DraftKings NASCAR: Daytona 500
DraftKings NASCAR: Daytona 500

This article is part of our DraftKings NASCAR series.

Daytona 500

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.

Course: Daytona International Speedway

Format: 2.5-mile tri-oval

Laps: 200

Race Preview

The 2020 NASCAR Cup season takes the green flag this week with the Daytona 500. Joe Gibbs Racing was the team to beat in 2019, and Denny Hamlin was the one who opened the team's winning ways in this race last season. However, it was Kyle Busch who pulled off the championship win at the end of the season. While the season schedule, drivers and teams face numerous changes in 2020, the racing at Daytona should be similar to what we saw last season. Manufacturers have been employing specific game plans for their drivers, but in the final miles, the race for the win becomes more of a slug fest. Erik Jones won the Busch Clash last week with a battered car from a field of 18 of which almost all were involved in some kind of contact. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started the race week off perfectly with capturing pole prior to the Clash. Stenhouse is one of many drivers with a new team for the 2020 season, and many others face personnel changes on the pit wall. Penske Racing, which started off 2019 strongly, shuffled all of its crew chiefs. Championship finalist Martin Truex Jr. also faces a new season without long-time partner Cole Pearn calling the shots. This week, fantasy players should be looking for cars that are quick in the draft and, more importantly, have shown themselves capable of making passes through the field in practice and Thursday's qualifying races.

Key Stats at Daytona International Speedway

  • Number of previous races: 145
  • Winners from pole: 26
  • Winners from top-5 starters: 74
  • Winners from top-10 starters: 111
  • Winners from 21st or lower starters: 11
  • Fastest race: 183.295 mph

Previous 10 Daytona Winners

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

2015 fall - Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2015 spring - Joey Logano

Performing well at Daytona means surviving until the finish. The destruction of the majority of the field in the Busch Clash is an example of why nothing is given until the race is officially complete. Drivers who try to make moves through the field without help are quickly going to lose position on Sunday. Sometimes even having help may not be enough. Drivers will have to remain patient and choose their moves carefully. Navigating the carnage to be in position to race at the front on the final lap will be the goal. To get into that position, drivers will have to bide their time throughout the distance and maintain their tires for that late-race charge. Daytona places a unique emphasis on handling, unlike Talladega Superspeedway, and drivers who lose grip will be more likely to miss passing opportunities as they arise. Patience is the ultimate factor. With that patience must come exceptional focus to detail through pit stops and observing what moves work and when. The driver and team who avoid the wrecks, make few to no mistakes on pit road and learn lessons in the draft throughout the afternoon will be in position to fight in the final winner-takes-all finale of the season's biggest race.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Joey Logano - $10,500

Denny Hamlin - $10,400

Brad Keselowski - $10,200

Chase Elliott - $10,000

DraftKings Tier 2 Values 

Kyle Busch - $9,800

Kevin Harvick - $9,700

Ryan Blaney - $9,300

Kurt Busch - $9,100

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $8,800

Aric Almirola - $8,500

William Byron - $8,300

Jimmie Johnson - $8,200

Erik Jones - $7,900

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Matt DiBenedetto - $7,800

Ryan Newman - $7,600

Austin Dillon - $7,400

Chris Buescher - $7,100

Darrell Wallace Jr. - $6,300

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Denny Hamlin - $10,400

Kurt Busch - $9,100

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $8,800

William Byron - $8,300

Brendan Gaughan - $7,200

Michael McDowell - $5,900

Denny Hamlin is the defending Daytona 500 champion, and it will be difficult to repeat that feat. His pace throughout practice and qualifying has shown that he has a chance to do it, though. He is one of the highest ranked drivers at Daytona across many statistical categories and pushed teammate Erik Jones to victory in the Busch Clash last week. Another driver likely to battle at the front of the field is Kurt Busch, the 2017 Daytona 500 champion. He finished 10th in the fall Daytona race after an ill-timed pit stop took him out of the lead just before rain came and prematurely ended the race. He remains one of the sport's best drivers in the superspeedway draft. All fantasy owners know Ricky Stenhouse Jr. knows how to win at Daytona and Talladega, and he is on the pole for Sunday's race, too. The only question with Stenhouse is how well he and his new team will partner together throughout the 500 miles. William Byron won his qualifying race on Thursday and has Hendrick Motorsports power, which has been the strongest at the track so far. He started from pole in last year's Daytona 500 and finished second in last July's rain-shortened race. Brendan Gaughan has nine Daytona starts on his resume and typically finishes much higher than his starting position. His average start is 28.1 and his average finish is 20.3. He starts 39th on Sunday. Rounding out the roster is Michael McDowell, who has two top-fives and six top-10s from 17 starts at this track. He finished fifth in last year's race.

Higher-Risk Lineup ($50K Salary Cap)

Chase Elliott - $10,000

Ryan Blaney - $9,300

Aric Almirola - $8,500

Jimmie Johnson - $8,200

Austin Dillon - $7,400

Darrell Wallace Jr. - $6,300

More Hendrick Motorsports might leads the higher-risk lineup in Chase Elliott. Elliott is looking for another top season in 2020 and wants to get it started as soon as possible. He has never scored a top-10 finish at Daytona but is consistently one of the fastest cars at the track and has even started on pole three times. Surviving the distance to race for the win at the end is where he will need to improve for fantasy owners this week. Ryan Blaney is one of the popular outside picks to both win this weekend's Daytona 500 as well as the 2020 NASCAR Cup series championship. He will start deep in the field on Sunday but has come as far back as 36th to finish second at the track in the past. Fantasy owners familiar with superspeedway racing will naturally consider choosing Aric Almirola this week. He has consistently been quick in the draft, starts fifth on Sunday, and even has a win at the track from 2014. This will be Jimmie Johnson's final Daytona 500 as a full-time driver and he has been looking better this past week than previous seasons. He will start sixth after an impressive finish in his qualifying race Thursday night. Two undervalued drivers fantasy owners can use to finish this roster are Austin Dillon and Darrell Wallace Jr. (aka, Bubba). The pair are usually fast at the superspeedways, and both drivers will start inside the top 15 on Sunday. Either could pull off a surprise win in Sunday's race if they can avoid crashes.

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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