NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Daytona 500
If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America.
NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!
numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide.
With all of this in mind, let's preview the 2023 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on FanDuel.
|Practice #1||Friday, February 17th
5:35 p.m. EST
|Practice #2||Saturday, February 18th
10:30 a.m. EST
If you like the format of today's DFS helper, I'm sorry.
This will be the only race all season where I've got a starting grid before 5 p.m. eastern on Friday thanks to last night's pair of 150-mile qualifying races. The field is set for the Daytona 500, which makes it infinitely easier to tell you the best plays for daily fantasy.
Late Friday night and Saturday morning, NASCAR's Cup Series will have two practice sessions, but they're non-essential for our purposes. The times don't indicate passing potential or speed, and most teams will likely take it easy to just briefly check equipment and not risk tearing up their best car for the main show.
They'll be on amidst the weekend's Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series races, and you can bet those at FanDuel Sportsbook (where available) with no DFS for those series.
General Lineup Strategy
The formula on superspeedways in NASCAR DFS is as tried and true as any strategy in all of daily fantasy. We stack the back of the field.
Because of the higher incident rate, uncorrelated starting grid, and relatively scattered laps led count, there is no reason to do anything different. Drivers starting closer to the back have upside through place-differential points, and their floor is much higher to avoid negative place-differential points in the event of a crash.
However, the name of the game here is still to get cars to win the race or finish up front. Some of the cars starting at the back are just too slow to compete. They'll need mayhem to score a top-10 finish.
My rankings below are a balance of drivers' positional upside for both finishing and place-differential points. You'll see cars that can win the race ranked in the 30s because they're starting up front. The car starting last is ranked in the 20s. Salary and win equity mean much less this weekend than they will most weekends we play on FanDuel.
Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level -- in that order. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations were included.
As a great indicator of overall speed, MLT Rank is the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend. The prior races in the sample this week are:
2022 Talladega (Fall) - 25%
2022 Daytona (Fall) - 25%
2022 Talladega (Spring) - 25%
2022 Daytona (Spring) - 25%
While many will start with Kyle Busch ($11,000) starting 35th after crashing in the second qualifying race, I've still got to put three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin ($12,500) at the top. Hamlin has enough place-differential juice from 18th on the grid as the event's betting favorite.
Bubba Wallace ($10,500), William Byron ($9,800), and Ross Chastain ($9,200) are the others above $9,000 in salary starting 15th or worse. With all others floating toward the top of betting markets, you'll mostly be getting starters toward the front that'll be contrarian. Individual ones could pan out with high finishes, but living amongst the top-10 starters is a way to sink quickly in the event of a big pileup.
As a result, largely don't even attempt to spend full salary caps -- or anywhere close. As we move past these guys, the next-best options are qualified longshots starting in the second half of the field. Erik Jones ($8,000), Austin Dillon ($7,500), Justin Haley ($6,500), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,500) are former Daytona winners that fit that bill in modest equipment.
There are also cars with less accomplished drivers on this type of circuit, but their equipment is elite for the starting position. Tyler Reddick ($8,500), Daniel Suarez ($6,500), Chase Briscoe ($6,200), A.J. Allmendinger ($5,800), and Ty Gibbs ($5,800) fit this mold. All of them have a top-15 finish at a superspeedway on their resume, so there's tangible skill there.
Then, we reach the backmarkers that are darts with more concerns. Martin Truex Jr. ($7,800) and Ryan Preece ($6,200) are far enough back to still consider, but there's not a ton of guaranteed upside from top-20 starting spots. I'd get to Ryan Blaney ($13,000) in a few lineups on the assumption he won, but his seventh starting spot isn't ideal, either.
Jimmie Johnson ($5,500) is a seven-time NASCAR champion starting 39th, so he's an excellent play, right? Well, Johnson seemed deeply uncomfortable with the new style of car introduced since his last full season in 2021. He's more of a guy where you're ultimately hoping for him to miss a large incident to move up the grid.
That same problem fits Travis Pastrana ($4,500) -- but worse. This would be the former X Games star's first Cup Series start. He's in elite equipment teamed with Wallace and Reddick, but you can't reasonably expect him to pass his way to the front while learning.
Ty Dillon ($4,800) is a better current driver than both, but there's a reason to be concerned about his Spire Motorsports equipment after he lost the draft on Thursday.
Largely everyone else is starting too far toward the front to end up in my player pool, which leaves plenty of potential assumed winners out of the mix. There is only an incredibly contrarian strategy left, which is to play extremely uncompetitive cars like Riley Herbst ($4,500), B.J. McLeod ($4,000), and Cody Ware ($4,000) starting at the very back and hoping for chaos, leaving them as top-10 finishers by default.
That worked out last fall when an actual rain storm randomly spawned on track, but expecting a repeat in the very next Daytona race is far-fetched. I'd much sooner believe at least four of the five cars -- plus the race's winner from anywhere -- in the perfect lineup come from the ones I mentioned before them.