Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Daytona 500
At long last, our wait is over.
This whole week, we've been pounding on the windows like five-year-olds on a road trip, hoping to spring ourselves free of our restraints. Circumstances were keeping us boxed in, preventing us from fully embracing what we came here to do.
On Sunday, we get to stack the back in NASCAR DFS.
The first two slates of the week have both been unique formats. They were shorter races with small fields, keeping us from selling out to load up on drivers who were primed to scoop place-differential points.
This time around, there are 40 cars in the field. And we know the formula for success in this race.
To show why stacking the back is the optimal approach for Sunday's Daytona 500, let's look back at past races and see the fruits of this strategy. Then we'll loop in and outline other things to consider when filling out lineups on FanDuel.
Sell Out for Place-Differential
There are a couple of factors that can push us to emphasize place-differential in NASCAR DFS. All of them are in play this week.
Those factors are a shorter race, ease of passing, calamity, and inefficient starting orders. The Daytona 500 checks all those boxes.
The race is 200 laps long, leaving 20.0 points for laps led on FanDuel. That's on the lower end for the full schedule, decreasing the incentive to roster drivers starting up at the front in hopes they lead laps.
With the cars racing in huge packs, you can make moves and push your way through the order. That's especially true because wrecks are common and some of the strongest cars may be in the back of the pack.
The starting order for this race was set by Thursday's duel races. In other words, if you had even the slightest issue there, you're going to have a low spot in the starting order for Sunday. Teams -- through no fault of their own -- could be mired in the pack to start, putting them in position to gobble up the place-differential points. If you can find a fast car in the back, that's almost always a recipe for success in DFS.
Finally, there's plenty of chaos. In last year's Daytona 500, 15 of 40 cars failed to finish due to a crash. You could start in the back and pick up 15 spots during the race simply by keeping your nose clean. We don't get that at hardly any other tracks throughout the year.
That's why the anecdotal evidence would point toward stacking the back. The data says the same thing.
This is the third year that FanDuel has offered contests for the Daytona 500. Of the 10 drivers in the previous two perfect lineups, only one of them started in the top 19 spots. That guy was Denny Hamlin in 2019 when he won after starting 10th. Hamlin also won last year, though that came from the 21st starting spot. Six of the 10 drivers started 30th or lower.
This wasn't some two-year fluke, either. They've run five Daytona 500s since the field was trimmed to 40 drivers. In those five races, 40 drivers have scored at least 60 FanDuel points in the race. Almost one quarter of them started in the final five spots.
|Starting Range||60-Plus FD Points|
|1st to 5th||3|
|6th to 10th||3|
|11th to 15th||4|
|16th to 20th||2|
|21st to 25th||5|
|26th to 30th||9|
|31st to 35th||5|
|36th to 40th||9|
If we broaden the scope, 70% of the drivers started in the back half of the field, and 57.5% started 26th or lower. This is a spot where the anecdotes and the data align: you want to load up on drivers starting further back.
That's the broad strategy for Daytona. Your core should be place-differential candidates who didn't finish well Thursday but still have speed. There will be some exceptions, though, and those exceptions are worth discussing.
Try to Predict the Winner
As mentioned with the 2019 Daytona 500, Hamlin won after starting 10th and made it in the perfect lineup. Because the winner gets 43 points, they're likely to be in the perfect lineup no matter where they start. As such, you'll want to try to pick the winner for the race.
This is very much a "duh" statement, but it does have an implication on strategy. For cash games, you should ignore the front and just load up on those starting in the back. But for tournaments, you can afford to make assumptions.
The way to play this is by picking an assumed winner before you fill out a lineup. Let's say you think Joey Logano is going to win. He's starting ninth, so he's not going to fit our generic approach. But he could win this race, and if he does, he's likely to be in the perfect lineup. You can plug Logano in as your assumed winner; after that, you'd utilize place-differential candidates for the other four slots on your roster.
This is a high-variance approach because if your assumed winner doesn't come through, they're likely to be an anchor on your lineup. But for tournaments, we have to be okay with those downsides in hopes of hitting the nuts. That means picking an assumed winner and going from there.
The ripple effects of picking an assumed winner don't stop with that one driver. They should also influence which drivers we lean on for place-differential.
The reasoning here is that teamwork is a big key at Daytona. Teams and manufacturers will often work together, hoping to put themselves in position for one of them to claim the checkered flag. This often leads to a group of drivers in similar situations making the perfect lineup.
In last year's Daytona 500, seven of the top nine finishers were Fords. in 2019, three of five drivers in the perfect lineup drove for Joe Gibbs Racing. We saw it in last year's August Daytona race, too, with two Hendrick Motorsports drivers and four Chevys in the perfect lineup.
You don't need to stack in every lineup. All alliances go out the window in the final laps, so it's not a guarantee we have a stack in the perfect lineup. But you should group correlated drivers together often.
Let's go back to the example where we assume that Logano wins. If you put them in as your assumed winner, it might up the appeal in Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto, and Austin Cindric, all of whom are in Penske or Penske-affiliated cars and starting further back. If Logano wins, the odds one of them finishes well go up. As such, the assumption game and stacking will often go hand-in-hand for our tournament lineups.
Again, it's worth reiterating: our overall process this week is to load up on drivers starting in the back half of the field. If you find someone you like there, you should be willing to have plentiful exposure to them.
Those drivers will also comprise your core for tournaments. Nobody in this field has implied win odds better than 11.1% at FanDuel Sportsbook, meaning your exposure to assumed winners should be more muted. With those starting further back, though, we don't need a win for them to come through. The place-differential points alone will cover that.
As such, our first action for the race is to look at the starting order and work our way from the back to the front. Once you see a driver who you think could finish well, add them as a candidate for your core. Then keep working your way forward and find drivers who fit what we want to build around.
After that, you can shift your focus to the more volatile strategies with assumed winners and stacking. It's a good way to differentiate from the chalk while making sure you're not overexposed to the higher-variance options.
Thankfully, the way the starting order broke in the duel races plays into our favor. We have high-quality options both at the top end and in the value range who are starting further back. We can take a very process-oriented approach to this week, and that should help us feel more at ease with our lineups once lock rolls around.