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Daily Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview & Picks for DraftKings - Daytona 500
Chris Durell will be bringing you his weekly race breakdown, top trends, and pre-qualifying targets to help you cash on DraftKings and FanDuel. You can also grab a copy of his free DFS NASCAR Cheatsheet that includes a ton of stats and a customizable model.
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Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL
Track - 2.5 Mile Tri-Oval Superspeedway
While it seems like just yesterday we were watching Joey Logano celebrate his first championship in Victory Lane at Homestead, it is time to start a brand new Monster Energy Cup Series season. With that brings the biggest race of the season, the 61st running of the Daytona 500.
The track is a 2.5-mile Tri-Oval Superspeedway that is one of two tracks(Talladega as well) that uses a traditional restrictor plate to help reduce top overall speeds. That is until this year as NASCAR is implementing a new rules package that will include a tapered spacer(similar to restrictor plate) that will be used in 17 of the 36 races, all over one mile in length. The Daytona 500 will be the last race using the traditional restrictor plate so current data is still very relevant. With that said, this is plate racing and there is always a "Big One" or two which can easily wipe out half the field or at least take them out of contention.
For fantasy, place differential is at the top of my list this week. Looking at the last two years(four Daytona races), there has been just nine of 40 drivers to finish Top 10 actually start Top 10. Even if we see a scenario like the Clash where racing went single file after two to three laps of racing, there is still lots of opportunities to move through the field in those two to three laps. You can also go with a slightly contrarian approach and go for dominator points as we have seen a driver lead 50 or more laps in five of the last six Daytona races and both times in 2016 the laps leader also won the race(Denny Hamlin-Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski-Coke Zero 400).
Qualifying is very important this week and the Daytona 500 does it different than anyone else. The first qualifying session was held on Sunday before the Clash but only set the front row for the Great American Race. Hendrick Motorsports won their fifth straight pole award at Daytona as William Byron and new crew chief, Chad Knauss finished just ahead of teammate, Alex Bowman. The field for the remaining drivers will be set with the Duel races on Thursday night. Stay tuned and be sure to check my DFS NASCAR sheet on Friday.
Last Six Winners at Daytona
- 2018 Summer - Erik Jones
- 2018 Daytona 500 - Austin Dillon
- 2017 Summer - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- 2017 Daytona 500 - Kurt Busch
- 2016 Summer - Brad Keselowski
- 2016 Daytona 500 - Denny Hamlin
Daytona opens up the season and is a race where almost anyone can win and the track history shows that. Over the last two years(four races) at Daytona, A.J. Allmendinger is the only driver with a Top 10 in each race and there are only three other drivers with a Top 10 in three of those races and that list includes Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, and Chris Buescher. While neither of those drivers has a win in that time, they have been huge fantasy assets as they come cheap and also picked up a ton of place differential. Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch have won the last two Daytona 500's while the Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have won the last two Coke Zero 400's.
Looking at the career numbers, Jimmie Johnson leads the field with three wins at Daytona including two Daytona 500's(2013, 2006). He has just an 18.6 career average finish here at Daytona but along with those three wins he also has the second most Top 10's(14) in the field. Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick are the only other two drivers in the field with multiple wins at Daytona, each with a Daytona 500 under the belt. Both have struggled recently at the track, however, as McMurray hasn't recorded a Top 10 here in 10 straight races while Harvick has five straight finishes of 19th or worse since his last Top 10 at the track.
Track Type History(Plate Tracks)
Over the last two years, no driver has been better on plate tracks than Aric Almirola. He won the playoff Talladega race this past season and has four Top 5's and five Top 10's in seven races with an 8.4 average finish. He also led all drivers in fantasy scoring on plate tracks last year with an average of 51.9 DK/56.5 FD points per race. Second in average fantasy scoring behind Almirola is Chris Buescher(48.6 DK/56.3 FD) who has back to back Top 5's at Daytona and has also picked up positive place differential in eight straight plate races. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the only driver in the field with multiple plate track wins(Daytona Summer 2017, Talladega 2017) over the last two seasons and is also one of just three drivers(Aric Almirola, Joey Logano) with four Top 5's in that time. From a dominator/laps led perspective, there are six drivers who have led over 100 laps over the last two years and all four were Ford drivers. They worked together so well in the draft. Will the success continue in 2019? It appears so as they are currently 1st from 5th in the Clash.
The first driver on my radar comes from the mid $7K range on both sites. He looked good at the Clash leading 51 of the 75 laps before he and Jimmie Johnson got tied up resulting in a 13th place finish. While I don't think he leads laps, he will be a core play if he starts outside the Top 15 this week. He struggled here at the Coke Zero 400 last July but finished Top 10 in three straight before that including a 6th and 5th in the last two Daytona 500's.
Another value play that jumps off the page this week is Chris Buescher. After starting his Daytona career with three straight crashes(35th, 40th, 39th), he has been excellent here with three straight Top 10 finishes including a 5th place finish at both races here last year. It all comes down qualifying but at these prices, Buescher allows you to go in almost any direction with lineup construction.
Jimmie Johnson($8,500 FD - $8,200)
Despite struggling at the track recently with no Top 10 since 2015, you can never count him out as he swept the 2013 races here at Daytona and leads all drivers in the field with two Daytona 500 wins. The Jimmie Johnson/Kevin Meendering era began last week with a win in the Clash and the Hendrick team looked good in the draft together and they ended up 1st through 4th in qualifying(William Byron and Alex Bowman will start front row, rest of order determined by Duels). Assuming the #48 starts close to the front as well, I think the team stack might be solid GPP stack this week.
Looking at outright winner bets pre-qualifying(as of Tues night) I love Jimmie Johnson(17-1) and Kurt Busch(17-1) who have three Daytona 500 wins between them which is way too much experience for 12th in odds. It is clear that the Fords are the favorites as they occupy the Top 4 spots in the odds(Brad Keselowski(8-1), Joey Logano(9-1), Kevin Harvick(12-1), and Clint Bowyer(13-1) and of those four I would take Harvick. Down further, I like Paul Menard(34-1) who has finished 6th an 5th in the last two Daytona 500's and has three finishes of 6th or better in his last four races overall at the track. If you are looking for a longshot(I always am here), Matt DiBenedetto(101-1) is on my radar. Outside of a crash in last year's Daytona 500, he has a 7th, 13th, and 9th in his last four Daytona races and is now on a new team who could be on the rise as a technical alliance with JGR.
With the longer bets like Menard and DiBenedetto, I also like hitting it each way which adds a second bet at same denomination but gives you 1/4 odds for a Top 4 finish(Top 5 on some sites). Nothing like having the lead on the last lap and getting passed at the finish line and not cashing(personal experience). An example would be a $2 bet on DiBenedetto at 101-1 would win me $202 if he wins and but if he finishes 2nd, 3rd, or 4th I would get roughly 25-1 odds on a second $2 bet. Both payout if he wins.
Chris Durell has been playing Daily Fantasy Sports for five years and fantasy in general for more than a decade. He is an active player in NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, and of course NASCAR. He lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with his wife and two daughters. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jager_Bombs9 for advice, strategy, answers to any NASCAR questions or how he copes with the winters up north.