The NASCAR Cup Series stays at Daytona this weekend, trading the high speeds and pack racing of the traditional oval for the twists and turns of the track's road course. Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 253 at the Daytona Roval is the second race of the 2021 season, and while the action on the track will be night and day compared to last weekend's Daytona 500, the winning strategy for NASCAR DFS isn't completely different.
Last weekend, the impact of the dominator categories was limited by the pack racing. On Sunday, dominator points will be limited by the number of laps. The Daytona Roval is a massive course, and the scheduled distance of the race is just 70 laps.
With dominator points tougher to come by, the value of a strong finish and place differential points are naturally inflated. Needless to say, drivers starting deeper in the field who have the potential to finish near the front become the obvious top plays.
While you don't need to completely sell out and stack the back this weekend like you did for the Daytona 500, I do recommend having plenty of exposure to quality drivers starting in the middle of the pack or deeper, and after last weekend's chaos, there is no shortage of options.
In cash contests, I am going to stick almost exclusively to a combination of drivers who are starting outside the Top 20. The exceptions will be Martin Truex Jr., who starts 19th, and pole-sitter Chase Elliott. For GPP contests, I will be pivoting off of some of the place differential-heavy plays for some mid-pack options with Top 10 upside. Don't sleep on the value of a strong finish, even if it means sacrificing some differential points.
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,000)
Truex has finished seventh or better in eight of his last nine road course starts, winning three times and finishing sixth or better six times. Set to start 19th, he has the most place differential upside among the favorites to contend for the win. Invest heavily in all types of contests.
Chase Elliott ($10,700)
The dominator categories won't carry as much weight as normal in a 70-lap event, but Elliott has been absolutely dominant at the road courses the last couple of years. He has five wins, including four straight, in the last eight races, leading at least 27 laps in all five victories. Starting on the pole, Elliott has to be considered the favorite to win both dominator categories and the race.
Ryan Blaney ($10,400)
He has seven Top 10s in the last 10 road course events, including four Top 5s in his last six starts. Blaney picked up a win at the Charlotte Roval during that stretch, and he was battling for the win on the final lap of the Busch Clash at the Daytona Roval earlier this year. From the 27th starting spot, Blaney has a great chance to deliver differential and dominator points while contending for the win.
A.J. Allmendinger ($10,200)
Allmendinger hasn't been in a road race at the Cup level since 2018 when he finished seventh at the Charlotte Roval, but don't expect much rust from the veteran. After all, he has notched nine Top 5s, including four wins, in 11 XFINITY road course starts during his Cup Series layoff. Kaulig Racing should give him a solid car, and Allmendinger has to start outside the Top 30. Pencil him in for a bunch of place differential points and a big point total.
Alex Bowman ($9,000)
After the elite road course options, Bowman has been as reliable as any driver out there. He has a 9.6 average finish in eight road course starts in the No. 88, cracking the Top 10 in three of his four Roval starts. Set to start 36th, Bowman should be one of the biggest movers and safest bets for a hefty point total.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,100)
After an impressive showing across the three road course events in 2019, DiBenedetto managed a 15th-place finish at the Daytona Roval last season. He will start outside the Top 30 Sunday, so you already know he has the differential category working in his favor. Even if he can't recapture his Top 10 form from a couple of years ago, DiBenedetto should still cruise to a safe, solid point total.
Erik Jones ($7,800)
He was a Top 10 threat at the road courses with Joe Gibbs Racing, and while you can expect a lower ceiling from Jones now that he is the No. 43, he should still be able to challenge for a Top 20. Starting way back in 37th, he should easily post a solid score thanks to the place differential category.
Chris Buescher ($7,200)
Cheap options with high floors are cash lineup staples, and Buescher checks both boxes. He rolls off from the 30th spot, but he has a 15.1 average in the last 10 road course events, cracking the Top 20 in all 10 starts.
Kyle Busch ($10,000)
Thanks to their superior upside in the place differential category, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney are going to be the popular options to build around and pair with Chase Elliott. However, you could separate yourself from the pack by pivoting to Busch. He has some differential upside from the 14th starting spot, and he won the Busch Clash at this track to kick off Speedweeks.
Denny Hamlin ($9,800)
He led 16 laps on his way to a second-place finish at the Daytona Roval last year, and Hamlin led the most laps at the same track during the Busch Clash earlier this month. Chase Elliott is the best bet to win the dominator categories, but Hamlin starts in the Top 5 and could be a great contrarian.
William Byron ($8,800)
Byron is my favorite GPP option this weekend. He has finished sixth, eighth and sixth in the last three Roval events, leading 20-plus laps twice and consistently showing Top 5 speed. Starting just outside the Top 20, I love him as a pivot to Martin Truex Jr. or Ryan Blaney.
Kurt Busch ($8,600)
He has seven Top 10s in the last 10 road course events, including a fourth-place finish at the Charlotte Roval last year. Busch's Top 20 starting spot should keep his ownership in check, making him an ideal pivot candidate to guys like Alex Bowman, Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto.
Chase Briscoe ($8,400)
Briscoe will be making his first Cup start at a road course Sunday, but he managed seven Top 10s, including a couple wins, in 10 starts at the XFINITY level. It wouldn't be a shock to see him challenge for a Top 10, and I expect him to be overlooked with so many recognizable names starting deep in the field.
Ty Dillon ($5,600)
The equipment at Gaunt Brothers Racing leaves a lot to be desired, but Dillon was a Top 25 performer at road course for Germain Racing, and Daniel Suarez managed finishes of 27th and 25th in the two Roval events last year for this race team. Starting 38th, Dillon is a potential punt play.
NASCAR guru Brian Polking has been committed to producing Fantasy NASCAR coverage for nearly a decade and written countless articles for his devoted audience who swear by his advice year after year.