NASCAR DFS: Daytona 500

NASCAR DFS: Daytona 500

This article is part of our NASCAR DFS series.


Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Course: Daytona International Speedway
Format: 2.5-mile oval
Laps: 200

Race Preview

Hendrick Motorsports rookie Chase Elliott bagged pole position for the first race in which he takes over the storied No. 24 machine from retired Jeff Gordon. It is a fairytale start to the young driver's career with one of the top teams in the series. There will be 39 other drivers aiming to knock him off of that perch this Sunday, though. The Daytona 500 marks the start to the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, and is the biggest race on the series calendar. This year's race could feature tight racing in the draft with few opportunities to change leaders out front. Last week's Sprint Unlimited had just three drivers lead laps in the exhibition event, and last year's race saw Joey Logano lead the field by switching between the high and low lines while remaining out front of the competition. Thursday's qualifying races will be important guides for fantasy players looking to set their lineups, but here we will give some early expectations.

Key Stats at Daytona International Speedway

Races: 137
Winners from pole: 26
Winners from top-5 starters: 73
Winners from top-10 starters: 107
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 9
Fastest race: 183.295 mph

Last 10 Daytona Winners

2015 fall - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2015 spring - Joey Logano
2014 fall - Aric Almirola
2014 spring - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2013 fall - Jimmie Johnson
2013 spring - Jimmie Johnson
2012 fall - Tony Stewart
2012 spring - Matt Kenseth
2011 fall - David Ragan
2011 spring - Trevor Bayne

Racing in the draft at Daytona requires a special breed of driver. The car must have plenty of horsepower and be easy on tires, especially for the Daytona 500. Mechanical grip is a requirement to make moves in the field, and to take the lead a driver will almost certainly require help from others. Passing at the front of the field has become somewhat of a rarity with NASCAR's current superspeedway package, but plenty of action remains in the pack. Only three drivers led throughout last week's Sprint Unlimited and there was plenty of carnage. The qualifying races on Thursday will help fantasy players identify potential selections, but starting position isn't terribly important in this race.

(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $10,300
Kevin Harvick - $9,800
Joey Logano - $9,600
Matt Kenseth - $9,000

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Kurt Busch - $8,800
Denny Hamlin - $8,600
Chase Elliott - $8,500
Martin Truex Jr. - $8,400

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Jamie McMurray - $7,900
Austin Dillon - $7,600
Greg Biffle - $7,500

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Ryan Blaney - $7,400
Paul Menard - $7,300
Aric Almirola - $7,200
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $7,100


Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $10,300
Jimmie Johnson - $9,900
Kurt Busch - $8,800
Denny Hamlin - $8,600
Casey Mears - $6,500
Brian Vickers - $5,600

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the perennial fixture of any fantasy lineup when the series visits Daytona or Talladega, and this week we pair him with two-time Daytona 500 winning teammate Jimmie Johnson. They each have Hendrick power and are excellent racers in the draft. Kurt Busch is next in the lineup not for his Daytona wins, but for his 12 top-5 finishes at the track from 29 starts. Last week's Sprint Unlimited winner Hamlin appears to have plenty of pace in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and could pull off his second win at the track in as many weeks on Sunday. Also featured in this lineup is one of the quietly consistent single-car teams with Casey Mears at the wheel. Mears hasn't finished lower than 11th in his last five Daytona points races. Lastly, super-sub Vickers takes the wheel for Tony Stewart as the owner/driver recovers from a broken back. Vickers has never won at Daytona, but he finished second here in his last visit as a driver and could take one more step forward with Stewart-Haas Racing equipment. He is a bargain at this price.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Kevin Harvick - $9,800
Martin Truex Jr. - $8,400
Kyle Larson - $8,100
Jamie McMurray - $7,900
Greg Biffle - $7,500
Ryan Blaney - $7,400

The higher-risk lineup this week excludes Earnhardt in favor of 2007 Daytona 500 champion Harvick. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is fantastic in the draft and we know the team's Chevrolets pack plenty of horsepower. Martin Truex Jr. switches to Toyota from Chevrolet this season, but had a breakthrough season in 2015 and will leverage a new partnership with JGR to take another step forward. Kyle Larson is entering his third season of Sprint Cup racing still searching for his first victory, but has proven himself capable in the draft despite crashing out of three of his four Daytona starts. Has Chip Ganassi Racing improved in the offseason? Jamie McMurray thinks so, and he is a two-time winner at this track with his Daytona 500 win coming in 2010. Roush Fenway Racing had a terrible season in 2015, but looks competitive at Daytona. Biffle has improved as a superspeedway racer, and is hungry to turn the team's fortune around. Finally, Ryan Blaney enters 2016 in a full-time effort with Wood Brothers Racing. They don't have one of NASCAR's 36 Sprint Cup charters, so they aren't guaranteed a spot in every race this season, but Blaney is locked into the 500 this week and has a five-time Daytona 500 winning organization at his back.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.
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C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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