The official start to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season (and daily fantasy NASCAR) is finally upon us. The Advance Auto Parts Clash and two Can-Am Duels were full of nail-biting action, a great preview of what’s to come during Sunday’s Daytona 500.
When it comes to daily fantasy NASCAR on DraftKings, the strategy at superspeedways is much different than at intermediate or short tracks. The key to success at Daytona is seeking out drivers who finished poorly in their respective Can-Am Duel race. DraftKings awards one point per position gained on track, so stronger drivers marching their way through the pack will weigh more heavily towards the final points total than a driver who starts up front.
With the starting lineups in the books, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when constructing your Daytona 500 DraftKings lineup.
ELITE TIER: $9,000 and up
Jimmie Johnson ($10,000)
Daytona: 30 Starts, 3 Wins, 11 Top fives (36.7%), 14 Top 10s (46.7%)
Average finish at Daytona: 17.5
Daytona Speedweeks has not been kind to the defending Cup champ Johnson. During the second Can-Am Duel, he was running aggressively towards the front until contact with David Ragan and Ryan Blaney caused him to blow a right front tire. As a result, Johnson will go to a backup car and have to start at the back of the pack, the third time he’s crashed the No. 48 this week when you add in the exhibition Clash.
But don’t sleep on Johnson. Remember, his points will accrue as if he started from the 24th position. Jimmie swept both Daytona races in 2013 and has three top fives in his last four Daytona 500 starts.
Kyle Busch ($9,400)
Daytona: 23 Starts, 1 Win, 7 Top fives (30.4%), 8 Top 10s (34.8%)
Average finish at Daytona: 17.5
Kyle Busch finished third in last season’s Daytona 500 and second in the July race. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas set the new standard for teamwork on restrictor plate tracks, and once they get together again on Sunday, expect Kyle to march to the front from his 21st starting spot. The 2015 champion will be another beneficiary of positive place differential points following a disappointing Can-Am Duel performance.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,000)
Daytona: 23 Starts, 1 Top five (2016 Daytona 500), 3 Top 10s (13%)
Average finish at Daytona: 22.5
Sticking with the current theme, Truex, out of all other drivers has the potential to garner the most points by climbing to a top-10 finish. Truex will take the green flag from 35th on the starting grid after failing post-race inspection following his Can-Am Duel race, thus losing his original starting spot. Truex, you might remember was mere inches away from winning this same race one year ago, the start of what would be a career year.
Can he do it again? Since moving to Toyota and aligning with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2016, the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team has run towards the front every week. Don’t expect that to change Sunday.
ALL-STAR TIER: $7,600 – $8,999
Matt Kenseth ($8,700)
Daytona: 34 Starts, 2 Wins, 6 Top fives (17.6%), 14 Top 10s (41.2%)
Average finish at Daytona: 18.1
Kenseth fell from first to 14th on the final lap of the Daytona 500 last year following an attempt to block eventual winner Denny Hamlin on the backstretch. He led 40 of 200 laps with an average running position of seventh place, the class of the field until that fatal last-lap mistake. The 2003 Cup champ is a two-time Daytona 500 winner and an underrated plate track racer, worth starting even though he qualified top 10 (ninth) for Sunday.
Erik Jones ($8,300)
Making first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Daytona
Jones, a rookie will be starting from the 34th position, one row ahead of Furniture Row Racing teammate Truex. It is easy to assume those two will work together in an effort to race towards the front. A mistake-free event, weaving out of trouble could lead to a mighty point total from the former Truck Series Champion.
Austin Dillon ($8,200)
Daytona: 7 Starts, 1 Top five (14.3%), 5 Top 10s (71.4%)
Average finish at Daytona: 11.7
Dillon leads all active drivers in Daytona average finish; he also held the best average among all active drivers on plate tracks last season. The fourth-year driver has a knack for this place, earning three straight Daytona top 10s and five top 10s in his last six Daytona races. Outside of a 31st-place finish in his first ever Daytona 500, Dillon has not finished worse than 14th here. The driver of the No. 3 Chevy for Richard Childress Racing rolls off the starting grid in 10th.
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,000
Ryan Blaney ($7,300)
Daytona: 3 Starts, 2 Top 20s
Average finish at Daytona: 24.0
Blaney’s Daytona average finish is skewed by the fact he blew an engine with less than 30 laps to go during his 2015 debut. In 2016, Blaney finished 19th and 14th in the two Daytona races, a marked improvement. He showed an aggressive driving style during the second Can-Am Duel Thursday night, fighting for the lead in the early going. Contact with Johnson, a simple racing incident caused a flat tire and enough damage to force him to a backup car.
His loss could be your gain under the DraftKings format, though. Blaney runs the same engines as the other two Team Penske drivers, both of whom have been atop practice charts during Daytona Speedweeks. A clean race from the back of the lineup for the third-generation driver could lead to a massive points payout. Blaney’s DK points will still count as though he started in 36th, not a large enough difference to sway the decision on him.
AJ Allmendinger ($6,700)
Daytona: 15 Starts, 1 Top five (6.7%), 2 Top 10s (13.3)
Average finish at Daytona: 24.3
Admittedly, Allmendinger’s Daytona track record is not impressive. But a fourth-place finish in his Can-Am Duel raised some eyebrows, proving that the ‘Dinger can make his way towards the front. Following the Duel, Allmendinger also failed post-race inspection, thus losing his starting spot near the front. That means Allmendinger receives DraftKings lineup consideration solely due to the fact that he will be starting from the 38th position. Let’s just say there’s only one way to go from nearly dead last….
David Ragan ($6,000)
Daytona: 20 Starts, 1 Win, 3 Top fives (15%), 4 Top 10s (20%)
Average finish at Daytona: 20.4
Ragan is an outstanding restrictor plate racer. His only two career wins have come on plate tracks, Daytona in 2011 and Talladega in 2013. That second win came with Front Row Motorsports, a team he was reunited with for the 2017 season. Both he and teammate Landon Cassill outperformed their equipment during Thursday’s Duels, proving that at Daytona, anything can happen. Ragan will start from 20th in the Daytona 500 and is a trendy darkhorse pick to win the race.
New to DraftKings? Now’s your chance to get involved! The start of the 2017 NASCAR season is the perfect time to sign up for their $10,000 freeroll. This contest is completely free for anyone to join. All you have to do is draft a team of six drivers for the race on Sunday for a chance to win!
There’s $10,000 in total prizes and over 4,500 entries will win money guaranteed. The contest locks at 2:00 PM ET on Sunday so be sure to click the link above and draft your team before then.