Restrictor plate race #3 of 2018 is here and DraftKings is celebrating with a $300,000 Firecracker contest with $100,000 to first. This will be the second points-paying racing of the season for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway. As you probably recall, this year’s Daytona 500 back in February ended with some controversy, as Austin Dillon wrecked Aric Almirola on the backstretch for the history-defining win.

From a Fantasy NASCAR perspective, the races at Daytona and Talladega are typically a love-hate relationship (with most people being on the side of the latter). As far as predicting the finish of these races goes, I’ll say one thing about it: anyone who says they can accurately predict how drivers will finish is a liar. Yes, you can use data to determine which cars should be the strongest, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll finish where they should. The best thing you can do what it comes to DraftKings this week is use strategy when creating your lineups and then sit back and enjoy the race. Hopefully one of us takes down that $100,000 prize!

Strategy DraftKings Advice at Daytona

  • There is no reason to use the entire salary cap. In fact, the chance of the best DraftKings lineup using the entire $50,000 on Saturday night is slim to none. Yes, we’re probably going to see some high-priced drivers near the front when the checkered flag waves, but there’s going to be mid- and low-priced drivers up there as well. As an example, Chris Buescher finished 5th in this year’s Daytona 500, while guys like Justin Marks (12th) and David Gilliland (14th) put up some really good scores as well.
  • Practice speeds mean nothing. Honestly, most of the time, I don’t even even look at the practice results when we’re at Daytona and Talladega. At other tracks, the practice data tells you which cars are faster on the long runs, short runs, etc. but when it comes to restrictor plate racing, all of these cars are pretty much running the same speed.
  • Qualifying position also means nothing. In fact, qualifying up front is typically a bad thing for DraftKings. With there being only 160 laps, dominator points aren’t something to focus on, so instead you should be looking (mostly) at place differential points. My general rule of thumb for a lineup is 4 or 5 drivers that start outside the top 10 and then 1 or 2 that start between 6th and 10th. I never touch anyone who starts in the top 5 at these tracks.
  • Dominator points…good luck. Ryan Blaney (118) led the most laps in the Daytona 500, and then Joey Logano (70) led the most laps at Talladega. Chances are it’s going to be another Ford that leads the most laps here on Saturday night. Meanwhile, when it comes to fastest laps, it’s something to keep in the back of your mind but not pay a lot of attention to. Chances are every driver will have at least one fastest lap this weekend, although look for the Fords to get the most. The top 5 in average fastest laps on restrictor plate tracks this year are: Kurt Busch (9), Paul Menard (8.5), David Ragan (8.5), Denny Hamlin (7.5), and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (6.5). Four Fords and a Toyota.
  • Try to avoid the chaos. Don’t forget that this is the last chance for some drivers to punch their ticket to the Playoffs. That’s probably going to mean one thing: carnage. Obviously it’s pretty much impossible to entirely miss all of the wrecks with your fantasy drivers, but there are some in the field that just have a knack for staying away from the chaos. Likewise, there are plenty that drive in over their head and often cause the wrecks.

GPP Drivers I Love For The Daytona Coke Zero Sugar 400

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

Joey Logano ($10,700) – Joey Logano was my top driver heading into the race weekend, and he remains my #1 after the practice and qualifying sessions. This #22 Ford has been one of the best on the restrictor plate tracks all season long, with an average running position of 9th between the two races at Daytona and Talladega (2nd-best), while Logano has also got the finishes: a 4th-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a win at Talladega. He’s going to have another great car to work with on Saturday night, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Joey led the most laps again. He’s finished 6th or better in five of the last seven races here at Daytona and should make that six of the last eight after this weekend. He qualified 11th for Saturday night’s race, which gives him a little room for place differential FPTS.

Kurt Busch ($8,800) – After nearly winning the Daytona 500, many DraftKings players will be gravitating toward Aric Almirola ($8,700) in this price range–and rightfully so: he starts back in 26th. But let’s not forget about his teammate who starts just a row ahead of him. I’m hoping to use Kurt Busch here as a strategy play and pivot off of Almirola in case something happens to the #10 Ford on Saturday night. With that being said, Kurt is just a good Fantasy NASCAR pick overall: on the restrictor plate tracks this season, he’s averaging the most fastest laps per race (9) with an average finish of 14th (10th-best) and average running position of 11th (4th-best). Kurt was the 2017 Daytona 500 winner but has had some issues finishing races here lately, with three results of 23rd or worse in the last four Daytona races. With that being said, Busch has five top 10s in the last nine, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to race at this track. I think he’ll finish top 5 here on Saturday night and be one of the highest-scoring drivers in DraftKings.

Clint Bowyer Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Clint Bowyer ($8,300) – I really like Clint Bowyer as a GPP play this weekend, and I actually have him projected as a potential dominator on Saturday night. He’s going to roll off the starting grid from 9th when the Coke Zero Sugar 400 goes green, so there’s not much room for place differential, but that’s also going to keep Bowyer’s ownership incredibly low. Additionally, in his price range, he’s sandwiched in there between Aric Almirola ($8,700), who starts 26th, and Erik Jones ($8,100) and Jamie McMurray ($8,000), who start 29th and 27th, respectively. That means most people are going to automatically gravitate toward those other two, seeking the place differential points. And while that’s not a terrible strategy, I’m not convinced that Erik Jones and Jamie McMurray finish the race this weekend, so you could almost view Bowyer as a pivot. Clint has a career average finish of 15.8 at Daytona International Speedway (2nd-best among active drivers with more than two starts) and hasn’t ended up outside the top 10 in the July race here since 2012. He’s coming into this race with three straight top 5 finishes, too, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the #14 Ford in victory lane on Saturday night, to be honest with you.

 Trevor Bayne ($6,800) – Here’s another DraftKings driver that is surrounded by seemingly better options in the price list, as you have Daniel Suarez ($6,900), who starts 32nd, right above Trevor Bayne with public favorite David Ragan ($6,600) right below him and Daytona 500 runner-up Bubba Wallace ($6,400) right there, too. Those two guys start 21st and 22nd, respectively, while Bayne qualified 20th for Saturday night’s race. Most people are going to go with Suarez and skip right over Bayne, especially considering the #6 Ford is the highest-qualifying of this group. However, don’t overlook Bayne this weekend. After the announcement of Matt Kenseth getting more races in this car, Trevor has to be a little more motivated to perform, since he’s probably racing for a job next year. Additionally, Bayne had a solid Daytona 500 this year, starting 18th, having an average running position of 15th, and finishing 13th. He also posted 9 fastest laps in that race. Finally, Trevor has four finishes of 13th or better in his last six starts here at Daytona, including a 3rd-place effort in this race two years ago.

DraftKings Fade Possibilities at Daytona

Photo Credit: Bobby Ellis/NASCAR via Getty Images

Jamie McMurray ($8,000) – Jamie McMurray is a two-time winner here at Daytona International Speedway, but he’s really not that good here. In fact, Jamie Mac hasn’t finished between than 14th here since 2013. Still, the general Fantasy NASCAR public view this guy as a restrictor plate god, and since he qualified 27th for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, his ownership percentage is going to be quite high. He won’t be on any of my lineups, though. McMurray is having a pretty rough season already, and that’s not a good combination at a track where his DNF rate is 32.3%. He’s also only finished inside the top 20 in 41.9% of his starts here, which is impressively bad when you consider that McMurray has 31 total starts at Daytona. Obviously there’s no way to predict which drivers will wreck this weekend, but I’d put McMurray’s chances higher than almost all other drivers (except Corey LaJoie of course).

Kasey Kahne ($6,200) – There’s no nice way to put this: Kasey Kahne sucks in the July race here at Daytona. He finished 18th in this event last season but that has been his best result since 2012. In the four races between there, Kahne finished 32nd, 27th, 32nd, and 30th–like I said, garbage. This weekend, Kasey is in downgraded equipment but qualified back in 28th and is very affordable on DraftKings, so you can expect his ownership percentage to be quite high on Saturday night. However, this #95 team has had equipment reliability issues this season, and Kahne and his new crew chief seem to still be working out the kinks in their relationship. He was with Hendrick Motorsports for six years (12 races at Daytona) and could only muster three top 15s. More likely than not, Kasey is going to disappoint fantasy owners this weekend.

DraftKings Point Projections for the Coke Zero Sugar 400

The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.

DriverDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSStarting PositionAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedProj Fastest LapsDollar Per FPT
Joey Logano$10,70060.01103.62410$178
Aric Almirola$8,70060.02607.495$145
Kurt Busch$8,80058.82306.667$150
Paul Menard$7,40057.63010.227$128
Ryan Blaney$9,20054.01205.81610$170
Denny Hamlin$10,30053.01706.495$195
Clint Bowyer$8,30046.5907.6205$178
Kyle Busch$10,00041.81510.874$240
Kevin Harvick$10,10041.5507.0108$243
Martin Truex Jr$9,60039.41310.865$244
Brad Keselowski$11,00037.2307.8116$296
Daniel Suarez$6,90036.93219.801$187
Chris Buescher$5,80035.32517.603$164
Bubba Wallace$6,40034.62216.202$185
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$9,00031.7612.2125$284
AJ Allmendinger$6,00031.42418.802$191
Austin Dillon$7,80028.91013.824$270
Erik Jones$8,10028.72922.401$282
Kyle Larson$9,40028.71415.833$328
David Ragan$6,60026.22120.404$252
William Byron$7,20026.21818.402$275
Michael McDowell$5,70026.0814.453$220
Chase Elliott$9,80025.0112.0122$392
JJ Yeley$4,70024.44029.800$193
Ryan Newman$7,10023.7714.814$300
Kasey Kahne$6,20023.32824.601$266
Trevor Bayne$6,80022.52021.001$302
Jamie McMurray$8,00022.42724.802$357
Jeffrey Earnhardt$4,40021.63428.200$204
Ray Black Jr$4,60021.43930.800$215
Matt DiBenedetto$5,40020.93127.803$258
Joey Gase$4,80020.03631.004$240
Corey Lajoie$4,90019.63831.200$250
Landon Cassill$5,00019.43730.800$258
Alex Bowman$7,60018.8215.053$405
D.J. Kennington$4,50017.83530.600$253
Ross Chastain$5,20015.13331.201$344
Jimmie Johnson$8,50013.8417.602$616
Ty Dillon$6,30009.91926.801$636
Brendan Gaughan$5,50007.61627.204$724

As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.