As the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series comes to its conclusion, we look back on the up’s and down’s… And some more down’s… And probably a few more down’s on top of those lows. It’s the Xfinity Series, by far my least favorite for DFS, but I’m still very much looking forward to the race on Saturday. Considering the NFL DFS main slate is a dumpster fire, it’s nice to embrace and enjoy the final weekend of racing until February. The championship field was officially set last weekend at Martinsville after Richard Childress Racing went from potentially having both drivers in the championship race, to having zero. Jr. Motorsports teammates, Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier, will contend for the title alongside John Hunter Nemechek from Joe Gibbs Racing, and Cole Custer from Stewart-Haas Racing. Let’s dive into the drivers and strategies for Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship!
I won’t dwell too much on last night’s race. I was excited for this weekend’s action, but that race sucked the fun out of the room. It was one of the worst races of the year, and for a championship no less. But congratulations to Ben Rhodes for winning his second Truck Series championship in three years. I can’t believe I’m looking to the NASCAR Xfinity Series to redeem us for last night’s debacle but here we are. We’ll have 200 laps around the flat surface of Phoenix Raceway and this awkward shape. These laps will be broken into 45-45-110 laps with likely 110-120 dominator points at our disposal. I’m mostly going to be going with a two-dominator build for this race given the amount of laps and that seems to have been how most builds play out for the Xfinity Series this year. Ultimately if there’s even still half the chaos of last night’s race we could be in for a wild ride.
The Championship Four
John Hunter Nemechek ($11,500)
His resume in the Xfinity Series at Phoenix isn’t awful. In six races he’s never finished outside the top 10 and he has a driver rating over 100 in five of those races. In the Truck Series he grabbed a top five in the final race a year ago and led 44 laps. But as far as this year is concerned, he’s easily been the class of the field. He led 19 laps in this race in the Spring while finishing sixth. But for the comparable flat tracks he grabbed wins at Martinsville and New Hampshire while finishing second at Richmond. But this is a short, flat track and JGR thrives on this style of track regardless of the series. During practice, he was fastest in single-and-10-lap metrics so we can play with plenty of confidence. Update: Qualified P3
Justin Allgaier ($11,200)
All the championship drivers showed up with speed this weekend. While JHN had the fastest laps in practice, I’m not sleeping on the other three. Allgaier has plenty of experience here. 26 races, in fact. He has a pair of wins and over his last 13 races at Phoenix, he’s led 525 laps which is an average of about 40 laps per race. He won the first two stages at Phoenix earlier this year but wrecked in stage three. He led 27 laps at New Hampshire but has really found his groove in the playoffs, having won three of the last nine races this year, including last week at Martinsville. Justin Allgaier is basically a staple in the Xfinity Series, yet he’s never won a championship. He’s hungry and has momentum. Update: Qualified P8
Cole Custer ($11,000)
Custer’s been very streaky this year. Across the first six races this year, he had just one top 10 finish and that was at Daytona. Then across his next 11 races he didn’t finish worse than ninth and he had two wins in that span. Then he followed that up with four straight finishes outside the top 15. And then in eight of his next nine races he finished in the top seven. Now for this race he’s finished 13th and 19th in his last two performances, but he did 114 laps at Homestead and we can probably assume the car has speed since he laid down the second-fastest single lap in practice followed by the third-fastest 10-lap average. He’s been okay on the flatter tracks this year but given the pricing on this slate, we’re naturally drawn to JHN and Allgaier. Update: Qualified P7
Sam Mayer ($10,800)
Mayer always seemed like that driver who, when he got his first win, more would easily follow. Through his first 70 Xfinity Series race he had zero wins. Over his last 13 races he has four, but three of them came on road courses. I think it’s also worth mentioning that he’s wrecked four times in the playoffs. Short, flat tracks are not his specialty. He wrecked in both Martinsville races (bit of a different animal from Phoenix though) and he finished outside the top 15 at Richmond and New Hampshire. Yes, the car had speed in practice but every championship driver’s car looked fast in practice. He doesn’t have a top 10 at Phoenix in the Xfinity Series, in fact he has an average finish of about 20th. We’ll need to see where he qualifies but of all 12 drivers racing for a championship across all three series, he’s arguably the one I feel least confident in. Update: Qualified P16 so plenty will jump on the PD and he's in a similar position to Grant Enfinger last night.
NASCAR DFS Driver Pool
Sammy Smith ($10,300)
Sammy Smith has had his high’s and low’s this year. But he did win this race in the Spring and the performance on shorter, flat tracks has been consistent. He led 92 laps in his winning effort in the Spring and then led 40 laps at Richmond despite finishing 19th. He grabbed a top five at New Hampshire and led 147 laps last week at Martinsville before finishing third. He’s in a JGR car and while he missed out on qualifying for the championship, there’s still upside and he will likely be a bit of a leverage play if most players are trying to fit two championship drivers. Update: Smith won the pole to the surprise of a few people and could easily finish top five with plenty of dominator points.
Austin Hill ($9,800)
I’m hoping by now that Hill has cooled off after last week’s race where he and teammate, Sheldon Creed, wrecked on the final lap at Martinsville and both now miss out on the playoffs. Creed made some classless comments in the heat of the moment, but he’s not the last NASCAR driver to go that route after getting robbed. The Xfinity Series doesn’t feature as many short, flat tracks as the Truck Series or Cup Series might, but Hill has run well on this type of track. He led 22 laps in the Spring race and finished second, he grabbed a top 10 at Richmond, then was third at New Hampshire, and even led 22 laps last week at Martinsville. The car had the second-fastest 10-lap average behind JHN so he’s worth having in your driver pool for Saturday’s race. Update: Hill qualified on the front row next to Sammy Smith. He's a good pivot off Smith who likely will have less ownership.
Josh Berry ($9,500)
It hasn't been a great year for Berry as he looks forward to racing full-time in the Cup Series next year. But he's not priced terribly and qualified P15. I doubt I'll end up with much exposure because I simply prefer paying for dominator points in the top tier, but he has top five potential and qualified P15.
Chandler Smith ($9,200)
After just one year, Chandler Smith is departing Kaulig Racing and is rumored for a reunion with Toyota as he’s been linked to one of the available Joe Gibbs Racing cars. But Smith is at a bit of a discount for his finale with Kaulig Racing. He grabbed a top five here in the Spring, then he won Richmond with 83 laps led, and was even the runner-up at New Hampshire over the summer. He hasn’t finished the last two races, but he looks to have a top 10 car.
Myatt Snider ($8,400)
Snider is back in the 19-car for Joe Gibbs Racing and he’s coming off a top 15 last week at Martinsville where he also had 13 fastest laps. With that said, he’s put up 40+ fantasy points on DraftKings in four of his five races. To emphasize how good this team can be on flatter tracks, Sammy Smith won this race in the Spring, and Ryan Truex drove this very car to a runner-up finish as well. Even Joe Graf Jr. has been able to get a top 10 in this ride. Update: Qualified P4 so likely just a tournament-only play that scores well with a top five finish. Brandon Jones is the preferred pivot in this range for PD.
Derek Kraus ($8,200)
Kraus is back in the 10-car for Kaulig Racing on Saturday. The price tag is ticking up slightly but this is still a reasonable cost for a driver who has gone for 45+ fantasy points in two of his last three races. He even managed to collect some dominator points in his last race at Homestead. He ran the Truck Series race Friday night. Any driver will tell you that it doesn’t matter what you’re racing in. Extra laps are valuable regardless. It’s potentially a top 10 ride, maybe even top five, so for a driver that is priced appropriately in the mid-range we have to like the ceiling. Update: Good source of PD here starting P23.
Parker Kligerman ($8,000)
I seem to have the worst read on Parker Kligerman. He’s priced in the mid-range, which he normally is. I’ve been light on him in recent weeks while he’s performed fairly well. He certainly has top 10 upside, perhaps even top five. He started P37 in the Spring race at Phoenix and finished 15th and then grabbed a top 10 at Richmond and Martinsville-2. Phoenix has been a little tricky for him with no top 10 finishes in his career. But he has momentum coming into this race and the car looks like it’ll contend for a good finish once again. Update: Probably a Cash game lock with the poor qualifying effort.
Brett Moffitt ($7,700)
Moffitt is likely just a Tournament-only play this weekend. There’s been more variance to his performances of late but there’s still top 10 equity with this play. His fastest single lap wasn’t great, but he did appear to be top 15 in the longer runs. In his last four Xfinity Series races at Phoenix he hasn’t finished worse than 15th and he even has a pair of top 10 finishes from 2021 with Our Motorsports. His results on the comparable tracks were better earlier in the year. He finished 13th at Phoenix, ninth at Martinsville, and ninth at New Hampshire. Lately the results haven’t been there, but I can’t pass up the upside for the final race of the season. Update: Starts P19. Would have loved a little more PD but still has a top 10 he can grab.
Rajah Caruth ($7,500)
I know I normally don’t write up Rajah Caruth regardless of the series he’s driving in. But he gets the luxury of driving in the 17-car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend. This car has been solid in the small sample size we’ve seen this year. William Byron, Kyle Larson, and Chase Elliott drove this car to consecutive top three finishes on road courses earlier this year. Caruth’s speed was basically just outside the top 15 in practice. In his last four races in the Xfinity Series he’s grabbed three top 20 finishes with Alpha Prime Racing equipment. Between Xfinity and the Truck Series this is easily the best equipment he’ll have driven this year. Hopefully he can keep it clean because he could potentially grab his first top 10 in this equipment. Update: Qualified P13 so he's just a Tournament-only play.
Parker Retzlaff ($7,000)
We like targeting Retzlaff on short, flat tracks. Last week was a phenomenal run for the kid after he started P10 and finished seventh at Martinsville. He finished 18th here in the Spring, 11th at Martinsville-1, 16th at Richmond, and like we already discussed he was seventh at Martinsville-2. He also had a great run in his debut at this track last year but a fuel pump issue cost him a good finish. He performed very well in the round of eight grabbing three straight top 15 finishes and it was announced he’ll be back with Jordan Anderson Racing next year so job security and momentum are on his side as he closes out his first full-time season. Update: I prefer this kid slightly over Caruth because of his flat track background and he's $500 cheaper.
Kaz Grala ($6,800)
Yes, this is historically his worst track in the Xfinity Series. Over his last three races here he’s finished 34th, 23rd, and 33rd. If you wanted to avoid this spot, be my guest. I wouldn’t argue with you. But it’s not like he’s terrible on all flat tracks. Richmond is actually one of his better tracks and he grabbed a top five there earlier this Spring. He started P38 and finished 13th at New Hampshire. Momentum isn’t necessarily on his side as he’s wrecked in three of his last five races. This is still a driver priced under $7K who has put up 40+ fantasy points on DraftKings on a dozen occasions this year. The ceiling is great but the floor is horrendous so he’s likely just a Tournament-only play when you consider the variance. Update: Qualified P24 but still just a Tournament-only play.
Anthony Alfredo ($6,400)
So Alfredo had some kind of issue during qualifying. He went out and did a lap but it was an intentionally slow lap just so he could at least say he did one. I've yet to hear on what the actual issue is. I'm sure we'll get word ahead of green flag, but for now I'm fine playing him in Cash games for the PD but would like to know the issue he had before committing to playing him in Tournaments.
Brennan Poole ($5,800)
With the loss of Daniel Dye for this race we need some more value plays. Poole qualified P29 and we've seen plenty of times he can drive this car to a top 20 finish, possibly better.
Ryan Ellis ($5,600)
Ellis has raced here twice in his career and he has a pair of top 20’s to his name. Ellis is never blazing fast in practice, but he can do enough to keep the car clean and move up a few spots. In 30 races this year he has an average starting spot of 30.1 and an average finish of 25.3 which isn’t great, but it does speak to his ability to move up simply by keeping the ride clean. He also grabbed top 20 finishes at Richmond and New Hampshire so maybe he’s a bit of a flat track value specialist. Update: Starting P27 which is higher than I was expecting but still think he can move up even if he just does laps in the back all day.
Joe Graf Jr. ($5,300)
Not a great value play here but one in comparable equipment to the Sieg brothers and he starts deep in the field. Wouldn't surprise me one bit if he brought out a caution though.
Daniel Dye ($5,200)
We don’t have much to really go off of with Dye for this race. He’ll be in Alpha Prime equipment which is fine for this price tag. He started P26 and finished 17th at Texas and then started P23 and finished 21st at Vegas. Those results are perfectly fine for a value play. After all, he’s not going backward and costing us points. I can’t believe I composed a sentence involving Dye and not costing us points. It’s the exact opposite of the Truck Series. He actually had a very strong showing in his final race with GMS last night, running as high as 13th at one point until he wrecked with less than 25 laps to go. Update: Daniel Dye will not race today after not being cleared following his wreck last night.
NASCAR DFS Core Drivers
|Cash Games||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Plays|
|John Hunter Nemechek ($11,500; Starting P3)||Brandon Jones ($8,600; Starting P20)||Anthony Alfredo ($6,400; Starting P38)|
|Sammy Smith ($10,300; Starting P1)||Parker Kligerman ($8,000; Starting P30)|
|GPP Plays/Pivots||Top Tier||Mid-Tier||Value Plays|
|Justin Allgaier ($11,200; Starting P8)||Myatt Snider ($8,400; Starting P4)||Jeb Burton ($7,400; Starting P18)|
|Cole Custer ($11,000; Starting P7)||Derek Kraus ($8,200; Starting P23)||Kaz Grala ($6,800; Starting P24)|
|Austin Hill ($9,800; Starting P2)||*Jones and Kraus are interchangeable for this section.|