RaceDayScore NASCAR: Coke Zero 400

RaceDayScore NASCAR: Coke Zero 400

This article is part of our RaceDayScore NASCAR series.

Coke Zero 400

Location: Daytona, Fla.
Course: Daytona International Speedway
Format: 2.5-mile tri-oval
Laps: 160

Race Preview

The contrast between two races couldn't be starker than this week's Coke Zero 400 and last week's Toyota Save Mart 350. Tony Stewart tackled the rolling California course, while the latest Daytona winner is Denny Hamlin. Drafting and aerodynamics will once again be the main talking points as Sprint Cup returns to Florida to mark the traditional halfway point of the season. Fantasy players will remember that the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas held the advantage at the track in February. The team's drivers captured three of the four races across those two weekends in February. The drivers (including Martin Truex Jr.) also captured four of the top five positions in the Daytona 500. The rest of the field has closed the gap a bit since then, and Daytona's unpredictable style of racing could produce a new surprise.

Key Stats at Daytona International Speedway

Number of previous races: 138
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

2016 spring - Denny Hamlin
2015 fall - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2015 spring - Joey Logano
2014 fall - Aric Almirola
2014 spring - Dale Earnardt Jr.
2013 fall - Jimmie Johnson
2013 spring - Jimmie Johnson
2012 fall - Tony Stewart
2012 spring - Matt Kenseth
2011 fall - David Ragan

While NASCAR has worked hard to increase on-track passing through lowering downforce levels and requiring tires that degrade faster the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega continue to struggle with a lack of action out front. Daytona, being narrower than Talladega, puts a bit of a premium on handling, but overtaking the leader has been a difficult task the last few seasons. Denny Hamlin won February's Daytona 500 after staying out front for 95 of the race's 200 laps. He led 39 of 79 laps in the Sprint Unlimited, and each qualifying duel saw the race winner lead more than half of the scheduled laps. Horsepower to make a pass out front will be a difference maker this week, and that means JGR Toyotas may again be the cars to beat. Fantasy players should keep their eyes on Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas, and Penske Racing, though. Those teams have closed the gap to JGR in recent weeks, and may successfully band together in the draft to make passing a possibility in front.

RACE DAY SCORE VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $60K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Kevin Harvick - $11,900
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $11,500
Jimmie Johnson - $11,400
Martin Truex Jr. - $11,000

Tier 2 Values

Matt Kenseth - $10,800
Joey Logano - $10,700
Denny Hamlin - $10,300
Austin Dillon - $10,400

Tier 3 Values

Jamie McMurray - $10,000
Kasey Kahne - $9,900
Aric Almirola - $9,700
Kyle Larson - $9,400

Long-Shot Values

Regan Smith - $9,000
Trevor Bayne - $8,800
Chris Buescher - $7,700

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Cash Game Lineup ($60K Salary Cap)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $11,500
Austin Dillon - $10,400
Ryan Blaney - $10,100
Aric Almirola - $9,700
Kyle Larson - $9,400
Danica Patrick - $8,800

As with most restrictor-plate lineups this lower-risk option leads with Earnhardt. He won his qualifying race at the track in February before encountering trouble in the race. He should be the favorite to win the race. Austin Dillon is quietly proving himself on these types of tracks as well. His average finish of 12.5 from six Daytona starts is on par with Earnhardt and he has four top-10s from those efforts. The next choice is Blaney. The Wood Brothers car works well at superspeedways and he picked up one of his six top-10s this season at Talladega. Almirola won this race in 2014 to earn a spot in the Chase and added two top-15 finishes at the track since then. After three DNFs from is first four Daytona tries Larson finally turned in a top-10 there in February. His biggest challenge will be to remain mistake free throughout the race, but he is learning how to make it to the end of these races. Finally, Danica Patrick rounds off this lineup with career Daytona top-10 finishes. She crashed out of the last two Daytona races, but is in store for another confident result to banish that bad luck.

Higher-Risk Tournament Lineup
($60K Salary Cap)

Kurt Busch - $11,100
Matt Kenseth - $10,800
Tony Stewart - $10,700
Denny Hamlin - $10,300
Casey Mears - $9,000
Michael McDowell - $7,900

Kurt Busch heads the higher-risk lineup option for the second week in a row. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is still searching for his first restrictor-plate win, but is one of the best racers in the draft. Kenseth started on the front row here in February and led 40 laps before finishing 14th. He should finish higher this Saturday. After his win at Sonoma Raceway last week fantasy players should expect Stewart to be rejuvenated. He is an accomplished racer at Daytona, and the old Stewart may be back. Denny Hamlin is arguably the biggest value on the board. He won the Daytona 500 in February and has five consecutive top-10 finishes at the track. Though Mears may not have the Daytona success of other drivers in the field he consistently outperforms at Daytona. Michael McDowell finishes off the higher-risk lineup after his strong 15th-place finish in the Daytona 500. He has two top-10s from 10 starts at the track, and could produce another top-20 if he successfully navigates all 400 miles on Saturday.

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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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