The NASCAR season officially kicks off in the Cup Series with the Daytona 500m, America’s race and the biggest spectacle of the NASCAR season. As we know anytime the cars hit Daytona, or really any superspeedway, there is a great deal of unpredictability and virtually anyone has a chance to win. The drivers will go 200 laps, 500 miles on Sunday afternoon. Daytona is a 2.5-mile tri-oval that is heavily banked. The asphalt track banks 31 degrees in the turns and 18 degrees in the tri-oval and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of walking on the track you’d know that it is quite a climb up from the infield to the wall surrounding the track. The major factor or factors we have to deal with at Daytona is “the big one(s)”. The big one is a massive wreck that typically takes out anywhere from a quarter to one-third of the field. A wreck like this typically happens once, if not multiple times due to the style of racing required to run on a superspeedway, commonly known as pack racing. When cars are racing at a superspeedway in order to get around the track as quickly as possible we’ll see one, two, and sometimes even three lines form with cars drafting one another mere inches away from each other. If a car gets out of the draft they lose momentum and quickly lose positions on the track. The big one happens when a driver tries to make a move, gets too aggressive, or simply loses control of the car pushing 200 miles per hour. When a bunch of cars are so close to one another in most cases that one or two cars that have the mishap will take out the majority of cars around them. See below.
The most basic, elementary strategy when rostering drivers at Daytona is finding adequate or even just somewhat adequate drivers in decent equipment that are starting in the back, even more so than we would normally want to do searching for PD points. Typically these crashes I touched on will take out multiple cars that are front-running. Hypothetically this will give the drivers towards the back time to adjust and avoid the mayhem on the way by. This is often the type of trend we see in these races. When building lineups you might end up seeing a couple or even a few drivers that are head-scratchers and a hefty amount of salary left over. Don’t worry about those two situations because of the propensity of these races to be chaotic. The unpredictability of Daytona is what makes you hang onto the edge of your seat until the very end.
Most comparable tracks: Talladega Superspeedway (only difference is how much wider it is than Daytona)
*Note: all pricing is DraftKings focused
*I wouldn’t roster more than one of the following in any lineup
These are the drivers that we can typically expect to, you guessed it, dominate the race. When we think dominator we are looking for guys that will be in a position to lead a hefty amount of laps as well as be able to turn over fastest laps.
Kyle Larson ($10,200), Starting on the Pole
Larson is coming off one of the most historic seasons in NASCAR history and is trying to pick up where he left off as he’ll lead the field to green in the Daytona 500. It’s certainly against the grain to roster someone starting up front at Daytona but for someone who’s been as dominant as Larson since the beginning of last season, it comes with merit.
Joey Logano ($9,800), Starting 20th
Logano finds himself in sort of no-mans-land starting 20th. He’s not quite far enough back in the field to consider a “cash safe” play (whatever the fuck that means) but he’s in a good spot to get someplace differential points, find himself towards the front, grab some dominator points, and contend for a win. Logano, a one-time winner of the 500 has led 40, 6, 36, 26, and 37 laps in his last five trips to Daytona. Keep in mind that in three of those races he wrecked out but that’s the nature of the beast at Daytona. Regardless, Logano is a contender to get out front and win and keeping his salary and starting position in mind, his ownership should be substantially lower than that of the drivers starting in the 30’s.
Brad Keselowski ($8,200), Starting 3rd
Place Differential Targets
This is where the focus should be and where the money is going to be made. Finding the drivers with place differential that can stay out of trouble and see this race to the end is paramount.
Denny Hamlin ($10,500), Starting 30th
This is where the chalk starts. Hamlin, a three-time winner of the 500 has finished in the top five in five of his last races at Daytona. Starting 25th in last years 500, Hamlin ended up leading 98 laps and finishing fifth before all was said and done. He’ll be a mainstay in all of my lineups despite the ownership.
Ownership Pivot: William Byron ($9,400), Starting 23rd
Aric Almirola ($8,000), Starting 38th
There isn’t much to say here. Almirola will be supreme chalk because he starts 38th and he’s priced way down at $8,000. Like Dillon, Almirola should be priced up in the 10K range but regardless, here we are. In his last five races at Daytona, Almirola has finished in the top 22 four times with the one outlier being a wreck in last year’s 500. If you wanna get different in your lineups then fading Almirola would be the proper tactic as along with Hamlin they will be the highest owned drivers.
Austin Dillon ($8,400), Starting 36th
Dillon has won the 500 once and after some trouble in the second Duel the other night, Dillon will start way back at 36th. Dillon is brutally mispriced in this type of environment due mainly to the fact that DraftKings priced the drivers before qualifying and the Duels. Throughout his career, Dillon has found a way to survive in these superspeedway events. In 2021 specifically, Dillon finished third, eighth, 17th, and 11th in the four superspeedway events. Dillon always finds a way to hang around in these events and run in the middle of the pack for an extended period of time and if that’s the case on Sunday, Dillon will rack up plenty of place differential points.
Ownership Pivot: Daniel Hemric ($7,000), Starting 33rd
Justin Haley ($7,400), Starting 25th
Noah Gragson ($5,300), Starting 39th
Driver(s) I have most exposure to: Denny Hamlin
Driver I’m fading that worries me: None
Driver(s) I have zero interest in: Anyone starting from the 4th through 14th positions