DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Coke Zero 400
I hope everyone enjoyed their Independence Day. Qualifying for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was wiped out by rain, so Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be on the pole based on his practice time from Friday.
Earnhardt Jr. ($12,300) is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500, and he won the summer race at DIS back in 2001. He comes with a hefty price tag, and while Laps Led (+0.25 points) is a positive at DraftKings, he could lose points in the Place Differential and Pass Differential categories if he doesn’t go wire-to-wire. With so many things which can go wrong, including the inevitable ‘big one’, where many cars are collected in a wreck at the restrictor-plate track, Little E is a bit of a risk with such a high price tag. He is a tremendous plate driver, but better values can be had down the board.
Another high-priced guy you won’t want to pass on is Denny Hamlin ($11,100), who leads all drivers over the past five races at Daytona with 75.7 percent of his laps run inside the Top 15. He has led 73 of those laps while posting a Driver Rating of 100.00, one of only three drivers in triple digits for rating. Hamlin starts 35th based on poor practice times, but that’s great news for DFS players. He should pick up plenty of Fantasy points thanks to pass differential.
The same holds true for Kevin Harvick ($11,600), who is a steal at this price level. He will be 34th in the starting grid, and there is no way he won’t work his way into the Top 10 early and often. Again, for pass differential he will be a steal, and the fact he is fourth among all active drivers in Average-Finish Position (16.1) at Daytona makes him a must-play. He has finished inside the Top 10 in 12 of his 28 starts at DIS.
A sentimental pick will be Hendrick Motorsports’ Jeff Gordon ($11,700), who makes his final career start at DIS in the famous rainbow paint scheme. He goes off 24th, which is very important considering he should be able to scoot up the leaderboard and log some DFS points thanks to the pass differential category. He is a respectable eighth in Driver Rating over the past five Daytona races, and he has been inside the Top 15 in 67.4 percent of his laps, leading 120 of them. That’s the second-highest among any other current driver, and laps led also obviously helps you at DraftKings. Gordon is the guy you will want to spend big DFS salary on because he will help you across the board, as long as he isn’t collected in an early mishap.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon ($9,600) will start on the front row, and he will be a popular selection because of his mid-level salary and the fact he claimed the checkered flag in the Subway Firecracker 250 in the Xfinity Series Saturday night.
The not-so-secret sleeper for this weekend’s race is David Ragan ($9,600), whom everyone now seems to be talking about. He will go off eighth for Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 55 Toyota. Looking at his recent results, there is very little to be excited about. He started ninth at Sonoma last weekend, but tumbled to 39th. The week before in Michigan he finished 35th. In fact, in five of his past seven races he has been 33rd or worse. However, Ragan has done his best work in the Sprint Cup Series on the superspeedway runs, finishing 17th in February’s Daytona 500 while ranking 13th among all active drivers in Average-Finish Position on restrictor-plate tracks (19.21). He has two wins, seven Top 5s, 11 Top 10s and 19 Top 20s in 34 career plate starts, so definitely keep an eye on Ragan.
Another less heralded guy to familiarize yourself with will be David Gilliland ($7,700). He won’t wow anyone with his 22.2 AFP in 30 career plate starts, but he has finished in the Top 20 on 15 different occasions while finding his way into the Top 5 three times. He has five DNFs in 14 career Daytona starts, but he also has a Top 5 and two Top 10s at DIS. If you need a No. 5 driver on the cheap, Gilliland could produce strong results with a small price tag. Remember, he was 11th at the Daytona 500 in February.
Many eyes will be on Casey Mears ($8,700) after his sixth-place showing at DIS back in February. While he has never claimed victory at Daytona in either the spring or summer, he has two Top 5s, six Top 10s and 12 Top 20s in 22 career starts with a 20.2 AFP, which is better than more heralded drivers like Paul Menard ($9,500), Ryan Newman ($9,700), Martin Truex Jr. ($11,300) and even Ragan.
Jamie McMurray ($10,200) is a driver with a high price tag, but terrible career results at Daytona. Sure, he has two wins in 25 starts at the Florida track, but his eight DNFs are the most among any active driver. A dark cloud seems to follow Jamie Mac around DIS, and Sunday should be no different. Many will find him attractive because of his four straight finishes of 11th or better, but he was 27th at the Daytona 500 and similar underwhemling results are expected.
Another big-ticket driver who could slide down the board and hurt DFS owners is Kasey Kahne ($11,300). His starting position hasn’t been a problem over the past five Daytona races, as he has averaged an 8.4 starting spot, which is second-best among all active drivers. But he has posted an AFP of 27.0, as something always seems to go wrong for the No. 5. He has run just 60.9 percent of his laps in the Top 15, which isn’t a great conversion rate considering his lofty average starting spot. And he has led just two total laps over his past five visits to Daytona, so that’s not something DFS owners are going to want to touch.
Also, Greg Biffle ($9,700) will be forced to the back of the pack to start due to an engine change. The fact he has finished outside of the Top 15 in each of his past seven summer Daytona races doesn’t bode well for his DFS value.
Defending champ Aric Almirola ($9,200) was one of the biggest surprise winners of the 2014 Sprint Cup Series season. Don’t expect it to happen again. Last season’s summer Daytona run was his only Top 5 or Top 10 finish in eight career starts at the track. Despite that win he still has a rather pedestrian 23.5 AFP, and he has crashed out in three of his eight starts. Lightning will not strike twice for Almirola.
The rain crushed Ryan Blaney ($9,000) and Michael McDowell ($7,000), as they did not have a chance to qualify Saturday, so based on their practice times they will be out of the field of 43 cars for Sunday night’s race.