This week the drivers of the Cup Series will not only turn left, but they will turn right as well! The first road course race of the season is upon us. Circuit of the Americas -also known as COTA- is nestled in the rolling hills just outside of downtown Austin, Texas. COTA is a world-class Motorsports complex and home to F1, MotoGP, IMSA. and for the second year NASCAR. It will be yet another new discipline and challenge for these drivers and teams with this new NextGen NASCAR car.
The first of seven road courses in the schedule this season, the race here last year was well… messy. A rain soaked and shortened race turn into disaster for many drivers, here more about that on the NASCAR Gambling Podcast, was eventually won by 2020 Series champion Chase Elliott. When looking at this race though it’s hard to pull much from that race. The weather this weekend looks stellar and we should see some great racing.
The Circuit of The Americas Track
COTA is 3.41 miles long. That makes for very long laps, and very few of them. The race is 231.88 miles long but only 68 laps. DraftKings awards dominator points for laps led and fastest laps. Therefore, picking the obvious drivers like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson may not be the way to go in DFS this week. Now, if they qualify poorly and are starting and scored (DraftKings scores based off qualifying position not actual starting spot) from the back, then by all means please use them! If they are starting near the front, my strategy for the weekend is to play more mid tier drivers. Look for place differential and finishing position upside, let’s take a look at some strong pre qualifying options this week.
EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix DraftKings DFS Preview and Plays
Top Play: Ross Chastain ($8,200)
Why Chastain continues to be underpriced, is unknown. The “Watermelon man” has come a long way from the Watermelon farm in Florida where he grew up. After struggling in NASCAR’s top series for years in sub-par equipment, Chastain caught a break filling in for an Injured Ryan Newman. Injury left Newman sidelined for a few weeks in 2020. Fast forward to 2022 in this new car. Trackhouse Racing -co owned by Rapper Pitbull- through five races Chastain and teammate Daniel Suarez have shown up to play with the big boys. After three consecutive top-3 finishes Ross finds himself in 10th in the point standings. Pulling double-duty this weekend Chastain will get track time in Saturday’s Xfinity series race and should have a strong day on Sunday.
Great Play: Kurt Busch ($7,800)
The elder Busch brother has been possibly the brightest spot on a not very bright start to the season for the Toyota race teams. For some reason the Toyota cars have just struggled through the first five races this season. Kurt however, finds himself a solid 5th in standings coming off a 3rd at Atlanta “super-speedway” and 5th in the desert of Phoenix. Busch is no stranger to change, and I believe this has helped him adapt to this newer car better then some of the other veteran drivers like Denny Hamlin. Although he only has one win at road courses, he’s performed well
at them in Fords, Dodges (no longer in the sport) Chevys, Fords again, Chevys again and now don’t expect that to change in Toyota. Busch scored 4 top-10s in 7 road races last season, and that’s all we need from him again this weekend. He’s a reliable EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix DraftKings play.
Sneaky Play: Chris Buescher (7,300)
You’ll notice so far we’ve stuck in the mid range drivers and that is no different here. You may look at this play and scratch your head. If you did, good! That’s the goal, shake it up here and play something different. Buescher isn’t going to lead 60 laps and win this race. But, he’s proven time and time again he can keep things clean and hang around. So, if he’s got the opportunity for some place differential and a decent finishing position he’s an off the radar play that may be the edge you need.
Buescher finished 3rd at the Charlotte Roval last year, and in the top-18 in all seven road course races. With all the unknowns this weekend if chaos ensues, and when hasn’t it so far this season? If Buescher can keep his nose clean, I love him as a sneaky EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix DraftKings play.
Value Play: Todd Gilliland ($5,600)
Gilliland won last years Truck Series Toyota Tundra 225 here at COTA. While Gilliland is a rookie in the Cup Series this year, he’s proven in the NASCAR truck series he can compete. Gilliland scored a top 5 in his only start at Watkins Glen road course as well. Staying in the Front Row Motorsports family he now pilots one of their cup series cars. He is teammates with veteran Michael McDowell, who is no stranger to solid road course race finishes. Mix their experience and the lessons to be gained with that, coming in at a very cheap 5,600 sign me up for some Gilliland EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix DraftKings shares this weekend!