DraftKings is running some huge contests for the Daytona 500, so I’ve invited a big DFS NASCAR fan Chris (@Jager_Bombs9 on Twitter) to provide us with some some DraftKings NASCAR general strategy and tips, and then his Daytona 500 DraftKings picks. Enjoy the article!
Welcome back for another exciting Daily Fantasy NASCAR season. We are now a little over three months removed from Jimmie Johnson picking up his seventh career Championship in what was a wild Homestead race. If you have tuned out since then, you have missed what I can best describe as a sport overhaul. NASCAR has always been known to tweak things on the fly but this change was a big one in attempt to raise the bar for drivers and teams while most of all increasing the viewing experience for the fan.
NASCAR Season Changes
Before getting into the race this week, let’s take a look at some of the major changes and how they will affect DFS strategy.
It starts with main series sponsorship changing hands from Sprint to Monster Energy and the phrase “Chase” being replaced by “Playoffs”. The playoff structure itself didn’t change, just how the points are accumulated throughout the season. Races will now be split into three stages with Stage One and Stage Two each making up about 25% of the total laps and the Final Stage making up about 50% of the total laps. It may seem confusing at first but think of these stages as pre-determined cautions that will come twice in each race.
NASCAR has also changed the way points are distributed during the race. At the end of the first two stages the Top 10 drivers will receive points (10 for 1st down to 1 for 10th) and the winner of each stage will also receive a “Playoff Bonus Point” which can be used if they qualify for playoffs later in the year. At the end of the final stage, all drivers will receive points (40 for 1st, 35 for 2nd down to 1 point for 36th-40th) and the winner of the race will also receive an additional five “Playoff Bonus Points”.
The main reason for this was the perception that drivers weren’t giving it 100% through an entire race (think JGR at Talladega in last years Chase). No one wants to see cars riding around the back waiting for the final 10-20% of laps before cranking it up, especially DFS players who have money invested. This new format is going to make sure that doesn’t happen as winning the race alone does not guarantee you will end up with the most points at the end of the race.
DraftKings NASCAR Scoring
From a daily fantasy perspective, these rules changes won’t affect our strategy a whole lot. You can expect the best teams to make adjustments to their strategies at different tracks to maximize their winning and total point potential.
DraftKings themselves haven’t made any changes at this time and still award points the same way. At the end of the race drivers get points for their finishing position (46 for 1st, 42 for 2nd down to 4 for 40th) as well as bonus points for Fastest Laps (.5 point), Laps Led (.25 points) and Place Differential (+/- 1). For example, in a 200 lap race if Driver A starts 20th, finishes first, leads 100 laps and had 50 fast laps he would receive:
• 40 points for the win
• 19 points for place differential (starting position – finishing position)
• 25 points for laps led (100x.25)
• 25 points for fast laps(50x.5)
• Total of 109 DraftKings points
DraftKings Daytona 500 Strategy
Now that we know how everything works, let’s jump into some general strategy. The first thing I do for each weeks race is enter the drivers into my spreadsheet and analyze their track history (last two years and career #’s) and current form (last 6 races). Before salaries are released, this is a great way to build your initial target list and have a feel for who is hot and who runs well at certain tracks (superspeedways, road courses, short tracks, 1.5 mile tracks).
Then one of the most important parts of the weekly research comes with analyzing the practice and qualifying information. On a typical race weekend (not Daytona 500) teams will get a practice on Friday followed by qualifying and then usually one or two more practices before the race (each race/track is different).
For the most part, depending on weather, I will not really weigh the first practice in my model as teams normally work on qualifying setup which doesn’t give us much info for how they will run during the race. The practices that follow qualifying are the ones we should be weighing the most as teams will be running race setups giving us a much more clear picture of what cars are going to be fast. Not only are we looking at overall practice speeds but also a drivers 10 lap averages which can tell us who has a strong, long run car.
Place differential points on DraftKings can be a huge source of value and the best way to gauge these is by analyzing a driver’s starting position compared to how fast his car was in the post-qualifying practices. For example, I will be looking for a driver who qualifies outside of the Top 15 or Top 20 who had a car that ranked Top 10 in one or two of the practices. Vice versa, I will try to avoid the lower end drivers who qualify well but don’t show the speed of a Top10 car. It is important to avoid any negative points.
Once we have all the data crunched, it’s time to build the lineups. I like to start by highlighting three or four drivers who I feel have the best chance at get those “Dominator” points (laps led/fast laps) as those are most times the drivers who finish up front each week, barring a mechanical issue or accident. Even in cash games it is optimal to pay up for the one or two drivers who check all the boxes. As this is a salary cap game, we also must find those value plays as the “Dominator” type drivers are, more times than not, the most expensive options each week. Like I mentioned above, to grab find the best value plays look for drivers with a positive Qualifying to Practice Average Differential and concentrate on the post-qualifying practices.
Over the past year I have turned my attention to multi entering the low limit GPP’s with 15-50 max entry limits. This has allowed me to test out a bunch of different strategies. What I find works best is selecting a core of three of four drivers (depending on the week) and building multiple lineups around them, interchanging the pieces. This, in itself, is a variable strategy as the weeks where your core takes a hit you suffer larger losses than if you had a mix of more drivers. However, on the weeks where your core three or four hits, you will profit much bigger and have a greater chance of hitting the right combination and taking down a GPP.
With that dive into the Daytona 500!
The official 2017 NASCAR season gets underway this Sunday with the sport’s biggest race, the 59th running of the Great American Race. Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5 mile Tri-Oval Superspeedway with 31° banking in the cars. It means crazy high speeds and it also means NASCAR and manufacturer teams will be getting together to form a drafting combinations in an attempt to create more speed. This has been and will continue to be a main strategy for me at the plate tracks (Daytona/Talladega). The teams I am concentrating on the most this weekend are going to be Joe Gibbs Racing/Front Row Motorsports (Toyota) and Team Penske/Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford). Let’s get into my favorite picks for the Daytona 500.
DraftKings Picks for the Daytona 500
Denny Hamlin ($9,600)
The Daytona 500 defending champion comes at an elite value this week as the sixth ranked driver in DraftKings salary. Outside of his big win last February, he has also finished Top 5 in three of his last four races at Daytona and is tied wit the second most laps led (116) in that time. We have seen early on in Speedweeks that the JGR and Toyota cars will be working together and look extremely fast. Even after a pit penalty in the second Duel on Thursday, Hamlin was able to work with Austin Dillon and make his way to the front, eventually passing Dale Jr. to grab the checkered flag. With a mid $9K price tag, Hamlin is safe in all formats.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,600)
Any questions of about Dale Earnhardt Jr’s health should be left at the door after Thursday night’s Duel races. He started on the front row and ended up leading 53 laps pulling off some vintage maneuvers to keep himself out front of the fast line. He got passed late by Denny Hamlin and finished sixth but with a starting position on the front row for Sunday’s race, he will once again be in a great spot to pick up a ton of laps led. If planning on stacking Hendrick teammates consider Chase Elliot ($9,200) or Kasey Kahne ($7,600) who come at a discount from the seven time champion, Jimmie Johnson ($10,000).
Clint Bowyer ($7,800)
It’s a new team, new season and new opportunity for Clint Bowyer to show off his talents behind the wheel of race car. He joined Stewart-Haas racing this off-season and looks to fill the gigantic shoes of the departing Tony Stewart. He will have a great opportunity to get things going at a track he has had success at over his career. He has never won at Daytona but has finished Top 10 in three of his last four races and 11 of his 22 career races here. If he gets off to a fast start this season, there is a good chance we won’t see him in the $7K range very often. Take advantage of the value this week.
David Ragan ($6,000)
If you are employing a stars and scrubs approach this week, or any week for that matter, you need to nail one or two bottom end picks. That doesn’t mean they have to win the race or even finish Top 10. Ragan will start 22nd for the Daytona 500 which gives him a little room for place differential upside considering he has finished Top 20 in three of his last four Daytona races. While it was almost six years ago now, Ragan also won the July Coke Zero 400 her at Daytona back in 2011 so he know how to get around. It was also positive to see him push Dale Jr. early in the second Duel before getting involved in some contact and finishing 11th.
Thank you for reading and if you have any questions through practices leading up to the race on Sunday you can reach out to me on Twitter (@Jager_Bombs9).