This article is part of our NASCAR DFS series.
Location: Daytona, Fla.
Course: Daytona International Speedway
Format: 2.5-mile tri-oval
A new NASCAR Cup Series season takes the green flag this Sunday in the Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin has won the last two Daytona 500s, and is looking to do something no one has done before and make it three in a row this week. He'll be working hard to hold off defending series champion Chase Elliott and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates who locked out the front row in single-car qualifying. Winners of Thursday's Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona, Austin Dillon and Aric Almirola, may have something to say about the finish, however. A condensed, but action-packed, week of on-track activity culminates this Sunday with the biggest race of the year. The winner will be the first to punch a ticket into the championship-deciding playoffs at the end of the season, but will more importantly earn the title "Daytona 500 Champion" — an honorarium that defines careers and lasts a lifetime.
Key Stats at Daytona International Speedway
- Number of races: 147
- Winners from pole: 26
- Winners from top-5 starters: 74
- Winners from top-10 starters: 112
- Winners from 21st or lower starters: 12
- Fastest race: 183.295 mph
Previous 10 Daytona Winners
2020 fall - William Byron
2020 spring - Denny Hamlin
2019 fall - Justin Haley
2019 spring - Denny Hamlin
2018 fall - Erik Jones
2018 spring - Austin Dillon
2017 fall - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2017 spring - Kurt Busch
2016 fall - Brad Keselowski
2016 spring - Denny Hamlin
The NASCAR Cup Series starts its season with the biggest race of the year at the Daytona International Speedway. The high-banked superspeedway is famous for its on-track action and is one of two superspeedways on the schedule to feature the pack-style racing for which NASCAR is famous. The current rules package condenses the field into packs, and manufacturer teammates tend to group together to control the field. Those groups of drivers will coordinate visits to pit road and work to keep other manufacturers from breaking the group apart. The leaders control much of the race at this track, but aggression at stage finishes and in the final laps of the race throw that orderly procession out the window. Late-race passes are the nature of this type of racing, and many wins have come down to the final few feet of the race. Fantasy managers should not worry too much about starting position for this race, as the winner could come from anywhere, and points are on offer for greater finish differentials.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
MY PICKS THIS WEEK
Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
Hamlin (DK $10,400, FD $14,000) is looking to become the first driver to win three consecutive Daytona 500s. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver racked up seven wins in 2020 but failed once again to take home the championship. The JGR Toyotas were quick in the only practice before Sunday's race, but Hamlin will have to come from the 25th starting position to visit Victory Lane again. Joey Logano (DK $9,900, FD $13,000) was in the Championship 4 last season and hopes to win his second Daytona 500 this week. Judging by the Duel qualifying races, he has a car that can do it, too. He will start ninth. Kyle Larson (DK $8,500, FD $11,500) returns to NASCAR competition after almost a year away. He kept busy in other cars last year and returns this season with the best equipment he has ever had in Cup competition. Larson is one to watch this season. After a successful rookie season, Christopher Bell (DK $7,600, FD $8,000) takes a step up to the JGR No. 20 machine. He finished 13th and led two laps at Daytona last fall, but has a much more competitive car this season. He will start Sunday's race fifth. Ryan Newman (DK $7,000, FD $6,000) nearly won last year's race, but crashed at the finish and ended up lucky to continue his racing career. He and the Roush Fenway Racing team are typically quick on superspeedways. He raced to the seventh starting position in his Duel on Thursday and could be a threat for the win on Sunday. Superspeedways are where Michael McDowell (DK $ 6,300, FD $5,500) punches above his weight. He has six top-10s from 19 Daytona starts and finished 14th in both visits to the track last year.
Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)
This could be a breakout season for Ryan Blaney (DK $10,000, FD $13,300). The Penske Racing driver was among the fastest drivers much of the 2020 season but he just needs to deliver some consistency and avoid bad luck to make the most of it. He finished second in last year's Daytona 500 and starts 14th this year. Kurt Busch (DK $8,800, FD $9,000) won this race in 2017 and only has one top-10 finish at the track since then. He remains one of the smartest drivers in the draft, however, and has the potential to deliver significant finish differential points with a 20th-place starting position. Almirola (DK $8,600, FD $9,500) won his qualifying race Thursday and has been close to winning the Daytona 500 in the past, too. Almirola is a confident fantasy selection at superspeedways and starts on the second row Sunday. Another top selection at superspeedways is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (DK $8,100, FD $8,500). The JTG Daugherty Racing driver has won at both Daytona and Talladega, and will start 21st this weekend. Bubba Wallace (DK $7,400, FD $8,500) is driving for a completely new team this season in 23XI Racing. The team has a partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing, and Wallace nearly won his qualifying race Thursday. Like teammate Ryan Newman, Chris Buescher (DK $6,900, FD $7,300) is an excellent fantasy option on superspeedways. Buescher has five top-10s from 10 Daytona starts and finished third in last year's Daytona 500.