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DraftKings NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400

C.J. Radune

Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the 2015 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Coke Zero Sugar 400

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Course: Daytona International Speedway
Format: 2.5-mile oval
Laps: 160

Race Preview

Last week’s race at Chicagoland Speedway produced one of the most exciting finishes of the season. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson renewed their battles from past seasons and bullied one another on the final lap to a bump-and-run finish from which Busch prevailed. That result was the closest Chevrolet has come to winning since the last time the series entered Daytona, Florida, which just happens to be this week’s venue. The Chevrolet-powered teams will be hopeful that Daytona International Speedway’s unpredictable racing enables them to get another check in the win column after Austin Dillon captured February’s Daytona 500. Hendrick Motorsports is leading the charge early with quick cars in qualifying, too. While Dillon got the first restrictor-plate win this year, Joey Logano took the second at Talladega Superspeedway. Kevin Harvick’s Ford was on pole for that race. Teams only had one practice this weekend to get things right before Sunday’s race after final practice was cancelled, and once again, Ford dominated the top speeds with Chevrolet coming out on top in qualifying. Ford swept the top seven fastest practice times, but racing at Daytona can be unpredictable and surprises are likely.

Key Stats at Daytona International Speedway

Number of previous races: 142
Winners from pole: 26
Winners from top-5 starters: 74
Winners from top-10 starters: 110
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 9
Fastest race: 183.295 mph

Last 10 Daytona Winners

2018 spring - Austin Dillon
2017 fall - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2017 spring - Kurt Busch
2016 fall - Brad Keselowski
2016 spring - Denny Hamlin
2015 fall - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2015 spring - Joey Logano
2014 fall - Aric Almirola
2014 spring - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2013 fall - Jimmie Johnson

The ability to make passes will be a difference maker Saturday night. NASCAR’s current rules package for the two superspeedway tracks create pack racing but has made passing for the lead much rarer. That means a good fantasy strategy for this race would be to look for drivers who are likely to lead. Finish differential points can be big here but are less reliable given the unpredictable nature of pack-style racing. Once a driver with a powerful car makes it to the front, it takes something unique from the driver behind to make a run for the lead. The evening hours of Saturday’s race will make for cooler conditions, which should give cars more grip. That means drivers can be a bit more aggressive when trying to avoid being blocked than they were under the sun in February. Saturday night’s race is also 100 miles shorter than the February classic. While track position is still a preference, it isn’t necessarily detrimental to a race if it’s lost. As long as a driver has a car capable of moving through the pack, he or she is capable of winning no matter the start position. Pit strategy that helped shake up the last two races won’t be as big of a factor this week. Winning at Daytona on Saturday will take a powerful car that can make aggressive moves.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Brad Keselowski - $11,000
Joey Logano - $10,700
Kevin Harvick - $10,100

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Chase Elliott - $9,800
Martin Truex Jr. - $9,600
Kyle Larson - $9,400
Ryan Blaney - $9,200
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $9,000

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Kurt Busch - $8,800
Aric Almirola - $8,700
Erik Jones - $8,100
Paul Menard - $7,400

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Daniel Suarez - $6,900
Trevor Bayne - $6,800
David Ragan - $6,600
Darrell Wallace Jr. - $6,400

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Brad Keselowski - $11,000
Kyle Larson - $9,400
Kurt Busch - $8,800
Paul Menard - $7,400
David Ragan - $6,600
Darrell Wallace Jr. - $6,400

Keselowski has consistently been one of the best drivers on the superspeedways, and this weekend he and his Penske Racing Ford look even faster than usual. This could be the week he gets his first win of the season. Larson narrowly missed out on last week’s victory, but he now knows he has a car that is capable of winning on almost any circuit. His only two top-10 Daytona finishes came in 2016, but with a little luck he should be racing for the win Saturday night. Kurt Busch looks like the steal of the weekend. His bargain price is a can’t-miss for fantasy owners that already know just how good he is at this track. Paul Menard and David Ragan also offer plenty of fantasy value given their past successes at this track. Menard was 11th in practice on Thursday, while Ragan should be capable of leading a lap or two while having a very real chance at scoring a top-10 finish. Rounding out this option is Wallace, who fantasy players will remember finished second behind Austin Dillon in February’s Daytona 500. He is well worth a spot on this roster at this rock-bottom price.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Kevin Harvick - $10,100
Martin Truex Jr. - $9,600
Ryan Blaney - $9,200
Aric Almirola - $8,700
Trevor Bayne - $6,800
Matt DiBenedetto - $5,400

Harvick’s two Daytona wins make him a reliable fantasy option this week in addition to him being the dominant driver so far this season. He crashed out of three of the last four Daytona races, but his Ford power should be able to keep him out of trouble Saturday night. Truex doesn’t have that same power advantage, but he has an uncanny ability to race well in the draft. He has a habit of leading at least a few laps each race at Daytona, too. Those not sold on his chances should consider Elliott at this position. Blaney definitely has the pace to win given the times he posted in practice. He had the fifth-fastest lap, and led 118 laps in February’s Daytona 500. Another Ford with a bargain price is Almirola. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was the second-fastest car in Thursday’s practice, and hasn’t finished outside of the top 15 at this track since 2015. Bayne and DiBenedetto also make compelling cases for fantasy rosters this week. This could be Bayne’s best opportunity to show he has what it takes to have a full-time drive in the series, and DiBenedetto is entirely capable of finishing in the top 15. Both are likely to offer fantasy owners valuable finish differential points and could even add to the tally with a few laps led.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.