The Sprint Cup Series heads into a holiday weekend with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Florida for some Saturday night racing. Going old school, I wish they’d go back to calling it the Firecracker 400. I mean, what’s more American than racing, fireworks and Daytona?
Racing under the lights on July 4 weekend is special, but the weather forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms, so it will be touch-and-go. If you’ve ever lived in Florida, or at least visited in the summertime, you know that summer thunderstorms in the late afternoon or early evening are a regularity. The land breeze will be pushing those thunderstorms from inland to the sea, so you can expect some sort of interruption Saturday night.
The July Daytona race has been dominated by Chevrolet and Ford since 1988, with only Kyle Busch ($9,100) breaking up the party in his Toyota on July 5, 2008. His visit to Victory Lane in 2008 in the July race was the first time a non-Chevy or non-Ford had checkers hanging out of the window since Bobby Allison won for the Stavola Brothers Racing team riding a Buick back in 1987.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses)
Busch is going to be a very common name in DFS and Fantasy NASCAR lineups this weekend. Kyle checks in sixth in Driver Rating over the past five Daytona races, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data. After years of struggling at DIS, Rowdy finally appears to have figured it out on the restrictor-plate run. In 22 career starts, he has a mediocre 18.2 Average-Finish Position (AFP) and just seven Top 10s, but he has a 16.8 AFP in his past four starts at the track and is obviously trending upward after a win in February.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch ($9,100) will be a popular DFS choice at DraftKings with a fairly low salary. While he is still searching for that elusive first Daytona win, he has logged 12 Top 5s and 16 Top 10s in 30 career starts with a sparkling 16.8 AFP, and he has a 15.4 AFP over his past seven starts at DIS. Look for SHR cars to be well in the mix come Saturday. Kevin Harvick ($10,300) is also a force to be reckoned with on plate tracks, winning twice in Daytona with 14 Top 10s and 20 Top 20s in 30 career starts. That’s good for a 15.4 AFP, second-best among all active drivers with at least seven career starts at the track.
The boss of Kurt Busch and Harvick will also be highly-sought by DFS players. Tony Stewart ($8,300) picked up an emotional win at Sonoma on the road course, and now he sets his sights on two in a row at a place he has four career victories. Smoke sits nine points outside of 30th place in the Sprint Cup Series standings. If he can get into the Top 30, he will be in the Chase at season’s end, so he still has plenty of incentive to run well even after his victory. Stewart has tailed off a bit over the past few seasons at Daytona, but road courses and plate tracks have also been his specialty, so a 1-2-3 SHR lineup strategy is certainly a sound play.
As mentioned, Joe Gibbs Racing is the reigning champ at Daytona with Kyle’s win in February. Denny Hamlin ($9,800) has also been a force to be reckoned with at the track in recent years, including February’s win in the Daytona 500. In fact, he was the driver of the first Toyota to ever win that prestigious event. Over the past five starts, he ranks No. 1 in Driver Rating at 113.8, leading 125 laps while running 88.0 percent of his total laps inside the Top 15. His 3.2 AFP during the span cannot be touched by anyone. He was a runner-up at Sonoma last week and is hungry for a win. Teammate Matt Kenseth ($8,600) has always run well at Daytona, and he has come on lately after a slow start to his season. Kenseth has two wins with 14 Top 10s in 33 career starts, good for a 17.9 AFP.
Another Toyota to watch is Martin Truex Jr. ($9,500) brought it home fifth last week at Sonoma after running well all day, and he has finished 14th or better in seven of his past eight races. He is about as steady as they come – except on the restrictor-plate tracks. He has had his difficulties at Daytona over the years, posting just one Top 5 and three Top 10s in 22 career Daytona starts, good for a dismal 22.2 AFP. At this price level, it’s a good idea to avoid, although he is the ultra-contrarian play given that most will stay away and he has been so good everywhere else.
Let’s not forget about the Hendrick Motorsports stable of cars. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,600) is the highest-priced driver on the board at DraftKings, not because he has been good lately, but due to his overall success on plate tracks. Dale Jr. has been a huge disappointment lately, rolling to a 39th at Michigan where he usually does well, and a 32nd in Dover in mid-May. He has been one of the riskiest plays, and he bombed out earlier this season at Daytona to crush DFS players. Still, he is second in Driver Rating at Daytona over the past five starts, leading all drivers with 197 laps led and running 77.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has been rather erratic this season, and that might scare some off from using him in DFS and seasonal leagues. But he is still as good as they come on plate tracks.
Jimmie Johnson ($10,100) has three wins, 11 Top 5s and 14 Top 10s in 29 career Daytona starts, good for a 16.9 AFP. So he is always a threat at DIS, and teammate Kasey Kahne ($8,400) is a nice mid-tier option with his eight Top 10s and 19.6 AFP in 25 career starts at the track. Chase Elliott ($8,800) posted a dismal 21st at Sonoma, but he was Top 10 in his previous six races and he was on the pole at Daytona earlier this season. He is a threat to pick up his first Cup win, especially if he qualifies well.
You’ll need some lower-priced talent, and there are plenty of good options. Austin Dillon ($7,900) has always been strong at Daytona since breaking in. He leads all active drivers with at least five starts at the track with a 12.5 AFP, posting one Top 5, four Top 10s and 10 laps led in his six starts at the track. David Ragan ($5,900) is always a good Fantasy option at restrictor-plate tracks, as he has one Daytona win with 10 Top 20s in 19 career starts, good for a 20.6 AFP. That’s better than Brad Keselowski ($8,900), who has a 22.1 AFP in 14 career Daytona starts.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,700) has struggled over his past two races, but he was running well for most of the spring. Plate tracks are certainly among his best, and he has five Top 20s in eight career starts at Daytona, good for a 20.1 AFP. His girlfriend Danica Patrick ($6,300) has always been able to go fast, and if she is to ever break through, it will likely be at Daytona. Remember, she has one career pole at DIS, and two Top 10s with three Top 20s in eight starts. She does have three DNFs in that stretch, too, but when she manages to avoid the ‘Big One’, she is just as good as most secondary options while racing at a cut-rate price tag.
For your final DFS driver and Fantasy Live options, Landon Cassill ($5,600) has run better than expectations this season, posting 27.1 Fantasy Points Per Race, which is actually better than Paul Menard ($7,400), Ryan Newman ($7,600) and several others. He is not to be forgotten about at Daytona. Michael McDowell ($5,700) is also a nice salary saver with two Top 10s in 10 career Daytona starts.
NASCAR FANTASY LINEUPS FOR DAYTONA
|No.||Driver||DraftKings Salary||No.||Driver||Fantasy Live Salary||No.||Yahoo! Sports Driver|
|1||Kevin Harvick||$10,300||1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||$25.75||1||Kurt Busch|
|2||Kurt Busch||$9,100||2||Chase Elliott||$25.50||2||Martin Truex Jr.|
|3||Chase Elliott||$8,800||3||Denny Hamlin||$24.25||3||Austin Dillon|
|4||Tony Stewart||$8,300||4||Tony Stewart||$14.00||4||Michael McDowell|
|5||Austin Dillon||$7,900||5||Landon Cassill||$10.25|