Welcome to my breakdown for today’s Daytona 500! The Great American race is finally here after a long off season, which for me was full of deer hunting with no deer and ice fishing with no ice… But winter is thawing out and we now have cars on track! The Daytona 500 is an icon and is one of the most exciting races of the season, nothing on TV gets my nerves and heart pumping quite like the last 15-20 laps of this race. So much is on the line in this crown jewel event, driver’s will do ANYTHING for the checkers. Each lap that ticks off, the intensity begins to build, and you can start to sense the chaos unfolding at any moment. Up to that moment in time, nothing else that has happened in the race matters. Anyone can go from zero to hero or hero to zero in a blink of an eye, and it ain’t over till it’s over. Early screenshots are fun, but they will 100% break your heart today, buckle up and get ready for one of the greatest sweats in DFS!
Super speedways and chaos often go hand in hand in NASCAR, particularly due to the draft and pack racing that takes place. The cars run in a pack that is sometimes two to three wide and 20 rows deep, with drivers literally inches from each other. A minor mistake from one driver can result in major problems for the whole field. At Daytona specifically, the chaos is more common and more prevalent than at its counterpart track, Talladega.
Looking at the last 10 races at Daytona, we see that they’re averaging 16 cars per race not finishing the race, with only 13 cars finishing on the lead lap. Given that this is a 2.5-mile track, there’s no reason a car shouldn’t finish on the lead lap unless they were involved in some type of incident. The cars that are left at the end of the race often look like they just ran 500 laps at the old Bristol.
This type of chaos makes DFS strategy near impossible. It’s often not just about playing the fastest cars, the best drivers, or those with a good history or track position. Instead, the key is survival. Before drivers can score you DK points, they have to survive to the finish. With the high level of attrition that takes place at Daytona, you just need to get six guys through all the carnage clean to put up a big score and have a big day in GPPs. It doesn’t matter who those drivers were or where they started – if they cross the line on the last lap facing forward, they’re likely to have a great DK score in comparison to all the low-scoring drivers riddled throughout the field.
So, while I’ll be presenting you with my strategy and the drivers I like, the reality is that anyone could end up as a great play or a terrible play today. This is the week for you to trust your gut and be ready for anything.
Despite the chaotic nature of the Daytona 500, there’s some good news for cash game players. In fact, cash games can be quite profitable and relatively easy to navigate. The key to success lies in using the “stack the back” strategy. This involves targeting drivers starting in the back of the field, which raises the floor of your lineup and decreases the risk of negative points in the event of a wreck. Additionally, some of these drivers have significant upside potential and can carry your cash lineup across the finish line.
Top 10 DK Scorers by Start Range Last 6 Daytona Races
To support this strategy, let’s take a closer look at the Top 10 DK scorers in the last 6 Daytona races. We found that 66% of those scores came from drivers starting 20th or worse. By avoiding the big-name drivers starting in and around the top 20, you allow the field to make mistakes and create opportunities for your lineup to leap frog those line ups if/when those drivers find trouble.
So, what’s the best way to execute this strategy? One approach is to simply play the last six starters in the field who are non-“back marker” drivers. “Back markers” refer to underfunded teams like Rick Ware and McLeod, which are generally more risky for cash games because they lack upside without a ton of carnage. By focusing on the last six starters, excluding back markers, you can minimize risk and maximize your chances of success in cash games.
With all the unpredictability surrounding today’s race, the one thing that we can predict is where the field will go. Which brings me to my GPP approach. In a chaotic race like the Daytona 500, it’s common knowledge that starting drivers in the back of the field is the ideal strategy. With salary not normally being an issue when constructing line ups, it makes it very easy to jam in the higher priced PD options, and that’s what the field does. The higher the salary of a driver and the further back they start, the higher their ownership will be.
However, blindly following the field’s lead has proven to be less than optimal. The last two Daytona 500 races saw 18 drivers with ownership levels of over 20%, and only two of them started inside the top 20. But here’s the catch: of those 18 most-owned drivers, only four finished inside the top 10 in DK scoring. Targeting who these highest owned drivers are and crossing them off your Driver pool is a great place to start for the GPP chasers out there.
Highest Owned Drivers Last 2 Daytona 500s
Given the unpredictable nature of the race, it’s essential to differentiate your lineup from the rest of the field. Sure, getting drivers through the carnage is important, but if you are fortunate enough to get drivers through the carnage today, they might as well not be drivers that everyone else has also.
Instead of going with the popular high-PD options, target the lower-priced, less sexy drivers with similar or better upside, and in less crowded ownership. This approach will increase your chances of a big score if your drivers make it through the chaos. Back markers can also be a good source of low owned upside without risking a huge negative swing if they wreck. They made some people a TON of money at the Daytona spring race last year.
Another route you could go to find leverage is by targeting drivers starting inside the Top 20, specifically the 5-20 starting range has been a good source of low owned upside the last two Daytona 500s. When looking at the Top 10 scorers on DK in those races, we see 11 of the 20 scorers coming from drivers starting in that range, and ALL were 18% owned or lower. This range carries more risk as if a driver in this range finds the carnage, he will most likely result in a negative score. When targeting drivers in this range, we want drivers who we predict will be running towards the front of the pack. The closer to the front a driver is running, the less chance they have at getting in the big one. You have to risk it for the biscuit, and these plays can and will pay off.
Ownership Heat Map – Last 2 Daytona 500s
The last final tip I have on roster construction for you when building for today is to leave salary on the table. Builds for Super Speedways can leave north of $5k on the table and that will be perfectly fine and acceptable. If you are using all of your salary, you are doing it wrong today.
Below is my cheat sheet for today’s Daytona 500! I have included stats from the last 6, 2.5 mile, Super Speedway races. Drivers highlighted in green are drivers that I am targeting in my builds today. Drivers highlighted in blue are drivers that I have projected as the chalkier options on the slate today. I would look to avoid the chalk options in GPP, but they are absolutely in play for cash contests.
When looking at the top range, the obvious chalk is going to be Denny Hamlin, starting 18th, and Kyle Busch starting 36th. Denny is always a popular play at Daytona with his 3 Daytona 500 victories in his career, he has seen over 50% ownership the last 2 500’s. Busch will be an auto click for 50% of the field with his start position.
Reddick to me seems like the next “chalky” option in the Top Tier. It’s honestly close between him and Chastain, but I think most will click Reddick with the higher start position. Even if Chastain comes in higher owned than Reddick I am fine with it, you all should know I’m a big believer in Chastain and his melons. 4 Top 4 finishes on the 6 Super Speedway races in 2022, which includes a win at Dega.
If the next chalky options are Chastain and Reddick, then that leaves Byron starting 21st at should be decent ownership. Byron is a former Daytona winner and picked up a win at the new Super Speedway that is the repaved Atlanta last season.
One guy that I want a piece of in this range starting inside the Top 10 is Ryan Blaney. Ford and team Penske looked extremely strong in the Duels on Thursday night. Blaney has been statistically one of the best SS drivers over the last 3 seasons, rivaling Denny Hamlin’s numbers at what will be a much lower ownership. Think he has a real shot at finally getting a 500 win after being so close so often.
Speaking of inside the Top 10, Keselowski, Buescher and Cindric are all 3 more Fords starting inside the Top 10 that I am going to look to target in some builds today. All 3 have already proven to be able to get it done here with each having at least 1 Daytona victory. I believe the race today is going to be decided amongst the Fords, as it has been the last 2 years, so targeting these guys at what will be a low ownership makes sense.
When looking at the 11-20 starting range, a few drivers stand out to me as guys with potential race wining upside that should carry a sub 20% ownership due to their start position. Kevin Harvick and Bubba Wallace are both elite Super Speedway drivers who will be in contention at the end if they make it through the carnage. Another guy who fits that mold is the veteran Martin Truex, though over his career he has not had a ton of Super Speedway luck, he showed the ability to run up front on them in much of 2022.
Another guy in this range that could bring some solid PD upside at a lower ownership is Ryan Preece. Preece is an underrated SS driver with 3 Top 10’s in 8 attempts. He is sandwiched in DK pricing between two guys starting further back than him, which will keep ownership way down on Preece. Another guy in this range who is worth noting that I did not highlight would be Harrison Burton, Wood Bros always show up at the 500 and he will likely be under 10% owned.
Going further back in the field is when we start running in to the rest of the chalk on the slate. Austin Dillon, Johnson, Briscoe and Stenhouse are all guys that will see a ton of ownership today. A lot of builds land in this range and these are the obvious choices based on where they start and the upside they provide. Again, I am avoiding these guys in my GPP builds to focus on the alternate PD options on the slate at a lower ownership.
The drivers I will be lookin at in this range as lower owned alternatives are Allmendinger, Haley, Gragson, and to a lesser extent, Jones. Jones was a stud on Super Speedways last year and is another former Daytona winner. I do think he will be the most popular of these 4, but should still be lower owned than some of the other chalk I have mentioned on the slate. Love Dinger and Haley today as well. Great Super Speedway drivers with a ton of experience working together in the draft in Xfinity. Gragson will likely be the lowest owned in this bunch starting 22nd.
Going even further back in the field, we find Ty Gibbs starting 33rd. Gibbs will be the choice that most players gravitate to down in this range given his 33rd starting position. I think he comes in between that 21% ownership that we saw Gragson have last year at this price tag, and Cindric’s 33% ownership from 2 years ago. That being said, I am going to get different again in this range by avoiding Gibbs here.
Ty Dillon and Travis Pastrana are guys you can target starting even further back than Gibbs, that will likely be less than half the ownership. Dillon is great at keeping his car clean in these races and typically can survive for a Top 20. Pastrana starts dead last and his price tag will have a lot of people not clicking him but the upside is obvious if he avoids the chaos. And if you want to lean full throttle into the carnage aspect of today, don’t overlook Ware, Herbst and McLeod. These guys will carry very low ownership, historically in that sub 10% ownership range, but as carnage unfolds, if they keep it clean and straight, they will see solid fantasy days from the back.
Below is my core for cash games today. From there I am sticking to guys starting 27th and back. I will let everyone else cram Denny in in cash and hope he busts for an easy cash.
Below is my core for GPP. Mixing in the other lower owned options I have highlighted while avoiding the chalk. Differentiate your line ups more than you usually do today. It only takes 1! Have fun with it today, trust your gut.