The NASCAR Cup Series 2022 regular season finale is scheduled for this weekend at the wild and unpredictable Daytona International Speedway. For those that are relatively new to racing DFS, the events here at Daytona and at Talladega are incredibly hard to predict because pretty much anyone in the field has a chance to win. That is not an exaggeration.

Qualifying for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 was rained out, which means the starting lineup was set using the formula. There are a ton of storylines heading into this race and which drivers will secure the final two Playoff spots, and it should end up being a great race.

DraftKings Fantasy Strategy To Profit At Daytona

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This weekend’s race at Daytona is a little bit different than a typical superspeedway race weekend. Yes, we’re deploying the same DraftKings strategy as normal, but there are some other things to take into account as well.

First, this is a smaller field than we’re used to. But what does this have to do about making DraftKings picks? Well, it should actually open the door for you to take more of a chance on the guys starting mid-pack and in the teens, simply because we’re shrinking the field a bit, but the cars that are just out there to survive and not necessarily be competitive (BJ McLeod and Cody Ware for example) are still in there.

Next, don’t overly react to narratives. As you can see with my ownership projections for Saturday night’s race, Ryan Blaney is projected to be one of the highest-owned drivers on the slate. While he is a great superspeedway racer and starts mid-pack–which gives him good place differential upside–he’s probably going to be higher owned in DFS than he should be. Which brings me to my next point…

As RotoDoc and I talked about on the Stacking Dennys podcast this week (listen below), it’s much easier to predict what your DFS competitors are going to do for this race than it is to predict what’s actually going to happen in the race. So use ownership projections to your advantage! Should Driver A who starts 30th be 40% higher owned than Driver B who starts 32nd simply because he’s a “better” superspeedway racer? Absolutely not. They both have similar upside when it comes to DraftKings scoring.

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

So what should you do with your lineups this week now that you have this information? Strategically pick your drivers. When it comes to the races at Daytona and Talladega, I always say this: it’s not which specific drivers you pick but rather the process in which you build your lineup. DraftKings success at Daytona has a lot more to do with understanding game theory and luck than anything else.

The most important thing you need to pay attention to for this race when building DraftKings lineups is starting position, and this is the kind of “format” I’d recommend for this weekend’s race:

  • Top 6 starting spot: sparingly, absolute max of one
  • Top 17 starting spot: one driver, maybe two
  • 18th-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 26th and finishes 8th scores more DraftKings points than a driver starting 9th that wins the race!

DraftKings NASCAR Picks for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona

William Byron Daytona 500 Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Please note: I’m not going to waste my time or your time in this article talking about the “obvious” and chalk place differential plays this weekend, such as Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Noah Gragson, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. Instead, the picks below are the guys that I think are going to be under-owned compared to their upside, which makes them great GPP / tournament plays, in my opinion.

William Byron ($8,400) – I really like the William Byron play this weekend. He’s going to start from 17th on Saturday night, but he’s sandwiched in between two drivers that are going to grab a significant amount of ownership–Ryan Blaney ($10,000) and Denny Hamlin ($9,600). DFS players gravitating toward the “better” (and I use that term loosely) superspeedway drivers of Blaney and Hamlin are going to skip over Byron completely, and not think about him again. Let’s not forget, though, that Willy B won this particular race here at Daytona back in 2020 and has also finished 15th or better in four of his last five Talladega starts (including two top 5s). It doesn’t hurt that Byron is 7th-highest in my driver projections this week, although I must note that those don’t really mean a lot for Daytona.

Justin Haley ($6,400) – This might be my favorite driver to be overweight on for Saturday night. Justin Haley will roll off the grid from 18th, and considering he’s one of the lower-priced drivers on the slate and doesn’t have a ton of place differential upside, he’s going to be very low-owned. I’d be surprised if Haley cracks 10% ownership, to be honest with you. Here’s the thing, though: Justin Haley is a really good superspeedway racer. He has two Xfinity wins here at Daytona as well as a Cup Series win (thanks to rain), and he came home 12th at Talladega this season in this #31 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing.

Todd Gilliland ($5,500) – I’m sure this is getting repetitive this season, but once again, I think being overweight on Todd Gilliland is the play this weekend. Here’s the thing about him: DFS players don’t trust him, especially at superspeedways. Gilly ended up 33rd at Daytona and 27th at Talladega, and for those throwing in Atlanta, he finished 27th and 17th in those races. Nothing stellar. With that being said, Gilliland was legitimately running inside or near the top 10 for a significant portion of this year’s Daytona 500 before he got caught up in a wreck. He will start 32nd on Saturday night but I’m projecting him in the mid-teens for ownership percentage. At minimum, I’d recommend 20% exposure of Gilliland this weekend, and I might personally be well above 30%.

Harrison Burton ($4,900) – Kind of the same story here with Harrison Burton as the one with Todd Gilliland. Looking at finishes this season, Burton ended up 39th in the Daytona 500, 34th at Talladega, and 25th in the first Atlanta race. He did come home 10th in the second Atlanta race, but that quasi-superspeedway result isn’t going to boost the confidence DFS players by a huge amount. This weekend, Harrison Burton will start from 29th but is also projected at a low ownership (right around 12-13%). His upside says that you should be well overweight on the field with Burton exposure on Saturday night.

Optimal Lineup According to Jordan’s Projections

For what it’s worth, the optimal DraftKings lineup for Daytona on Saturday night (according to my Projections) is listed below. I wouldn’t recommend putting a ton of stock into projections this week, though, because of how unpredictable this race is. Instead, you can use them as a starting point. Anyway, the lineup is:

  • Ryan Blaney
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Kyle Busch
  • Bubba Wallace
  • Brad Keselowski
  • Noah Gragson

Stacking Dennys Podcast with Jordan & RotoDoc

Daytona Coke Zero Sugar 400 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.

DriverDK SalaryAvg Proj FPTSProj OwnStarting PositionAvg. Projected FinishDollar Per FPT
Bubba Wallace$7,80055.6555.24%3010.5$140
Ryan Blaney$10,00049.7326.68%1607.3$201
Denny Hamlin$9,60049.2234.66%1909.2$195
Brad Keselowski$7,20046.1327.47%2413.0$156
Kyle Busch$9,40045.7025.50%2210.3$206
Austin Cindric$8,50041.6312.69%1411.2$204
William Byron$8,40041.4716.77%1712.5$203
Joey Logano$9,80040.9314.00%306.3$239
Aric Almirola$6,70040.9033.43%2716.2$164
Noah Gragson$5,30037.9833.10%3724.7$140
Austin Dillon$7,00036.1518.18%2117.3$194
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$6,20035.5216.00%2012.3$175
Chase Briscoe$8,80034.4223.39%2617.7$256
Ty Gibbs$7,50032.7518.11%2318.7$229
Martin Truex Jr$9,00032.6817.72%1312.3$275
Erik Jones$6,90032.439.10%1112.8$213
Todd Gilliland$5,50032.2314.47%3223.0$171
David Ragan$5,10031.7816.50%3425.7$160
Chase Elliott$10,50030.7715.43%210.2$341
Ross Chastain$10,20030.5716.94%1215.3$334
Kevin Harvick$8,00030.108.42%711.5$266
Harrison Burton$4,90028.1212.43%2921.8$174
Corey Lajoie$5,80027.6221.35%3123.0$210
Landon Cassill$4,60026.658.29%3527.0$173
Kyle Larson$10,40025.6312.86%111.7$406
Ty Dillon$5,70024.9311.68%2520.5$229
Justin Haley$6,40024.738.88%1818.8$259
Cole Custer$6,00024.189.78%1518.7$248
Daniel Hemric$6,50023.1313.51%2823.7$281
Alex Bowman$8,20022.129.89%1017.5$371
Cody Ware$4,70020.324.44%3328.3$231
Chris Buescher$7,70020.205.27%816.3$381
Michael McDowell$7,30017.278.54%918.8$423
BJ McLeod$4,50015.701.25%3632.2$287
Tyler Reddick$9,70013.077.63%617.2$742
Daniel Suarez$9,20006.305.17%420.5$1,460
Christopher Bell$8,60005.825.23%521.3$1,479
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.