This week may be the hardest one of 2019 when it comes to filling out your daily fantasy NASCAR FanDuel roster. That's because the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series goes superspeedway racing at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.
It's the most unpredictable race of the season, as the superspeedway package serves as an equalizer for all teams. Plus, for some reason, the summer Daytona race produces more upset winners and surprise Cinderella stories. Three drivers have scored their first career Cup wins in the past eight July Daytona races.
Many claim superspeedways are a crap shoot, but that is not true, as the same people run well on those tracks every visit. So it is all about identifying which drivers are good at utilizing the draft and which drivers race smart enough (and are lucky enough) to avoid the Big One, the giant wreck that takes out multiple cars.
Another factor to consider this weekend is it's the first race at Daytona with the 2019 tapered spacer package. That means it's the first time these drivers are running without restrictor plates at the track for the first time since 1987. The cars will have roughly 100 more horsepower than they've had at the track in recent years and practice speeds, averaging over 205 mph, are the highest here in decades.
So, when filling out your lineup, use a mixture of top drivers and little-known underdogs to find the most success. Match the big teams and drivers with smaller ones who have solid Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway track records. Here are the rules for FanDuel’s Daily Fantasy NASCAR game.
FanDuel has put more emphasis on finishing position than other DFS sites. For this reason, they allow you to look at the entire field instead of just dominators and big movers.
Also, with only 0.1 points awarded for each lap led by a driver, the need for a dominator is less important when building a winning lineup. The 160-lap race will only have a total of 16.0 points up for grabs in this category. Take note when building your roster and focus on mid-pack competitors who can climb up toward the front on race day.
ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up
Brad Keselowski ($12,000)
Career at Daytona: 20 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average Finish at Daytona: 22.4
Keselowski is arguably the best superspeedway racer in NASCAR right now — his six superspeedway wins are more than any other driver. Granted, five of those came at Talladega, not here. Still, Keselowski has led laps in three straight July Daytona races, winning one of them in 2016.
The 2012 Cup champion's average finish at Daytona is lessened thanks to his crashing out of four of the past five races, but note he was a major contender for the win in all of those events. Keselowski's bad luck here has to turn soon, and he'll likely win at the track again when it does.
Also, Keselowski chalks up getting caught in those wrecks by driving too conservatively and vows to race more aggressively this year. We've already seen it in practice Thursday (July 4) as the veteran claimed he "drew a line in the sand" after making contact with a blocking William Byron.
Expect this change in driving style to warrant greater success on race day.
Chase Elliott ($10,500)
Career at Daytona: 7 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average Finish at Daytona: 27.0
Despite having the seventh-worst average finish at Daytona among active drivers, Elliott always shows a lot of speed at superspeedways. He's led laps in five of his seven Daytona starts and is the most recent superspeedway winner, making the trip to victory lane at Talladega this spring.
That race is the only one we've seen with the new superspeedway package, and Elliott excelled with it. That means he could have it figured out better than everyone else right now in race trim. Plus, the spring Talladega winner has gone on to win the summer Daytona race in three of the past four years. That trend bodes well for Elliott and his Hendrick Motorsports team flying high after last weekend's Chicagoland Speedway victory with Alex Bowman.
ALL-STAR TIER: $6,000 – $9,999
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($9,300)
Career at Daytona: 14 starts, 1 win, 2 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average Finish at Daytona: 18.4
It's Hail Mary time for Stenhouse — he has to win in order to get into the playoffs, and Daytona is his last great shot at doing so. He's one of the best superspeedway racers right now, earning both of his career victories at those tracks.
Stenhouse has led laps in four straight Daytona races. He won this race two years ago and also has a win at Talladega. Last year, he won the first two stages of this race before getting involved in a crash that relegated him to a 17th-place finish.
He might wreck the entire field to do so, but Stenhouse will be a threat to win Saturday night.
Kurt Busch ($9,000)
Career at Daytona: 36 starts, 1 win, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s
Average Finish at Daytona: 17.9
Busch is one of the most consistent superspeedway racers out there. He's only failed to finish four of his 36 Daytona races, though three of those came in the last three years.
For a while, Busch had the reputation as being the guy who almost always pushed the winning driver to the finish line. His four career superspeedway runner-up results show just how many times he's been a factor in determining who won. Busch won the 2017 Daytona 500 and ran up front last fall at Talladega before running out of gas on the last lap. He finished sixth at Talladega earlier this year.
Busch might not win on Saturday night, but there's a good chance he'll be up front, survive the big wrecks and get a solid finish. That's not too bad for this price range.
BARGAIN TIER: $5,999 and below
Michael McDowell ($5,500)
Career at Daytona: 16 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average Finish at Daytona: 21.6
McDowell has not been having that great of a season, but he's always good at Daytona. The only two top fives of his career came at this track — fifth earlier this year and fourth in July 2017. All seven of McDowell's career Cup top 10s have happened in the state of Florida (six at Daytona, one at Homestead-Miami Speedway).
Of the drivers who have competed in every Daytona race since 2016, McDowell has the best average finish. Given how affordable he is, this Front Row Motorsports driver could be the biggest steal in your lineup.
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)