This article is part of our NASCAR DFS series.
Go Bowling at the Glen
Location: Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Course: Watkins Glen International
Format: 2.45-mile road course
Denny Hamlin won the fuel-mileage race last week at Pocono Raceway. He has been quietly building momentum as the championship playoffs draw nearer. He now has three wins this season to give Joe Gibbs Racing a total of 11. The JGR Toyotas seem unstoppable, especially after earning a 1-2-3 finish last week. Kyle Busch was the only Gibbs driver not in the top five, but he led much of the race and would have been in position to fight for the win were it not for a pit strategy that just didn't pan out. This week the series visits Watkins Glen International where Chase Elliott picked up his first series win last season. He led 52 laps that afternoon with Gibbs cars coming home third, fourth, and fifth and Martin Truex Jr. in second. That sets up a situation this week where fantasy players will most likely want to have one or many Gibbs drivers in their lineups. Jimmie Johnson was the only other non-Toyota driver to lead at Watkins Glen last season besides Elliott, and the No. 48 team made headlines of their own this past week by switching crew chiefs. Johnson's new partner as they look to salvage a spot in the playoffs will be Cliff Daniels.
Key Stats at Watkins Glen International
• Number of previous races: 36
• Winners from pole: 9
• Winners from top-5 starters: 23
• Winners from top-10 starters: 27
• Winners from 21st or lower starters: 0
• Fastest race: 104.132 mph
Last 10 Watkins Glen Winners
2018 - Chase Elliott
2017 - Martin Truex Jr.
2016 - Denny Hamlin
2015 - Joey Logano
2014 - AJ Allmendinger
2013 - Kyle Busch
2012 - Marcos Ambrose
2011 - Marcos Ambrose
2010 - Juan Pablo Montoya
2009 - Tony Stewart
Watkins Glen is the second of three road courses the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series will visit this season. Martin Truex Jr. won that race, leading 59 of 90 laps. The circuits are both natural-terrain road courses but are challenging in their own ways. Watkins Glen offers a few more spots to pass with heavy braking into the first turn, entering the bus-stop chicane, and then sometimes in the left-right combination just before the start-finish line. Teams will want their cars to be as nimble and neutral as possible and qualifying will be extremely important. Despite offering more opportunities to pass, no driver has ever won after starting outside of the top 20 in the 36 races Cup has been coming here. Eight of the last nine races at the track have been won by a driver startin in the first three rows. Only Joey Logano got to Victory Lane starting outside of te top 10 in that span, and only he and Tony Stewart have accomplished that feat in the past 15 years. Fantasy players will want to make sure they pay attention to practice and qualifying results this week for those reasons.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
MY PICKS THIS WEEK
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Kyle Busch is a narrow favorite this week. He is hungry for a win and led 52 laps in the last two Watkins Glen races with finished of seventh and third. Teammate Denny Hamlin won here in 2016 and started from pole last season. Those two pave the way for Erik Jones who finished in the top 10 in both Cup visits to the track with a fifth-place finish in last year's race. The first non-Gibbs driver in this lineup is Daniel Suarez. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver drove from 21st to finish fourth here last season and led 14 laps in his first Cup series visit to the track before finishing third in 2017. Hendrick Motorsports' William Byron could be the best value from that team. He is confidently in playoff contention and raced very well earlier this season at Sonoma to win stages and lead laps. He could easily do the same this week after finishing eighth at the track last season. To round off this high-priced lineup we would be left with Cody Ware. The hope with him will be that he lasts longer than he did in Sonoma, which was just 64 laps before retiring.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Martin Truex Jr. won earlier this season at Sonoma and finished second at Watkins Glen last season to Chase Elliott. Truex is one of the better road course races on the circuit and pairing him with Elliott this week could make good sense for fantasy owners looking for a leg up. With these two on your roster you will have the two most recent winners at this track. Adding Ryan Blaney gives you the last three road course winners in the series. Blaney won on the Charlotte course last fall and was eighth and 12th in his last two Watkins Glen starts. Ryan Newman has three top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen in his career and has been a top-10 machine recently. His record is a bit spotty at the track, which could be a concern. A good alternative for those worried could be William Byron. Matt DiBenedetto hasn't been known as a master of the road courses but he finished fourth in an impressive run at Sonoma earlier this season and should be expected to significantly outperform his average finish at this track (30.2), too. Finally, this is one week where Bubba Wallace could be a wise play. The team's deficit to the field should not be as pronounced this weekend. He finished 26th after starting 30th at Sonoma and was 25th in this race last season.