NASCAR DFS: 2020 Daytona 500 Fanduel Preview

Brian Polking

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series officially begins Sunday at Daytona International Speedway with the 62nd running of The Great American Race, the Daytona 500.

While the Daytona 500 is no doubt the most prestigious and famous event the sport has to offer, it isn't always the prettiest spectacle in racing. Yes, the pack racing at the track does produce close-quarter racing and exciting finishes, but it also causes an abnormal amount of wrecks and attrition. Races at superspeedways like Daytona often become a battle of survival, more than a battle of speed and skill.

Obviously, this style of racing can be a nightmare for anyone participating in Fantasy NASCAR contests, including NASCAR DFS at Fanduel. In fact, I believe building lineups at Fanduel for the superspeedway events is a little tougher than it is for DraftKings contests because there are fewer points award for place differential.

As a result, the emphasis is shifted even further towards finishing position, which is almost impossible to predict at the superspeedways. Your best bet for success still involves building in a bunch of differential points by loading up on drivers starting deeper in the field, but to take down a bigger tournament, you are also going to need to roster five drivers who deliver strong finishes.

Make sure to check back after Thursday night's qualifying races for my final DFS picks for Fanduel, but until then, here is a closer look at the drivers I expect to target when constructing lineups for the 2020 Daytona 500.

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Must-Own Drivers

Joey Logano ($14,000)

Strong finishes carry a ton of weight in Fanduel's scoring, and Logano has been the best at delivering great finishes at the superspeedways recently. He has scored the most points of any driver in the last 10 races, and his six Top 5s in that stretch are two more than any other driver. Logano has also led the most laps of any driver in those same 10 races, leading double-digit laps in all four superspeedway races last year. He's the total package.

Denny Hamlin ($13,000)

Hamlin is one of those drivers who always seems to be in the mix for the win at the superspeedways. He won the Daytona 500 last year for the second time in his career, and his four Top 5s in the last 10 superspeedway races are tied for the second most of any driver. Three of those Top 5s have come in the last five races alone. Hamlin is one of the best bets to deliver a strong finish Sunday.

Ryan Blaney ($11,000)

Team Penske can make a strong case for being the dominant organization at the superspeedways, and Blaney has been one of the beneficiaries. He has led laps in six of his eight superspeedway starts in the No. 12 Ford, tying for the series lead with 177 laps led in that span. Blaney went to victory lane at Talladega last fall, and he has led double-digit laps in both of his Daytona 500 starts for Team Penske, leading a race-high 118 laps in 2018.

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Difference Makers and Value Plays

Erik Jones ($9,500)

Although he has been a boom-or-bust play at the superspeedways, Jones' high ceiling could make him worth a look in GPP contests, especially the deeper in the field that he starts. He kicked off Speedweeks with a win in the Busch Clash, and he has three Top 10s in his last five starts at Daytona, winning the July race in 2018 and finishing third in last year's Daytona 500.

Aric Almirola ($8,700)

Another driver on the short list of "safer" superspeedway plays is Almirola. He is a former winner at both Daytona and Talladega, and over the last 10 races, he ranks fourth in points scored despite missing a race with a back injury. During that same stretch, his 11.4 average finish ranks second in the series, and he is tied for second with six Top 10s. Fingers crossed he starts a deeper in the field.

Austin Dillon ($7,500)

Avoiding trouble is probably the most important factor in superspeedway success, and Dillon has a knack for keeping his nose clean at Daytona. Winning the 2018 Daytona 500 is obviously the high point, but he has seven Top 10s and a 15.1 average finish in 13 total starts at the track. Give him some place differential upside, and I'll welcome him into my lineups.

Ryan Newman ($7,000)

While nobody is a safe pick at the superspeedways, Newman has been the closest thing to bulletproof. He is the only driver who has finished on the lead lap in each of the last 10 superspeedway races, and during that stretch, he leads all drivers with an 8.5 average finish and eight Top 10s. If Newman ends up starting outside the Top 20, you will want plenty of exposure.

Tyler Reddick ($5,500)

Trusting rookies at the superspeedways can be a risky proposition, but there have been plenty of first-year drivers who have had some great runs. Plus, Reddick won at both Daytona and Talladega at the XFINITY level, and he is driving for Richard Childress Racing, an organization that has always had one of the stronger superspeedway programs. If he starts deeper in the field, he could be a sneaky play for GPP lineups.

Ryan Preece ($5,500)

The sample size is small, but you Preece showed enough potential at the superspeedways as a rookie to warrant your attention. He cracked the Top 20 in three of the four races, finishing in the Top 10 in the Daytona 500 and finishing third at Talladega in the spring. If he starts in the back half of the field, I'll be willing to find out if his superspeedway success will continue in his sophomore campaign.

Sleeper Specials

Michael McDowell ($5,000)

McDowell has also logged Top 15s in four of his last five Daytona starts, and he has finished in the Top 10 three times in that span. He is also coming off a solid year at the superspeedways overall. McDowell finished in the Top 15 in three of the four races in 2019, delivering a pair of Top 5 efforts. If the place differential category falls in his favor, don’t hesitate to roster him.

Ty Dillon ($4,000)

I'm not sure if he has a good luck charm, but Dillon does seem to avoid the superspeedway chaos more than most. His 13.9 average finish in the last 10 races ranks fourth in the series, he ranks seventh in points scored over that same stretch. Dillon has finished on the lead lap in nine of those 10 races, and he has been locked in at Daytona, finishing sixth or better in three straight starts.

Corey LaJoie ($4,000)

LaJoie was one of the biggest surprises at the superspeedways last year. He finished 18th or better in all four of the races, and his 10.5 average finish actually ranked third in the series. LaJoie also gained at least 14 spots in all four starts, gaining at least 24 spots and finishing 11th or better three times. Back in the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford in 2020, you may want to roll the dice and hope he can continue his superspeedway magic.

Brendan Gaughan ($2,500)

Don't let the price tag fool you. Gaughan has been a legitimate DFS force at the superspeedway the last couple of years. Over the last 10 races, he has compiled a 17.7 average finish while posting an average place differential of +11.5 spots. Gaughan has gained at least 16 spots in five of those starts, and he gained at least 20 spots in two of the four superspeedway races last year. Look for him to pile up some place differential points this weekend.

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