It’s finally here! The 2021 Fantasy NASCAR season is upon us, as the 63rd annual Daytona 500 is set to go green on Sunday…as long as there is no rain. But anyway, it’s time to go racing, ladies and gentlemen, and that means it’s time to get your picks in for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. If you haven’t signed up yet to play, you can do so for FREE by clicking here, but if you’re ready to rock and roll, let’s get to the picks!
Alex Bowman and William Byron will “officially” be on the front row for the opening race of the 2021 season, although it’s already confirmed that Byron (plus others) will go to a backup and have to drop to the rear on the pace laps. In Fantasy NASCAR, though, and the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest, drivers are scored from their official starting spot, so for Byron that would be 2nd. You can click here to see the Daytona 500 Starting Lineup.
*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 the 2021 Daytona 500
Denny Hamlin ($12,300) – This guy should be a very popular Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest pick on Sunday, so while there is definitely strategy in not picking him, you really can’t argue with the results. Hamlin is the defending Daytona 500 champion for two years in a row now, and has also won three of the last five Great American races. Additionally, Dennis has finished 4th or better in eight of the last 14 points-paying Daytona races, and also has a 6th-place finish to his credit during that time span. He starts 25th in this year’s race so there’s plenty of place differential upside there.
Erik Jones ($8,200) – I’m a sucker for great looking paint schemes, and the Armor All one that Erik Jones is running this weekend is one of the best I’ve seen since Chase Elliott’s Hooters car. If only the roof was black instead of white… but anyway let’s talk about Erik Jones as a racer (ha!). Now obviously there’s a bit of a downgrade here for him, as he’s going from Joe Gibbs Racing equipment last season to Richard Petty Motorsports equipment this year, but that shouldn’t make a wild difference at superspeedway tracks like Daytona and Talladega. On this track type over the last two years, Jones has the 10th-best average finish (17.4) and he posted top 5s in both Talladega races in 2020. Best of all, EJ starts 31st for the Daytona 500, so he has plenty of place differential upside.
Austin Cindric ($7,200) – This is the 2nd-safest Slingshot pick in the field on Sunday. Remember: drivers score negative points for place differential! Two per position. So often times it is best to focus heavily on place differential at the superspeedway races. But anyway, getting to Cindric: he looked strong in the Duel race here on Thursday night but unfortunately had a speeding penalty that ruined his race. All I’m worried about is speed, though, and Cindric has a Penske car with plenty of place differential upside. I couldn’t imagine making a Daytona 500 Slingshot lineup without him.
Kaz Grala ($7,000) – And now the safest Slingshot pick in the field on Sunday. Kaz Grala cannot score negative points in this race. It is impossible. If he wrecks on the first lap by himself, he will still score positive 2 points. And with this game and the superspeedway races, I’m all about taking drivers with huge upside and little downside. If just one of these guys starting near the back finishes inside the top 10, it could easily be a 150+ point day just for him in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. As far as Grala goes, he’s running the #16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing, which has a very strong superspeedway program in the Xfinity Series. If Kaz can stay out of trouble on Sunday, I’ll be happy.
Anthony Alfredo ($6,900) – Yep, I’m leaving plenty of cap on the table with my Slingshot roster this weekend. Like I said before, though, I’m trying to maximize fantasy points without too much risk, so that’s how this happens (at least for superspeedway races). As far as Anthony Alfredo goes, my algorithm actually likes him quite a bit, ranking him 23rd of the 40 drivers in the race. One reason for that is the car; this #38 Ford was piloted by John Hunter Nemechek last season, who piloted it to finishes of 11th in both Daytona races as well as finishes of 8th in both Talladega races. It kind of concerns me that now with Cindric, Grala, and Alfredo I have three guys in my lineup that are rookies, but let’s roll with it! Bring it home, boys.
“Race Winner” Pick = Ryan Blaney – I can’t go against my algorithm in week one! By the way, click here to see how my algorithm predicts this year’s Daytona 500 will end up. Blaney has gotten close here at Daytona in the past, finishing 2nd in last year’s Daytona 500, as well as 2nd in the 2017 Great American Race. Also, for what it’s worth, Blaney had the 2nd-best average running position on superspeedways last season and three finishes of 6th or better in the four races on this track type–including a win at Talladega.