Fantasy NASCAR: 2020 Daytona 500 Driver Rankings
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season officially kicks off this weekend with the 62nd running of The Great American Race, the Daytona 500. While DraftKings and Fanduel did offer DFS contests for the Busch Clash this past weekend, Sunday’s opener also marks the official beginning to the Fantasy NASCAR season for owners participating in season-long leagues.
I will be providing weekly driver rankings and specific picks for a variety of contests again this season, including popular free games like NASCAR Fantasy Live, the Driver Group Game and Slingshot Fantasy Auto at Fantasy Racing Online. The last site also offers a couple of other fun, pay-to-play games, so feel free to check them out and email or message me directly on Twitter at @BPolking with any questions.
Getting back to the Daytona 500, you need to exercise some restraint when it comes to building fantasy lineups. It has been a long offseason, and everyone wants to come out of the gates strong in 2020. Unfortunately, the pack racing at the superspeedways lends itself to chaos and unpredictability. Did you watch the Busch Clash on Sunday? They barely had any cars left to finish the race.
There is a good chance the same type of carnage is going to occur this Sunday, so for season-long contests like Fantasy Live and the Driver Game, you need to use a big-picture strategy and take chances on drivers who you don’t expect to use much throughout the course of the year.
Normally, the gap between the big names from big teams and the drivers from smaller teams is significant, but at a track like Daytona, everyone has about a 50-50 chance of surviving to the finish. You don’t need to load up on big names to post big point totals this weekend, and you certainly don’t want to risk wasting any starts from the top options at a track where variance is as high as it will be all season.
Don’t fall in love with the household names, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your Daytona 500 fantasy lineups. One start may not seem like much now, but we have a long season ahead of us.
1. Joey Logano
No driver has been better at the superspeedways recently than Logano, and in the last 10 races, his 334 points scored are 39 more than any other driver. He also leads the series with six Top 5s in that span, and he led double-digit laps in all four superspeedways races last season. Feel free to use him as your Group A option in the Driver Group Game.
2. Denny Hamlin
He won the Daytona 500 for the second time in his career last season, and Hamlin pushing his teammate to the win in the Clash this past weekend was a great reminder that he always has a fast car at the superspeedways. He ranks sixth in points scored in the last 10 races, and his four Top 5s in that stretch are tied for the second most in the series.
3. Ryan Blaney
Blaney has been coming on strong at the superspeedways since joining Team Penske. He has led laps in six of his eight starts in the No. 12, including five straight, and his 177 laps led in that span are tied for the most in the series. Blaney won at Talladega last fall, and he led a race-high 118 laps in the 2018 Daytona 500. He should be a contender for the win Sunday.
4. Aric Almirola
He is a former winner at both Daytona and Talladega, and Almirola has emerged as one of the steadiest performers at the superspeedways. His six Top 10s in the last 10 races are tied for the second most in the series, and his 11.4 average finish in that stretch ranks second. Almirola finished in the Top 10 in three of the four superspeedway events in 2019, and he has finished 11th or better in six of his eight starts with Stewart-Haas Racing. Dial him up in Fantasy Live.
5. Ryan Newman
In terms of reliability, nobody has been better at the superspeedways lately. Newman is the only driver who has finished on the lead lap in each of the last 10 races, leading all drivers with eight Top 10s and 8.5 average finish. He ranks second in points scored in that same stretch, and I plan to use him at both Fantasy Live and in the DGG.
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The man is a loose cannon at the superspeedways, but there is no denying that his aggressive style has its upside. Stenhouse is a former winner at both Daytona and Talladega, and he ranks third in points scored over the last 10 races at those tracks. He has led laps in nine of those starts, leading at least 16 laps in three of the four races last year. With limited value at most other tracks, you will want to consider using Stenhouse is most season-long contests this weekend.
7. Kyle Busch
He was the runner-up in last year’s Daytona 500, and while he tends to be a little boom and bust at the superspeedways, he is also a safe bet to have one of the cars to beat. Busch finished in the Top 15 in three of the four superspeedways race last year, and he owns the best driver rating at Daytona. I’d save him for another track in season-long contests, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is holding the Harley J. Earl Trophy Sunday.
8. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski has been a magnet for wrecks at the superspeedways the last couple of years, but the speed hasn’t gone away. He leads all active drivers with six superspeedway wins, and he has led double-digit laps in five of the last 10 races, leading 20-plus laps four times. Consider Keselowski a high-risk, high-reward Group A option in the DGG.
9. Kurt Busch
He is one of the more underrated superspeedway drivers in the series, and over the last 10 races, Busch ranks eighth in point scored. He also ranks in the Top 5 in terms of driver rating a Daytona. I recommend saving him for a more predictable track for the DGG, but I’d definitely consider him for Fantasy Live.
10. Austin Dillon
His performance in the Clash was a perfect example of how Dillon just seems to dodge all the wrecks at superspeedways. Not only did he win the Daytona 500 in 2015, but he has seven Top 10s in 13 starts at the track to go along with a 15.1 average finish. With minimal fantasy appeal most weeks, using Dillon as a Group B option for the Driver Group Game this Sunday makes a lot of sense.
11. Alex Bowman
Bowman has done a great job of piling up points at the superspeedways since joining Hendrick Motorsports. He has finished 11th or better in four of his eight starts in the No. 88, ranking fifth in the series in points scored. Don’t forget about Bowman for Fantasy Live lineups this weekend.
12. Chase Elliott
He may end up crashing out of Sunday’s race, but history says Elliott will have one of the strongest cars. He ranks 10th in points scored over the last 10 superspeedway races, leading laps in seven of those starts at winning at Talladega last fall. Elliott could be a sneaky Group A pick for the DGG.
13. Erik Jones
Fresh off his win in the Busch Clash, Jones will try to continue his recent run of success at Daytona. He has cracked the Top 10 in three of his last five starts at the track, winning the July race in 2018 and finishing third in last year’s Daytona 500. I’ll probably save him in the season-long contests, but Jones could be a real X-factor for DFS lineups.
14. Ty Dillon
Like his older brother, Austin, Ty Dillon just seems to find a way to avoid all the carnage at these superspeedway races. He ranks seventh in points scored over the last 10 races, and his 13.9 average finish in those starts ranks fourth in the series. Dillon has finished on the lead lap in nine of those 10 races, finishing sixth or better in his last three starts at Daytona. This a great spot to use him as a Group C option in the Driver Group Game.
15. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson has been a hit-or-miss option at the superspeedways for most of his career, but he’s been enjoying one of his steadier stretches. He has three Top 10s in his last five starts, including finishes of ninth and third at Daytona last year. His overall fantasy value has plummeted the last couple of years, so using him at the superspeedways is a viable strategy.
16. Matt DiBenedetto
He has had a lot of success at Daytona despite driving for smaller teams. DiBenedetto has two Top 10s in the last three races here, and in the other start, he led a race-high 49 laps in the 2019 Daytona 500 before crashing. His offseason move to Wood Brothers Racing, a Ford team with ties to Team Penske, should help his chances at the superspeedways.
17. Kevin Harvick
He has three superspeedway wins under his belt, including a Daytona 500 victory, but Harvick has been stuck in a slump. He has just one Top 15 in his last 10 superspeedway starts, posting a 24.5 average finish and finishing outside the Top 25 in four of his last five starts. It’s hard to view him as more than a DFS dart throw.
18. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer is a two-time winner at Talladega, and he has finished in the Top 10 in just under half his superspeedway starts. He’s been a little more volatile recently, but he does have a pair of runner-up finishes in his last 10 starts. Bowyer could make you some money at the DFS sites this weekend.
19. William Byron
While he has finished 20th or worse in seven of his eight superspeedway starts, Byron has shown a knack for getting to the front. He has led laps in five of his starts, leading double-digit laps four times. He also finished second in the July race at Daytona last year. Byron is another driver who could help you do some damage at the DFS sites.
20. Ryan Preece
The sample size is small, but Preece enjoyed a solid rookie year at the superspeedways. He posted a 15.2 average finish in the four starts, finishing eighth in the Daytona 500 and third at Talladega in the spring. If you are following my strategy of saving the highly-touted rookies, keep Preece in mind as a Group C option for the DGG.
21. Kyle Larson
Larson did manage a seventh-place finish in last year’s Daytona 500, but his overall numbers at the superspeedways leave a lot to be desired. In 24 combined starts at Daytona and Talladega, he has five Top 10s and has never finished in the Top 5. I don’t see using him in season-long contests this weekend.
22. Chris Buescher
His numbers have dipped a little in his recent starts, but over the last 10 superspeedway races, Buescher owns a respectable 17.3 average finish. He has cracked the Top 20 in seven of those starts, and he has four finishes of 11-th or better, including a pair of Top 5 efforts at Daytona in 2018. Buescher has some sleeper appeal this weekend, especially at the DFS sites if he starts deeper in the field.
23. Michael McDowell
He has been a sneaky superspeedway performer the last couple of years, especially at Daytona. McDowell finished in the Top 15 in three of the four superspeedway races in 2019, picking up a pair of Top 5s. He has also cracked the Top 15 in four of his last five Daytona starts, logging three Top 10s. He’s in play as a Group C option for the Driver Group Game, and he could have a lot of DFS potential depending on his starting spot.
24. Martin Truex Jr
Truex is going to win races and likely compete for a championship this year, but he simply hasn’t been a good superspeedway driver. In 59 total starts at Daytona and Talladega, he has managed 12 Top 10s and four Top 5s. Truex has also finished 20th or worse in nine of his last 10 superspeedways starts. There is always some DFS potential depending on where he starts, but I’ll probably avoid him all together this weekend.
25. Tyler Reddick
Of all the rookies in the field this weekend, I have the most confidence in Reddick. For one, he is driving for Richard Childress Racing, an organization that always has a successful superspeedway program. Reddick has also had success at the superspeedways at the XFINITY level, logging a win at Daytona in 2018 and a win at Talladega last year.
26. Corey LaJoie
LaJoie was a straight-up fantasy stud at the superspeedways last year in his first season with the No. 32 team. He finished 18th or better in all four races, and his 10.5 average finish ranked third in the series. LaJoie gained at least 14 spots in all four starts, gaining at least 24 spots and finishing 11th or better three teams. I’m not sure he can repeat that success, but I’ll be willing to find out at the DFS sites if he is starting near the back.
27. Christopher Bell
Although he never won a superspeedway race in the XFINITY Series, Bell did manage four Top 10s and three Top 5s in six career starts. Rookies tend to be hit and miss at the superspeedways, but there's enough upside here to take a chance on Bell if he starts deep in the field.
28. Cole Custer
Custer is going to have some solid runs for Stewart-Haas Racing this year, but I'm not expecting much out of the rookie this weekend. He never had much success at the superspeedway at the XFINITY level, managing just one Top 10 in nine starts while logging four DNFs. If he happens to start outside the Top 30, he could be a DFS lottery ticket, but I plan to take a wait-and-see approach with Custer.
29. Brendan Gaughan
The veteran has been a sneaky DFS play at the superspeedways. Over the last 10 races, he has compiled a 17.7 average finish, gaining an average of 11.5 spots per race. Gaughan has gained at least 16 spots in five of his starts in that stretch, gaining at least 20 spots in two of the four races last year. He locked himself into the field during qualifying this past Sunday, and if he starts towards the back, he's shown he can post a big point total.
30. Ross Chastain
Chastain doesn't have great equipment to work with in the Cup Series, but he has still managed to be a productive DFS option at the superspeedways. He has posted an average finish of 21.1 in seven starts, and more importantly, he has an average place differential of +14.0. Chastain has gained at least eight positions in all seven of his starts, gaining 26 spots and finishing 10th in last year's Daytona 500.