Coop’s Las Vegas Race Preview

What a dominant performance we saw by one Kevin Harvick in Atlanta last week. Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from last week. Before every race there is always one driver who everyone feels will dominate the race but the pre race hype for Harvick was at a very high level. Don’t expect to see that type of dominance from the driver who is being talked up on a weekly basis. Harvick was far superior as he showed how powerful he was when he drove from 19th to 1st after his pit team had a miscue. The reason I bring this up is because there were mistakes made by Harvick on restarts and in the pits and on a typical week the leader would not have been able to overcome as easily since we typically don’t see the dominant car as dominant as what we saw with Harvick last week. My second takeaway from last weeks race was how the set up of the cars were impacted by weather. With the race being delayed we saw the race run late into the day and eventually finishing under the lights. At the beginning of the race Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola were very strong cars but did you notice that once the track got cooler from the evening temps there cars were not nearly as strong as they finished 8th and 13th. My third takeaway is the poor performance of Chevrolet as there best finish was 9th and 10th by Kyle Larson and Chase Elliot who both were never in contention to win and really didn’t even show top five contention. The only bright spot for Chevrolet was Ryan Newman who appeared to have a fast strong car until he cut a tire down. The speed for Chevrolet is something we will need to pay attention to this weekend. My final takeaway goes back to pit stops as we saw some issues with the new air guns being used by teams. It will be interesting to see if this is a one off situation or will we see 1-2 issues weekly with malfunctioning air guns.

This weekend we are racing in Las Vegas on a 1.5 mile racetrack. The three stages are set for 80/160/267 laps. Much like Atlanta the attrition rate at Las Vegas is low but we are more than likely going to see 1-2 accidents along with some potential engine issues. With that being said I would say we see a slightly higher number of cars not finish the race this week were as at Atlanta the attrition was non existent minus Trevor Bayne. All cars will need to pit before the end of the stages if we see no cautions. Tires will not be as important as last week but not as non existent like we saw in Daytona and we will see some two tire stops depending upon when the caution flags fall.

Strategy this week will be getting the dominators needed and then filling in the rest with finishing position plus place differential. When you look at the last three races the dominant lap leaders have also had the most fastest laps. When you see the stats below it speaks for itself and you will need the dominators in your lineup as they will easily accumulate the most points barring a late race mishap from them and they fall down the leaderboard. What is interesting this week will be roster construction of potential dominators as over the last three races we have seen three different scenarios play out which I have listed below.

267 Laps equals 66.75 dominator points, not a huge amount.
Last three races have seen six cautions for 28-36 laps. We should see around 120 fastest laps points.

2017- one big dominator with a second dominator
Martin Truex led 150 laps with 62 fastest laps started 2nd finished 1st
Brad Keselowski led 89 laps with 65 fastest laps started 1st finished 5th
Jimmie Johnson led 19 laps with 31 fastest laps started 16th finished 11th
Two cars recorded 11 and 15 fastest laps.

2016- two dominators with three mini dominators
Jimmie Johnson led 76 laps with 37 fastest laps started 11th finished 3rd
Joey Logano led led 74 laps with 40 fastest laps started 2nd finished 2nd
Kyle Busch led 38 laps with 13 fastest laps started 23rd finished 4th
Kurt Busch led 31 laps with 17 fastest laps started 1st finished 9th
Brad Keselowski led 24 laps with 33 fastest laps started 4th finished 1st
Three other drivers recorded 10-21 fastest laps.

2015- one big dominator with two dominators
Kevin Harvick led 142 laps with 79 fastest laps started 18th finished 1st
Joey Logano led 47 laps with 21 fastest laps started 2nd finished 10th
Jimmie Johnson led 45 laps with 31 fastest laps started 9th finished 41st
Four other drivers recorded 10+ fastest laps but no more than 20.

Last week was a tough week for the punters as we didn’t see any of the mid tier teams lower priced drivers improve there starting position. Was this due to the likes of Truex, Blaney, Johnson and Elliot qualifying in the back and hurting the starting position of these punters? Was it due to some of the punters taking themselves out of contention by having a solid qualifying run like a McDowell and Menard did? Was it just a random one week were these drivers simply just didn’t have good cars? In the past I have been leary of using drivers such as Cole Whitt or Harrison Rhodes to punt but if you look at many of the top one hundred finishing lineups from last week these two drivers were part of the winning lineups. Over the last two years of this race we have not seen many mid tier lower priced drivers start near the back or mid twenties and finish well so these bottom tier salary saving punts may be in play once again. This is something to definitely watch over the next couple weeks.

Goodyear has announced they will be using the same left side tires that teams used last year in Las Vegas while the right side tire will be new. This combination of tires was tested in Las Vegas earlier this year by select teams. Will this lead to a big advantage, no, but it may make the drivers who tested these tires more comfortable or perhaps they realized during the test they could run this line verse that line better. Make sure you tune into practice to see if these drivers comment on these tires or the extra practice they had with them to see if any advantage is provided as well as there practice times verse other teams. One thing I did find was that Goodyear is hoping to create more tire wear with these tires. As mentioned above tires don’t wear at Las Vegas like Atlanta so if this tire actually works like they are hoping and we do get long green flag runs it will benefit drivers who are good at preserving tires. The drivers who participated in the test were Kyle Larson, William Byron, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Eric Jones, Bubba Wallace, Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse, Chris Buescher, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon, David Ragan and Cole Custer.

Ryan Blaney took down the pole this weekend and appears to have one of fastest cars this weekend. Blaney is part of the Penske stable and they appear to have come to race this weekend as all four of there cars will be starting in the T12. Blaney has raced twice at Las Vegas finishing 6th and 7th with the Wood Brothers. Blaney is more than capable of leading laps as he stayed out front for an impressive 112 laps earlier this year at Daytona. Blaney also comes at a nice reduced price this week and I feel you need to take advantage of this as he will most likely continue to see increases. I could very easily see Blaney lead 40 to 100 plus laps this weekend.

Kevin Harvick once again has a very good car this weekend and will contend to win the race as well as lead many laps. Harvick has been very good over the last few years at Las Vegas and much like Blaney has the ability to lead 40 to 100 plus laps. I will have several lineups with both Blaney and Harvick and imagine them to be two of my highest owned drivers.

Brad Keselowski probably came into Las Vegas as the pre race favorite but will have his work cut out for him as he will need to pass several good cars in order to get to the lead. There is no doubt Keselowski has the ability to lead laps as we have seen several cars in the past start 8th or worse and lead many laps. Keselowski will need to lead some laps in order to pay his price off but he does has some place differential points available to offset a low number of laps led.

Kyle Larson was quickest in first practice and instantly became the favorite to win the pole position. Larson will start 5th but I am not sure he has the car to get pass Blaney or Harvick. Vegas has the tendency to produce long green runs and long runs have not been the best for Larson in his short career. Larson is someone who could be faded this week as he may well finish in 5th place which would only net him 39 points which won’t be enough for his price.

Martin Truex is a stud at 1.5 mile tracks and he is the defending champion. Truex had some issues with his front right tire liner during qualifying and will be allowed to replace the liner but not the tire and will start 4th. Truex has his work cut out this weekend as he has solid competition with Blaney and Harvick. I don’t see Truex having the dominate car this weekend and falls in line with Keselowski for me but he doesn’t have as many place differential points available to offset a low number of laps led. The amount I play of Truex will depend on his projected ownership but I won’t be highly invested in him like a Harvick and Blaney and if he is chalky, 30% plus I will most likely be underweight on him.

AJ Allmendinger, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher, Aric Almirola and Bubba Wallace will be the most popular drivers starting in the back whom people are looking for place differential points from. Almirola starts 29th and based off what we have seen from him so far this season would be the obvious choice but Almirola is not happy with his car at all. Depending upon how Almirola does in practice on Saturday will determine how much if any ownership I have on him. Almirola does have three teammates that qualified well so he has good sources who can help him get the car turned around. The other four drivers listed here I will have some ownership but most likely will be under the field. I think the possibility of any of them placing in the T20 is limited and to see all four finish there is simply not going to happen. 20th place will get you 24 points, if Ty Dillon finishes there he will get 35 points. If a driver who I will discuss later holds his starting position he will receive 32 points. Since all the other drivers are starting in front of Dillon that shows you that they will need 18th-20th to get those 32 points. If I had to rank them I would go with AJ, Dillon, Buescher, Wallace then Almirola and I only expect one of these drivers to finish T20 or better. AJ has some solid history at Las Vegas and has scored some T15 finishes plus he is only 6k.

I am absolutely in love with Paul Menard this week as a low owned GPP play. Menard is an affiliate of the Penske stable that is very strong this weekend and he easily has the fastest car of any of the drivers priced 7k or lower. Many people will look at Menard and say he has no point differential value starting 12th. Personally I feel Menard has a car that could easily finish T8 and with some breaks T5. In actuality Menard just needs to hold his starting position in order to outscore many of the five drivers that will be higher owned who I discussed above.

I also feel Eric Jones, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer will be low owned good options who can improve there position. Logano will most likely be the lowest owned due to his price tag and he will need a T5 to have any chance to pay off. I feel like one of these three drivers will move forward this weekend while the other two will hold there starting position or see a slight negative place differential.

Denny Hamlin is starting 19th and has the ability to finish in the T5 which would give him 53 points. I don’t see Hamlin leading any laps unless he pulls off some strategy moves and even then I don’t think he has strong enough car to hold off the likes of Blaney and Harvick. I feel he has a 7th-12th place car. Hamlin has finished 5th, 6th and 19th in his last three Las Vegas races.

I feel the same way about Kyle Busch as I do Hamlin. He can easily finish T5 as he is Kyle Busch who has had success at Las Vegas plus he wants to perform well in his hometown but I feel he also has a car that will likely finish 5th-12th. Busch would need a T2 in order to accumulate the points Hamlin would receive for a T5. If we see three dominators and neither are Busch or Hamlin it is very unlikely they will be in winning lineups as those three dominators will accumulate more than 52 DK points.

Daniel Suarez is an interesting play and someone who I am likely to play at a much higher ownership than Hamlin and Busch due to his price. I feel Suarez has the potential to finish with a T10 which would net him 42 points at 7.3k. Suarez showed speed during qualifying along with his first practice. If Suarez shows solid speed during Saturday’s practices he will be right with Menard for me as far as drivers I really like. I don’t expect Suarez to have high ownership and am hoping he goes no higher than 15%.

Jamie McMurray and William Byron are two drivers I will be watching closely during practice on Saturday to see if they have cars that can finish in the T10-12. McMurray will be the higher owned due to his name and just needs a 12th place finish to score as many points as Suarez. Byron is someone who I feel will have lower ownership than Suarez.

Ryan Newman is my final driver to discuss this week and how much I play him will depend upon his practice speeds. I imagine Newman will be a popular driver this week due to his name, starting position and salary but if his car doesn’t show more speed getting inside the T20 will be a challenge. I will most likely be underweight on Newman.

Make sure you check out practice on Saturday as it will be pivotal in determining who to go overweight/underweight on this week and remember speed is critical for those drivers starting 17th and on back as over the last three races the number of cars staying on the lead lap was 14,22,23. If you are starting 17th or worse and you lose that lead lap early to mid race your place differential opportunity becomes extremely limited. Hope you found the blog informative this week and good luck to all. Thanks

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