Ally 400 DFS Gems

·9 min read

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Fresh from the only off week on the 2022 schedule, NASCAR drivers are ready to begin their run to the championship. The next 10 races will be run non-stop as four positions are open for the playoffs and then another 10 races will decide who will be the champ.

This is not simply an idle thought. Only four drivers are officially locked into the playoffs with multiple wins. No one has more than two victories and that leaves the door wide open each week. Four drivers earned their first career wins so far in 2022 and that means the current makeup of the playoffs looks unfamiliar compared to previous seasons.

Big names like Martin Truex Jr., who just signed an extension with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, and Kevin Harvick are winless in 2022 – and they will probably be willing to take extra risks in order to get an invitation to the playoffs. Even then, for at least another five weeks, winning is not necessarily a guarantee of making the big show, so the drivers lowest in points among the single winners need take some chances as well.

In order: Kurt Busch, Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez, and Chase Briscoe are the drivers at greatest risk of getting dropped from contention if there are 17 or more winners. In a season with this much uncertainty, that must contribute to some sleepless nights.

Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)

Kyle Larson ($11,600)
The first word that came to mind when Larson’s salary cap was revealed was “ludicrous”. The current parity experienced in NASCAR with the NextGen car is such an equalizer that the caps have been lower on average than in recent seasons because no one has a distinct advantage. Moreover, Larson has not shown any degree of dominance this season and is racing without his crew chief Chad Knaus for the next four weeks.

With that in mind, this is not the highest cap we’ve seen in recent seasons by a wide margin. In fact, there have been at least 80 caps greater than this since 2016 including a whopping $14,200 for Harvick in the 5-Hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The bigger question is whether Larson is worth the lost opportunity for other drivers in lower levels and the answer is no.

Chase Elliott ($10,700)
Elliott is in the shadow of $11k and as a result, players will have to make difficult decisions if they take him. But at least there is more of a reasonable rationale. Before his current streak of three results outside the top 20, Elliott was one of the hottest drivers in the field, earning the third-most points at Dover Motor Speedway and the second-most at Darlington Raceway with a victory and fifth-place finish respectively. Elliott had one of the cars to beat in this race last year before the team left a lugnut unsecured. The road back to the front starts this week.

Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)

Kevin Harvick ($8,500)
While Harvick continues to be affordable, he is going to be one of the best values at this level. Even as he’s struggled on other course types, he’s been perfect on rough-surfaced tracks with a perfect record of top-10s in the past two season. Add in his 2019 and 2020 numbers and he has a current streak of 11 top-10s on this course type and 15 such finishes in his last five starts. Harvick won four times on rough tracks two years ago and this would be a logical place for him to snap his 59-race winless streak.

Christopher Bell ($9,100)
Bell had the longest streak of top-10s entering the Save Mart 350k at Sonoma Raceway. He finished fourth on the rough-surfaced track of Dover and was sixth at Darlington before stacking three more strong finishes. Last week’s disappointing 27th was the result of a pit strategy that didn’t work. Since the road course has little similarity to what he’ll face this week, he should be able to put that behind him and restart his streak. Bell is not desperate for a win, but if there is another new winner from below him in the points, he is going to be on the bubble.

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Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,100)
Stenhouse could be one of this week’s hidden gems. It took quite some time for him to gather momentum, but from his second-place finish at Dover, he rattled off four consecutive top-10s. His last two efforts were not strong enough to make him a must-have, but a sweep of the top 20 in five rough-surfaced track races last year and a sixth at Nashville make him very tempting if you are concentrating on mid-priced drivers. Stenhouse also has the added incentive of wanting to put his best foot forward in the race following the announcement that he has re-signed with JTG-Daugherty Racing.

Erik Jones ($7,300)
Group C is tricky this week. Few of the drivers have a record that makes them hard to ignore, and in fact there are several drivers in Group C that could outrun them in the Ally 400. As a result, one must look at potential almost as much as results and Jones has been one of the top performers in several recent races. Like last week’s winner Suarez, a lot has gone wrong, but if Jones can avoid disaster he be a big earner. Jones has run well enough to be 16th in the points, but there are four drivers ahead of him in the playoff ranking.

Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)

Chris Buescher ($6,100)
After his triumphant return from COVID-19 protocols last week, we expected Buescher to have at least a few hundred dollars added to his cap value. Instead, he commands the exact same amount as he did at Sonoma, where he finished second and looked like a driver capable of winning and joining the list of playoff hopefuls. Buescher is solid on rough tracks with two top-10s on them last season and an eighth at Dover earlier this year.

Michael McDowell ($5,700)
McDowell’s third-place finish last week in Sonoma forced us to look deeper at his oval track record. Between the two road course races, he quietly amassed four top-10s in nine races with two more top-20s tossed in. One of his top-10s was a seventh at Darlington, and while that race had high attrition, his 17th at Dover would be enough to make him a good value from Group C

The top-10 points’ earners from the 2021 Ally 400 were: 1. Kyle Larson (174.85), 2. Ross Chastain (68.1), 3. Kurt Busch (59.65), 4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (57.25), 5. Daniel Suarez (52.45), 6. Christopher Bell (51), 7. Austin Dillon (47), 8. Kevin Harvick (46.45), 9. Ryan Newman (44), 10. Aric Almirola (42.2).

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Last 45 Days

Driver

Avg.
Rank

Total
Points
Earned

Avg.
Points

This
Week's
Cap

Points
Per K

Group A

Ross Chastain

7.25

229.85

57.46

$10,500

21.89

Kyle Busch

10.25

210.35

52.59

$11,000

19.12

Kyle Larson

9.50

203.80

50.95

$11,600

17.57

Denny Hamlin

21.00

77.95

19.49

$10,200

7.64

Chase Elliott

21.50

81.40

20.35

$10,700

7.61

Group B

Christopher Bell

12.50

159.85

39.96

$9,100

17.57

Kevin Harvick

14.00

148.25

37.06

$8,500

17.44

Joey Logano

14.50

157.10

39.28

$9,300

16.89

Alex Bowman

14.25

146.20

36.55

$8,700

16.80

Martin Truex, Jr.

13.75

159.20

39.80

$9,700

16.41

Ryan Blaney

15.25

133.65

33.41

$9,500

14.07

Chase Briscoe

18.75

103.40

25.85

$8,100

12.77

William Byron

18.50

96.05

24.01

$9,900

9.70

Tyler Reddick

25.00

43.75

10.94

$8,900

4.92

Group C

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

13.50

154.90

38.73

$7,100

21.82

Brad Keselowski

14.00

142.20

35.55

$6,600

21.55

Kurt Busch

16.75

165.95

41.49

$8,300

19.99

Austin Dillon

15.75

128.00

32.00

$7,000

18.29

Erik Jones

16.50

122.45

30.61

$7,300

16.77

Daniel Suarez

18.75

120.35

30.09

$7,700

15.63

Aric Almirola

18.75

110.25

27.56

$7,500

14.70

Austin Cindric

19.25

95.65

23.91

$7,900

12.11

AJ Allmendinger

13.00

80.45

40.23

$6,800

11.83

Bubba Wallace

25.00

50.20

12.55

$6,500

7.72

Group D

Michael McDowell

15.75

135.30

33.83

$5,700

23.74

Todd Gilliland

19.75

102.00

25.50

$5,100

20.00

Ty Dillon

19.50

109.00

27.25

$5,500

19.82

Harrison Burton

23.50

77.00

19.25

$5,300

14.53

Chris Buescher

22.50

86.35

28.78

$6,100

14.16

Justin Haley

21.75

75.35

18.84

$5,900

12.77

Cody Ware

25.00

57.00

14.25

$4,900

11.63

BJ McLeod

24.00

53.00

17.67

$4,600

11.52

Josh Bilicki

26.25

52.00

13.00

$4,800

10.83

Cole Custer

28.25

39.90

9.98

$6,100

6.54

Corey LaJoie

29.00

24.45

6.11

$5,000

4.89

JJ Yeley

28.00

6.00

6.00

$4,500

1.33

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