Coke Zero 400
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fantasy Live / Fox: Quick Picks
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Daytona International Speedway this weekend, and if you thought last weekend's road course race was tough to build a lineup for at DraftKings, then Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 will be downright impossible.
With the race schedule for 160 laps, the numbers of points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories are already low relative to most tracks. Throw in the pack racing that goes on, and you might as well throw out the fastest laps run category altogether.
The laps led category can be a decent source of points, but with the big wrecks that always seem to take out a large chunk of the field, even the driver that leads the most laps could end up in the garage before the race is over. In fact, finishing position, in general, is extremely tough to predict in general at Daytona.
Given the unpredictability of the racing at Daytona, your best bet for building a successful lineup is to focus solely on place differential. Between the wrecks and the restrictor plates, moving through the field at Daytona is relatively easy. In this year's Daytona 500, three drivers that started outside the top 20 finished in the top 10, and three drivers that started 34th or worse finished in the top 15.
Plus, picking drivers that start in the back has a double benefit. In addition to having the most points to gain through place differential, drivers starting in the back have the least points to lose. There is a high probability that at least one of your drivers is going to be caught up in a wreck. If that driver is starting deep in the field, you still have a chance at a solid score. If that driver is starting in the top five, you are going to saddle yourself with a big negative number.
The bottom line is that starting position is the most important element to consider when selecting a driver for Saturday's race. In fact, qualifying is so important that I'm not even including any drivers to avoid because any driver that starts deep enough in the field is worth considering.
In the meantime, I've included some drivers to keep in mind heading into this weekend's activities. Qualifying is set for 4:00 p.m. ET Friday, and the Coke Zero 400 is slated for Saturday at 7:45 p.m. ET on NBC.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,600)
Junior has been one of the few drivers that has been able to stay consistently up front at restrictor-plate tracks. His 382 laps led over the last ten plate races are the most in the series, and he has led at least 15 laps eight times and more than 30 laps five times during the same stretch. Junior also leads all drivers with a 10.1 average finish over the last ten races at Daytona.
Jimmie Johnson ($10,100)
He has been on a roll at Daytona, logging five top-five finishes in seven starts here since 2013, picking up a pair of wins. Johnson has also been a force at plate tracks in general lately. His 277 laps led in the last ten plate events are the second most, and he has led at least 18 laps in six of his last seven starts.
Denny Hamlin ($9,800)
Hamlin is the current king of Daytona in more ways than one. He has reeled off five straight finishes of sixth or better at the track, compiling a series-best 5.2 average finish over the span. He also won the Daytona 500 earlier this year, leading a race-high 95 laps in the process.
Matt Kenseth ($8,600)
His luck at restrictor-plate tracks has been awful recently, but Kenseth is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 and a former winner at Talladega. He also came within a lap of winning the Daytona 500 again this year, and he led 40 laps in that race and 39 more at Talladega in the spring. Kenseth has been fast at the plate tracks in 2016, and he is capable of providing high-end production at a discounted price.
Tony Stewart ($8,300)
I'm a believer in momentum, and Stewart should have a ton after snapping an 84-race winless drought last weekend at Sonoma and all but locking himself in the Chase. He also happens to be a four-time winner of the July race at Daytona, so I wouldn't be shocked if "Smoke" was a factor again Saturday night.
Austin Dillon ($7,900)
Since joining the Cup Series full time in 2014, Dillon has cracked the top 15 in all five of his starts at Daytona, notching four top 10s. His 8.8 average finish ranks second among all drivers during the stretch, and he looks like one of the safer mid-priced plays heading into qualifying.
Jamie McMurray ($7,800)
McMurray is a high-risk, high-reward option this weekend, but with two Daytona wins and four restrictor-plate wins under his belt, his upside is obvious. Yes, he also wrecks a lot, but he has the potential to post a game-changing score. In GPP games, he is a great driver to roll the dice on, especially if he qualifies in the back.
Casey Mears ($7,000)
His success at Daytona is proof that single-car teams can succeed at the plate tracks. He has finished 11th or better in five of his last six races at the track, and he has an average place differential of +14.2 during the same stretch. If he qualifies at the back, Mears should be a steal.
Clint Bowyer ($6,900)
He has been one of the most consistent drivers at plate tracks throughout his career, and he has seven top 10s in the last ten plate races. He also has five finishes of 11th or better in seven starts at Daytona since 2013, including three top 10s in his last four starts. He should be a bargain if he starts deeper in the field.
David Gilliland ($6,100)
Gilliland only runs the plate tracks these days, but he left no doubt that he can still make some noise at Talladega in the spring. He started 39th, but he gained 22 spots on his way to a 17th-place finish. He has gained at least 15 spots in three of his last five plate races, making Gilliland a great source of cap relief if he starts deep in the field.
Regan Smith ($6,000)
He has enjoyed success at plate tracks throughout his career while driving for several different teams. Smith has finished 16th or better in his last three starts at Daytona, and he logged an eighth-place finish at the track earlier this year when he gained 19 spots.