The Cup Series heads back to Daytona International Speedway this weekend for the final race of the 2020 regular season. Unlike a few weeks ago when the track's road course hosted the event, Saturday night's Coke Zero Sugar 400 will be back on the traditional oval. Of course, this means that we have a superspeedway race to deal with, and that means throwing the normal strategies out the window when building NASCAR DFS lineups at DraftKings.
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Thanks to the pack racing at Daytona, the fastest lap category can be thrown out the window as a source of points. Even the laps led category has significantly less value than it does on a typical week. Between all the attrition that tends to occur at the superspeedways and all the position swapping that goes on each lap, the place differential category is your best path to a payday this weekend.
In fact, I recommend focusing solely on differential points when assembling your lineups. Forget about the names and forget about trying to use up every last dollar of your available cap space. If a driver starts outside the Top 25 and has somewhat decent equipment, they should be on your radar. On the flip side, I wouldn't roster too many drivers starting better than 20th.
History has shown that there is going to be a big wreck or two, and since Saturday's race will be the last chance for drivers to win and earn an automatic spot in the playoffs, I think a demolition derby could be on tap. Any driver still running at the end of the night will have a shot at a solid finish. By loading up on drivers starting deep in the field, you simultaneously boost your upside in the place differential category and lower your overall risk.
Chase Elliott ($11,000)
We don't have many of the top drivers starting deep in the field, but Elliott is an exception. He starts back in 27th, and while he hasn't been the most consistent performer at the superspeedways, he does tend to have strong cars. He won the spring race at Talladega last year, and he has led multiple laps in five straight superspeedway starts, leading 23 laps in this year's Daytona 500. Elliott could lead some laps, gained 20-plus spots and finish in the Top 5 Saturday.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($8,300)
His chances of crashing out are high as he faces a must-win scenario this weekend if he wants to make the playoffs, but the risk for DFS lineups is severely reduced by his 31st starting spot. The poor starting spot also provides a path to a high point total for a driver who is no stranger to running up front at the superspeedways. Stenhouse is a two-time superspeedway winner, and he has led multiple laps in nine of the last 10 races, leading double-digit laps six times.
Brendan Gaughan ($8,600)
Gaughan is a superspeedway ringer, and with the veteran starting dead last Saturday, he needs to be a staple of your cash lineups. He has a 17.9 average finish in his last 10 superspeedways starts, gaining an average of 12.4 spots per race. Gaughan has already gained a total of 50 spots in the two superspeedway races this season, and we already no he isn't losing any spots this weekend. There is nothing but upside with this pick.
Ross Chastain ($7,100)
Yes, he is driving for an underfunded team this weekend, but it happens to be the same No. 77 Spire Motorsports machine won the rain-shortened race at Daytona last July. Equipment doesn't mean much at the superspeedway, and in six career starts, Chastain owns a 21.6 average finish and an average place differential of +11.6. Rolling of 36th, he doesn't even need to crack the Top 20 to reach 30 fantasy points at DraftKings.
Michael McDowell ($6,900)
Ty Dillon ($6,100)
Not only has Dillon been able to avoid major trouble at the superspeedways, but he has actually shown legitimate upside. He has eight finishes of 17th or better in the 10 races, posting a 15.4 average. Dillon has four Top 10s in that stretch, including three finishes of sixth or better at Daytona. Starting 29th, he is in an ideal spot to exploit the place differential category.
Ryan Preece ($5,800)
Preece has a respectable 17.5 average finish in six superspeedway starts, cracking the Top 20 four times and logging a couple of Top 10s. He has also gained an average of 10.7 spots in those starts. Starting 28th, he can provide a solid score with only a mid-pack finish, and he isn't going to kill your lineup if he wrecks.
Denny Hamlin ($10,400)
I rarely roster drivers starting in the Top 15, let alone the Top 10, at the superspeedways, but Hamlin is the one driver I'll make an exception for this weekend. His a three-time winner of the Daytona 500, and he has three straight Top 5s at the superspeedways and a series-high six Top 5s in the last 10 races. Hamlin led a race-high 79 laps at Daytona in February, and he has led 20-plus laps in three of the last five races here. Rolling off 10th, he is a high-risk, high-reward alternative to Chase Elliott atop lineups.
Erik Jones ($9,800)
Jones has been a boom-or-bust DFS option at the superspeedways, but he has four Top 10s in the last eight races, including three Top 5s. Starting 20th, he is a little higher up than I would like, but it should drive down his ownership. An under-owned driver with Top 5 upside and a 15-plus spots to gain could be a real X-factor in bigger contests.
John Hunter Nemechek ($6,800)
The sample size is small, but Nemechek has delivered solid results in both of his superspeedway starts. He gained 12 spots and finished 11th in the Daytona 500, and he finished eighth at Talladega, gaining 14 spots. Rolling off 24th, Nemechek has similar upside this weekend.
Ryan Newman ($6,500)
Starting 22nd, you sacrifice a little upside in the place differential category, but Newman has been arguably the most reliable option at the superspeedways lately. His 11.1 average finish and seven Top 10s in the last 10 races are the best in the series, and he is the only driver running on the lead lap in all of those events. Use Newman as a pivot to guys like Ty Dillon, Michael McDowell and Ryan Preece.
Corey LaJoie ($5,300)
He is starting a little more towards the front than normal for a superspeedway race, and I think that could drive down his ownership a bit. However, LaJoie still has room to score plenty points in the place differential category from the 25th spot. After all, he has an 11.0 average finish in six superspeedway starts in the No. 32, cracking the Top 20 in all six races and gaining an average of 21.0 spots.