Daily Fantasy NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400 Driver Preview
Two of the biggest pillars of driver selection in daily fantasy NASCAR are track history and current form. Knowing where drivers sit on both of those spectrums is going to make our lineups look a whole lot nicer at the end of the race.
By looking at which drivers have excelled at this week's track in the past and those who are currently racing well, we can know which drivers are in line to be good plays for the slate. That's what we're going to try to do today, dividing drivers into those two buckets with noteworthy track history or noteworthy current form.
Clearly, this isn't to say that all of these drivers will be great plays in this race. A lot of that will be dictated by where they start and the scoring history at that track. To read more about what strategies we need to deploy based on starting position, check out this week's track preview.
Later in the week, once qualifying is in the books, we'll go through the top plays for the race based on all of these factors. But which drivers should we be keying on for the time being? Let's check it out. Here are drivers we should monitor for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in Daytona.
Joey Logano (FanDuel Price: $11,800) It is superbly difficult to find consistency on restrictor-plate tracks due to the highly volatile nature they possess. But Joey Logano has somehow managed to grind out a ton of solid finishes in both Daytona and Talladega, and he should enter as one of the favorites this weekend.
Logano is the only driver with four top-10 finishes in the past five Daytona races, and he has been sixth or better in each of those four races. That includes a fourth-place finish at this year's Daytona 500.
Talladega seems to be the better track for Logano as he has won two of the past four races there. But the Fords had stupid speed in Daytona in February, and if that dominance carries over, Logano should be in a good spot to log another top-end finish.
Ryan Blaney ($11,200) Logano wasn't the most dominant driver in Daytona this February, though. That honor belonged to his teammate, Ryan Blaney, and Blaney always seems to run at the front for these tracks.
Blaney led 118 laps in the 500 and went on to finish seventh. It was his second top-10 in the past three Daytona races after he was second in the 2017 500. He has had a top-12 average running position in Daytona in five straight races, which is a superbly difficult accomplishment.
It's hard to find drivers who will lead a bunch of laps at restrictor-plate tracks, but Blaney loves to run up front, and he will flash aggressiveness early in races. This gives him some intriguing upside, so we may be able to use him in tournaments as our "anchor" even if he doesn't start in the back.
Denny Hamlin ($11,500) Denny Hamlin hasn't won a restrictor-plate race since the 2016 Daytona 500. But he always seems to be in contention, and he's another guy who could be used as your anchor.
Hamlin led the second-most laps in February's race and has now led double-digit laps in 6 of the past 10 restrictor-plate races. He has finished sixth or better in six of the past nine Daytona races, so he's likely to be pushing for a win late.
Hamlin has been a popular play each of the past two races, so he's at the front of people's minds. You're not going to sneak up on anybody by using him, especially with how successful he has been here historically. That may incentivize looking at another driver in this pricing range if one pops up as being a good play, but there's still a lot to like about what Hamlin has to offer.
Paul Menard ($9,000) Paul Menard is a damn wizard. That's basically the only way to explain his ability to safely avoid incidents at these tracks.
Menard had a six-race stretch at restrictor-plate tracks from the end of 2016 through this year's Daytona 500 in which he finished 13th or better each time. The magic ran out in Talladega as he finished 30th, but not many dudes consistently finish up front as often as this guy does.
This puts Menard in position to be a part of our rosters -- as long as he's not starting near the front. Unlike someone like Blaney or Logano, Menard's not super likely to be the pied piper leading a train of cars around the track. To get upside, we need him to start in the second half of the field. But if that does happen, he'll be one of the higher-floor assets on the board.
Austin Dillon ($9,200) Austin Dillon is the most recent Daytona winner, claiming the Harley J. Earl Trophy back in February, a continuation of what has been a solid career for Dillon at the track.
This will be Dillon's 11th Daytona race, and he has already churned out six top-10 finishes in that span, though not all of those solid finishes have been pretty.
Dillon has clearly put that behind him, as evidenced by February's win. He's not a driver we can use as our anchor, but he'll be in play if he qualifies in the second half of the field.
Michael McDowell ($6,200) Michael McDowell has six career top-10 finishes in the Cup series; five of those have come at Daytona, including three of the past four races there. This should not be a surprise.
McDowell has never had the benefit of great equipment when he has raced in the Cup series, which hurts his car's speed at most tracks. But at places like Daytona, McDowell's equipment matters less, putting more weight on the shoulders of the driver. McDowell has taken advantage of that, finishing 15th or better in each of the past five Daytona races.
Because of the nature of restrictor-plate racing, you're going to be able to build lineups in which you don't use all of your salary cap. You're not going to need to use McDowell. But you still should if he starts toward the back, knowing that he has top-10 upside that you generally can't find at this price. Chris Buescher ($6,500) would be in the same discussion for this tier with five straight finishes of 17th or better at restrictor-plate tracks.
Brad Keselowski ($12,200) Not only is Brad Keselowski the odds-on favorite to win, sitting at 15/2 to win, according to BetFair, but he's also the most expensive driver on the board. That's for good reason even if said reasons aren't immediately evident.
Keselowski has had a string of poor luck recently at Daytona. He has finished outside the top 15 in seven of the past eight races here, wrecking in each of the last three. But in his lone solid finish in that frame, Keselowski won the 2016 July race, leading a whopping 115 laps.
The current form for Keselowski is solid, too, as he has four top-10s and two top-5s in his past five races. Truly, any of the Penske cars -- Logano and Blaney are the other two -- can be in play as your anchor for this weekend, but Keselowski may be the one with the best chances of pulling off the victory.
Aric Almirola ($10,100) Aric Almirola has been close to a win twice this year. The first was back in February for the Daytona 500 before a last-lap crash sent him from the lead to an 11th-place finish. The second was just last week in Chicagoland, where he led 70 laps before having tire issues. He has the blend of current form and track history that we want.
In 2018, Almirola has already tied a career-high with seven top-10 finishes. One of those was at a restrictor-plate track in Talladega, but he has been successful at every type of track on the schedule.
The lone win in Almirola's career came in the 2014 July Daytona race, and he has finished in the top 11 in each of the past six restrictor-plate races. His lone finish worse than eighth in that stretch was due to the last-lap wreck in February. There's a ton to love about Almirola, and he wouldn't be an absurd choice as an anchor if you're striving to be contrarian.
Alex Bowman ($8,200) Alex Bowman is basically the "diet" version of Almirola. He blends good current form with some solid runs at restrictor-plate races this year to carry a respectable amount of appeal.
Bowman finished eighth at the most recent restrictor-plate race in Talladega, leading 26 laps in the process. He started on the pole at Daytona and was running well until a wreck with a few laps left ruined his day.
Each of Bowman's six top-10 finishes has come within the past 12 races, and they have come at all sorts of tracks -- from a short track to a road course to the circuit's longest track. He doesn't have the biggest track record of success, which could allow Bowman to be a bit of a sneakier play this week should his qualifying time allow you to use him.
Jamie McMurray ($7,900) Jamie McMurray has finished 15th or better in four of the past five races, and his lone poor finish came when he had issues while running in ninth place. When you add in his history at restrictor-plate tracks, he appears to be a bargain at $7,900.
McMurray has four career wins at restrictor-plate tracks, splitting them evenly between Daytona and Talladega. He hasn't been able to duplicate that recently (his last top-10 finish at Daytona was in 2013), but those skills don't just evaporate.
McMurray was a popular play in Talladega thanks to a poor starting spot, but he crashed and wound up finishing 28th. That could help turn people away from him this week. If that happens, be sure to give him a look because the upside outweighs the risk here.