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Fantasy NASCAR DFS: Daytona 500 Post-Qualifying

Following the qualifying round at Daytona International Speedway, Fantasy NASCAR Expert Brian Polking points out who to target on DraftKings for the Daytona 500!

Daytona 500

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With the Can-Am Duel qualifying races in the books, the starting lineup for the 2017 Daytona 500 is officially set. Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were already locked into the front row based on last Sunday’s single-car qualifying runs, and now that the rest of the field is also set, we can start to take a close look at driver values.

At most tracks, building a winning DFS NASCAR lineup means concentrating on the laps led and fastest laps run categories, commonly referred to as the dominator stats. That is not the case at restrictor-plate tracks like Daytona.

With the field bunched together in a giant pack, the fastest laps run category is effectively useless. Even the laps led category is devalued. More importantly, the running order is constantly changing, and it is common for around half the field to be involved in a wreck at some point during the race.

As a result of the chaotic nature of plate racing, place differential becomes the category to focus on when building a lineup. For one, drivers can move up through the field with such ease at Daytona that it is common for multiple drivers to gain 20-plus spots by the end of the race. In fact, the top DFS options tend to be those drivers starting outside the Top 30.

In addition to being the most productive, the drivers starting in the back are also the safest. If you pick a driver starting on the front row, you could easily find yourself saddled with a score of minus-30 or worse if that driver wrecks. If a driver starting in the back wrecks, you break even. In a crash-filled race, you can probably overcome a zero and still cash. The same can’t be said if you roster a driver that loses you a chunk of points.

Loading up on drivers starting deep in the field is an absolute necessity in cash games. Even in tournaments, you will still need to have a lot of exposure to drivers starting in the back. When all is said and done Sunday, you can count on many of the highest-scorer drivers being from the back half of the field.

With that in mind, these are my top DFS NASCAR options at DraftKings for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

High-Priced Drivers

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,600)

While he didn’t win his qualifying race, Junior left no doubt that he has one of the cars to beat Sunday, leading 53 of the 60 laps. The laps led category isn’t as important at Daytona as other tracks, but Junior is one of the few drivers who can dominate a restrictor-plate race. Starting on the front row makes him a risky play in cash games, but you need some exposure in tournaments in case the dominant plate track driver of his generation adds another Daytona 500 win to his resume.

Brad Keselowski ($10,300)

He led a race-high 28 laps in his qualifying race, and Keselowski continues to show he is one of the best in the business at plate tracks. Last year, he won two of the four plate races and led 40-plus laps in three of them, and he has looked every bit as strong during Speedweeks this year. There is a short list of drivers who are starting up front that I’m willing to roster, and Keselowski is on it. Target him for tournament play.

Denny Hamlin ($9,600)

The defending Daytona 500 winner could be headed for back-to-back wins in NASCAR’s biggest event. Despite being sent to the back during his qualifying race because of a speeding penalty, Hamlin stormed to the front to grab the win with a late pass of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hamlin has consistently been one of the best restrictor-plate drivers for the last couple of years, and his performance during Speedweeks suggests he hasn’t lost his edge.

Martin Truex Jr. ($9,000)

Whether you are playing cash games or just looking to build your lineup around the place differential category, Truex should be your anchor. His car failed post-race inspection following the qualifying races, and as a result, Truex will start 35th. He came within inches of winning the Daytona 500 last year, and he can earn 20-plus points through place differential simply by cracking the Top 15.

Value Plays

Erik Jones ($8,300)

Considering he is unproven at the Cup level, I thought he was a little overpriced coming into the week. Now that he is starting 34th, Jones could be an absolute bargain. He is primarily driving Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, so there is no doubt his car will be fast. Meanwhile, he has a ton of upside through place differential.

Ryan Blaney ($7,300)

I am going to be all over Blaney this weekend. Contact in his qualifying race has him starting 36th, making him a low-risk, high-upside option in the place differential category. Plus, he showed a ton of muscle before the contact, running near the front and even leading three laps. I believe Blaney has Top 5 potential Sunday, and he could finish as one of the top scorers.

Paul Menard ($7,200)

A wreck in his qualifying race has him starting outside the Top 30, giving him a safe floor and high ceiling through place differential. He has also been a decent plate racer in his career, and he has averaged a Top 20 finish over his last ten plate events. Menard isn’t a flashy pick, but if he is overlooked, that would only add to his appeal in GPPs.

A.J. Allmendinger ($6,700)

Throw Allmendinger on the list of drivers who failed post-race inspection Thursday night, but all the penalty does is provide a massive boost to his fantasy value. He now starts 38th, so he almost nothing to lose and a whole lot of points to gain through place differential. Not to mention the fact that he was pretty decent at plate tracks last year, logging three Top 15s in four starts and gaining at least nine positions in all four races. The cheap price tag is just another perk.

Elliott Sadler ($6,600)

I keep preaching the importance of the place differential category at plate tracks like Daytona, and Sadler is in perfect position to exploit it. He starts dead last, so no matter how chaotic Sunday’s race becomes, you know he isn’t going to post a negative score. If he simply stays out of trouble, he is probably going to gain 15-plus spots and provide a solid score for the price, and his ceiling only goes up from there.

Chris Buescher ($6,400)

Buescher was the third and final driver to receive a post-race penalty, and just like Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger, he is now in great position to capitalize on the place differential category. Starting 37th, he won’t destroy your lineup no matter what happens, and he will more than justify his price tag if he just stays out of trouble.

Low-Priced Sleepers

Michael Waltrip ($6,100)

Waltrip will make his final Daytona 500 start Sunday, and the veteran could make someone very rich while he rides off into the sunset. In seven restrictor-plate starts since 2014, Waltrip has an average place differential of +11.7, and he has gained 20-plus spots in two of his last three plate races. He’ll roll off 30th Sunday, so he is in the perfect spot to exploit the place differential category.

Brendan Gaughan ($5,100)

Starting 39th, Gaughan is a risk-free source of cap relief this weekend. Don’t pay too much attention to his performance in his qualifying race. He didn’t have a backup car, so his only goal was to stay out of trouble. He won’t play it so safe in the Daytona 500, and if he simply survives to the finish, he is going to score a chunk of points through place differential. The journeyman isn’t exactly a household name to casual fans, which is why I like him in GPPs.

2017 Daytona 500 Starting Lineup

Pos.

No.

Driver

Sponsor

Make

1

24

Chase Elliott

NAPA Auto Parts

Chevrolet

2

88

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Nationwide

Chevrolet

3

1

Jamie McMurray

Cessna/McDonald's

Chevrolet

4

11

Denny Hamlin

FedEx Express

Toyota

5

4

Kevin Harvick

Jimmy John's

Ford

6

14

Clint Bowyer

Mobil 1

Ford

7

2

Brad Keselowski

Miller Lite

Ford

8

41

Kurt Busch

Haas Automation/Monster Energy

Ford

9

20

Matt Kenseth

DeWalt

Toyota

10

3

Austin Dillon

Dow

Chevrolet

11

6

Trevor Bayne

AdvoCare

Ford

12

10

Danica Patrick

Aspen Dental

Ford

13

43

Aric Almirola

Smithfield

Ford

14

31

Ryan Newman

Caterpillar

Chevrolet

15

22

Joey Logano

Shell-Pennzoil

Ford

16

42

Kyle Larson

Target

Chevrolet

17

72

Cole Whitt

Florida Lottery

Ford

18

13

Ty Dillon

GEICO

Chevrolet

19

19

Daniel Suarez

ARRIS

Toyota

20

38

David Ragan

Camping World/Good Sam

Ford

21

18

Kyle Busch

M&M's

Toyota

22

95

Michael McDowell

KLove Radio/WRL Contractors

Chevrolet

23

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Fastenal

Ford

24

48

Jimmie Johnson

Lowe's

Chevrolet

25

32

Matt DiBenedetto

EJ Wade Foundation

Ford

26

5

Kasey Kahne

Farmers Insurance

Chevrolet

27

34

Landon Cassill

Loves Travel Stops

Ford

28

96

D.J. Kennington

Castrol/Lordco Auto Parts

Toyota

29

23

Joey Gase

Best Home Furnishings

Toyota

30

15

Michael Waltrip

Aaron's "Thanks Mikey"

Toyota

31

83

Corey LaJoie

Dustless Blasting

Toyota

32

33

Jeffrey Earnhardt

Little Joes Autos/Curtis Key Plumbing

Chevrolet

33

27

Paul Menard

Menards/Peak

Chevrolet

34

77

Erik Jones

5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength

Toyota

35

78

Martin Truex Jr.

Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats

Toyota

36

21

Ryan Blaney

Motorcraft/Quick Lane

Ford

37

37

Chris Buescher

Cottonelle Mega Roll

Chevrolet

38

47

AJ Allmendinger

Kroger Click List

Chevrolet

39

75

Brendan Gaughan

Beard Oil Distributing

Chevrolet

40

7

Elliott Sadler

Golden Corral

Chevrolet

FTQ

51

Timmy Hill

Spoonful

Chevrolet

FTQ

55

Reed Sorenson

Premium Motorsports

Toyota


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