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NASCAR DFS Plays: Toyota/SaveMart 350 Preview

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is an absolute marathon. These drivers go all around the country racing everywhere, starting with Daytona in mid-February through the beginning of November at Phoenix. And they only get one week off in between this chaos and that treasured week is looming next weekend. But this week we get the second road course of the season at Sonoma Raceway. When researching early fantasy NASCAR DFS plays this week, don’t focus too much on laps led and fastest laps. These fantasy NASCAR DFS plays will focus on those “road course ringers” that can win or finish well. If you have a driver in your lineup that can lead some laps, that’s an added bonus. Here are some drivers to consider as mid-week fantasy NASCAR DFS plays for the Toyota/Save Mart 350!

NASCAR DFS Plays: 2023 Toyota/Save Mart 350

Sonoma Raceway is a 2.5-mile road course with a dozen turns and about 160 feet differing from the highest point on the track to the lowest. It is a fairly technical track. The best comparison would be Circuit of the Americas (COTA), Watkins Glen, and possibly Road America. We can look at Road America for this week’s fantasy NASCAR DFS preview because the Cup Series did race there the last two years. However, Road America came off the schedule in favor of the Chicago Street Course. Other road courses to consider would be Indy Road Course and the Charlotte Roval. However, they aren’t as technical as Sonoma and they don’t feature nearly the same elevation change.

Sunday afternoon’s race will have 110 laps divided into 25-30-55 lap segments. A big rule change this year will be no stage breaks. This new rule is in place so stage breaks slow the race down with unnecessary caution laps and it puts more of an emphasis on the best cars running up front. So if anything, that may give us only one or two drivers that’ll lead significant laps. If you look at this year’s race from COTA, Tyler Reddick and William Byron (who both started on the front row) led 69 of the 75 laps. So keep this rule change in mind when building your fantasy NASCAR DFS lineups this weekend.

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NASCAR DFS Plays: The Top Picks

Tyler Reddick (#45 Toyota)

Reddick has been fairly quiet the last few weeks. He’s had some good finishes while leading a few laps along the way, but nothing outstanding. But three of his four career wins have come on road course, including earlier this year at COTA. He also won last year’s races at Indy and Road America. In a short time he’s become one of the premiere road course drivers in the Cup Series. Reddick will no doubt be on everyone’s radar heading into this weekend.

Martin Truex Jr. (#19 Toyota)

In 2022, the Toyotas were an absolute disaster on road courses. In this race specifically, Kurt Busch had the best finish of all Toyotas and he was 18th, the Toyota to finish in the top 25. JGR and 23XI just couldn’t figure out the setup on road courses. But they did get better as the season went on. As mentioned above, Tyler Reddick did win at COTA earlier this year. Truex has found speed in his car with a win at Dover and he has back-to-back top-five finishes coming into this race. He won here in 2018 and 2019 and was third in 2021 prior to NASCAR switching to the NextGen car. He also has a win at Watkins Glen under his belt. I’m willing to look past the 2022 Sonoma race for Toyota and MTJ because he looks to be finding his groove again.

Kyle Larson (#5 Chevrolet)

Despite Larson having a few DNFs this year, there’s still speed and win equity we gain by rostering him in fantasy NASCAR DFS. He has two wins on the year at Martinsville and Richmond. While those tracks don’t compare to road courses, he did win the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro. Again, not a road course, but it is a track with elevation changes. Some drivers even commented that the track caters to road course specialists. But Larson did score a win at Watkins Glen last year in the NextGen car. Even during his 2021 championship season he scored wins at Sonoma, Watkins Glen, and the Roval while finishing second at COTA.

NASCAR DFS Plays: Wouldn’t Bet Against Them

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet)

 It almost feels wrong not listing Elliott in the Top Picks section, but since NASCAR switched to the NextGen car he doesn’t have a win on road courses. And that’s concerning because these are his bread and butter. Last year he was still top five at COTA, Road America, and Watkins Glen while leading laps as well. He just couldn’t quite get to victory lane. The 9-car for Hendrick Motorsports hasn’t looked as elite as it should, and Elliott has underperformed this year. Now he did miss some races due to injury and he was suspended last week. However, this is the ultimate “get right” race for him heading into the break.

William Byron (#24 Chevrolet)

Byron isn’t recognized as a road course ringer, but the lack of stage breaks may help him if he qualifies well. Byron has qualified in the first two rows seven times this year, including winning the pole at COTA. In that race, he led 28 laps and finished fifth. Byron seemingly shows up with speed every week and is a contender to run up front. It also helps his case that he does have one of the best pit crews in NASCAR and they’ve helped him pick up spots on pit road. For this race, they’ll need to be mistake-free and it’s possible they help Byron to a strong finish.

Daniel Suarez (#99 Chevrolet)

Suarez was dominant in this race a year ago on his way to his first career Cup Series win. He led 47 laps and couldn’t be run down. It was a feel-good story for a driver who had previously been booted from Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He would also go on to finish top five at Road America and Watkins Glen. The reason he’s not a fantasy NASCAR DFS plays top pick is that there is variance to his results. He can run really well and finish top five or have some sort of issue and finish well outside the top 20. He’ll likely be more of a Tournament play this week than a Cash game staple. That could change if he qualifies poorly, but I don’t think that’s likely on a road course.

NASCAR DFS Plays: Potential Sleepers

Ty Gibbs (#54 Toyota)

Gibbs has appeared in these articles a few times in the last couple of weeks. The finishes haven’t been there, but the speed has. Truthfully, a lot of fantasy NASCAR DFS players might be off him for this week. They may look to some of the drivers below who have run Sonoma before. I consider this a potential buy-low opportunity on Gibbs. He was top ten at COTA earlier in the year and he did get wins at Road America and Watkins Glen in the Xfinity Series. The lone concern is the lack of experience at Sonoma. However, he will race in the Xfinity race on Saturday to get some extra laps.

Chris Buescher (#17 Ford)

Buescher nearly won this race a year ago, but just couldn’t run down Daniel Suarez, who went on to claim his first career win. After this runner-up finish, he was then sixth at Road America, tenth at Indy, ninth at Watkins Glen, and sixth at the Roval. He was also eighth at COTA earlier this year as well. RFK Racing has been finding more speed of late while the other Fords have struggled and Buescher will be a driver to keep an eye on. If he runs a clean race and has the same speed from a year ago, the lack of stage caution could help him maintain track position late into the race.

A.J. Allmendinger (#16 Chevrolet)

Allmendinger isn’t a huge sleeper by any means, but his results have been sporadic this year. When the sportsbooks open, he’ll probably have reasonable odds to win. But he doesn’t have near the win equity in the Cup Series as he does in the Xfinity Series when running road courses. But in a part-time schedule last year with Kaulig Racing he was top ten at Road America, Indy, Watkins Glen, and the Roval. He also won the 2021 Cup Series race at Indy when he was a part-time driver that year as well.

Michael McDowell (#34 Ford)

McDowell was in the midst of a very rough stretch before breaking through with a top-ten at Gateway last week. Now he gets a chance to head into the mid-season break with another good finish. McDowell is one of the more unheralded road course drivers in the Cup Series. He was 12th at COTA earlier this year after grabbing four finishes in the top eight last year on road courses. Not to mention he was third in this race a year ago. He’s certainly thriving in the NextGen car on this style of track and there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again this weekend.

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