Now that we got the unpredictable race out of the way, it’s on to Race #2 of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at the Daytona Road Course. Yep, we’re staying in Daytona for the second race, but it’s going to be on the road course, where we recently raced at (the Busch Clash on Tuesday before the Daytona 500). Road course races tend to be pretty predictable, but with a new season ramping up, and plenty of young rookies and sophomores in the field, we’re bound to see some surprises on Sunday.
Unfortunately, it was likely the second race of the season was going to have a wild starting lineup due to it being the first race after the Daytona 500, and that is the case this weekend. There are many good drivers starting deep in the field for Sunday’s Daytona Road Course race, and you can click here to see the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 Starting Lineup. Chase Elliott, who has mastered the road course venues lately, is starting on the pole.
*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.*
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Jordan’s Strategy Breakdown Video
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Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for the Daytona Road Course
I’m trying a new format of post this week. Instead of putting my lineup, I’m just writing about a few safe and a few risky drivers I’m considering. Let me know what you think of the change!
Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,300) – At road courses, here’s how the strength chart goes: Chase Elliott up top, a little ways back to Martin Truex, Jr., and then a big gap to the rest of the field. Chase and Truex are the two absolute best at these venues right now, and it’s not even close. This Sunday, Truex and his #19 Toyota will start from back in 19th, but don’t be surprised if he’s into the top 5 within the first ten laps. In the Busch Clash, Truex showed some great speed–almost surprising, even for him–and you can expect Joe Gibbs Racing to bring a similar hot rod this weekend. So Truex not only has place differential potential but also race winning potential. He’s a great pick in any Fantasy NASCAR game, especially the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. Martin finished 3rd here at the Daytona Road Course last season and has finished inside the top 3 in six of his last nine road course starts.
Alex Bowman ($11,000) – Again, place differential. Alex Bowman will start from back in 36th when this weekends’ O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 goes green but should be able to make his way through most of the field with ease. He wound up finishing 12th and 8th in the two road course races last season and has finished 14th or better in each of his last eight starts on this track type. Even just a 14th-place finish out of Alex on Sunday is going to equal 108 fantasy points in Slingshot. For what it’s worth, my algorithm has Bowman projected to finish 9th.
Chris Buescher ($8,000) – If you listen to Taylor Swift, go ahead and put on “Shake It Off” because that’s what we’re doing with Chris Buescher’s disappointing Daytona 500 run. Yeah, I’m still hurting from that one. But one thing I’ve learned in Fantasy NASCAR is to not hold grudges–well, Denny Hamlin is an exception–so I’m just going to forget about it. Buescher is a solid mid-priced option here at the Daytona Road Course on Sunday, as he’s only $8,000 in salary but starts back in 30th. Over his last ten road course starts, Buescher has never finished worse than 20th and also came home 5th here at the Daytona Road Course last season.
Erik Jones ($9,200) – Erik Jones has a permanent spot on this “risky” list, especially now since he is in Richard Petty Motorsports equipment and not the Joe Gibbs Racing ride he had. With that being said, Jones starts back in 37th on Sunday, and over his last nine road course starts in the Cup Series he has finished 11th or better seven times. Pretty solid if you ask me. Now, how much of that was the equipment, and how much of that was Erik Jones just being a good road racer? We’ll find out soon enough, but Erik is likely too risky of a pick for me personally. I explain why in my video above.
Tyler Reddick ($9,000) – It’s hard to handicap these sophomore drivers right now, especially at a road course. It’s even tougher to handicap how the rookies will do. But Tyler Reddick gave us a nice glimpse of what he’s capable of in the Busch Clash last Tuesday, when he ran up front with the leaders for most of the race. In the two road course races last season, he came home 18th and 12th, and this weekend Reddick starts back in 24th. A 12th-place finish would equal out to 92 points in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest on Sunday–a solid return for a driver priced under $10,000.
AJ Allmendinger ($8,700) – We’re at a road course, and if you’ve followed NASCAR for any number of years, you know that when AJ Allmendinger is in the field, he’s going to get talked about. This weekend, AJ is in the Kaulig Racing #16 Chevrolet, which is why he landed on this risky list. This will be just the third start for this Kaulig team ever in the Cup Series. Ever. And the other two were on superspeedways. There’s no doubt that Allmendinger has the talent to run well, but I have my concerns about his equipment. With that being said, AJ has finished 15th or better in five of his last seven road course starts and three of those were also top 10s. He starts from back in 34th this weekend, so
“Race Winner” Pick = Chase Elliott – This season, my “Race Winner” pick for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest will likely be the driver my algorithm predicts to win. This week, it’s Chase Elliott (surprise, surprise) by a good margin. Chase is in another dimension when it comes to road course races and has led 27 or more laps in each of his last four starts on this track type. He’s also won each and every single one of those races. Additionally, Elliott has seven finishes of 6th or better in his last eight road course starts with the only exception being Sonoma in 2019 when he blew an engine. He’s on the pole this Sunday and could end up leading this thing from start to finish.