The weekend that all NASCAR fans have been impatiently waiting for is finally here: the 2022 Daytona 500 is on Sunday, and with that comes the first-ever Millionaire Maker contest on DraftKings. There are nearly 107,000 spots in this huge contest for The Great American Race, and at $25 per entry, it’s one that you definitely need to fully consider the best strategies when building your lineups so you can leverage your exposures well. With that being said, it only takes one lineup to take down a DraftKings tournament as I proved on Thursday night in Duel #2:

If you listened to the Stacking Dennys podcast this week (click here if you didn’t), you know RotoDoc and I talked at length about the strategy in profiting at DFS with these superspeedway. Always remember: it’s not necessarily about who you pick at Daytona, or what their track record here is, but rather the strategy and game theory you put into the lineup build—plus some luck…a whole lot of luck.

DraftKings Strategy Tactics To Profit At Daytona

Fantasy NASCAR 2018 Big One Daytona Wreck
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

We’re trying to avoid “The Big One”–a large wreck that takes out 10+ cars–with our DFS lineups this weekend, and unfortunately, it’s something that is impossible to predict when it will happen. Notice I didn’t say if it will happen. It is extremely like that “The Big One” is going to happen on Sunday. These drivers are going full throttle, 200+ mph, inches away from each other, and one or two are eventually going to make a mistake–and it’s going to cause a pileup wreck that could take out anywhere from 5 to 30 cars. Not joking.

While it can definitely be frustrating when your DFS lineups are ruined by something like that, it’s simply a way of life at these superspeedway race tracks (Daytona and Talladega). So now, you may be wondering then, “so how can you predict which drivers will be good picks on Sunday?” And honestly, you can’t.

What you can do with your DraftKings lineup, though, is strategically pick these drivers. DFS success at Daytona and Talladega has a lot more to do with understanding game theory than it does which actual drivers you pick.

The most important thing you need to pay attention to for this race when building DraftKings lineups is starting position, and typically this is the type of formula I use to build a lineup:

  • Top 6 starting spot: sparingly, absolute max of one
  • Top 15 starting spot: one driver, maybe two
  • 16th-30th starting spot: two or three drivers
  • 31st-40th starting spot: remaining spots left
  • And don’t forget, it’s perfectly fine to let plenty of salary cap on the table. In fact, it’s encouraged!

Now you may be thinking, “But what about laps led points? And fastest laps points? Those are important in DraftKings!” And yes, they are. But not as important as finishing position and place differential at these big superspeedways. Plus, when it comes to fastest laps, they are completely spread out all over the board; it’s unlikely any driver has more than 10 on Sunday.

Now let’s quickly talk about finishing position and place differential for a second. Take a look at this chart below (click to make it bigger). It shows each driver’s base DraftKings scored by simply taking into account their starting position (top row) and finishing position (left column).

As you can see, it rarely pays off to take the guys starting up front! A driver that starts 35th and finishes 12th scores more DraftKings points than a driver starting 10th that finishes 2nd!

GPP / Tournament Picks

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick ($9,200) – Kevin Harvick starting 22nd on Sunday should bump up his ownership a little bit in DraftKings, but with Joey Logano starting 20th and William Byron starting 23rd, I think what’s going to happen is Harvick goes under-owned, and I’ll love it if that happens. Harvick has won twice at Daytona, and last year on the superspeedways, he was at the top of his game, with three top 10s in the four races and a series-best average finish of 7.8. After going winless in 2021 (for the first time in eleven straight seasons), Harvick will be looking to start off this new season with a bang, and I think he’ll help a lot of DFS players win some money while doing so.

Ty Dillon ($5,200) – The drivers starting from 24th through 29th–Corey LaJoie, Justin Haley, Ty Dillon, Landon Cassill, Greg Biffle, and Todd Gilliland–are all worth being overweight on in DraftKings this weekend. Because of the bigger names starting a little further ahead and a little further back than this group, this “sweet spot” of drivers should go under-owned compared to their likelihood of having a big score in DraftKings. As far as Ty Dillon goes, he’s a great superspeedway racer and masterful at avoiding the wrecks; in eight career starts at Talladega, Ty has never finished worse than 17th (average result of 12th), and here at Daytona, Ty has three finishes of 6th or better in his last five starts. It’s a toss up between Ty Dillon and Corey LaJoie for who I like the most out of the aforementioned group. I wrote up Ty because he starts two spots further back.

Todd Gilliland ($4,700) – As soon as the first Duel finished up on Thursday night, I tweeted out my excitement about where Todd Gilliland ended up. This is giving me flashbacks to the second Talladega race last season, where Anthony Alfredo was criminally under-owned in this same #38 Ford that Gilliland will pilot on Sunday, and then helped me win nearly $10,000 after I talked him up all week. This weekend, Todd Gilliland is going to come in under-owned as well. The reason? He’s in that kind of weird 29th-place starting spot that never gets major ownership unless it’s a big name, plus he’s a rookie. But game theory says that Gilliland is a great play to be overweight on; he just needs an 11th-place finish to hit 50 DraftKings FPTS on Sunday.

Stacking Dennys Podcast with Jordan & RotoDoc

These Will Be The Popular Driver Picks On Sunday

Aric Almirola and Christopher Bell racing at Daytona in the 2021 Duel race
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The most important decisions you’re going to make on Sunday will come down to what you do with the drivers that are going to be the highest owned on the slate, and where your own exposure lies compared to the rest of the field. Myself, I like to take a more aggressive approach, so I will typically go lower on exposure with these guys compared to what I project the field will be at, and try to find drivers with similar upside to pivot to (the GPP picks above).

Denny Hamlin ($10,500) – Denny Hamlin is going to be the highest-owned driver on the Daytona 500 slate, with my projections coming in at just over 50%. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s higher than that, though. For those of you that are new, the reason Denny Hamlin is going to be so high-owned is because he starts back in 30th and he’s the best superspeedway racer in the field. He’s finished 5th or better in five of the last eight Daytona races, has four straight top 5 finishes in the Daytona 500 specifically, and has won The Great American Race three times so far. My recommendation: Go between 35-45% exposure if you’re mass entering, but definitely consider fading Hamlin in single entry and 3-entry max contests.

Austin Dillon ($8,400) and Aric Almirola ($8,400) – Austin Dillon used to be a very safe play at Daytona, with seven top 10s in his first eleven starts here–including a Daytona 500 win in 2018–but since then he has just one finish better than 12th in the last six races here. Still, when you’re starting back in 36th, just cracking the top 10 is going to earn a driver 60+ DraftKings FPTS. Aric Almirola is also a previous Daytona winner (he won the July race back in 2014) but has just one top 10 finish in his last eight starts at this track. Like Dillon, though, Almirola nearly starts in the rear (his starting spot is 38th) so he’s a very safe DFS option on Sunday, and will also be one of the most popular picks in DraftKings. My recommendation: I’m going to aim my exposure for both of these drivers at around 40% to stay in line with my projected ownership of the field, while also limiting how many lineups they show up together in to try to gain an edge that way, as there will likely be many DraftKings players pairing both of these drivers together in lineups. Even in single entry and 3-entry max contests, I’d include one of these two.

Noah Gragson ($5,300) and Kaz Grala ($4,900) – Noah Gragson is in the #62 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports this weekend, so you know he has a solid race car to work with, but Kaz Grala is driving the #50 Chevrolet for the brand new organization of The Money Team Racing. This year’s Daytona 500 will be Gragson’s first-ever Cup Series start, and he starts back in 39th so he’s one of the safest DFS plays in the field. Grala finished 28th, 6th, and 35th in his three Cup starts last season for Kaulig Racing, all of which were superspeedway events. My recommendation: Grala’s equipment concerns me a bit, so I’d like to be underweight on the field and be in the lower-20% with exposure, maybe even in the high-teens. With Gragson, I’ll likely be underweight as well, but still in the 25% exposure range since it is literally impossible for him to score negative FPTS on Sunday.

Daytona 500 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 Position
Denny Hamlin$10,50069.9251.63%30
Joey Logano$9,80059.8523.07%20
Austin Dillon$8,40058.6339.33%36
Aric Almirola$8,00056.0539.51%38
Kevin Harvick$9,20049.8818.67%22
William Byron$9,40049.2521.40%23
Chase Elliott$10,40042.8815.01%11
Noah Gragson$5,30042.1532.63%39
Ryan Blaney$10,00041.6511.12%7
Kaz Grala$4,90040.3728.11%35
Cole Custer$6,50039.8518.26%31
Ty Dillon$5,20036.7213.37%26
Ross Chastain$6,70035.2815.32%19
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$7,90035.1316.47%18
David Ragan$5,10034.1516.24%34
Justin Haley$7,40033.7518.31%25
Kurt Busch$9,00031.5211.01%17
Corey Lajoie$5,50031.4212.17%24
Bubba Wallace$8,30030.7312.93%16
Greg Biffle$6,30030.5510.97%28
Tyler Reddick$7,70030.1811.27%15
Brad Keselowski$8,20030.135.18%3
Kyle Busch$9,60028.639.63%10
Todd Gilliland$4,70028.5713.84%29
Christopher Bell$7,60028.5310.91%12
Daniel Hemric$7,00028.0722.66%33
Jacques Villeneuve$4,60027.573.11%40
Landon Cassill$5,60026.7315.60%27
Martin Truex Jr$8,80025.7211.98%14
BJ McLeod$4,50024.832.87%37
Chase Briscoe$6,80024.826.85%9
Alex Bowman$8,60020.234.17%2
Chris Buescher$7,80020.075.66%4
Erik Jones$6,00019.3711.43%13
Kyle Larson$10,20018.808.11%1
Harrison Burton$6,20018.555.91%8
Michael McDowell$7,20018.286.58%6
Cody Ware$4,80017.831.51%32
Daniel Suarez$5,80017.6311.22%21
Austin Cindric$7,50006.555.98%5
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.