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🏎 NASCAR DFS: Daytona 500 Top Plays for DraftKings and FanDuel (FREE)

Phillip Bennetzen

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FanDuel NASCAR DFS Picks cheat sheet for Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum with expert lineup optimizer picks today.

The field is set for the 2021 Daytona 500 with Hendrick teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron sitting on the front row. Therefore, let’s dive into the top DraftKings and FanDuel NASCAR DFS picks for this superspeedway event as the 2021 NASCAR Cup season gets underway.

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[DAYTONA]

Setting the Ground Rules

Before we dive into my top cash and tournament picks for this Sunday’s 52nd Daytona 500, let’s cover the basics once again. First off, if this is your first NASCAR DFS slate ever, take some time and read this. Last February I penned the ultimate compendium to the Daytona 500. In that article, you will find addressed why Daytona (Talladega as well) are anomalies compared to the rest of the Series. The lineups you will build this Sunday will be drastically different from what we do next weekend or the week following.

The basic tenet to remember is the higher up the starting grid a driver is, the more inherent risk they carry. Consequently, the lower down the grid they start the less risk they have. Nearly everything, for NASCAR DFS involving a superspeedway race, comes back to how much place differential can they gain versus how much can they lose. That is why in cash games it’s better to opt for all of your drivers to start 20th or worse. Cash games require floor and safety, the only place to find that is in those drivers who start in the latter half of the field.

On the flip side, in tournaments you’ll need some exposure to drivers starting on the other half of the midpoint. While certainly not all of your drivers should start 19th or higher, you will need some. Especially, if you look at the Daytona 500 Race Sheets and inspect past optimal lineups.


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Daytona 500 NASCAR DFS Picks | DraftKings & FanDuel

DraftKings & FanDuel Cash Plays

Denny Hamlin, 25th ($14,000 FanDuel, $10,400 DraftKings)

Yes, I know Hamlin is chalk. I do not care one ounce. If this scenario seems oddly reminiscent of a previous situation, it should remind you of last year. We’re getting the Series best superspeedway driver back in the mid-20s. Hamlin’s game plan is pretty solid after winning three of the last four Daytona 500 events. Move up, avoid wrecks, make your charge when the laps are ticking down. In fact, Hamlin was so good at it last year he failed to finish outside of the top five in any of the four superspeedway events.

Despite his starting position, which we know at Daytona is meaningless, Hamlin is still the outright favorite to win at +800.

Erik Jones, 31st ($6,000 FanDuel, $7,300 DraftKings)

Last season’s Busch Clash winner rolls off the grid 31st. Jones’ finishes at Daytona have truly been all over the map. He has the previously mentioned win as well as a third-place finish in the 2019 Daytona 500. However, mixed in those finishes are a couple of DNFs. In Jones’s last six trips to Daytona, he’s only finished the race on the lead lap twice.

On the other hand, he has a floor thanks to his starting position. Furthermore, he has something he hasn’t had much of in year’s past: A strong manufacturer partnership with fellow Chevrolets. I’m not excited about Jones ceiling, especially for tournaments. On the other hand, as a cash game play, he’s a driver you don’t second guess.

Addressing Some Elephants

Instead of writing up a third driver, that you can probably pick for yourself out of everyone in the 20s or 30s, let’s talk about all of these “no-brainer” selections. If you’ll reference the Race Sheets, you’ll see drivers whose starting number is highlighted in green. Those are the drivers I feel are safe bets and should probably make up the core of your rosters. Besides those drivers are other drives whose starting number is in blue. These are drivers I don’t feel as confident in and should probably be saved for tournament rosters.

  • Tyler Reddick, 29th – an aggressive driver whose last three Daytona finishes have gone 29, 28 and 27.
  • Martin Truex Jr., 26th – based on his history at Daytona, he’s a more expensive version of Erik Jones with two top-fives and two DNFs.
  • Chase Briscoe, 30th – rookies at superspeedways generally give me spastic twitches, even if they have a stellar Xfinity career at these types of venues. I’ll make slight exceptions for Kaz Grala and Austin Cindric since they start on the final row. At least those two can’t lose place differential.
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DraftKings & FanDuel Tournament Plays

Remember, these are players who you may want to have some exposure to but don’t feel compelled to. Not everyone who starts in the latter part of the field is going to matriculate their way forward. More than likely, our final top 10 will have a driver or two from the single digits or teens. The key to unlocking tournaments is nailing these riskier drivers who might also lead laps in the process.

Ryan Blaney, 14th ($13,300 FanDuel, $10,000 DraftKings)

As Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians once said, “No risk it, no biscuit.” While that may be a mantra for us DFS players this weekend, it might also be the way Blaney has approached Daytona. Over the past three seasons, Blaney has three top-10 finishes to pair with three DNFs. Encouraging for us is that Blaney finished sixth and second in his two trips to Daytona last year. Pair that with a win in the Spring Talladega race and we have one of the more consistent superspeedway racers of late.

At DraftKings Sportsbook, Blaney currently has the third-best odds to win at +1200. Even if Blaney doesn’t win, he’s one of the likelier drivers to ascend to the front and lead a portion of laps. Perhaps Blaney can lead enough laps to help compensate for his lack of place differential.

Michael McDowell, 17th ($5,500 FanDuel, $6,300 DraftKings)

For years, McDowell has been a cash game staple at Daytona. A reliable starter in the mid-20s, he would always avoid wrecks and end his day with modest place differential. While he generally wasn’t the reason you won, he was definitely never the reason you lost either.

Now, I feel a lot of DFS players are just going to mark McDowell out of their player pools since he’s on the other side of 20th. Truth be told, it does take him out of cash game considerations. Yet if people are going to take this perennial top-15 Daytona driver and remove him from their lineups, then I want in. Nothing has changed in McDowell’s prospects of bringing home another top-15 or even top-five like he did in 2019.

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If the drivers in the 20s and 30s fail to move up, then the door will be opened for McDowell to have a top-10 fantasy day.


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Phill Bennetzen is a father, husband, and Catholic as well as a self-professed annoying fitness guy. Phill heads up NASCAR content at Awesemo.com. You can contact Phill by emailing [email protected].

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