The Clash has been completed, the Duels are done, and the starting lineup for the 61st annual Daytona 500 is officially set…Let’s Go Racing, Boys!

By the way, my projected driver scores for the Daytona 500 are posted at the bottom of this article.

DraftKings kicks off the 2019 ‘official’ season with a huge $750,000 America’s Race contest with $100,000 going to 1st. It’s $10 per entry and a max of 150 entries per user. Official lock time for Sunday’s contests is at 2:30 pm ET, but I’d recommend on getting your entries in early if you want to participate in the primary contests; DraftKings NASCAR contests have filled very early thus far in 2019, and it’s safe to assume that that will be the case with the biggest race of the season as well.

DraftKings Strategy Tactics for the Daytona 500

Daytona 500 front row Alex Bowman William Byron 2019
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Just to start: don’t pick William Byron ($6,800) or Alex Bowman ($8,000). There may be a little ‘what if’ thinking there with how the Clash and Duels were follow-the-leader races, but neither the #24 or #88 Chevrolet is going to dominate Sunday’s race. Just don’t do it. Promise? Okay, let’s move on.

Strategy-wise, taking down a GPP at a restrictor plate race is usually done with a roster that is heavy on one thing: place differential. That’s the king at tracks like Daytona and Talladega, and I fully expect that to be the case with Sunday’s Daytona 500 as well.

There’s a little bit more strategy involved than just picking six drivers that are starting in the back of the field, though: there are going to be guys that finish up front that possibly started there–or at least in the top half of the field. Ideally, I personally like to build my lineups with this kind of breakdown in mind:

  • Top 5 starting spot: almost never
  • Top 10 starting spot: maybe one driver, absolute max of two
  • 11th-24th starting spot: two drivers
  • 25th-40th starting spot: three drivers

Now, you may be asking yourself, “what about dominator points?” which is a valid question. My answer? Try not to focus too much on them. As far as fastest laps go, they will be sporadic throughout the race. Looking at the last 15 races here at Daytona, the most fastest laps one driver has posted in a single race is 13, which both Penske drivers did (Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick).

Now, when it comes to laps led, that’s a bit of a different story. We’re set to run 200 laps at Daytona on Sunday, which will probably equal around 40 DraftKings FPTS for laps led. That’s a pretty good chunk. As far as building your lineup, though, that’s where the driver(s) in the top 10 starting spots come into play. If I’m going to roster anyone on Sunday that starts in the top 25% of the field, it’s going to be the guy that I think has the best chance of leading the most laps–especially if he’s starting inside the top 5. Strictly going for finish points from a driver starting up front isn’t a smart move.

Now that we’ve gone over the DraftKings strategy for Sunday’s Great American Race, let’s talk about some specific driver strategy plays and fades.

GPP Drivers I Love for the Daytona 500

Photo Credit: NASCAR Media

According to the Fantasy Racing Online algorithm, Aric Almirola ($9,200) was the #1 driver coming into Speedweeks. And now that we’re gearing up for Sunday’s big race, I like him as a strategy play even more. First, take a look at the drivers priced around Almirola on DraftKings: they all have double-digit starting spots. Aric will roll off the grid from 8th, and those two factors will keep his ownership percentage low. I’d love to exploit that. Additionally, Almirola is a very good restrictor plate driver, as he got his first Cup win here at Daytona back in July of 2014, and he’s finished 15th or better in six of the last eight races here. At Talladega, Almirola has finished 1st, 7th, 5th, and 4th in the last four races. Last but not least: he’s in a Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, and they’ve been the class of the field all week long.

Going a little further down in the salary list, Ryan Newman ($7,000) is another driver I like being heavier than the field on on Sunday. Don’t forget that “The Rocketman” has moved over to Roush-Fenway Racing, and he now has (arguably) one of the strongest cars in the field when it comes to restrictor plate races. Pair that with the fact that Newman has finished 8th, 8th, and 5th in his last three Daytona races, and I love the play. Not to mention he’s going to roll off the grid from 19th, which could deter some from taking him. Newman is another driver the algorithm loves this week.

Low-dollar wise, I like Michael McDowell ($5,900) as an overweight play. Yeah, he’s starting back in 34th, so he’s a little chalky, but at the same time you have guys like Casey Mears (starting 40th), Tyler Reddick (39th), and Ross Chastain (36th) priced below McDowell that could drag his ownership percentage down. Anyway, I know I said fastest laps are impossible to predict, but it still doesn’t hurt to look at last year’s numbers, and McDowell notched 13 fastest laps between the two Daytona races. Additionally, he’s posted 40 fastest laps over the last eight Daytona 500s, which is tied for the most in the series. Finally, Michael McDowell has finished 15th or better in five of the last six races at this track, and even led 20 laps here last July before wrecking and finishing 26th. Those Front Row Motorsports Fords are strong, and McDowell should have a good showing on Sunday.

GPP Fade Options for the Daytona 500

Brad Keselowski Burnout Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings FanDuel
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

William Byron and Alex Bowman. Seriously. Zero percent ownership.

Strategy-wise, the two obvious fade options on Sunday are Brad Keselowski ($10,600) and Kyle Busch ($9,600). Both had awful experiences in their Duel race and will start from the mid-30s on Sunday. This makes them complete chalk plays and must-haves for cash games, and because of how DraftKings is scored, Keselowski and Kyle Busch should be the two highest-owned drivers this weekend (definitely both in the top four).

Comparing the two, Keselowski sounds really confident in his car this weekend, and that’s not something to take lightly. Brad is one of the more truthful drivers in the garage, and when he has a shot to win, you know it. Kyle Busch, on the other hand, seems to be struggling a little to find speed, at least on the level of the Fords. So if you absolutely want to fade one of these chalk options, I’d stay away from Kyle Busch before I did Brad Keselowski.

But really, the recent history on both of these drivers isn’t great. Keselowski has finished 20th or worse in seven of his last eight Daytona races, and Kyle Busch is on a four-race streak of that same statistic. Rowdy did finish 3rd and 2nd here back in the 2016 season, but those are his only single-digit finishes at Daytona in the last seven years.

So is it worth being underweight on both of these drivers? I don’t hate that play at all. And honestly, when it comes to GPPs, I probably won’t have many lineups with both Keselowski and Kyle Busch on them, for what that’s worth.

Other than those strategy plays, I’m not a fan of Jamie McMurray ($7,500) this weekend. Ganassi essentially has three cars in this year’s Daytona 500, with McMurray, Kyle Larson, and Kurt Busch. All three are very aggressive drivers and could easily wind up in a wreck that they caused.

Performance-wise, McMurray hasn’t posted a single-digit finish at Daytona since the 2013 season, and over his last 22 starts at this track, he’s had just two top 19 results. Add in the fact that his car wasn’t handling well at all in the Duel race, and I’m probably going to 100% fade Jamie Mac on Sunday. He starts 16th and should garner a decent ownership percentage based on that and his name.

Daytona 500 DraftKings Projections

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. Also included are projected laps led for each driver. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.

DriverStarting PositionDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedDollar Per FPT
Brad Keselowski35$10,60059.211.28$179
Ryan Blaney14$9,00054.105.221$167
Austin Dillon20$7,60050.607.24$150
Kyle Busch31$9,60049.813.68$193
Joey Logano4$10,40044.006.231$237
Denny Hamlin10$10,00042.906.810$233
Aric Almirola8$9,20041.806.811$220
Kyle Larson26$7,80040.315.66$194
Paul Menard7$7,40036.809.015$201
Bubba Wallace13$7,20036.410.60$198
Ryan Newman19$7,00035.813.60$196
Kurt Busch12$8,70035.211.48$247
Martin Truex Jr11$8,80034.710.42$254
Tyler Reddick39$5,10034.224.40$149
Michael McDowell34$5,90034.022.00$174
Casey Mears40$5,40032.825.60$165
Erik Jones28$8,20032.419.80$253
Kevin Harvick3$10,20032.310.422$316
Chase Elliott18$9,40030.216.87$312
Clint Bowyer6$9,90029.811.07$333
Ty Dillon22$5,60029.618.20$189
Jimmie Johnson17$8,50029.116.22$292
Ricky Stenhouse Jr5$9,80029.011.411$339
Brendan Gaughan30$6,00028.422.80$211
Daniel Hemric29$6,60027.023.00$244
Daniel Suarez23$8,40026.220.40$321
Alex Bowman2$8,00025.911.29$309
Matt Tifft33$5,00025.825.60$194
Ross Chastain36$4,80025.627.20$188
David Ragan24$6,20025.221.40$246
Ryan Preece21$6,50021.421.80$304
Chris Buescher15$6,30021.418.80$294
Jamie McMurray16$7,50021.219.40$354
BJ McLeod38$4,60019.631.20$235
Corey Lajoie32$4,90019.228.40$255
Cody Ware37$4,50016.232.40$278
Landon Cassill27$5,20015.827.60$329
Parker Kligerman25$4,50015.027.00$300
William Byron1$6,80009.520.018$716
Matt DiBenedetto9$5,70009.022.00$633
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.

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