This article is part of our NASCAR DFS series.
Ambetter Health 400
Location: Hampton, Ga.
Course: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Format: 1.5-mile quad-oval
NASCAR Ambetter Health 400 Race Preview
The NASCAR Cup Series heads back east this week for the fourth race of the 2023 season, the Ambetter 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. William Byron won the last two races and would have been heading to Atlanta with a full head of momentum were it not for significant penalties levelled against the Hendrick Motorsports teams after unapproved hood louvers were found on the cars. The penalties were severe with 100 owner and driver points deducted from each team's total in addition to four-race suspensions for each of the crew chiefs as well as monetary fines. Byron's wins still stand, but he and the other drivers were also docked 10 playoff points that they otherwise might need to rely upon to advance through the knockout rounds. The judgement deals a heavy blow to the organization that has been the class of the field thus far, and this weekend's trip to Atlanta will help fans understand how much the penalties will affect the team's on-track performance.
Hendrick remains the favorites to win this week despite all the drama. The organization swept Atlanta wins in 2022 with Byron and Chase Elliott visiting Victory Lane. Elliott remains out with a broken leg, and Byron will be adjusting to an interim crew chief. This will be the third time the series races on the speedway's smoother surface and superspeedway reprofiling. The spring race last season generated a whopping 47 lead changes while the return in the fall produced a stout 27. Atlanta's racing has become more of a compact version of Daytona and Talladega, which challenges drivers to stay out of trouble and in position to strike late in the race as the checkered flag approaches.
Key Stats at Atlanta Motor Speedway
- Number of races: 117
- Winners from pole: 15
- Winners from top-5 starters: 63
- Winners from top-10 starters: 91
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 8
- Fastest race: 166.633 mph
Previous 10 Atlanta Winners
2022 fall - Chase Elliott
2022 spring - William Byron
2021 fall - Kurt Busch
2021 spring - Ryan Blaney
2020 - Kevin Harvick
2019 - Brad Keselowski
2018 - Kevin Harvick
2017 - Brad Keselowski
2016 - Jimmie Johnson
2015 - Jimmie Johnson
Atlanta's steeper banking and smoother racing surface delivered superspeedway-style racing more akin to Daytona and Talladega than NASCAR's typical 1.5-mile ovals. The two races last season combined for 70 lead changes and navigating the pack became an obstacle for drivers to master. The closer racing also generated more caution periods, which helped to spice up the show. Those trends will likely continue this week, which make restarts a critical component along with track position. Quick work on pit road and crews getting their cars back on track at the front of the field is an advantage at every track and that can mean the difference between winning and losing. That will not change this week despite Atlanta's different style of racing. With a bunch up pack drivers will also have to be inch perfect. Staying clear of trouble with many more cars grouped together at high speed will be the first requirement of anyone to have a shot at winning. Teams will have to set their cars up to give their drivers a well-handling car in traffic, enabling them to make passes to get to the front and be ahead of any potential trouble behind them. The fight for track position will be critical in that effort, and late-race cautions could set up races between pit crews to put their machine in the best possible position to get to the lead.
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DraftKings Value Picks for the Ambetter Health 400 (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
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DraftKings Long-Shot Values
NASCAR DFS Picks for the Ambetter Health 400
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
After missing coming close to a win multiple times since the season started, Atlanta could be the breakthrough for Kyle Larson (DK $11,200, FD $10,500). Like the other Hendrick drivers he will have to overcome a crew chief suspension, but there is no reason to believe the No. 5 won't be competitive despite that. He crashed out of this race last season but qualified third in the fall. Larson has never won at the track but he does have two runner-up finishes. Teammate Alex Bowman (DK $9,100, FD $9,000) faces similar challenges in the crew chief department, but he has been the most consistent driver this season with four top-10s from four races. He finished 10th in this race last season and fell afoul of the damaged vehicle policy and failed to finish the return visit.
Atlanta's new style of racing means driving skills in the draft come with a premium and one of the best is Brad Keselowski (DK $8,500, FD $8,200). He already has two track wins prior to its reprofiling and finished 12th in the first visit last season. Similarly, Austin Dillon (DK $7,600, FD $5,800) is another driver fantasy players should consider. Unfortunately, he crashed out of both Atlanta races last season but Richard Childress Racing is a reliable contender at superspeedway tracks and Dillon can make the most of that opportunity. Erik Jones (DK $7,500, FD $7,500) hasn't gotten the results fantasy players would have hoped for. However, he did lead 14 laps last week at Phoenix and returns to the track he placed fourth at last fall with 10 laps led. If there was a week and racing style that would help give Jones the boost he is looking for it would arguably this week's race at Atlanta. Like others in this lineup, Justin Haley (DK $6,100, FD $4,200) brings a reliable skillset to this week's style of racing. In fact, he finished 11th and seventh in the two races at Atlanta last season, which were his two best finishes at the track from four tries.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
A risker lineup option might be wise to consider Ryan Blaney (DK $10,400, FD $13,500). Penske Racing haven't quite had the pace of the Chevrolets, but superspeedways can be a bit of an equalizer. Blaney's skill in the draft makes him a top selection as a result. Christopher Bell (DK $9,500, FD $11,500) hasn't quite reached the door to Victory Lane yet this season, but this weekend's bunched up racing could give him the chance to put himself in position to win. He has two top-fives and three top-10s from four races thus far, including third at the Daytona 500. That bodes well for his chances this week, especially after leading 16 laps in this race last season. Martin Truex Jr. (DK $8,900, FD $9,500) is another choice that has been close but not quite there yet in 2023. His only 2023 top-10 came two weeks ago at Las Vegas, but he was eighth and 11th last year at Atlanta with laps led in both races.
You can't go to a superspeedway and not talk about Bubba Wallace (DK $8,300, FD $10,000). He has a knack of finding his way to the front in these races and often leads. He led three laps in this race last season and finished inside the top 15 in both visits last year. Another driver worth taking a risk on this week could be Ryan Preece (DK $6,800, FD $4,000). Preece didn't race at this track last season but he led four laps in the Daytona 500 and scored his first top-15 of the year last week at Phoenix. As Preece grows more comfortable with his team he should make a valuable outlet for fantasy rosters in this format. Another superspeedway longshot worthy of consideration this week is Corey Lajoie (DK $6,000, FD $5,000). He often finds his way to the finish among the top runners in these types of races, and these are the races he typically outperforms his average finishes at other tracks. He finished fifth in this race last season despite starting 33rd, and he also led 19 laps in the return visit.