The Daytona 500 kicked off the 2020 NASCAR season, and we’re right back here to The World Center of Racing to finish off the regular season. As far as Fantasy NASCAR goes, Daytona and Talladega are the true wildcard races, and you probably either love them or hate them. Me? I really like them, because it’s all so random, plus it allows us to take a chance on drivers that we don’t normally pick.

As far as the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest goes, you probably know by now that place differential is a large factor in the scoring. Therefore, my strategy with these races is to minimize the chance for potential negative points from a driver. Because of that, I would never recommend picking any driver starting in the top 5 in this game *at Daytona and Talladega*, and even the top 10 is iffy. If you look back at the Daytona 500 this year, the 6 highest-scoring drivers in that race all started 21st or worse, and only one of the top 12 highest-scoring drivers started better than 19th–and that was Kevin Harvick, who started 10th and finished 5th. At Talladega, the five Slingshot drivers that scored the most points started 12th, 20th, 15th, 21st, and 18th.

To me, everyone starting outside of the top 10 is a decent play on Saturday night. You can add Ryan Blaney in there as well since he started 9th and has finished 2nd and 1st in the two races at Talladega and Daytona, plus our Daytona 500 champion, Denny Hamlin, who started 10th. But like I said, I’m all about minimizing the chance of negative points for this race, because don’t forget: each position a driver loses from his starting spot is negative 2 points.

I’m all on board with selecting all drivers starting 30th or worse. This is a week where you can definitely leave plent of cap space on the table. But I’m going to use this race to be a little more aggressive, almost a calculated aggressiveness, and still target the top cars in the field, but only those with high finishing potential and place differential potential. Click here for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 starting lineup, and good luck on Saturday night!

*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on race day.*

Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for Daytona Saturday Night

Erik Jones winning car Busch Clash 2020 Daytona
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Erik Jones ($10,800) – You all know I have a soft spot for Erik Jones, so I’ll take the risk here with him starting 20th on Saturday night. Jones is a previous winner of this race and also came home 3rd in last year’s Daytona 500. He also won the Busch Clash race here at Daytona earlier this year with that hunk of junk of a car pictured above. Jones is basically racing for his Cup Series career right now, since he doesn’t have a job as of yet in 2021. That doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s a good narrative for Erik racing harder on Saturday night, especially if he can win and get in the Playoffs. For what it’s worth, Jones came home 5th at Talladega earlier this year.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($10,500) – Only one driver has a better average running position that Ricky Wreckhouse at Daytona over the last six points-paying races, and that is Alex Bowman. A big reason for that, though, is because Bowman. has started on the front row in four of those six races, and 9th in one of the others. As far as Stenhouse goes, he starts 31st here on Saturday night, which limits his negative point potential, and he’s finished between 13th and 24th in the last four races here at Daytona. He’s also a previous winner of this race. Stenhouse will be a popular Fantasy NASCAR pick in place differential leagues so there’s strategy here to go against him, but at the same time, he’s the only driver starting outside of the top 30 with legitimate top 10 potential.

Ryan Newman ($8,800) – There’s no such thing as a guarantee in Fantasy NASCAR, especially at a track like Daytona, but Ryan Newman at Daytona over the last few years has been as solid as they come. Looking at the last six points-paying races here, “The Rocketman” has no result worse than 14th and five of the six have been top 10 finishes. Two of those have been top 5s as well. The #6 Ford will roll off the grid from 22nd here on Saturday night.

Michael McDowell ($7,300) – Over the last nine races at Daytona, Michael McDowell has driven for two different organizations and two different car manufacturers, but the results have stayed the same: mid-teens. In addition to finished 15th or better in eight of those nine races, McDowell also has four top 10s during that span, including a top 5 result in last year’s Daytona 500. He starts back in 26th for Saturday night’s race, which is also where he started at Talladega earlier this year. McDowell came home 18th in that race.

Brendan Gaughan ($6,200) – I’m just playing it safe here. Brendan Gaughan will start from dead last on Saturday, which means there is zero percent chance that he scores negative points. He could blow up on lap one and he will not score negative points in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. In addition to this, Gaughan is a solid superspeedway racer and pretty much limits his Cup Series schedule to these races. Here at Daytona, he’s finished between 7th and 23rd in six of his last seven starts, which includes his 7th-place result in this year’s Daytona 500. At Talladega this year, Gaughan started 39th and finished 21st but still scored 86 points in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest.

You’ve probably noticed that Chase Elliott ($12,600) is missing from my lineup. This is on purpose. Yes, Chase starts back in 27th on Saturday night, and being a top tier driver that means he has the potential for a huge points day in this Slingshot game, but he’s also probably going to be very high owned in this game. I like to zig while others zag at Daytona and Talladega. Plus, Chase has an average finish of 26.8 at Daytona with no finish better than 14th.

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.