NASCAR returned this week with big viewer ratings in a starved market, and DraftKings is once again offering its biggest DFS contests ever in celebration of a professional sport returning. This Sunday, the NASCAR $1M Carbonator will award $200k to first place with up to 150 entries allowed at $12 each for the Coca-Cola 600, to be run at 6 p.m. at Charlotte Motor Speedway and broadcast on FOX.

At, PlayPicks we’re providing our top NASCAR DFS plays to help you build your lineups and offering some advice on where to place bets at US sportsbooks like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook for the event.

In this column, we’ll introduce readers to the basic tenets behind NASCAR DFS strategy with advice from DraftKings analyst Pearce Dietrich. Then, we highlight the top DFS plays and values to consider for all of the Cash and GPP contests offered at DraftKings on May 24.

Keep in mind the betting lines may shift prior to the race and drivers could drop out or be disqualified due to coronavirus test results.

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Coca-Cola Charlotte Motor Speedway 600 Strategy

On DraftKings, NASCAR DFS requires users to pick six drivers under a $50k salary cap. Drivers earn points based on the differential between their starting and finishing position, so if a driver starts in 20th and finishes in 10th they get 10 DK points. Drivers also earn points (0.5) for a fastest lap and 0.25 DK points for each lap led.

The course at Charlotte Motor Speedway is 1.5 miles and drivers will attempt to complete 400 laps to complete a 600-mile race, the longest course in NASCAR. The course banks 24 degrees at its corners and its track has a high downforce package that glues tires to the asphalt and allows drivers to run close to full throttle throughout the race.

Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, qualifying will take place on a timed trial basis at 2 p.m. on race day. The resulting starting position will be critical information for choosing DFS lineups.

“You really want to weight last year’s Charlotte race heavily, which was the first time they used a high downforce track,” said Dietrich. “It actually takes away from driver skill a little. You can be a really good car, but because of the dirty air and aerodynamics it can be hard to pass.”

Dietrich believes that most of the passing will occur after restarts, which will have a bit of a different look due to a lack of practice time and restrictions from the current pandemic.

Quick restarts could lead to some tire rubs and wrecks, just like in the 2019 race at Charlotte which had 17 wrecks. Last year at Charlotte, Corey Lajoie ($5,400) and David Ragan (DNQ) were featured in the optimal DFS lineup because they managed to navigate all those wrecks and finish.

“Consider rostering some of the cheaper drivers that play it safe,” said Dietrich. “Go ahead and spend salary on really expensive drivers and don’t be afraid to take two no-name drivers.”

Yet Dietrich also points out the need to differentiate lineups in large GPP formats. There is far more action in NASCAR DFS with the NBA, NHL, and MLB out of commission currently, and with a 40-driver pool, the possibility of duplicate lineups is strong.

While analyzing recent races and statistics on similar tracks will help, Dietrich advises DFS players to watch old races and look for something that might give them an edge. Watching last year’s race at Charlotte could be tremendously helpful by showing which value plays know how to navigate the craziness of restarts and finish in decent position.

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NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 Top DFS Plays

Kevin Harvick ($11,200)

Harvick was running hot prior to the two-plus month break due to the pandemic, and his crew seems to be thriving under the restrictions. Harvick won the Real Heroes 400 on May 17 and finished 3rd from the 20th starting position on Wednesday at Darlington Raceway. The 44-year-old veteran is now the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all five races this season. He won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2011 and 2013, and will be extremely tough to pass on this track if he can earn good starting position. In 2019, Harvick earned 6 poles and won twice with two more 4th-place finishes.

Joey Logano ($10,000)

Glossing over top-priced driver (Kyle Busch) and reigning champion at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Martin Truex Jr.) could help you differentiate your GPP lineups this Sunday. Logano is no slouch considering he finished second at Charlotte last year and he’s thrived at similar high downforce tracks. In February, Logan won the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a comparable surface to Charlotte. He’s listed with +800 odds to win the Coke 600 at DraftKings Sportsbook and that be could pay off handsomely if he earns a good starting position.

Chase Elliott ($9,700)

With so many pit stops involved in a 600-mile race, Elliott has a clear-cut advantage at Charlotte. His crew is one of the best in the business and they’ll all be fired up after Kyle Busch wrecked Elliott’s car at Darlington on Wednesday. Elliott is one driver who won’t need great starting position to push for a top-10 finish. He started 11th at Darlington last Sunday and worked his way to 4th thanks to some adjustments in the latter stages. Last September, Elliott started 19th and won the Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so he can thrive on this track.

Jimmie Johnson ($9,200)

Is Johnson slipping in his old age? A crash at Darlington last Sunday (resulting in a -19 DK-point disaster) might raise some questions about the 44-year-old, but the reality is he was leading through the first stage and bounced back nicely by finishing 8th from 37th starting position on Wednesday. Veterans tend to shine over the course of a long race and the Coca-Cola 600 has been a great event for Johnson. He’s won the event 8 times with 16 finishes in the top 5 and 22 finishes in the top 10. Most importantly, he’s finished the race 45.71% of the time and that makes him a solid value, despite his recent crash.

Erik Jones ($8,500)

Jones is another young driver thriving in the post-pandemic Cup Series thanks in part to his strong pit crew. The Joe Gibbs racer moved from 20th to 8th at Darlington last Sunday and worked his way from 13th to 5th on Wednesday with his crew making quick adjustments to his No. 20 Toyota. The 23-year-old started 2020 with a win at Daytona and could become a more recognizable name if he can post a third straight top-10 finish this Sunday.

Ryan Newman ($6,500)

If you feel like gambling with one of your value plays, Newman’s No. 6 Mustang could be a wildcard car this Sunday. The “Rocket Man” is known for taking risks and was out for months due to a head injury after a brutal crash in the Daytona 500. The 42-year-old picked up with an unremarkable showing at Darlington last Sunday, then took a few more risks with 8 fastest laps in Wednesday’s Toyota 500. He could become a great value play after qualifying since we’ve seen Newman record nine poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Starting from the front of the pack could make all the difference.

Others to Consider: Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.