Dating back the past few weeks I have been posting info graphs on how lap leaders break down per individual tracks as per predicting who leads the race is more predictable than who gains fastest laps. This has generally turned into a string of tweets where I reply to myself several times creating a thread; however, now I have decided to turn this tweet storm into an actual article you can go back and reference as you build your teams later on in the week. Furthermore, the last thing people playing NASCAR DFS need is yet another picks article because it should be fairly simple separating drivers into the three categories of potential lap leaders, potential place differential drivers, and finally fade candidates. The real struggle I continue to see is players adjusting their ratio of potential lap leaders to place differential drivers from week to week. If this happens to be your big hang up in daily fantasy NASCAR than I hope this new weekly article helps you conquer that hill and build better teams going forward.

With every race, I examine the laps led statistics and ask myself three important questions (as you’ll see below) before qualifying ever occurs. If you’ll follow this same path, taking the information from my Finding an Edge article and turning it into practical advice should be much easier and make you more profitable.

How do the lap leaders breakdown at Dover? 

Looking back at the past three years of Dover’s races we find no real uniform consistency in regards to how many drivers leading at least 10% of the race to expect. With six races in our data set we’ve gone from two lap leaders in the Spring race of 2014 to three and three again, then one, five, and then back to three. Furthermore, no real pattern exists either about how many laps the driver who leads the most laps will in fact lead. In the Spring of 2014, the driver who led the most laps registered 272 laps, then 223 later that year, and down nearly 100 laps to 131, way up to 355 laps, and less than a third (117) in the Spring of 2016, and back up to 187 in the Fall race.

Thus, when building teams the obvious answer is all lineups should begin with two potential lap leaders. The Fall race of 2015 is our outlier performance as Kevin Harvick went on to lead 355 of 400 laps, and considering the end of segments guarantee us caution laps now we should consider it nearly impossible for a single driver to outright dominate like Harvick has. While two is the minimum number of lap leaders we want it appears four may be the maximum with most bets hanging on three. It’s more likely than not we have three drivers lead 85% or more of the race, with the driver leading the most laps leading around half of the race while the other two garners 10-15% themselves, the advent of segments may introduce a fourth driver (like Bristol) who leads roughly the same percentage as two other drivers. However, we may have another scenario like last week at Charlotte where a top tier driver starts far enough back to outweigh through place differential what a third or fourth lap leader could accrue through laps led points alone. What you’ll have to weight is if that driver’s potential place differential points (one point for every position gained start to finish) are more than the 21.58 laps led points the driver who leads the third most laps is earning when we have three racers lead 10% or more of the race.

Where are the lap leaders at Dover coming from?

Essentially, what I do with this graph is average out the starting position of the drivers who led 10% or more of the race to seek out a pattern if any exists. If we were to eliminate the Fall race of 2015 (the Kevin Harvick domination race) as well as the Spring race of 2016 (first new low down force package race at Dover as well as drivers starting 23rd and 14th leading chunks of the race) we have four races where average starting position hovers below 5th. In fact, if you do add back those three outliers you still only have four instances out of seventeen where the driver who led at least 40 laps started worse than 8th. Thus, more than likely you will find your potential lap leaders from within the top ten starters.

Should we roster the pole sitter as a potential lap leader?

This is perhaps the most important question we should investigate each week because the impact of starting first varies from track to track. Also, many people blindly roster the pole sitter which gives us a great place to start pivoting in single or three entry tournaments, satellites, and qualifiers. As we look above, once again we see no set in stone pattern as to the pole sitter being a guarantee to lead 10% or more of the race. That being said, in half our data set the pole sitter did lead nearly 30% or of the race with two of those efforts being by Kevin Harvick who ended up leading the most laps (Fall14, Spring 16) and winning the race as well. On the flip side, our two below the Mendoza line performances of one (Spring14) and seven laps (Fall16) led by the pole sitter were accomplished by Brad Keselowski. In both races, Brad lost the lead early but managed to hang around the top ten and still finish second and fourth. Interestingly enough, Keselowski has led 77 other laps in the other four races at Dover which suggests if Brad is going to lead here it’s not going to come from him as the pole sitter. He seems to get passed way too early, if on the pole, which brings me to my grand theory about rostering the pole sitter at Dover; it’s dependent on the driver.

If Kevin Harvick wins the pole have no qualms about rostering Harvick in your cash teams and majority of tournament squads; however, if a driver with a propensity to give up the lead early (whether they just stink at starts/restarts or prefer to fall back in line and make their move later) than feel free to move down the starting grid. Starting first is no guarantee to lead the first segment or more of laps unless they’re aggressive enough to pull out front and stay there.

What now?

Once qualifying has occurred you should be able to take the information above and assemble teams with the appropriate amount of lap leaders with place differential drivers via the NASCAR sheets in the member hub that you can access via either a premium membership or two-day pass via signing up for the Foundation Model. Don’t forget, in regards to place differential you’re looking for the drivers who start the furthest back with the greatest expectancy to move forward thus gaining the maximum number of spots. If you’re having trouble breaking ties between drivers don’t be afraid to use their driver ratings as the vote swing.

It’s my earnest hope that this article helps make the process of adjusting lap leaders to place differential easier and understand in the future how to do it yourself going forward.

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Phill Bennetzen

Phill is a father, husband, Catholic, IT Director, wannabe Nutritional Sociologist, and passionate for sports and the stats that encompass them. Phill provides stats and analysis for both NFL and NASCAR as well as writing about game theory for his weekly Process Report article.