It’s Daytona week! And we’re trying to avoid what’s pictured above: The Big One (or Ones). Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 is bound to be a wild one, and that can either be awesome or frustrating for NASCAR Fantasy players. Usually frustrating. But, at the same time, this weekend’s race opens up the driver pool by quite a bit, as the races at Daytona come down more to the strategy you use when building lineups as opposed to which specific drivers you’re using. Plus some luck. A lot of luck. We’ll get into the strategy aspect of this weekend’s slate in a bit, but just remember: just enjoy the race this weekend. Nobody really knows how this race is going to turn out.

LIVE STREAM: I will be joining Brandon Cruz for a live stream fantasy breakdown on Saturday around 4pm ET. I will update this article with the link once it is available.

Kyle Larson is on the pole for this weekend’s race with his teammate, William Byron, slated to start 2nd. Before we get into this DraftKings article, make sure you check out my FanDuel write-up for this (click here) because there’s a lot of crossover between these two sites. Now let’s goooo!!!!

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DraftKings Strategy for Daytona

If you haven’t checked out this week’s episode of the Stacking Dennys podcast, I highly recommend that you do so. RotoDoc and I specifically talked about DFS strategy when it comes to these wild races at Daytona, as well as tactics and drivers that we particularly like this weekend. The episode is linked below or you can find it on all major podcast platforms. The Daily Fantasy Sports discussion starts right around the 1 hour and two minute mark.

Other than the strategy noted in this week’s Stacking Dennys podcast, a few other notes to remember for Saturday night’s race:

  • Try not to think about dominator points. Fastest laps will be spread out throughout the field, and usually the most one driver gets is around eight or so. Focus on place differential and finishing position.
  • There’s no reason to use all of the salary cap allotment. In fact, most optimal lineups at Daytona and Talladega come in several thousand dollars below it.
  • Previous history at superspeedways really means nothing. This race is a crapshoot, and anybody can end up in the optimal lineup this weekend. Use this reminder to go heavier on drivers that most other players are going to skip over.
  • Optimal lineup in this year’s Daytona 500: Hamlin ($10,400), Elliott ($10,300), Chastain ($7,800), Custer ($6,700), McDowell ($6,300), and Cindric ($6,100) for a total of $47,600. Hamlin started 25th and finished 5th, Elliott started 12th and finished 2nd, Chastain started 34th and finished 7th, Custer started 27th and finished 11th, McDowell started 17th and finished 1st, and Cindric started 39th and finished 15th.
  • Optimal lineup in this year’s first Talladega race: Keselowski ($10,500), Harvick ($9,600), DiBenedetto ($8,200), McDowell ($7,200), Grala ($5,800), and Alfredo ($5,700) for a total of $47,000. Keselowski started 10th and finished 1st, Harvick started 16th and finished 4th, DiBenedetto started 13th and finished 5th, McDowell started 23rd and finished 3rd, Grala started 38th and finished 5th, and Alfredo started 30th and finished 12th.

Driver-by-Driver Breakdown Video

Now for the video breakdown! Be sure to go here and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you haven’t already.

Optimal Lineup According to Jordan’s Projections

The optimal DraftKings lineup for Daytona according to my Projections is:

  • Joey Logano
  • Austin Dillon
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Landon Cassill
  • Bubba Wallace
  • Michael McDowell

Confidence Rating = ???/10. I’m not going to give a confidence rating for anything this weekend because races at Daytona and Talladega are so difficult to predict. This lineup could end up being the best on Saturday night, and it could end up being the worst. You just never know. As far as the build goes, it’s really chalky with Logano, Dillon, and Cassill in it, but it turns into a tournament lineup with Hamlin, Wallace, and McDowell. I actually like it quite a bit, although I’d consider switching Logano or Dillon out for someone else.

GPP / Tournament Picks

Daniel Suarez ($7,800) – On the Stacking Dennys podcast this week, Ryan Preece ($7,700) was my initial tournament play mentioned, but for this article I’m going to have to go with Daniel Suarez. I still think Preece is a solid play on Saturday night, but I think he’s going to be higher owned than Suarez despite starting two spots further ahead. Now, when it comes to Daniel Suarez’s record at superspeedways, atrocious is about the only way you can describe it. But you’re getting a strong Chevrolet starting back in 26th that I have projected to be under 15% owned in tournaments on Saturday night. I wouldn’t mind being in that 20-25% exposure range with Suarez to be honest…

Cole Custer ($6,800) – In case you didn’t watch my DFS video (above), Cole Custer made the optimal lineup in the Daytona 500 this year, and was 0.25 FPTS away from doing the same thing at Talladega. And he’s probably going to be under 20% owned in big GPPs on DraftKings this weekend. I love being overweight on Custer this weekend, just from the strategy aspect of it. The #41 Ford will start from back in 25th this weekend, and the Fords have been really strong on superspeedways over the last five or so years. Custer is another great pivot this weekend.

Anthony Alfredo ($5,800) – Public perception is big in Fantasy NASCAR, and with Anthony Alfredo’s recent struggles, as well as the “he always wrecks” mentality by a lot of racing fans, he’s going to relatively overlooked in DraftKings on Saturday night despite starting back in 32nd. Plus, with the chalk back there being Landon Cassill, Kaz Grala, and Corey LaJoie, that’ll drive down Alfredo’s ownership even more since most people don’t want to exclusively stack the back. But don’t forget that not only did Alfredo’s teammate, Michael McDowell, win the Daytona 500 this season, but he also finished 3rd at Talladega (where Alfredo finished 12th). Also, John Hunter Nemechek drove this car to four finishes of 11th or better on the superspeedways last season.

Cash Core Drivers

Kaz Grala on pit road with tire issues in the 2021 Daytona 500
Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Sorry in advance, these are going to be pretty obvious picks for cash lineups…

Kaz Grala ($8,900) – He starts 38th and can legitimately run top 15. That’s all you need to know. Most cars starting outside of the top 30 are “backmarker” cars, but Grala’s #16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing is nothing like that. Honestly, I’d probably put it on par with the Richard Childress Racing cars, maybe a little bit below that. But anyway, Grala has a ton of upside this weekend in DFS and is a very safe pick. He had brake issues in the Daytona 500 this year (see picture above), but was running top 20 before that, and Kaz came home 6th at Talladega back in April.

Corey LaJoie ($7,400) – Believe it or not, Corey LaJoie has been one of the best DFS plays on superspeedways over the last few years. In fact, during the 2019 season, LaJoie had an average finish of 10.5 on this track type and also scored the most DraftKings FPTS of any Cup Series driver (56.88 per race). Since then, he has finished 8th, 16th, 21st, 28th, 9th, and 22nd at Daytona/Talladega, and those two top 10s were right here at Daytona. LaJoie starts back in 33rd this weekend after missing the Michigan race and is a very safe DFS option with high upside.

Landon Cassill ($7,100) – This is a similar situation to what I described with Kaz Grala above. Landon Cassill is driving the #96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing this weekend. It’s a small step down from Grala in terms of power, but this still isn’t a backmarker car by any means. Harrison Burton brought this car home in 20th at Talladega this season and even scored some Stage points that day as well. Cassill starts 39th on Saturday night and is under-priced in DraftKings. He’s one of the safest plays in the field.

Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona DraftKings Driver 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 six different ranking systems. Also factored in are projected laps led and fastest laps 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.

DriverDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSProj OwnershipStarting PositionCeiling Proj FPTSAvg. Projected FinishDollar Per FPT
Joey Logano$10,60056.7337.14%2276.7507.2$187
Denny Hamlin$9,40052.1522.19%372.5005.3$180
Austin Dillon$10,30051.6341.79%2768.9010.7$199
Ryan Blaney$8,80042.0510.14%658.6507.2$209
Alex Bowman$9,60041.9715.85%1556.1509.7$229
Christopher Bell$8,30040.3314.67%1453.3510.5$206
Kaz Grala$8,90039.6227.27%3864.9021.7$225
Chase Elliott$8,50039.4212.57%559.8507.2$216
Kevin Harvick$9,80038.6316.18%1149.9010.2$254
Bubba Wallace$6,50037.9715.23%2060.5014.8$171
Landon Cassill$7,10037.7330.51%3961.3523.8$188
Brad Keselowski$10,00036.9719.25%1060.5511.5$271
Ross Chastain$8,20036.4024.45%2960.3519.5$225
Aric Almirola$9,30036.1813.43%1957.5514.0$257
Corey Lajoie$7,40035.9022.81%3362.3520.8$206
William Byron$8,00033.975.88%253.4009.3$236
Matt DiBenedetto$6,70033.5210.10%947.0512.3$200
Kyle Busch$9,20033.209.07%448.4011.8$277
Michael McDowell$5,70032.6816.81%1855.0515.7$174
Ryan Newman$7,00032.6723.53%2355.9517.3$214
Cole Custer$6,80032.5717.55%2550.3518.3$209
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$6,00030.989.93%1256.6015.8$194
Kurt Busch$7,60029.927.62%851.7013.0$254
Tyler Reddick$7,30029.2818.47%1749.1516.5$249
Chris Buescher$5,20029.2010.04%1352.6515.2$178
Chase Briscoe$5,30028.7214.33%1646.5018.2$185
Ryan Preece$7,70028.3519.23%2457.8021.0$272
Kyle Larson$9,00027.6713.57%155.4512.5$325
Martin Truex Jr$8,70027.009.88%752.2015.2$322
Erik Jones$6,30025.7316.41%2152.3521.0$245
Daniel Suarez$7,80024.9713.97%2652.2523.3$312
Justin Haley$5,50023.0716.40%2848.3525.5$238
Anthony Alfredo$5,80022.6217.44%3251.9026.5$256
Joey Gase$5,00017.675.07%3746.4532.3$283
Quin Houff$4,60016.453.11%3552.9032.0$280
Cody Ware$4,70013.782.51%3136.9030.5$341
BJ McLeod$4,50013.621.83%3035.9030.2$330
David Starr$6,20013.006.41%4032.4535.3$477
Josh Bilicki$4,90011.174.38%3630.4534.0$439
Garrett Smithley$4,80010.622.98%3420.9033.0$452
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.