DraftKings DFS NASCAR Picks: Daytona 500
Speedweeks at Daytona Beach comes to a close as the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season kicks off with the Daytona 500 Sunday. It’s an exciting time for racing fans, and DFS players tend to get involved in the big race, too. There are plenty of big-name drivers worth a look, and there are plenty of values to help you break through into the win column this weekend, too. In fact, it’s those No. 5 or 6 value drivers who will push you to Victory Lane in your GPP and cash games.
Starting up top, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,300) is worth every penny of his salary. He is the only DraftKings option at five figures, but that’s because he is so dominant at Daytona International Speedway, and restrictor-plate tracks in general. According to NASCAR’s Loop Data, Little E owns a 98.5 Driver Rating over the past 12 starts at Daytona, leading 196 laps, more than any other active driver, and he has a 7.9 Average-Finish Position (AFP).
Dale Jr. has also run inside the Top 15 in 69.4 percent of his laps, again, more than any other driver. He is Fantasy Gold on plate runs, and you’ll be able to squeeze him into your lineup with the good values below. Unfortunately, even with such a high salary his exposure will be ultra high. Still, he will not disappoint, and it’s better to neutralize him in your opponent’s lineup rather than not select him and wish you did.
A lot of Fantasy owners will make the mistake of selecting Penske Racing drivers Sunday, especially since Joey Logano ($9,600) won this race last season. While Logano showed he can be a force on most track types with a breakout performance in 2015, restrictor-plate tracks haven’t been his forte over the course of his career. In fact, Daytona is his fifth-worst track with an 18.6 AFP in 14 career starts, posting just four Top 10s with 38 laps led and two DNFs. Lately he has been better on plate tracks, but the No. 22 is too risky at this salary level.
Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski ($9,200) is coming off a disappointing 2015 and looking to rebound in a big way. However, in 13 career starts at DIS he has a 22.3 AFP, which makes the restrictor-plate track his worst statistically. He has just five Top 20 finishes at Daytona while posting four DNFs. His overall body of work at the place screams stay away, especially at such a high DFS salary.
Another risky play is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth ($9,000). He has won at Daytona twice in 32 career starts, while placing inside the Top 10 on 14 different occasions, so he isn’t terrible at the track. However, while he managed to secure a starting spot in the front row in qualifying, he must go to the pack of the back to start of the pack Sunday as he needs to use his backup car following a big wreck in one of the Can-Am Duel races Thursday night. He had a chance to fire out of the gate and lead some early laps, but now that is gone for DFS owners. He has plenty of opportunity to charge up through the pack and eventually get to the lead, but he won’t lead many laps and he will be hard-pressed to make a dent in the Place Differential category, obviously.
Kenseth’s teammate Denny Hamlin ($8,600) is a JGR car you’re going to want. His salary is very attractive, and the No. 11 comes in with steam after a win at the Sprint Unlimited, his third such victory. And in the past 12 Daytona starts, he is second only to Dale Jr. in Driver Rating at 92.0. He has led 156 laps while running inside the Top 15 in 61.3 percent of his laps, posting a respectable 14.1 AFP. He has never won at Daytona in the 500 or July race, but he is always solid, and has finished in the Top 20 in more than half of his runs there while only crashing out once. He is as safe as they come, and a steal as a No. 3 or 4 driver option.
Another JGR car, defending Sprint Cup Series champ Kyle Busch ($9,100) also fires in after winning one of the Can-Am Duels. He is healthy this season after missing last year’s run due to leg and foot injuries suffered in the Xfinity Series Daytona race last February. Rowdy has a win here, and five Top 5s in 21 starts, but you’re going on his recent series win and Can-Am victory, and not his overall numbers at Daytona which are rather marginal. He is must riskier than Hamlin if you’re deciding between the two.
One JGR driver you won’t want is Carl Edwards ($8,700), as he always seems to struggle at DIS. He has a terrible 20.2 AFP with no wins, only eight Top 10s and three DNFs. Hendrick’s Kasey Kahne ($8,200) appears attractive on the surface with a mid-tier price, but he has no wins and just two Top 5 showings at DIS in his career with a 19.9 AFP in 24 starts, proving he is no threat at the track.
Speaking of Hendrick, it seems unfathomable to forget about Jimmie Johnson ($9,900), the six-time champ, but he is often overshadowed by Dale Jr. at the plate runs. J.J. can hold his own, although they aren’t his best track type. He still has three wins at Daytona, 11 Top 5s and 260 laps led in 28 career starts with a 16.9 AFP, fourth-best among all active drivers. His six DNFs do stick out, however, so there is some risk here.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick ($9,800) is always a stud on the restrictor-plate runs, and if you can couple he and Dale Jr. as a nice one-two punch, your lineup will be hard to beat. Harvick has two Daytona wins in 29 career starts, a 15.8 AFP and only 10 finishes outside the Top 20 in his career there while leading 178 laps. The No. 4 car will be out front for DFS owners frequently come Sunday.
ON THE DOWN LOW
In order to win, you will need plenty of values and that’s exactly what the Daytona 500 offers. Sure, there is risk, but you can start any combination of two or three drivers below and afford up to three or four high-priced drivers using a high-low lineup strategy.
Brian Vickers ($5,600) steps into the driver’s seat of the No. 14 for the injured Tony Stewart (back). Just being in an SHR car with plenty of speed, power and a strong pit crew makes him attractive, especially at this minimal DFS price. Toss in the fact he has nine career Top 20s in 16 starts at Daytona and he can’t be beat as a No. 5 or 6.
Ty Dillon ($5,600) goes off 12th in Sunday’s race, and he has a chance to run inside the front pack for a while and make some noise. While inexperience could lead to him getting collected in ‘The Big One’ sooner rather than later, that can happen to anyone really. He has an attractive price tag, and he’ll be up near the front for most of the race barring any crash or mechanical issue. Austin Dillon ($7,600) is also attractive, although slightly higher in price. He has proven his mettle at DIS with a Top 5, three Top 10s and four Top 20 finishes in five career starts at the track, posting a 13.2 AFP which is just behind Dale Jr.
Clint Bowyer ($7,600) is also lurking in the weeds with a very low salary and plenty of upside. He ranks second among active drivers with at least six starts at Daytona, posting a 15.2 AFP. While he has never won at the track, he has come mighty close with three Top 5s and 10 Top 10s in just 20 career starts, leading 152 laps and finishing outside the Top 20 on just five occasions. He is always tough, and he is a must-have No. 4 or 5 driver at this price level, which is held down because of his poor finish last year, not his potential this weekend.
Chris Buescher ($5,600) goes off 13th, putting him in the same boat at Ty Dillon as an attractive driver with upside in a favorable spot. Matt DiBenedetto ($5,600) also goes off 20th Sunday, and has a minimal salary. Ryan Blaney ($7,400), in that mid-tier DFS salary range, starts seventh and is a driver likely to have very little exposure. He could be a difference-maker for the savvy DFS owner, too.