Now that the season has kicked off and we have our first winner (and crashes) under our belt, we head to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, for the 2023 Pala Casino 400.
Congratulations to those of you who threw Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in your season-long or DFS lineups for Daytona. And to those who put some money on his +4000 odds to win, feel free to tell me who you’ve got this weekend. It was an exciting race, though it took a few laps to get everyone in the mood to take their shots before ending with a few crashes* that changed the landscape of every fantasy NASCAR lineup in play.
This weekend, the drivers head to Auto Club Speedway, a two-mile D-shaped oval superspeedway with 14-degree banking on all turns. The track is 75 feet wide with a 15-foot apron. While it is a half-mile shorter than Daytona, the 2023 Pala Casino 400 promises much of the same style as last week.
That said, let’s take a look at how to approach this week’s showdown.
Fantasy NASCAR: 2023 Pala Casino 400
Here is a look at the drivers with better odds to cross the finish line first. These are the ones you might want to focus on first in season-long formats.
**Reminder that a perfect driver rating is 150.**
The Top Picks
Kyle Busch (#8 Chevrolet) Driver Rating 83.9
Busch’s driver rating at this track certainly isn’t as high as others in the field; however, in 23 races here, he has four wins and has 11 finishes in the Top 5. His average finish here is 9.8. Daytona was his to win last week before the multiple restarts, and he showed no side effects from being in a new car on a new team.
Ryan Blaney (#12 Ford) Driver Rating 105.2
Blaney rallied last week to finish eighth after having a bad-luck night wherein his pit crew had to do a lot of work to even keep him on the track. He has historically led a lot of laps in this race and should be in the thick of things when the white flag waves at the 2023 Pala Casino 400.
Joey Logano (#22 Ford) Driver Rating 98.4
It was a photo finish between Logano and Stenhouse to decide who was ahead when the final caution came out during overtime last week. He led 12 laps and sits atop the NASCAR Cup Standings after one race. In 15 races at Auto Club Speedway, he has finished in the Top 5 a whopping seven times. I’ll be deploying him in my season-long leagues with impunity this weekend.
Wouldn’t Bet Against Them
Alex Bowman (#48 Chevrolet) Driver Rating 114.0
Bowman comes in with the highest rating among active drivers at this track. He has one win here in 2020, in which he also led the most laps. My only concern with him is that the one win is all he has on his resume at the track. He otherwise has only two other Top 20 finishes.
Erik Jones (#43 Chevrolet) Driver Rating 103.7
I was going to put Jones in the “sleeper” category, but his rating and average finish (10.2) are high enough that he doesn’t really qualify as anything other than “overlooked” in this scenario. Jones had a DNF last week, but I think he bounces back for the 2023 Pala Casino 400.
Kyle Larson (#5 Chevrolet) Driver Rating 91.4
In eight career races at this track, Larson has two wins, four Top 5s, and has led 138 laps. After an accident knocked him out of Daytona, I see him as a great contender for this week and will definitely be rostering him in season-long formats.
The 2023 Pala Casino 400 Sleepers
Two drivers jump out at me as solid, lower-rostered fantasy options for this weekend.
Tyler Reddick (#45 Toyota) Driver Rating 100.3
Reddick led the crash parade at Daytona, turning on lap 114 and wreaking havoc for nine cars. Even though we have a small sample size for him at this track, his rating is such that he should have a good showing on Sunday. He is movement-points dependent, however. If he qualifies in the Top 10, I will not be rostering him.
Brad Keselowski (#6 Ford) Driver Rating 82.9
Keselowski led the most laps at Daytona with 42 and sort of resembled the Keselowski of yore. He and RFK Racing teammate Chris Buescher looked dominant for much of the race, working in perfect tandem, and they have another opportunity to show off this chemistry this weekend. I’m not sure I’ve ever called Keselowski correctly, but after last week, we need to start considering him (and Buescher) a bit more in our lineups.
I’ll be back Sunday morning with my DFS picks and other thoughts regarding the 2023 Pala Casino 400. Between now and then, don’t hesitate to hit me up on Twitter at @thewonkypenguin with any questions, thoughts, or funny GIFs.
*After reading last week’s article, my mom decided to watch the race. As the crashes mounted toward the end, she texted me, “Do they just keep going until there is only one car left?” I wonder if NASCAR has ever thought of that…