Who should be on your fantasy roster for an unpredictable NASCAR season opener?
"Drivers, start your engines!"
I don't know about you, but I've been waiting to hear those words. There's nothing like the 2020 Daytona 500 at The World Center of Racing. The roar of the crowd as the green flag waves; the thrill of close-knit pack racing. You may feel anguish if your favorite driver gets caught up in a wreck, or relief if he makes it through.
Then comes the anticipation in the closing laps. Who will surge ahead of his competitors to claim the Harley J. Earl trophy?
The 62nd Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway is truly the Granddaddy of all NASCAR Cup Series races. Everyone wants to win there. It can produce some surprise victors as well as strong favorites.
In daily fantasy it's the race where users want to start rebuilding their bankroll after a not-so-long offseason. DraftKings awards 0.25 points for each lap a driver leads: it also gives a half a point for each time a racer posts the fastest lap. Lastly, a driver can earn a point for each position he gains on the track. Conversely, points can also be deducted if they finish below their qualifying position.
While superspeedway racing can be unpredictable in nature, there are some trends that you can follow to ensure you're above the cash line. For one, certain drivers have performed well in recent years at this track. You'll want those drivers in at least a share of your lineups. Also, the Big One can occur on these types of tracks, and generally, the cars hanging at the rear will get through. Keep that in mind when creating your lineups.
Remember, if a driver gets disqualified after post-race inspection, it will not affect your DraftKings score. Click here for a rundown on DraftKings' NASCAR scoring rules.
New this season!
Frontstretch has a new DraftKings league for the 2020 Cup Series season! Here are the rules:
- Anyone may join
- One entry per week. If there are multiple contests open, you may only enter one.
- At the end of the season, the top three players will win a prize.
Feel free to join via this link: Frontstretch.com NASCAR DraftKings League.
Joey Logano ($10,500)
Career at Daytona: 22 starts, 1 win, 6 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 17.4
Logano has performed well in the last several Daytona 500 events. Since 2015, he has finished each season opener sixth or better, including his victory in 2015. Even though Logano's had poor results in the past three July races, he's still proved he can avoid trouble in the prestigious event. However, the Team Penske driver will start Sunday's race in third and is a risky play. Hopefully, he won't repeat the Busch Clash incident and give users a good DraftKings score.
Denny Hamlin ($10,400)
Career at Daytona: 28 starts, 2 wins, 8 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 17.4
Hamlin has had good results at this track. In fact, he's won the Daytona 500 twice, including a year ago where Joe Gibbs Racing took the top three spots. Like Logano, Hamlin's July finishes haven't been as good, but he knows how to wheel his way around the carnage.
Hamlin had one of his best Cup seasons in 2019, scoring six wins, 19 top fives, and 24 top 10s. He also finished fourth in the standings, with his first appearance in the Championship 4 since 2014. The Joe Gibbs Racing veteran is looking to become the first driver since Sterling Marlin in the mid-1990s to win back-to-back Daytona 500s. Even if Hamlin doesn't, though, he's starting 21st so a high DraftKings score can be produced if he finishes well.
Kyle Busch ($9,800)
Career at Daytona: 29 starts, 1 win, 8 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 18.4
Hamlin's JGR teammate finished second last year and was oh-so-close to his first victory. While Busch's results in 2017-18 were in the 20s and 30s, he bounced back last year with a runner-up in the season opener and a 14th-place finish in July. He also led 37 laps in the 2019 Daytona 500. Since the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion starts 28th, he can hit his value with a good finish.
Busch wants to start off the 2020 season strong. What better way to come off Busch's 2019 Cup Series title than to win the Great American Race?
Matt DiBenedetto ($7,800)
Career at Daytona: 9 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 21.2
DiBenedetto led 49 laps in last year's Daytona 500 before getting caught up in the Big One. He's now driving the No. 21 Ford Mustang for Wood Brothers Racing and looked strong pushing Kevin Harvick in the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel Thursday night. Though DiBenedetto may only have one top 10 in the event, he has three total at Daytona. One of those came last July where he began 25th and finished eighth.
There is strength in numbers, and as long as DiBenedetto can work with the Ford machines and avoid the mayhem, he's capable of earning another top 10. If you'd rather have someone starting further back, you could play Brendan Gaughan ($7,200). He's retiring after this season and would love to go out with a great finish.
Michael McDowell ($5,900)
Career at Daytona: 17 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 21.1
I was surprised that McDowell's price was so low. He's one of the better superspeedway racers and can generally avoid the wrecks at Daytona. He will definitely be a popular play because of how affordable he is.
Last year, he qualified 34th but ended the race fifth. in 2018, he earned a ninth-place finish after starting 22nd. If McDowell can survive the carnage, he will give you a high DraftKings score. It could even be a better value than one of the top-tier drivers like Logano.
Dark Horse Performer
Corey LaJoie ($5,500)
Career at Daytona: 6 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 1 top 10
Average finish at Daytona: 21.7
I have LaJoie here for a couple of reasons. First, he's inexpensive and can fit with the higher-priced racers. Second, he's starting near the back and can earn a lot of DraftKings points. Even though Lajoie has to go to a backup car, after being involved in an incident in his Duel, it's the one where he drove last season and earned a top 10. The No. 32 Go Fas Racing wheelman finished sixth in July's rained-out event. That gave LaJoie about 62 DraftKings points, and he's certainly able to give users a similar score.
(Top photo courtesy of NASCAR.com)