Skip to main content

Fantasy NASCAR: Coke Zero Sugar 400 Driver Rankings

SI Fantasy NASCAR analyst Brian Polking power ranks the drivers for this week's Coke Zero Sugar 400.

The 2020 Cup Series regular season comes to a close this weekend, and for the first time, Daytona International Speedway will host the final race before the playoffs. As a superspeedway race, Saturday night's Coke Zero Sugar 400 is always one of the more chaotic, unpredictable races of the year. Throw in the fact that it is now the last chance for drivers to punch their ticket to the playoffs, and things could wild, especially in the closing laps.

From a fantasy standpoint, I typically use the superspeedway races as an opportunity to save starts from the big names. I still plan to do this in the Driver Group Game, but since driver allocations will get reset in the Fantasy Live contest for the start of the playoffs, you might as well use the best options you have available.

For Slingshot Fantasy Auto and DFS contests, this is the type of race where you need to focus on starting positions above all else. Stack your lineups with drivers who start deep in the field and have the most spots to gain/fewest to lose. Place differential points are you friend in these contests.

1. Denny Hamlin

He won the Daytona 500 for the third time in his career earlier this year, and Hamlin has reeled off three straight Top 5s at the superspeedways, giving him a series-best six Top 5s in the last 10 superspeedway events. I'd strongly consider using him as my Group A option in the Driver Group Game, and he is a no-brainer play in Fantasy Live if you have starts left.

2. Ryan Blaney

Blaney has been locked in at the superspeedways, sandwiching a runner-up effort in this year's Daytona 500 between a couple of wins at Talladega. He has led laps in seven straight superspeedway starts, leading a race-high 63 laps in his win at Talladega in June. I wouldn't risk using him in the Driver Group Game, but start him in Fantasy Live if you have him available.

3. Joey Logano

He's been involved in incidents in both of the superspeedway races this year, but Logano also had one of the stronger cars in both events, leading the second most laps at Talladega. Despite the issues so far this year, he still ranks first in points scored over the last 10 superspeedway races. If you have a start left from Logano in Fantasy Live, don't hesitate to use it.

4. Aric Almirola

Almirola has been one of the steadiest performers at the superspeedways, and over the last 10 races, he ranks fourth in points scored and second with a 12.3 average finish. He has finished 11th or better seven times in that stretch, finishing third at Talladega back in June. Almirola should be on your short list of options in all formats.

5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

He's aggressive style can rub competitors the wrong way, but it sure has been effective at the superspeedways. Stenhouse ranks second in points scored over the last 10 races, and he has led multiple laps in nine of those starts. He led 24 laps and earned 12 stage points in this year's Daytona 500, and he won Stage 2 and finished second at Talladega in June. Set to start outside the Top 30, he is a must-start option in Slingshot Fantasy Auto. Facing a must-win situation to make the playoffs, I also plan to start him in both Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.

6. Chase Elliott

Elliott has been a boom-or-bust option at the superspeedways, but speed is never an issue. He has led laps in five straight starts, leading 23 laps in this year's Daytona 500 and leading 45 laps in a win at Talladega last spring. His upside is on par with just about any driver in the field, and after Sunday's wreck at Dover, he will be a chalk play for DFS cash lineup sand Slingshot.

7. Ryan Newman

He has a knack for finding his way to the front when it matters at these superspeedway races. Newman leads all drivers with an 11.1 average finish and seven Top 10s in the last 10 superspeedway events, and he is the only driver who has finished on the lead lap in every race in that stretch.

8. Kevin Harvick

The veteran has been hot and cold at the superspeedways throughout his career, but he has had fast cars throughout the 2020 season, and the superspeedways have been no exception. He followed up a Top 5 finish in the Daytona 500 with a Top 10 at Talladega, and I'm confident he will bring another strong car to the track this weekend.

9. Brad Keselowski

His luck at the superspeedways has been horrible recently, but Keselowski has still been a staple at the front of the field. He has led double-digit laps in five of the last nine races, leading 30 laps in this year's Daytona 500. Despite the bad finishes, the active leader in superspeedway wins could still carry a fantasy lineup this weekend.

10. Alex Bowman

Although his 17.0 average finish in the last 10 superspeedway races doesn't jump off the page, Bowman ranks sixth in points scored in that same stretch in large part because of his ability to hang near the front and earn stage points. At a track where the finishes are always chaotic, Bowman's ability to pad his point total with some stage points can be a nice insurance policy.

11. Ty Dillon

Dillon has had the undeniable ability to avoid trouble at the superspeedways. He ranks eighth in points scored over the last 10 races, cracking the Top 15 seven times and notching four Top 10s in that span. His eight lead lap finishes are the second most of any driver. I suggest using him as a Group C option in the Driver Group Game and at the DFS sites since he will start outside the Top 25.

12. Austin Dillon

He has delivered plenty of solid finishes at the superspeedways, including his win in the 2018 Daytona 500. Dillon ranks 10th in points scored in the last 10 superspeedway races, and he has a 14.9 average finish and seven Top 10s in 14 career starts at Daytona. Keep him in mind as a Group B option in the DGG.

13. Kurt Busch

Although he only has one superspeedway win, Busch has been one of the more consistent performers. He has finished in the Top 10 in just over half his career starts, notching three in the last five races. Busch also ranks ninth in points scored in the last 10 superspeedway races.

14. Erik Jones

Jones has been a little boom or bust at superspeedways, but he has four Top 10s in the last eight races, including three Top 5s. I wouldn't use him in the Driver Group Game this weekend, but he's an interesting DFS play from a mid-pack starting spot.

15. Chris Buescher

He has become a sneaky fantasy option at the superspeedways, and his offseason move to Roush Fenway Racing only seems to have helped matters. He has seven Top 20s in his last 10 superspeedway starts, including five finishes of 11th or better. This year, he followed up a third-place run in the Daytona 500 with a sixth-place effort at Talladega. I'd have no problem using him as a Group B option in the DGG.

16. Kyle Busch

Finishing superspeedway races has been a major issue for Busch lately, but speed hasn't been a problem. He has led laps in the last eight superspeedway races, and he was leading the Daytona 500 in February when he had an engine expire. Busch is a high-risk play Saturday, but he is more than capable of parking it in victory lane.

17. Corey LaJoie

LaJoie has been a fantasy stud at the superspeedway since taking over the No. 32 ride. He has finished inside the Top 20 in all six starts, notching four finishes of 11th or better. LaJoie actually has an 11.0 average finish in that same span, gaining an average of 21.0 spots per race. He's a legitimate option in all formats, and I love him at DraftKings and Slingshot.

18. Michael McDowell

He has been on a nice little roll at the superspeedways, finishing 18th or better and gaining at least eight spots in each of his last four starts. McDowell has cracked the Top 15 three times in that span, posting an average place differential of +13.0.

19. Brendan Gaughan

The veteran is back for another superspeedway race, and he has a knack for delivering decent finishes and gaining a ton of spots in the process. Over the last superspeedway events, he has a 17.9 average finish and an average place differential of +12.4. In the two races this season, he gained 32 spots and finished seventh in the Daytona 500 and gained 18 spots at Talladega. Starting dead last, he is practically a must-own for the Slingshot contest.

20. Jimmie Johnson

He has always been a streaky performer at the superspeedways, and it will be interesting to see how Johnson approaches this race as he sits right on the playoff bubble. I think he will be looking to run up front and grab stage points, but starting in the Top 10 kills his value for DFS contests.

21. John Hunter Nemechek

The sample size is small, but Nemechek has delivered solid results in his first two superspeedway starts at the Cup level. He gained 12 spots and finished 11th in the Daytona 500, and he moved up 14 spots and finished eighth at Talladega. Nemechek will start outside the Top 20 Saturday, so don't forget about him when building DFS lineups.

22. Bubba Wallace

Wallace has picked up Top 15 finishes in both of the superspeedway races in 2020, and he has eight Top 20s in 11 superspeedway starts overall. He's a viable Group C option for the DGG this weekend, and he has potential as a GPP play at the DFS sites from the 21st starting spot.

23. Ryan Preece

He has made six superspeedway starts, finishing 18th or better in four of the and notching a pair of Top 10s. Preece has also gained an average of 10.7 spots in those six starts, and he is in good position to pile up differential points again this weekend when he starts 28th.

24. Tyler Reddick

He has finished 20th or worse in all three of his superspeedway starts at the Cup level, but Reddick did flex some muscle at Talladega, winning Stage 1 and leading 19 laps. He also notched wins at both superspeedways at the XFINITY level, and he drives for a Richard Childress Racing organization that has a history of success at this type of track. I think he has a lot more potential than his three-race sample suggests.

25. Clint Bowyer

Bowyer has a couple of superspeedway wins under his belt, and he finished sixth in this year's Daytona 500. On the flip side, he has finished 23rd or worse in four of the last five superspeedway events and 20th or worse in seven of the last nine. He is a GPP-only option for me this weekend.

26. Matt DiBenedetto

He has a couple of Top 10s at Daytona on his resume, but he has also finished outside the Top 25 in five of his last seven superspeedway starts. The fact that he will be driving Team Penske equipment is certainly intriguing, but DiBenedetto is a DFS lottery ticket for me.

27. William Byron

I'll start with the bad. Byron owns a 23.2 average finish in 10 superspeedway starts and has finished 20th or worse eight times. However, he has led double-digit laps in five of those races, and he finished second at Daytona last July. Byron could be a roll-of-the-dice Group B option for the DGG, but his strong starting spot kills his value in any contest that values place differential.

28. Martin Truex Jr.

Truex is probably on his way to the NASCAR Hall of Fame one day, but it won't be because of his superspeedway prowess. In 61 combined starts at Daytona and Talladega, he has managed a grand total of four Top 5s. With seven straight finishes of 20th or worse at the superspeedways, there doesn't appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel either. Truex is one stud that you just have to avoid this weekend.

29. Matt Kenseth

Kenseth is no stranger to success at the superspeedways, and he has two Daytona 500 victories to his name. However, he finished dead last in his return to superspeedway racing thanks to a mechanical issue, and he hasn't had a lot of success all year in the No. 42. Starting inside the Top 20, there isn't much fantasy appeal here.

30. Cole Custer

He will have the equipment to contend, but a solid starting spot and a horrible, albeit brief, superspeedway history make it tough to use Custer this weekend. He has finishes of 37th and 22nd in his two starts, and he has more spots to lose than to gain from the 16th starting spot.