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NASCAR DFS: Crayon 301 Preview

Last week’s race from Atlanta Motor Speedway was a bit of a letdown. Between the weather and the overall style of racing, the product from the new layout just hasn’t been very good. But this is all just one man’s opinion. This weekend, NASCAR heads to New England for 301 laps around New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This is always a unique race on the NASCAR schedule because the winner of the race is gifted a 20-pound lobster. We also only have seven races left on the schedule for the regular season. 11 drivers have punched their tickets to the 2023 NASCAR playoffs. Five spots remain and New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a favorable track for short-track specialists. Here are this week’s drivers to consider as part of the Crayon 301 preview for Sunday afternoon’s race.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a short, one-mile oval that is flatter in comparison to Dover International Speedway. Another hazard we have to consider this weekend is there is rain in the forecast for the third straight week. Makes sense, right? NASCAR comes to town, so there’s destined to be rain. We’re still early in the week so the forecast could of course change. With 301 laps on the docket there are plenty of dominator points to consider for our NASCAR DFS lineups.

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Crayon 301 Preview: The Top Plays

Christopher Bell (#20 Toyota)

Bell should easily be the favorite to win Sunday’s race, even if he doesn’t end up being the most expensive driver. He won this race last year and was second the year prior in the Cup Series. Back in 2016 and 2017, he once again won a race and finished second. He also won this race three times in the Xfinity Series. He opened as the +550 favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook to win this weekend followed by a pair of his teammates. All in all, the Toyotas historically thrive on short, flat tracks so it should come as no surprise they possess so much win equity for Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr. (#19 Toyota)

MTJ opened as the second-biggest favorite behind his teammate, Christopher Bell. Truex has seen a resurgence in 2023 as he’s scored a pair of wins (Dover and Sonoma) and could very well get his third this weekend. Truex finished 11th at Richmond but led over 50 laps and then grabbed top five finishes at Martinsville and Gateway. It is a little odd though. Truex has 29 career races at New Hampshire. But somehow, he’s never won this race. He’s never even finished second. But in six of his last nine races here he’s led over 80 laps, and in five of those he’s led over 100. Even if he doesn’t win, he has the ability to lead plenty of laps and score a top five finish.

William Byron (#24 Chevrolet)

Byron collected his fourth win of the season at Atlanta last week when the race was called early due to weather. But overall he’s been great this year. And he’s been phenomenal in terms of average green flag speed on these short, flat tracks. He won at Phoenix where he led 64 laps, and he led over 100 laps at Richmond but finished outside the top 20. He grabbed a top ten at Gateway with 30 laps led and even led nearly 200 laps at Dover in a different aero package. The one knock on Byron is that he doesn’t have a single top ten finish at New Hampshire, but that could easily change this weekend.

Crayon 301 Preview: Wouldn’t Bet Against Them

Kevin Harvick (#4 Ford)

Harvick has 39 career races under his belt at New Hampshire and has hoisted the legendary Loudon Lobster three times, mostly recently in 2018 and 2019. He’s finished sixth or better here in ten of his last 12 races. His speed on short, flat tracks this year has been one of the best in the field and he’s basically the only Ford we’ve been able to have any legitimate faith in. Harvick realistically should have won Phoenix earlier in the year but finished fifth. He then finished fifth at Richmond and was tenth at Gateway. As horrible as this short track package has been, Harvick has been one of the better drivers in it.

Denny Hamlin (#11 Toyota)

In keeping with the theme of Toyota’s dominating short, flat tracks we can throw Hamlin into the Crayon 301 preview as well. Like his teammate, Martin Truex Jr., Hamlin has raced here 29 times. At least he’s won or finished second in nine of those races. His overall finishes are all over the place this year. But he did manage to lead laps at Richmond and Martinsville plus he finished second at Gateway over a month ago.

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet)

We haven’t really seen a lot out of Chase Elliott in this package in 2023. However, he finished tenth at Martinsville in the Spring and finished fifth in the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro back in May. But he participated in the tire test here back in April and he’s in need of a win if he wants to make the playoffs. Elliott started and finished second in this race a year ago but was running in the top five for most of the race and logged over 16 dominator points on DraftKings.

Brad Keselowski (#6 Ford)

Keselowski doesn’t have much win equity in this race. But even Aric Almirola scored a win here two years ago, so anything could happen. Keselowski has had some bad luck this year, but RFK Racing has made improvements from a year ago. Keselowski had top-10 green flag speed at Phoenix and Richmond. He even managed to come from three laps down at Gateway to finish on the lead lap, albeit outside the top 30. Keselowski has two career wins at New Hampshire and was seventh in this race a year ago in the NextGen car. His teammate, Chris Buescher, will likely also have similar speed so I wouldn’t rule him out for this race either. But I’ll give Keselowski the edge because he participated in the tire test here back in April.

Crayon 301 Preview: The Sleepers

Alex Bowman (#48 Chevrolet)

It’s definitely a bizarre twist putting Bowman in “The Sleepers” section, an early-season injury has set him back a bit. His results since his return from injury have just been okay. But his new crew chief, Blake Harris, was nailing this team’s setup early in the season. Bowman finished fourth at the exhibition race at the L.A. Coliseum back in February and then finished top ten at Phoenix and Richmond before finishing 11th at Martinsville in April. Overall, in terms of green flag speed, he’s had a top-10 car at short, flat tracks in 2023. He’s in a similar boat to Chase Elliott in that he needs a win to make the playoffs. So this team will be strategizing and taking some chances to get to victory lane.

Chase Briscoe (#14 Ford)

This is a complete leap of faith because playing Briscoe usually doesn’t work out. This team has been horrendous this season and they need an absolute Hail Mary win to make the playoffs. Surprisingly he has had top-15 speed on short, flat tracks. He was seventh at Phoenix this year after winning that race in 2022. He finished 12th at Richmond and was top five at Martinsville where he led over 100 laps. Briscoe even finished fourth in the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro. He started P29 in this race a year ago and finished 15th so there is some NASCAR DFS tournament appeal with this driver.

Aric Almirola (#10 Ford)

It feels weird putting Almirola in this article two straight weeks. It feels even weirder having three Stewart-Haas cars in this article given how bad the team has been this year. But Almirola has always thrived on superspeedways and short, flat tracks. In 2022, the first year of the NextGen car, he was top 12 at Phoenix-1, Martinsville-1, Gateway, and Richmond-2. So far this year he’s finished 13th at Richmond and sixth at Martinsville. But New Hampshire is also one of his best tracks. From 2018-2021 he had an average finish of 5.5 with a win in 2021. He’s downgraded a bit based on the pure green flag speed this year, but there’s still something to be said about his track history.

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