NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Coke Zero Sugar 400
If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America.
NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!
numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide. For driver picks and a full preview of the event, he also discusses this weekend's race on the latest NASCAR episode of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
With all of this in mind, let's preview the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on FanDuel.
|Qualifying||Friday, August 26th
5:00 p.m. EST
The pointless endeavor that was group practice at superspeedway remains extinct this week, and that'll make it fairly simple building lineups after qualifying on Friday.
The most important thing to note this weekend isn't the track. Daytona is a wild, 2.5-mile superspeedway with plenty of action, passing, and carnage. In some ways, the randomness and change of fortunes can make it one of the best sweats in daily fantasy.
The important mental note is that we don't know how this particular playoff situation will change the regular-season finale. Kurt Busch withdrew from the playoffs due to his ongoing head injury, so the final two spots belong to Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. comfortably on points -- for now.
Jim Sannes' win simulations boast a 40.1% probability of a new winner knocking one of those drivers out. In all likelihood, Truex would be eliminated since he's got a 25-point deficit to Blaney.
Truex Jr. will likely be very aggressive for stage points in the event of a new winner. There are no consequences if he crashes and a new car doesn't win. Blaney might play things safer, which could hurt his daily fantasy appeal to lead laps.
General Lineup Strategy
We know what we want to do at drafting ovals by now -- stack the back.
Laps led aren't particularly consolidated at these drafting tracks, so the upside of drivers starting up at the front doesn't come close to outweighing the penalty if they crash. Chase Elliott led all drivers with 67 laps led in the spring here at Daytona, and William Byron led all with 38 in Talladega.
Elliott's 6.7 FanDuel points for leading were fine, but for context in the same race, Aric Almirola scored 16.5 FanDuel points by moving his way from the 38th starting spot to a 5th-place finish. Almirola didn't lead a single lap and was a better daily fantasy play.
There is no "poor" way to stack the back, either. My rankings this week are essentially a statement on equipment, but there are no limits to how low you can go and how much salary you can leave on the table. Often, the slowest cars miss the mayhem and prevail for decent finishes.
In cash games, you could honestly consider stacking the five cars furthest back in the field. In tournaments, some blend of place-differential points and top finishers from slightly closer to the front -- those are your guys with better equipment -- will likely ship home the grand prize.
Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level -- in that order. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations were included.
As a great indicator of overall speed, MLT Rank is the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend. The prior races in the sample this week are:
2022 Daytona (Spring) - 40%
2022 Talladega (Spring) - 40%
2022 Atlanta (Spring) - 10%
2022 Atlanta (Fall) - 10%
For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is among the favorites to win the race, and a "0" has no realistic chance of leading the race at any point.
For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to finish in terms of potential to finish inside the top 15 spots. These drivers will be better daily fantasy plays the further back in the field they start for optimal place-differential points.
Jim Sannes' win simulations give every driver in the field a chance to win this weekend. That's why this helper is intentionally vague, and we'll have to see the starting order on Friday to truly see which cars stand out in terms of daily fantasy.
Also, the playoff situation has changed daily fantasy to the point where I can no longer guarantee Ryan Blaney ($13,500) in my driver pool regardless of where he qualifies.
If Blaney starts up front, he may still opt to ride at the back and forgo laps led in the interest of finishing the race. There's no realistic way Blaney is eliminated from the playoffs if he finishes the race -- unless Martin Truex Jr. ($9,500) finishes supremely well in both stages and Blaney doesn't.
Blaney is still an appealing option if he qualifies deeper. He's a three-time drafting oval winner, and he's posted a top-10 finish in 6 of the last 10 races at Daytona or Talladega. Truex is the opposite, holding just a pair of top-10 finishes in his last 14 races at those circuits.
Bubba Wallace ($12,500) is the marquee contender to knock either out of the playoffs. He won at Talladega last fall and has top-two finishes in three of the last four between 'Dega and Daytona. He's a drafting ace, and so is car owner Denny Hamlin ($13,000), who will likely be glued to his pupil for most of the evening. A playoff spot is worth millions to these teams.
Median lap time data is admittedly least valuable on this style of track, but it's interesting Kyle Larson ($11,000) has a top-five median time at both Daytona and Talladega this year. We know Hendrick will be fast, so Chase Elliott ($14,000) and William Byron ($10,500) are stack candidates with him should they start a bit deeper in the field.
With the fastest median time in my blend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,800) is also going to be a contender to snatch a playoff spot. He has eight career top-five finishes (and two wins) on drafting ovals, but he's been pushing the envelope and crashing in recent attempts. His best finish in the last eight between Daytona and Talladega is just 16th.
Other former Daytona winners that are absolutely capable of an upset to make the playoffs include Michael McDowell ($7,500), Brad Keselowski ($6,800), Austin Dillon ($6,500), Aric Almirola ($6,000), and Justin Haley ($5,000). They're all strong drafters, and with lesser equipment, they're also more likely to start closer to the back.
If you'd rather buy in on current-season speed at these big tracks, Chris Buescher ($7,200) and Erik Jones ($7,000) both fit that bill.
Some drivers just aren't strong drafters. That's the most important thing to note before even rostering them closer to the back of the field. Since the start of 2019, Daniel Suarez ($8,000), Todd Gilliland ($4,000), Noah Gragson ($3,500), and Harrison Burton ($3,500) have had an average finish on these tracks of 25th or worse.
Gragson, Gilliland and Burton are smaller samples because they're rookies, but I'll likely exclude Suarez at his salary regardless of his starting spot.