NASCAR at Daytona DraftKings Picks: DFS Strategy for Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400

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Sarah Crabill, Getty Images.

Aug 29, 2020, 10:03 AM EDT

The NASCAR Cup Series regular season ends tonight with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. In addition to the unique style of racing that Superspeedways present, the added drama of playoff elimination could make for some interesting DFS fades and plays.

In DFS tournaments, we’re concerned with upside for each driver. If a driver needs to win to get into the playoffs, it could increases his upside, as his only care is to win or go home.

Conversely, if a driver just needs a solid finish to advance to the playoffs, don’t expect the driver to take unnecessary risks.

As usual, with Superspeedway racing, unpredictability is king. It’s far easier to predict which drivers will be over- or under-utilized than it is to predict the race outcome.

Additionally, with almost the whole field equalized under this rules package, place differential becomes king. So my picks today are not drivers I think will necessarily finish up front. Instead, I’ll make picks that I think have a higher probability of achieving DFS success than their ownership percentage suggests.

NASCAR at Daytona DraftKings DFS Picks

The highest-owned drivers – Based off of starting position and performance expectations, here are the drivers I expect to be the highest owned:

  1. Brendan Gaughan
  2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  3. Chase Elliott
  4. Ross Chastain

These four drivers are all fine plays in both cash games and tournaments. Just be aware that they will also be the chalk plays at a race that is highly unpredictable. You would be wise to avoid all four of them in the same lineup at the risk of extreme lineup duplication. In addition, it’s far better to fade the chalk at races where uncertainty is high.

Thanks to the chalk, other drivers starting in the back portion of the field may go under-owned. Here’s one driver I particularly like:

Ryan Preece ($5800): Ty Dillon, Ryan Preece, and Michael McDowell are in a similar tier in terms of equipment. Removing the four highest-owned drivers mentioned above, everyone else starting 25th or worse has lesser equipment, and can’t be expected to hang with the main pack as well as these three.

I expect Ty Dillon to be the highest-owned of the trio simply by starting the farthest back. McDowell has a bit of a reputation at Superspeedways, which means Preece could be overlooked.

However, Preece has shown solid results at Superspeedways, keeping his nose clean for an eight place at last year’s Daytona 500, and a third place at the next Superspeedway race at Talladega.

The Mid-Pack: Drivers starting 21st to 25th are all playable, and I can’t fault you for using any of the five drivers. However, I think there’s a clear pecking order in terms of ownership. Corey LaJoie has set the world on fire in Superspeedway races, pulling the fourth-best average finish since the first Talladega race of 2019. He’ll be a popular play on that well-known fact alone.

Likewise, rookie notables John Hunter Nemechek and Christopher Bell start 24th and 23rd, respectively. Each have had flashes of brilliance in 2020, making them eye-catching prospects for the race.

Bubba Wallace starts 21st, and is notable for some exceptional Superspeedway runs as well as some strong performances across all tracks in 2020.

That leaves Ryan Newman who has largely flown under the radar since his serious accident at the Daytona 500. Newman has not finished better than 12th since his return, and hasn’t been a DFS factor since the season opener.

He nearly won the last Superspeedway race at Daytona, yet people forget about him from his dismal 2020 performance at other tracks.

My guess is he’ll be the lowest-owned driver starting 21st to 25th, but has at least as much upside to win than any of these five.

The Top Half: Picking performers at Superspeedway races is an exercise in futility. What we can do, is pick which driver we think will be lowest owned relative to his expectations.

For me, that driver is Cole Custer. He’s done absolutely nothing to warrant being a solid pick. His Superspeedway results are terrible, and his starting position is ahead of several other drivers with better history.

That means I expect Custer’s ownership to be near rock bottom. However, he’s in a Stewart-Haas Ford, which always counts for something in the equipment department.

He’s also reliably in the playoffs with his win at Kentucky. That means the only thing that matters to him is a win for added playoff points.

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