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EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix: Fantasy NASCAR preview

The EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix takes place this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), marking only the second time NASCAR has visited the United States Grand Prix host. Given how last weekend’s race at the revamped Atlanta Motor Speedway quickly spun into chaos, it should be fun to watch drivers navigate another mostly-new course. Let’s take a look.

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Track Information

Location: Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas

Track Length: 3.4-mile

Track Type: Road course

Last 10 Track Winners:

NASCAR only visited COTA one other time in 2021. Chase Elliott won the race.

Last 10 Track Winners by Model

2021 – Chevrolet

Race Day Preview

On Sunday, we head to the Circuit of the Americas in the Lonestar State for the first of six road courses of the year. A daunting track, COTA features 3.426 miles with 20 turns and an elevation change of 133 feet. The EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix will go 68 laps for 231.88 miles.

Unfortunately for DFS players, we don’t have a long track history to draw from, and the only NASCAR race held there was marred by rain, ending it early at only 54 laps. Therefore, we will primarily focus on road course history for the drivers.

Here’s an overview of drivers in DFS and season-long formats this weekend. I’ll be back Sunday morning looking at value based on positional movement following Saturday’s qualifying races. Thoughts? Wondering how and why you should play NASCAR fantasy? Hit me up on Twitter @thewonkypenguin.

Fantasy Drivers: The Contenders

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports)

As the only former winner at this track, it makes sense that Elliott is a whopping 3:1 favorite to win. In his last 20 races on road courses, the No. 9 car averages a finish of 8.5, and a five-race stretch in 2019-2020 saw him finish first four times and second once. The man knows how to navigate the roads, and if he manages to get clean air in front of him, he could efficiently run away with this one. After qualifiers, we will have a better idea of how much to fade him in GPP lineups, but it would be challenging to leave him out of cash games.

Kyle Larson (#5 Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports)

Larson was the runner-up last year at COTA, but he proceeded to win three of the subsequent five road courses last year. In Sonoma, he began in pole position and led 57 of 92 laps. Larson has been boom or bust thus far in 2022, either finishing in the Top 10 or not finishing due to crashes or equipment malfunction. With almost 20 turns at the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix, there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong, but Larson’s history suggests he can handle road courses and should be in lineups come Sunday.

Martin Truex, Jr. (#19 Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing)

Another road-course veteran, Truex, Jr., only completed 24 of 54 laps last year at COTA, but he did lead three laps before his day ended early. Aside from that, he has finished in the Top 10 in 13 of his last 20 road races; in his previous 12, he has eight Top 10 finishes and has led 10.5 percent of laps. With a road-course rating of 105.9, he is the top Toyota to target on Sunday.

Kyle Busch (#18 Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing)

It’s getting difficult to avoid cutting and pasting my Kyle Busch preview from week to week. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: The No. 18 car is racing well, competing well, when something happens that ends with announcers telling us they can’t broadcast the audio of his radio due to language. Last week, he led 21 laps before crashing to a 33rd place finish. On road courses, Busch had a bad stretch in 2019-2020, but he consistently ended in the Top 10 before and after that. He finished tenth at COTA last year and led 12 of 54 laps. I expect him to have a good Sunday, but he feels riskier than usual due to car issues denting his performances thus far in 2022.

William Byron (#24 Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports)

The winner of last week’s race rolls into Texas ranked No. 4 in the Cup standings. He finished 11th at COTA in 2021 after starting in the fifth position. He has a scattered road-course history with an average finish of 18.5; however, his ranking is 94.8, which says he has been more unlucky than untalented at these tracks. Indeed, he is sixth behind only the other four drivers in this Contenders category and one Accelerator based on rating. I assume he will come at a bit of a discount due to his less-than-sparkling history, and I plan to roster him on Sunday.

Fantasy Drivers: The Accelerators

Denny Hamlin (#11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)

Hamlin continues to struggle this year, currently sitting in 26th place in the overall rankings with no Top 10 finishes. In the last 12 road-course races, though, he has an average finish of 8.92 with seven Top 5 finishes. He has a strong rating of 100, and it is hard to fathom a world in which the No. 11 car continues to falter to this degree. One odd fact to note is that he has finished every road race he’s run since 2012. In DFS, finding drivers who will finish the race is half the battle.

Austin Cindric (#2 Ford, Team Penske)

Our first Ford appears this far down the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix list, but Cindric is no slouch on road courses. He has one Top 10 finish in only three Cup races, but Xfinity racing numbers support having confidence in him here. In 2019, he won back-to-back road courses at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio; in 2020, he followed that up with back-to-back wins at Road America and Daytona. He should have a salary that supports being a lineup filler and a pedigree that makes him a high-ceiling driver this weekend.

A.J. Allmendinger (#16 Chevrolet, Kaulig Racing)

Recent history is on our side with this one. In Allmendinger’s five road races since 2019, he has three Top 10s, two Top 5s, and one win. His average finish throughout his career is 16, but this is because he is the opposite of Hamlin in terms of finishing. In the races that he runs all laps, his average finish creeps toward 10. He might be the most significant boom-or-bust pick this weekend. At the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix, I’m willing to bet on boom but not across the board.

Joey Logano (#22 Ford, Team Penske)

Logano sits in second place in the Cup standings and has seemed to be a steady force on DFS teams thus far. I view him as a regular option this season: He may not do anything flashy, and he may not win that many races, but you’ll get positive points from him. During a stretch in 2019-2021, he had seven straight Top 10 road-course finishes. Road races aren’t necessarily a specialty for No. 22, but his rating on roads is 93.1, so he shouldn’t hurt you. The way he’s been running this season, he is an excellent addition to a lineup, depending on qualifying position and salary.

Christopher Bell (#20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)

In nine road-course races, Bell has an average finish of 17.89; however, he also has four Top 10s, two Top 5s, and one win to go along with an 86.1 rating. Last year, he had a terrible race at COTA, finishing only 18 of 54 laps. He had some success on road courses in the Xfinity Series, and Toyotas seem to show up strongly on roads as a group. Depending on QP, he could be a steal on Sunday.

Fantasy Drivers: The Brakes

While I am not suggesting avoiding all of these drivers at the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix, I would advise you to roster cautiously and ensure you have high-floor drivers around them. I’ve listed their road-course ratings here to give you a quantitative idea of their history.

Kevin Harvick (83.4)
Brad Keselowski (75.2)
Chris Buescher (74.1)
Erik Jones (74.0)
Austin Dillon (67.9)

Fantrax has some Formula One leagues to give you more chances to play if you’re looking for more fantasy racing opportunities. We’ll see you back
here on Sunday!

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