The 2021 NASCAR season is finally underway as Daytona Speedweeks come to an end with the Daytona 500 this Valentine’s Day. The front row is set with teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron coming away with the fastest times in qualifying on Wednesday. Both had troubles during the Duels on Thursday leaving some uncertainty on Sunday. With the racing we have seen during the week, this is shaping up to be a fun start to the season. With that being said, let’s dive into this slate and discuss how we should approach this from a fantasy perspective. Let’s get into some NASCAR DFS picks.
Daytona 500 NASCAR DFS Strategy
This is a race that requires a very unique strategy when constructing lineups. Daytona is a track that produces many wrecks and plenty of chaos. This is due to how the drivers cars work at superspeedways. They drive in tight packs and draft off of each other causing very tight and entertaining racing. All it takes is one wrong move to start a chain reaction of wrecks that can take out nearly half the field in a moments notice. This is why it’s best to focus mainly on drivers starting further back in the field as they have the highest floor and ceiling combinations on the slate. This doesn’t mean we need to completely avoid drivers starting in the front half of the pack, but they certainly carry ample risk.
Upper-Tier Driver Picks
Denny Hamlin $10,400 DraftKings – $14,000 Fanduel (25th)
There’s nothing sneaky about Hamlin on Sunday, he’s won the past two Daytona 500’s and has been the class of the field at superspeedways in recent memory. Looking at his numbers last season at these track types, he had a flawless 2.3 average finish and finished inside the top five all four races. As I mentioned earlier, we are looking for drivers starting further back due to their place differential upside and Hamlin offers us the best of both worlds. He starts in the back and is the favorite in Vegas to win this race. He should be a staple in cash lineups this weekend.
Ryan Blaney $10,000 DraftKings – $13,300 FanDuel (14th)
If you are looking to try and get off the Hamlin ownership in tournaments, a good place to look is this 8-14 starting range that features some of the series best drivers. My favorite of the bunch is Ryan Blaney, however, as he actually gave Hamlin a run for his money in last year’s Daytona 500. The two were neck and neck as they crossed the finish line, but it was Hamlin who reigned supreme. Team Penske as a whole tends to run very well at these plate races and all are extremely viable, but Blaney is the one with the best track record recently at these superspeedways. Nothing against Logano or Keselowski, but they have been absolute magnets for carnage recently.
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Mid-Range Driver Picks
Erik Jones $7,300 DraftKings – $6,000 FanDuel (31st)
For those that don’t know, Jones has moved on from his ride at Joe Gibbs to Richard Petty Motorsports. This is an obvious downgrade for him this year, but it shouldn’t be a major factor for him at Daytona. This is a track where equipment doesn’t matter as much as it normally would and Jones has established himself as a solid superspeedway driver. Since we have no data on Jones in this car before, we can look at how Bubba Wallace performed in recent races here at Daytona. He had an average finish around 15th place and had multiple top five finishes. We also saw Bubba consistently compete inside the top ten. Jones is a previous winner at Daytona and unless he wrecks out early on, he’ll be one of the best place differential plays on the slate.
Chris Buescher $6,900 DraftKings – $7,300 FanDuel (22nd)
I’m really hoping Buescher goes overlooked on Sunday as he’s sort of sandwiched in-between a load of good place differential play and his starting position may steer people clear, but I think that would be a mistake. Buescher may not have the biggest name in the sport, but he has quietly been one of the best drivers in the field at Daytona in recent years. His average finish over the past six races of 12.7 is second only behind back to back Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin. He also has three top fives under his belt and four top tens. Some guys just know how to stay clean at Daytona and Buescher is near the top of the list.
Value Driver Picks
Austin Cindric $6,100 DraftKings – $6,200 FanDuel (39th)
Usually we should be hesitant on rookies at superspeedways, but when you start on the back row, it doesn’t really matter who you are as you instantly insert your name into the conversation as being one of the top plays on the slate due to the high floor you provide DFS players. Most of these drivers starting in the very back have some pretty shoddy rides, but Cindric got his car from Team Penske so we know it will at least have the ability to move through the field. Not saying we should expect him to ride up front with his other Penske teammates, but he should definitely be able to work his way around the Gase’s and Houff’s of the world.
Kaz Grala $4,900 DraftKings – $4,500 FanDuel (40th)
If you want the highest floor play on the slate, Kaz Grala is your man. He is incapable of losing any points and can only maintain or gain points throughout the race. This is exactly what you are looking for from your drivers at Daytona and all Grala has to do is keep his nose clean for 200 laps to become one of the best place differential plays on the slate. Even if he happened to be the first guy to wreck out, he’s still guaranteed positive points, meanwhile, someone like Bowman could potentially end up with close to negative 30 points.
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