The difficulty of handicapping an aero-restricted superspeedway race is reflected in the salary caps below.
As the season progresses and we head to unrestricted speedways, short tracks, or road courses Draft Kings will typically have five or six drivers above the $10k mark. This week there are four.
The average cost for six drivers in Draft Kings is $8,333. This week, the overwhelming majority of the drivers are below that mark: 27 of 40 (67.5%). In terms of cap management, very few hard decisions need to be made. There are enough bargains well below the $8,333 mark to allow you to take any one of two marquee drivers you want.
That is not the challenge.
The challenge this week comes in the form of deciding who is going to be the luckiest six drivers in the field. Unfortunately, that is akin to winning the lottery with so many unpredictable variables in play. This is a week when fantasy players want to play a variety of rosters, but fight the compulsion to overspend. Joey Logano ($10,500)
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Logano earned only the 11th-most points in last year’s Daytona 500 and he was a minimal value in the Coke Zero 400 after finishing 25th, but he still gets the nod this week based on his overall Daytona record. He finished sixth or better in the last five 500s with a win in 2015. The downside to starting him this week is that after winning the first Duel in Daytona, he will start third. That could cost place-differential points unless he challenges for the victory. The good news is that if he stays out of trouble, that is exactly what we think he will do.
Joey Logano ($10,500)
Group B: (Between $9,800 and $8,600)
Kyle Busch ($9,800)
Busch often lacks the patience to make him a good value on plate tracks. We saw that Thursday night when he pulled out of line at the wrong time and fell to the back while the Duel for the top spot played out well ahead of him. His modest result in the qualification race could play into your favor, however, since he will start 28th in the field of 40. He finished second in this race last year to his teammate Denny Hamlin. He was third in the 2016 Daytona 500 and then finished second in his next two plate races. He tends to be an all or nothing driver on this course type, but he is unlikely to be this cheap again in 2020.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,800)
Stenhouse has something to prove. After being unceremoniously dismissed from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of 2019, he feel the need to illustrate the mistake they made. His pole winning run was the first emphatic statement. How he ran in his Duel was another. Stenhouse led a big portion of that race and showed a good mix of speed and aggression. He has a tendency to make mistakes in the draft, but he can also show laser focus. Stenhouse won the 2017 Coke Zero 400 and finished fifth in that race in 2016.
Group C: (Between $8,500 and $7,600)
Aric Almirola ($8,500)
When we decided Almirola would be one of our Four Drivers to Watch this week, it was for a good reason. He is patient and has a ton of speed. He proved as much by unselfishly pushing Logano to the front in his Duel Thursday night. This strategy paid off with three top-10s on plate tracks last year and would have earned a sweep of the track type if not for an accident in the Daytona 500. In the last 18 races at Daytona, Almirola has finished in the top 15 53.3% of the time. That can’t happen if a driver is prone to crashing.
Ryan Newman ($9,800)
Newman was another of our drivers to watch this week. So far we’ve watched him score top-fives in the Busch Clash and in his qualification race. Newman enters the Daytona 500 with four top-10s and a 14th in his last five races on this track. He finished fifth in the Coke Zero 400 last year and also in the 2017 edition of that race. Newman has the ability to discourage others from shuffling him out of the draft because he does not make many mistakes. That will pay off on Sunday.
Group D: (Between $7,400 and $6,300)
Chris Buescher ($7,100)
Buescher has as much to prove as Stenhouse. The two drivers have swapped rides and both want to impress their new owners. In the exchange, Buescher has moved to the team that most consider more powerful, but that does not always matter on plate tracks. It’s about instinct, desire, and the ability to keep aggression in check until the right moment. Buescher was almost perfect in that regard at Daytona in 2018 with fifth-place finishes in both races.
Christopher Bell ($6,700)
The three top rookies are all clumped together in Group D. Any of the three have the ability to score a top-10 this week, but we are going to give a slight edge to Bell because he will have the four Joe Gibbs Racers helping him in the draft. He scored a top-10 in his qualification race and did not make any mistakes in the 150-miler. The same is true of Cole Custer ($6,600) who actually finished better in his qualifier, but he will have less help in the draft this week.
Group E: (Less than or equal to $6,100)
Ty Dillon ($5,700)
Dillon is better at Talladega than Daytona, but he has one of the best average finishes on the aero-restricted superspeedways of anyone in the field. He would be a good value in Group C or D, but can be had for the piddling amount of $5,700. If you want two marquee drivers on your roster, Dillon is easily the safest bet based on his recent record. In the last three years he has finished worse than 17th on this track type only twice. His last seven efforts on superpseedways netted an average of 10.4. He was a top-10 value in the Draft Kings game in both Daytona races last year with points of 59 in the fall and 61 in the summer.
Last 45 Days (2019)
Daytona 500 Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Live Preview
Daytona 500 Qualification Report
Bluegreen Vacations 150, Clash Practice Report
Four to Watch: Ty Dillon
Four to Watch: Ryan Newman
Four to Watch: Aric Almirola
Accident Waiting to Happen: Superspeedway success