The time has finally come for the most prestigious NASCAR Cup Series race on the circuit. Let Frontstretch.com's Joy Tomlinson get your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings rosters prepped for the 2022 Daytona 500.
This race is truly the Super Bowl of Cup competition; everyone wants to win this event at Daytona International Speedway. But this year, no one really knows exactly what to expect as it's the first official race with the new Next Gen cars. A couple of weeks ago, these chassis took on a quarter-mile short track at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but that exhibition show is vastly different than a 2.5-mile superspeedway.
However, we do know that there will still be pack racing, and with that comes the potential for crashes. We saw on Thursday night in the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel that even just the slightest block can be detrimental; Joey Logano had to resort to his backup car for this weekend due to a last-lap wreck.
So for daily fantasy, you'll need to be cautious about who you choose. My approach is picking the drivers who tend to be around at the end of superspeedway races, as they've learned how to navigate the troubling waters on the racetrack. Sometimes, you make your own luck, even though the big wrecks at this track don't discriminate.
Daytona's a track where the driver who leads the most laps, racking up DraftKings bonuses doesn't often win the race. For instance, last year Logano led 26 laps but ended up crashing with his then-teammate Brad Keselowski after the white flag. The winner, Michael McDowell, wound up leading only one lap while Denny Hamlin led a race-high 98 circuits and finished fifth.
As far as DraftKings scoring, the rules are the same as last season: 0.45 for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap led. Additionally, drivers can earn a point for each position they gain on the track (relative to where they start). They can also lose a point for each spot lost, so keep this in mind if you decide to play the pole sitter.
The DraftKings setup is bigger and better for 2022. Here are their rules for the road this season.
Now, on to my picks!
Note: the following is a sample NASCAR DraftKings lineup; you can use the information to create your own.
NASCAR DraftKings Plays/Sample Lineup for the Daytona 500
Denny Hamlin ($10,500)
Career at Daytona: 32 starts, 3 wins, 11 top fives, 12 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 15.9
Hamlin will likely be on the top of everyone’s list for several reasons. For one, he’s won the Daytona 500 three times since 2016. He also has a top-five finish in each of the last four Great American Races after leading 22 or more laps.
Additionally, at Talladega Superspeedway, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing pilot has seven top 10s in his last 11 events, including a victory in fall 2020. Though he was seventh in the rain-shortened race last fall, his 23XI Racing driver, Bubba Wallace, won his and the team’s first race.
But the biggest reason people will flock to Hamlin this weekend is his starting position. The most expensive driver on the slate will start all the way back in 30th, allowing for a boatload of position differential points on DraftKings. While anything can happen at Daytona, Hamlin seems like one of the more sure bets this week.
Ryan Blaney ($10,000)
Career at Daytona: 13 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 5 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 19.5
Now Blaney isn’t exactly a sure bet, but five top 10s out of 13 races at Daytona isn’t bad. He won the most recent Cup race held there last summer, though he only led seven laps. He was also second and sixth at the World Center of Racing in 2020. Plus, Blaney was out front for 118 circuits in the 2018 season opener before ultimately finishing seventh. Unfortunately, he has five crashes there, making him not completely immune to the track’s bites.
Meanwhile, at Talladega, the No. 12 Team Penske driver won back-to-back events in fall 2019 and spring 2020 after leading 35 and 63 laps there, respectively. Then, last spring, Blaney was ninth. The car has the ability to get near the front, proven by how well he and the Fords worked well together in the first Duel Thursday night.
Blaney will start seventh, so his risk is higher, but could still pay off his salary.
Austin Dillon ($8,400)
Career at Daytona: 17 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 8 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 14.9
Dillon won this race in 2018 but only led the last lap. Until the past couple of years, he had done well at the 2.5-mile course, earning seven top 10s from 2014-2018. Since then, he’s only had one top-five finish, placing third in last year’s Daytona 500.
The driver of the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing also has just four top 10s in 17 starts at Talladega, most recently last spring. So why am I choosing him?
Well, Dillon's starting position is great for bonus points — he’ll roll off 36th. But besides that, I think he and his fellow Chevrolets will be able to work together. Dillon is also pretty aggressive, which can sometimes work out well if he doesn’t get caught up in crashes.
Aric Almirola ($8,000)
Career at Daytona: 20 starts, 1 win, 2 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 20.9
Almirola had the best speed in qualifying among the Fords but didn’t end up with a good finish in the Duels. As a result, he’ll start 38th Sunday, which could make him one of the more popular plays on DraftKings.
A strong superspeedway skill set could still pay off for the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing driver, beginning his final full-time Cup season. Almirola won at Daytona in summer 2014, earned a fourth-place finish in the 2017 Daytona 500, and was seventh in the summer 2019 race.
The veteran's done better at Talladega: from fall 2016-spring 2020 Almirola earned eight straight top 10s, including a fall 2018 victory. If he can avoid the carnage, then mesh together with the Fords, the No. 10 Ford could hang around at the end to maybe even sneak in a win at Daytona.
Dark Horse Performers
Justin Haley ($7,400)
Career at Daytona: 3 starts, 1 win, 1 top five, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 6.7
Haley won at the Florida racetrack in 2019 when some others ahead of him decided to pit after a big crash. Rain and lightning then hit unexpectedly and Haley was later declared the winner.
Though that win was really a lucky break, it doesn’t deny the fact that Haley can drive on superspeedways. Last August, he finished sixth for Spire Motorsports after starting 28th. Plus, he won twice at Daytona in the Xfinity Series, in fall 2020 and 2021. He also has two victories at Talladega in NXS, both coming in 2020.
This year, Haley will drive full-time for Kaulig Racing; new teammate Daniel Hemric will share a second car in the stable and will join Haley at Daytona this Sunday. Either driver would be a good option on DraftKings.
Corey LaJoie ($5,500)
Career at Daytona: 10 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 18.4
LaJoie is truly a dark horse at this price. His Spire Motorsports equipment isn’t as strong as much of the field, but the No. 7 Chevrolet can push well and stay in the race until the end. His three top-10 finishes have all come within the past five Daytona races, flashing consistency some of the top-tier drivers don't have here.
Last year, LaJoie ended ninth in the season opener and 16th in the summer. Even a finish of 16th would provide you with a solid DraftKings score.