Coke Zero 400
Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fantasy Live / Fox: Quick Picks
If you are hoping to cash in playing DFS NASCAR at DraftKings this weekend, you need to be prepared to adjust the typical formula for success.
Thanks to the restrictor plates used at Daytona International Speedway and the pack racing they create, you can throw the fastest laps run category out the window. It's useless. Finishing position isn't much easier to predict with multi-car wrecks taking out chunks of the field at a time, and even the laps led category is minimized both by the 160-lap format of the race and the ever-changing running order.
What's left is the place differential category, and at Daytona, it is the smartest and most productive category to focus on when building your lineup. By loading up on drivers starting deep in the field you not only maximize the points you can gain through place differential, but you also minimize the points you can lose.
If you pick a driver that starts outside the top 30 and they wreck, there is a good chance they could still finish with positive points or at least break even. At that point, you still have an opportunity to post a decent score. If you pick a driver starting in the top five and they wreck, you could lose 20-plus points and have little chance to recover.
Case in point, my lineup finished in the money at Talladega in the spring, and two of my six drivers weren't even running at the finish.
Trying to pick which drivers will dodge the wrecks and finish at the front at a plate race is next to impossible, but if you hit on a couple of drivers that gain a lot of spots and avoid negative point totals, you are going to give yourself a chance.
Be sure to get your lineups locked in at DraftKings, and check out the Coke Zero 400 Saturday at 7:45 p.m. ET on NBC.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,600): As unpredictable as plate racing can be, Junior has been the one driver that has been able to consistently stay out front. Over the last ten plate races, his three wins and 382 laps led are the most of any driver, and he has led 15 or more laps eight times during the stretch, leading more than 30 laps six times. He also has some room to gain points in the place differential category after qualifying 16th, so the potential for a big point total is there. In cash games, Junior is a must-start option, but his overwhelming popularity makes him a candidate to fade in GPPs.
Kevin Harvick ($10,300): His 11.6 average finish in the last ten plate races is the second best in the series, and Harvick has finished fourth or better in his last three starts at Daytona. Starting 21st, he has the most to gain through place differential among the big names. His safe floor and high ceiling make him a strong option in all formats, especially cash games.
Denny Hamlin (9,800): Picking a driver starting in the top 10 at a plate track is risky, and if Hamlin wrecks after qualifying ninth, he is going to kill your lineup. On the flip side, Hamlin has five straight finishes of sixth or better at Daytona, and he led a race-high 95 laps in his Daytona 500 win earlier this year. He could easily dominate Saturday night again, and the fact that he is more of a high-risk, high-reward option makes Hamlin a great building block in GPPs.
Matt Kenseth ($8,600): Starting seventh with plenty to lose through the place differential category, I expect many to be scared away from Kenseth. However, he is a two-time Daytona 500 winner, and he came within a lap of winning the race for the third time earlier this year. He also led 40 laps in the Daytona 500 and led 39 more laps at Talladega. Kenseth has had strong cars at the plate tracks this year, and if he closes the deal, he could end up being one of the top scorers. He is an excellent mid-priced option to take a chance on in GPPs.
Tony Stewart ($8,300): Fresh off his win at Sonoma, "Smoke" will try his luck in a race that he has already won four times in his career. He is kind of in no man's land after qualifying 19th, and while it'd be good if he were starting deeper, the mid-pack starting spot could drive down his ownership. Meanwhile, Stewart still has a decent amount of points to gain through place differential if he makes a run for his fifth win in the July race at Daytona.
Ryan Newman ($7,600): While Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer are sure to be popular picks since they start outside the top 25, Newman could make an excellent contrarian play. He starts 23rd, so he still has a decent amount of potential through place differential. He also ranks in the top 10 in driver points over the last ten plate races and has finished eighth and 11th in his last two starts at Daytona. Don't hesitate to go against the grain with Newman.
A.J. Allmendinger ($7,200): His numbers at Daytona aren't pretty, but after qualifying 26th, Allmendinger still has some value as an against-the-grain sleeper. His upside through place differential is on par with drivers like Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer, but Allmendinger will almost certainly have a much smaller ownership. Anything can happen at Daytona, and Allmendinger could help separate your lineup from the competition.
Landon Cassill ($5,600): Among the cheap options, Regan Smith and David Ragan are starting a little deeper and have better records at Daytona. That being said, Cassill is still starting 34th, so he has little to lose and plenty to gain through place differential. Plus, he has four top 25s in his last six starts at Daytona, including a pair of top 15s. If you are looking for a sneaky source of cap relief, Cassill is worth considering.
Drivers to Fade
Austin Dillon ($7,900): Dillon has been excellent at Daytona, and he was on the short list of mid-priced drivers to watch coming into the weekend. Unfortunately, qualifying sixth shifts his fantasy value. He now has little to gain and a ton to lose through place differential, making Dillon a ticking time bomb in any lineup.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,700): He has a respectable record at the plate tracks, but a top-five qualifying effort destroys his fantasy appeal. Stenhouse will need a top-five finish just to deliver a solid score, and if he wrecks, he is going to saddle your lineup with a negative point total. There is no reason to gamble of Stenhouse when there are multiple drivers in the same price range starting deep in the field.
My Favorite DraftKings Lineup
Kevin Harvick ($10,300)
Chase Elliott ($8,800)
Jamie McMurray ($7,800)
Paul Menard ($6,900)
Regan Smith ($6,000)
David Ragan ($5,900)
This entire lineup is built to take advantage of the place differential category. All six drivers start outside the top 20, and four of my six drivers are starting 29th or worse. I expect it to be competitive in any format, particularly in cash games.
The setup not only gives this lineup plenty of upside but is also allows me to absorb a couple of bad finishes potentially and still finish in the money. After all, it is possible that Smith and Ragan could crash out and still gain 10 or more spots.
Overall, it is somewhat of a safe approach, but the chances of picking six drivers that all avoid the chaos of Daytona is extremely slim. With that in mind, I'm not going to destroy what could be an otherwise solid lineup by taking a chance on a driver starting up front that could 30 or more spots.
Denny Hamlin ($9,800)
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,500)
Matt Kenseth ($8,600)
Tony Stewart ($8,300)
A.J. Allmendinger ($7,200)
Landon Cassill ($5,800)
Starting ninth, Hamlin has the potential to ruin this lineup by himself. However, he dominated the Daytona 500 and could do the same as he tries for the season sweep at Daytona. While I expect a lot of people to build around Junior, I will counter by building around Hamlin.
His teammate, Kenseth, also starts in the top 10, but after leading a combined 79 laps in the first two plate events only to have bad luck at the end, I am going to gamble that he finishes what he starts this time around and finishes with a big point total.
Truex has come on strong at the plate tracks recently, logging five top 15s in his last six starts, including a second-place run in the Daytona 500. He starts 15th, so he has some room to move forward, but he is also starting close enough to the front that I don't expect massive ownership.
I'm rounding out my lineup with Stewart, Allmendinger, and Cassill, and I'm hoping all three prove to be useful alternatives to the more popular mid-priced and sleeper drivers. At a track with as many wrecks as Daytona, one strong finish from a driver with a small ownership percentage can push your lineup to the top almost single-handedly.