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DraftKings Rankings: Phoenix playoff race

Rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.

(FPPK = average fantasy points per $1,000 of salary.)

1. Brad Keselowski ($9,500) – He can point his way to the finals, but if another contender (not already locked in) wins this weekend, then he’s out. Keselowski has to approach Phoenix as a must-win race. The Penske cars have been competitive at the short, flat tracks. A win is within the realm of reason. (4.5 FPPK)

2. Jimmie Johnson ($9,800) – It’s win-or-go-home time, but no other driver is better equipped to handle this situation. In last year’s championship race, Johnson started in the back and won. It’s been years since Johnson has won at Phoenix, but that interruption was due to Kevin Harvick’s excellence. No one will be surprised to see Johnson in victory lane on Sunday. (3.7 FPPK)

3. Chase Elliott ($9,300) – There are a handful of drivers battling for the last playoff spot. Elliot needs to win to advance to the championship race. Among the final contenders, Elliot was the fastest at Phoenix in the spring race. (4.3 FPPK)

4. Ryan Newman ($7,100) – If you go back through the last seven Phoenix races and recreate an optimal fantasy lineup for each race, Newman is in six of those lineups. In those six races, he averaged 42 fantasy points and his worst finish was 12th. (4.2 FPPK)

5. Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,300) – All season long, Truex has made it a mission to earn playoff stage points by winning stages. It paid off last week, and he advanced to the championship. This week means nothing. Why worry about running up front at Phoenix? This team needs to focus on Homestead. (6.5 FPPK)

6. Kyle Busch ($11,100) – Minutes before the Texas race, Busch said he was already looking ahead to Homestead and that he wasn’t even thinking about the Texas race. He proceeded to wreck on the first lap. Busch had the best car at Phoenix in the spring, but is his head in this race? (5.6 FPPK)

7. Kyle Larson ($10,200) – After his third DNF in a row, the dejected young star said he could not wait for the season to be over. He has talent. He has the car. He does not have confidence. It will be hard to click his name this weekend. (5.1 FPPK)

8. Aric Almirola ($6,100) – No driver with a salary less than $8,000 can match Ryan Newman’s fantasy point consistency. The next closest driver is Almirola. In the last five Phoenix races, Almirola has earned a top-15 fantasy score four times. (4.6 FPPK)

9. Kevin Harvick ($10,000) – Rodney Childress (Harvick’s crew chief) admits that his team no longer has an edge at Phoenix. Whether it’s due to a new tire does not really matter. The numbers are clear; this is no longer Harvick’s track. It’s a meaningless race because Harvick already has advanced to the championship. (4.5 FPPK)

10. Joey Logano ($9,100) – He wasn’t the fastest in the spring Phoenix practice, but he started the race on the pole. He led 82 laps before a penalty sent him deep into the field. From there, he was unable to battle forward and blew a tire in traffic. (3.4 FPPK)

11. AJ Allmendinger ($6,400) – Phoenix is not Allmendinger’s best short, flat track, but it’s still a short, flat track. He has a top-20 finish in 12 of his 16 trips to the desert. A top-20 finish is exactly what fantasy NASCAR players need from a driver in the $6,000 tier. (3.6 FPPK)

12. Ryan Blaney ($8,200) – He’s a longshot to make it to the championship race, but he’s made it this far. Blaney has been a top-10 driver at the short tracks all year, but he can’t consistently put together a full race. (3.1 FPPK)

13. Denny Hamlin ($8,900) – He’s known as a short-track racer, and he’s racing for a win. The concern is that top-10 drivers can’t hide from other top-10 drivers. They find each other. Hamlin can’t race fearing Chase Elliott’s revenge, but fantasy NASCAR players can fear payback. (4.2 FPPK)

14. Erik Jones ($8,300) – One of the six drivers in the optimal daily fantasy NASCAR lineup in the spring was Jones. He started eighth, his average position was eighth and he finished eighth. Every pick doesn’t have to be a home run. (3.8 FPPK)

15. Matt Kenseth ($9,200) – If you throw out the first short-track race of the season, Kenseth has the fifth-best average running position at the short tracks. The problem with that is Phoenix was the first short-track race of the season. What was the problem at Phoenix? He wrecked. (3.7 FPPK)

16. Jamie McMurray ($8,500) – Other than two bad races at Martinsville, McMurray has been his normal self at the short tracks. His average running position at the short tracks is 14th and that includes the two Martinsville races. (3.2 FPPK)

17. Clint Bowyer ($8,700) – Normally, the price tag on Bowyer doesn’t work. This isn’t a normal week. Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch might treat this race as an exhibition. This opens the door for Bowyer. He has three straight top-10 finishes at short tracks. (3.2 FPPK)

18. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ($8,000) – Last fall, Alex Bowman scored the most fantasy points at Phoenix in the No. 88 car. Junior scored the second-most points in the spring 2016 race, and he won the fall 2015 race. Before you lock him in, though, remember his car was not very good in this year’s spring race. (2.9 FPPK)

19. Kurt Busch ($7,900) – It’s top-10 or bust for Busch this season. At the short tracks, Busch has four top-10 finishes and six finishes outside of the top-20. Before finishing 25th in the spring race, he had a streak of five straight top-10 finishes at Phoenix. (3.0 FPPK)

20. Daniel Suarez ($7,500) – Top-10s are top-10s, but Suarez was not a seventh-place car at Phoenix. His average running position was 20th. He skipped the final pit and snuck away with a top-10. In all fairness, that was just his fourth Monster Energy Series  race ever. He can earn a legit top-10 this weekend. (3.9 FPPK)