DFS NASCAR: Cup Series Championship Race

DFS NASCAR: Cup Series Championship Race

This article is part of our NASCAR DFS series.

Cup Series Championship Race

Location: Avondale, Ariz.
Course: Phoenix Raceway
Format: 1.0-mile oval
Laps: 312

Race Preview

The climax of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series arrives this weekend and Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr. will vie for the championship. Alex Bowman's win last week at Martinsville means only Larson enters the championship decider through victory. Elliott, Hamlin, and Truex all fought their way through by points. Elliott sealed his entrance before the Martinsville distance was complete and has the chance to defend his title from last season. Hamlin looked on his way to victory at Martinsville before contact with Bowman sent him spinning into the outside wall. That slip helped Truex as he worked his way back into contention after multiple issues threatened to end his championship drive short of the final four. It is Hendrick Motorsports versus Joe Gibbs Racing and Chevrolet versus Toyota as the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season draws to a close with the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway.

Key Stats at Phoenix Raceway

  • Number of races: 50
  • Winners from pole: 5
  • Winners from top-5 starters: 19
  • Winners from top-10 starters: 27
  • Winners from 21st or lower starters: 4
  • Fastest race: 118.132 mph

Previous 10 Phoenix Winners

2021 spring - Martin Truex Jr.
2020 fall - Chase Elliott
2020 spring - Joey Logano
2019 fall - Denny Hamlin
2019 spring - Kyle Busch
2018 fall - Kyle Busch
2018 spring - Kevin Harvick
2017 fall - Matt Kenseth
2017 spring - Ryan Newman
2016 fall - Joey Logano

Phoenix Raceway's flat 1.0-mile layout is a challenge for teams and setups are often a compromise in some segments to produce the fastest lap time overall. Without a yellow-line rule governing passing this week, drivers will have the whole of the surface to find the place their cars work best through the turns, and maximizing mechanical grip will be the aim. Joe Gibbs Racing had the early-season advantage with this higher-horsepower rules package, but Hendrick closed the gap noticeably through the playoffs. With the extra horsepower, passing can occur at corner entry and through the turns, especially through the dogleg. Due to the track's flat banking, tire wear will also be a concern. Drivers will still opt for four-tire stops, but late cautions could give drivers further back an opportunity to gain track position through two-tire or fuel-only stops. Late cautions could be pivotal in deciding the race and championship.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values  

Kyle Larson - $11,500
Denny Hamlin - $11,000
Chase Elliott - $10,800
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,400

DraftKings Tier 2 Values  

Kyle Busch - $9,800
Ryan Blaney - $9,500
Kevin Harvick - $9,300
Brad Keselowski - $9,100

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Joey Logano - $8,900
Christopher Bell - $8,700
Tyler Reddick - $8,500
Kurt Busch - $8,400

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Matt DiBenedetto - $7,900
Austin Dillon - $7,300
Chris Buescher - $6,400
Chase Briscoe - $6,200


Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Kyle Larson - $11,500
Joey Logano - $8,900
Christopher Bell - $8,700
Austin Dillon - $7,300
Erik Jones - $7,100
Chris Buescher - $6,400

This season has been the best of Kyle Larson's (DK $11,500, FD $14,500) career. With nine wins so far this season it would be a tough pill to swallow if he didn't win the championship, too. He may have to win on Sunday to do that, though. His best prior Phoenix finish was second in 2017. He has five top-fives and eight top-10s from 14 track starts. Joey Logano (DK $8,900, FD $11,000) could play spoiler in the championship battle. He has two Phoenix wins and led over 100 laps in each of the last two races at the track. Four top-10s from the last five races show that Christopher Bell's (DK $8,700, FD $10,000) playoff run ended too early. He is currently driving at his best this season and finished ninth at Phoenix in the spring. Austin Dillon (DK $7,300, FD $7,300) has been a top-15 machine since August and makes a comfortable selection this week, too. He was 17th at Phoenix in the spring and has two top-10s from his 15 track appearances. Last week's eighth-place finish was a big boost to Erik Jones (DK $7,100, FD $6,800) as he concludes his first season with Richard Petty Motorsports. He has four top-10s from 10 Phoenix starts and has six top-10s on the season. Chris Buescher (DK $6,400, FD $6,300) returned to the top 10 last week at Martinsville and fantasy managers should expect him to give them at least a top-20 finish this week. 

Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Denny Hamlin - $11,000
Kevin Harvick - $9,300
Aric Almirola - $8,100
Matt DiBenedetto - $7,900
Ryan Newman - $6,900
Daniel Suarez - $6,800

Denny Hamlin (DK $11,000, FD $13,500) finds himself in another championship-winning situation, but will he let it slip away again? He showed fierce disappointment after losing the win in Martinsville last week, which shows how hungry he is. He has two wins at this track and four top-fives in the last five races there. He should be a top-five car again this week. Kevin Harvick (DK $9,300, FD $9,500) has continued to outperform the rest of his 2021 season results as the season wound down. He used to be the master of Phoenix but has largely struggled since the track was reconfigured. He has won here nine times and hasn't missed the top 10 at the track since 2013. This track has also been a good one for Aric Almirola (DK $8,100, FD $8,500). He finished 13th or better in seven of the last eight races at the track, including 11th in March. For all we know, this could be Matt DiBenedetto's (DK $7,900, FD $7,700) final race in the series. He finished eighth in this race last season, was 14th earlier this year, and will be trying make one final push to convince team owners to give him a chance next season. Ryan Newman (DK $6,900, FD $5,000) has two prior Phoenix wins. He had a difficult race last week but should be capable of finishing the year with a top-20 this week. Daniel Suarez (DK $6,800, FD $6,500) has shown the potential to outperform with his new team, including three top-15s in the last five races. His best Phoenix finish was seventh and has two top-10s from his nine track starts.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.
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C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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