The field is set for Saturday evening’s race at Daytona with Kyle Larson and William Byron on the front row. Using the Awesemo expert NASCAR DFS projections, let’s dive into the top NASCAR DFS picks, on DraftKings and FanDuel, for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR DFS Picks
Kyle Larson ($9,000 DraftKings, $11,500 FanDuel) GPP (Dominator)
Let’s start this off with the obvious — yes, playing Larson incurs a ton of risk. However, the fact is, NASCAR DFS players are going to need to get risky in order to find differentiation. Everyone, their mom, and their mom’s nail lady all know how to play Daytona. It’s no big secret, and to act like it is in 2021 is a fool’s errand.
Regardless, to get different, DFS players are going to need to do things deemed “stupid” by the majority of the NASCAR DFS community. Chief among the non-negotiables of playing NASCAR DFS at Daytona would be rostering the pole sitter. However, the thing to keep in mind is those are averages. With the right circumstances, a driver could blow past those numbers and turn in a performance that nets enough fantasy points to make them optimal. For example, in last summer’s race, Denny Hamlin made the optimal lineup with 53.75 DraftKings points. If that is the threshold, Larson could easily lead a quarter of the race, finish in the top five, and hit that fantasy score himself.
The averages say no but don’t rule out an anomalous finish from Larson.
Denny Hamlin, 3rd ($9,400 DraftKings, $13,500 FanDuel) GPP (Dominator)
Everything above about the fragility of playing Larson applies to Hamlin, thanks to this high starting position. However, Hamlin has the recent track history to suggest he’s more likely to be a potential dominator with laps led in five straight Daytona races, including 98 last February and 79 in his most recent Daytona 500 victory. In fact, in 31 career Cup starts at Daytona, he has led in 23 of those races. Hamlin has a penchant for getting to the lead, and if he does it early, he accrues several dominator points as the drivers go side by side in the early portions of the race.
Even if Hamlin, doesn’t lead 16 or more laps, he still projects well for a high finish. Over his past seven starts at the superspeedway, he owns two victories and three other top-5 finishes. At BET MGM, Hamlin is the outright favorite currently at +700.
Chris Buescher, 13th ($5,200 DraftKings, $4,500 FanDuel) GPP
As much as people are going to embrace the “stack-the-back” lineup-building construction, for those that toe that line with a religious-like fervor, they’re going to miss the boat on high-risk, high-reward tournament options. Unless the race devolves into pure chaos, or gets stopped for rain, the optimal lineup isn’t just built with drivers starting, say, 25th or worse. Generally, a few drivers in the teens, even in the first five rows, will find their way into a top-6 fantasy score. In order for these drivers to hit, they need some combination of dominator points, a little place differential and or a top-5finish.
Starting 13th, Buescher gives us access to all of these criteria, and could do it at eye-raising ownership.
Daniel Suarez, 26th ($7,800 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel) Fade Candidate
With place differential on his side, Suarez may find his ownership getting pumped up this week. Still, even with the randomness factor baked in, Suarez is still a healthy fade based on his superspeedway history. Regardless of the team he has raced for, Suarez has historically been bad at tracks like Daytona. Since 2018, Suarez’s best Daytona finish was 26th last summer, when he was still racing for Gaunt Brothers. Every other finish has been mired in the 30s without a race where he actually finished. When Talladega is added to the mix, it’s not much better with wrecks in two of the past four races, and a best finish of 23rd in the spring.
Despite alliances with Chevrolet and Richard Childress Racing that might help propel Suarez forward, and needing a win to force his way into the playoffs, there isn’t much of a story to tell in playing Suarez besides hope.
Austin Dillon, 27th ($10,300 DraftKings, $12,500 FanDuel) Cash, GPP
The 2018 Daytona 500 winner starts 27th, giving him intrigue in both tournaments and cash games. Needing either a collapse from Tyler Reddick or an outright win himself, Dillon has all of the reasons to go for broke on Saturday night. Over the past calendar year, Dillon has two top-10 finishes in superspeedway events, including finishing third in last February’s Daytona 500. In this race two seasons ago, Dillon was in a position to win before Clint Bowyer wrecked himself and Dillon out in a late tangle for the lead.
Joey Gase, 37th ($5,000 DraftKings, $2,000 FanDuel) Cash, GPP
If everyone is in play, starting 15th, 20th, 25th, or whatever the arbitrary number is, then Gase fits the bill regardless. In cash games, Gase makes total sense based on his superspeedway history of actually finishing these races. Over the last four superspeedway events, he has finished every race with an average finish of 25.5. Over his short career at Daytona, he’s finished four of five races with three top-25 finishes. Thus, his ceiling may be a bit limited. On the other hand, with the right mix of chaos, he could easily push his way into the top 20.
In last Summer’s race, Brennan Poole made the optimal by starting 32nd and finishing 15th, ending his day with 49.5 DraftKings points. In the 37th starting position, Gase could crack 50 points if he, too, cracks that top 20.
Landon Cassill, 39th ($7,100 DraftKings, $3,000 FanDuel) Cash, GPP
For those oblivious or agnostic to driver names, playing Cassill will be a cinch. After all, if all that matters is starting position, then why should Cassill matter any more or less than Kaz Grala or David Starr? For thoughts on Starr, check out this Twitter thread from earlier this week.
However, for those new to NASCAR DFS, or that don’t play in the Xfinity streets, Cassill is going to be an unfamiliar name. Cassill spent nearly a decade in the NASCAR Cup Series racing for various, lower-tier teams before getting unceremoniously replaced at StarCom by Quinn Houff last season. After sitting out last year, Cassill reappeared in the Xfinity Series racing for former employer JD Motorsports. Over a career that spanned a full decade, Houff made 324 career starts with just one top-5 to his name in 2014.
Cassill’s story is the same as many other drivers who don’t meet expectations in the Xfinity Series (JR Motorsports) and end up driving lower-level equipment in the Cup Series. It’s hard to perform well when the equipment is inferior to the field. Despite this, Cassill understood what his role was at StarCom, Front Row, BK Racing and Joe Falk — namely, finish the race. Over 15 career Cup starts at Daytona, Cassill failed to finish just twice. In 17 starts at Talladega, he failed to finish just four times.
This is all to say, with Cassill, DFS players get a reliable driver with a stated goal. Should he accomplish that on Saturday, he’ll finish one of the better positive place differential gains on the board.
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