DFS NASCAR: Daytona 500 DraftKings Lineup Tips
The Can-Am Duel qualifying races are in the books, and the starting lineup for the 2018 Daytona 500 is officially set. Young guns Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott picked up wins in the qualifying races, locking them into Row 2 behind pole winner Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin.
Starting position is crucial for determining a driver’s DFS value at any track, but most of the time, building a winning DFS NASCAR lineup means targeting a couple drivers starting up front and focusing on the laps led and fastest laps run categories. You can throw that strategy out the window this weekend, and at any restrictor-plate race for that matter.
With the field bunched together in a giant pack, the fastest laps run category is effectively useless. Even the laps led category is greatly devalued. More importantly, the likelihood of a driver wrecking is so much higher at a plate track that a strong starting spot becomes a liability because of all the potential points to lose in the place differential category.
On the flip side, drivers starting in the back actually have tons of potential because they have a bunch of differential points to gain. History says that stacking your lineup with drivers starting way in the back, even drivers from smaller teams that you would never consider at a typical oval, is the recipe for success.
In last year’s Daytona 500, only one driver who started in the Top 10 finished in the Top 10, and only two Top 10 qualifiers finished in the Top 15. Meanwhile, six drivers who started 25th or worse ended up in the Top 10, including four who started 30th or worse.
Yes, I’ll probably have a few lineups where I pick a driver starting up front. In these cases, I’ll be targeting drivers who have shown speed throughout the week and could end up leading 50-plus laps and winning the race. However, most of my lineups will be loaded with drivers starting outside the Top 25. The place differential category is the safest and most effective source of points this weekend. Build your lineups accordingly.
Brad Keselowski ($10,400)
He cost a lot of people money when he crashed out of his qualifying race, but on the plus side, he is now in position to help you make a lot of money in the Daytona 500. Keselowski has been the most dominant driver at plate tracks, winning three of the last seven and leading 30-plus laps five times in that span. Starting 31st, Keselowski should exploit the place differential category to the fullest while potentially leading some laps. He’ll have a golden opportunity to be the top scorer Sunday.
Kyle Larson ($9,300)
It has been a rough start to Speedweeks for Larson, but don’t abandon him just yet. He’ll be starting way back in 38th, so among the drivers with a legitimate shot to win Sunday, he has the most upside through place differential. Larson has also been solid at the plate tracks recently, notching five Top 15s in his last six starts. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being the top scorer at DraftKings this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,100)
Johnson has been more bust than boom at the plate tracks recently, and he’s already wrecked two cars during Speedweeks and will have to start 35th. However, he also owns five wins at restrictor-plate tracks, including two in the Daytona 500. There aren’t many guys who have a legitimate chance of winning Sunday who also have a chance to earn 30-plus points through place differential.
Aric Almirola ($7,700)
He was the victim of Jimmie Johnson’s spin during the first qualifying race, but as far as I’m concerned, Almirola’s misfortune Thursday just makes him a no-brainer play Sunday. He’ll start 37th, but he has four straight Top 10s at plate tracks and owns a Daytona win. Almirola offers tons of potential for a great price.
GPP Difference Makers
Chase Elliott ($10,200)
I won’t even consider most drivers starting up front, but Elliott is on the short list of guys I’d make an exception for this weekend. He clearly has one of the strongest cars, leading 17 laps in the Clash and winning his qualifying race. It’s also easy to forget that he was battling for the lead in last year’s Daytona 500 in the closing laps. It’s a risky play for sure, but if Elliott ends up leading the most laps and winning the race, the risk will be well worth it. I’ll have him in at least one of my lineups.
Joey Logano ($9,600)
The other driver starting in the Top 10 that I’ll probably have some exposure to is Logano. He has three plate wins under his belt, and he has six finishes of sixth or better in the last 10 plate races, leading double-digit laps in four of the last five. He’s also been strong throughout Speedweeks, finishing second in the Clash and in his qualifying race. Team Penske has looked strong as a whole, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Logano ends up leading the most laps and winning the race Sunday.
Jamie McMurray ($8,000)
If you are looking to go against the grain with a pick or two but don’t want to risk using drivers starting in the Top 10, McMurray is an interesting alternative. He starts 19th, and the mid-pack starting spot could help him fly under the radar a bit while still giving him some upside in the differential category. McMurray is also a four-time winner at plate tracks, so he always has a chance to make some serious noise at Daytona.
William Byron ($7,300)
The rookie’s introduction to plate racing at the Cup level didn’t go well, and Byron ended up spinning in his qualifying race after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got him aero loose. His lack of experience is still a red flag, but his 33rd-place starting spot screams out potential. If Byron has elite equipment, and if he makes it to the finish, he has a chance to be one of the biggest movers at top scorers at DraftKings this weekend. You at least have to have him a in a couple of lineups.
Kasey Kahne ($6,500)
Kahne isn’t going on the Mt. Rushmore of plate racers any time soon, but he is in the middle of a hot streak, logging three Top 10s in the four races last year while posting a 9.5 average finish. More importantly, he starts outside the Top 25, so he’s in line for a big point total if he ends any where near the front.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,400)
His 36th-place starting spot gives him plenty of room to bolster his score through place differential, and DiBenedetto showed last year that he is capable of delivering decent results at plate tracks. He finished 18th or better in three of the four plate races, scoring a Top 10 in the Daytona 500. If you are looking for cap relief, DiBenedetto is a low-risk, high-upside play.
David Gilliland ($5,100)
It’s been over a year since Gilliland has been in a Cup race, but he been a serviceable restrictor-plate driver in his career. He finished in the Top 20 in two of his last three starts at Daytona and in two of his last three starts at Talladega. He also got some seat time in the Truck Series race at Daytona Friday night, spending a decent amount of time leading the pack. Gilliland starts 39th, so he has nothing but upside through place differential. He may choose to stay out of trouble early and end up grabbing a mid-pack finish to post a solid score for a bargain price.