price tag if he runs clean. Update: All three are in play as they all qualified outside the top 20. Hill is probably the best play for Cash games since he starts P29. But Deegan and Howard still have some appeal in Tournaments.
Bret Holmes ($6,200)
I always have my concerns about Holmes but he is a good driver overall. The knock against him is that his team is pretty small, clearly without the funding of larger teams. He runs most of his races sponsoring his own truck, but he’s finished each of the last eight races 23rd or better. Three weeks ago he started P28 at Kansas and finished 14th, then the following week at Darlington he started P34 and finished 23rd. However, he did start P12 at Texas and finished 23rd. So his status as a DFS target really does depend on where he qualifies.
Daniel Dye ($5,800)
Let it be known that I still have some worries with Daniel Dye, but I’m willing to consider the possibility that maybe he’s growing and maturing as a driver. He does have six finishes in the top 20 this year including Vegas and Kansas, but he was also 19th at Darlington. The equipment is still very good and he’s a younger driver that can still get better. I like the way he’s trending and will given him plenty of consideration in Tournaments. Don’t think I like him for Cash games unless he screws the pooch in qualifying.
Lawless Alan ($5,600)
Alan will likely be the popular $5K driver since he’s a relatively safe play in this range. He was a bit of a dud at Darlington, but he’s finished in the top 20 at Vegas, Texas, and Kansas so far this year so it’s possible we see another top 20 Friday night. In this race last year he started P33 and finished 22nd so he might just be more comfortable on these intermediate tri-ovals. Update: GPP only since he qualified P16.
Mason Maggio ($5,100)
I don’t have a ton of faith in the driver, but the truck he’s in is pretty decent. Maggio has run in terrible equipment this year. He ran Atlanta for Young’s Motorsports and finished 35th after being caught in a wreck. At Kansas he drove the 33-truck for Reaume Brothers Racing and finished 27th after starting P33. But the 22-truck for AM Racing, which he’ll be in this weekend, just might be a top 25 ride. Max Gutierrez drove this truck at Vegas and started P30 and finished 21st. Josh Reaume drove this truck at Texas, started P29 and finished 21st and then at Kansas, Reaume again started P29 and finished 24th. At the comparable tracks and with a who’s who of drivers, this truck can finish in the top 25, maybe even the top 20. I think Maggio is capable of keeping this truck clean and can squeeze some PD out of it, if he can go out and qualify towards the back. Update: Qualified outside the top 30 and hits value if he finishes 24th or better.
NASCAR DFS Core Plays
|Cash Games||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Tier|
|Zane Smith ($10,800; Starting P14)||Matt Crafton ($9,100; Starting P24)||Tyler Hill ($6,400; Starting P29)|
|Ty Majeski ($10,600; Starting P2)||Nick Sanchez ($8,300; Starting P34)||Mason Maggio ($5,100; Starting P31)|
|Ben Rhodes ($9,400; Starting P19)|
|GPP Targets/Pivots||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Tier|
|Ty Majeski ($10,600; Starting P2)||Chrisian Eckes ($9,800; Starting P6)||Bret Holmes ($6,200; Starting P26)|
|Corey Heim ($10,400; Starting P3)||Jake Gacia ($7,700; Starting P15)||Daniel Dye ($5,800; Starting P18)|
|Carson Hocevar ($10,200; Starting P12)||Tyler Ankrum ($7,400; Starting P35)|