NASCAR 2020 PREVIEW AND STRATEGY
Speedweeks are coming up fast and before you know it we will be full swing into the 2020 NASCAR season. I think this will be a very interesting season to watch unfold for many different reasons. First, a huge shakeup to the schedule highlighted by some intriguing events that I will detail below. Next, there are tons of drivers that will be with new teams or that are moving up from the Xfinity Series. Finally, we will see the final season for another legend of the sport, Jimmie Johnson. In November, the 7 time Cup champion announced that this will be his final season behind the wheel of the #48 Hendrick Chevrolet.
My goal for this article is to help you improve as a DFS player in NASCAR. I hope to do this by giving you a high level overview of the way I attack a slate and some of the things I look for in drivers each week. I will also give you a summary of some of the changes that you will see in the world of NASCAR, whether it be to the schedule, car changes for drivers, or crew chief changes. Without further ado let’s jump in.
There are 4 different ways that drivers accrue points on DraftKings for NASCAR.
- Place Differential (+/- 1 Pt) – Simply, the amount of position difference a driver finishes from his starting position.
- Fastest Laps (+0.5 Pts)
- Laps Led (+0.25 Pts)
- Finishing Position (1st +46 Pts, 2nd +42 Pts, 3rd +41 Pts, every position’s worth then decreases by 1 Pt until last place, or 40th, gives you +4 Pts)
A lot of the overall strategy for each slate depends on the track each week. For example, at superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega) laps led and fastest laps are almost always spread out across a lot of drivers. This makes the place differential means a lot more at these tracks. At short tracks (Martinsville, Bristol, etc.) there are usually a few people that lead a bunch of laps. This is due to the type of track as well as how many laps there are in these races. This makes laps led and fastest laps more important.
Track strategy is something we will talk about each week in our articles. We will give an overview of past history at each track and what the build strategy is for the week.
QUALIFYING AND PRACTICE
This is one of the most important parts of the week when it comes to NASCAR DFS. Qualifying can sometimes change a play from a fade to an all in play. If a top driver has something go wrong in qualifying, or has to go to a backup car, and starts in the back of the field they become one of the best plays of the week. On the other hand, if a driver who hasn’t been showing much speed lately, or during practice, qualifies pretty high in the field, they lower their upside and are more than likely going to back up during the race (lose place differential).
This all has to do with place differential. For example, if Martin Truex Jr. has to go to the back of the field and is scored from the 40th starting position, he has a lot higher floor and upside than if he was starting 10th. This would also lead to much higher ownership on him as well. In these cases it is very hard to fade the driver and most of the time is not in your best interest to do so.
Practice can give us a good idea of what cars are fast for the weekend. I will not look at individual lap times as there is a lot of variance when you look at who had the fastest 1 lap in each session. What I will look at is averages over certain numbers of laps. On 5 and 10 lap averages we are able to see who has short run speed. When we extend that to 15 and 20 lap averages, we can see who has long run speeds and will not fall off as much when the green flag is out for a long period of time in the race.
Much like in golf, when a player plays well at a particular course, in NASCAR some drivers are better a certain tracks. Each week you can check out Chris’s sheet to see how well a driver has done at the track in the past. Some track styles match a driver’s abilities more than others. This is obviously not a be all end all, but does give you a good idea as to how the driver does at this track type.
Past races can tell us a lot about the type of lineup build we need for the week. They will help us figure out how many place differential plays and how many dominators we should be targeting in our lineups. This is something that I will go into more detail about below.
Much like I talk about in my golf articles, I believe one of the biggest ways I can help you each and every week is by talking through lineup construction. In NASCAR, lineup construction is very important because depending on the track you are at can determine how many dominators and how many place differential plays you should be targeting. I will define both of these below.
- Dominators – These are drivers that you believe will gain a lot of points from leading laps or getting fastest laps (dominating the race). These are usually drivers on the best teams and in the fastest cars in a given week. A lot of this goes back to qualifying, since most dominators will start high in the order. Sometimes though, a driver who has a very fast race car but has to start from the back due to failed inspection, or some other reason, and could still dominate later in the race. This makes them an even better play when you add in their place differential upside.
- Place Differential Plays – As defined above these are usually drivers starting near the middle to back of the field that have upside to finish a decent amount above where they are starting.
At each track there is a balance as to how many dominators you should target in your lineups. To use the same example as above, at superspeedways where laps led and fastest laps are more spread out, it may even make sense to target 0 dominators and to focus on place differential plays. On the other hand, at short tracks you may target 2-3 dominators in a lineup, hoping that those 2 or 3 drivers lead most of the laps. This varies a lot based on track type and even qualifying. Again, qualifying is so important because it can promote certain builds depending on if there is a surprise and a good driver starts towards the back, or vice versa.
Each week I will be sure to include a segment on lineup construction as well as talk about it when I break down each price range in my articles.
That is as far as I will go in this article when it comes to strategy because I don’t want to completely overload you. Like I said, I will touch on the important pieces of strategy each week in my articles and talk about how I plan to build my teams. The rest of this article will give you a complete overview of some of the changes you should expect to see in 2020.
This year we have a good amount of driver changes whether it be a driver changing teams or coming up to the Cup Series from Xfinity. I will include a full list below but I want to highlight a few that I believe will have the biggest impact in 2020. In my lists I will note the driver, car number, team and who was in the car in 2019.
In addition to all of these changes for 2020, the story to watch throughout the year will be, who will replace Jimmie Johnson after his retirement. These will be some big shoes to fill but would be an opportunity that few would pass up.
CHRISTOPHER BELL – #95 LEAVINE FAMILY RACING (MATT DIBENEDETTO 2019)
We knew most of last season that Joe Gibbs would find a spot at NASCAR’s top level for young Christopher Bell. A 16 time winner in the Xfinity Series, Bell should be right in the mix with some other talented rookies for Rookie of the Year honors in 2020.
MATT DIBENEDETTO – #21 WOOD BROTHERS RACING (PAUL MENARD 2019)
After we found out that “Matty D” would be out of the #95 come this season just prior to the Bristol race in August, everyone knew that the talented 28 year old would find a ride in 2020. Paul Menard decided to retire from NASCAR after the season and now Matt takes his place. I think he will contend for a playoff spot in 2020.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – #47 JTG DAUGHERTY RACING (RYAN PREECE 2019)
A lone playoff season in 2017 was Stenhouse’s highlight of his time at Roush. He was let go and will now join JTG Daugherty in 2020. This essentially became a 3 man rotation as Stenhouse takes over Ryan Preece’s 2019 ride, Preece moves to the #37 in place of Chris Buescher (still with JTG Daugherty), and Buescher will move to Roush Fenway’s #17 in place of Stenhouse.
CREW CHIEF CHANGES
We will see a few top teams with crew chief changes for 2020. I will highlight some of the biggest ones below and give a full list as well.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. – JAMES SMALL (COLE PEARN 2019)
Cole Pearn shocked a lot of people after the season when he announced he was stepping away from NASCAR to spend more time with his family. James Small who has been the lead engineer for Truex will now man the top of the box as he and Truex try to replicate some of the success Pearn and Truex enjoyed.
TEAM PENSKE ROTATION
As you will see on the list below Penske decided to make a 3 man switch after 2019 as they look to shake things up in hopes of more success in 2020. Jeremy Bullins moves from the #12 of Ryan Blaney to the #2 of Brad Keselowski, Paul Wolfe moves from the #2 of Brad Keselowski to the #22 of Joey Logano and Todd Gordon moves from the #22 of Joey Logano to the #12 of Ryan Blaney.
We are seeing a lot of schedule changes for 2020 and we could see even more in 2021, as this is the last year of a 5 year agreement with tracks for NASCAR. I am very excited about some of these changes and I think it will add some intrigue to the sport. Below are the highlights.
- Martinsville – Martinsville will host its first race under the lights on Saturday, May 9. Also, their fall race moves to the final playoff elimination race before the Championship on November 1
- Pocono – Will have a doubleheader weekend on June 27-28. Back to back days of racing!
- Daytona – Summer race moves to the regular-season finale on August 29
- Indianapolis – Moves to July 4th weekend, replacing Daytona in this spot
- Darlington – Will open the playoffs on September 6
- Bristol – First time in the playoffs in 2020, night race will be the first elimination race
- Charlotte Roval – Moves from 1st elimination race of the playoffs to the 2nd
- Homestead Miami – Moves from its long time spot as the Championship race in November to March 22
- Phoenix – Cup Championship on November 8
There will be a few changes to the cars in 2020 but not as many as when the Next Gen car is debuted in 2021.
- Track packages – The biggest change in 2020 package wise will be at the road courses and short tracks. The changes NASCAR made will increase the emphasis on driver skill, as I see it. More focus will be on handling with a reduced-downforce package.
- Chevrolet Camaro – We will see the Camaro ZL1 1LE in 2020. You will notice flatter noses on these cars and should make drafting easier.
I hope everyone is excited as I am for NASCAR in 2020 and we will see how these changes unfold here in a couple weeks when Speedweeks get underway at Daytona!