After a crash-filled Daytona 500 to open the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, many fantasy owners could probably use a strong showing in this weekend's O'Reilly Auto Parts 253 at the Daytona Roval.
Granted, the action at road courses can get also get a little wild, and Sunday's race will be just the second time the Cup Series has raced at Daytona Roval. Still, there has been a core group of drivers who have dominated road races, and fantasy owners can capitalize to build a strong base to their lineups in all formats.
Yes, there is a little concern that the pit strategy will cause the top drivers to miss out on stage points, but that wasn't the case in last year's race. The fastest drivers were able to earn stage points and maintain track position, and I am expecting more of the same this weekend.
I actually had a tougher time building my lineup for Slingshot than I did for Fantasy Live or the Driver Group Game. The chaos of the Daytona 500 and NASCAR's formula for setting the starting lineup has a ton of quality options starting deep in the field. In the end, I tried to target the drivers with the best combination of finishing potential and place differential upside.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Stage points can be tricky at the road courses, but Elliott picked up 14 stage points on his way to a win at the Daytona Roval last year. He will start from the pole Sunday as he guns for his fifth straight road course win, and I'm expecting a dominating performance out of the No. 9 bunch.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has finished seventh or better in eight of the last nine road course events, winning three times and logging six finishes of third or better. Yes, he starts in the middle of the pack, but Truex and Chase Elliott have been in their own zip code at the road courses. He is a no-brainer play for me this weekend.
Hamlin was the runner-up at the Daytona Roval last year, and he led the most laps at the track during the Busch Clash a couple of weeks ago. Throw in a Top 5 starting spot, and I'm expecting him to cruise to double-digit stage points and a Top 5 finish.
He has been locked in at the Rovals finishing sixth, eighth and sixth in his last three starts and leading more than 20 laps in two of those races. More importantly, Byron has earned points in all six stages across those three events. He doesn't have the reputation of a road racing ace, but his production speaks for itself.
Not only is Allmendinger an excellent road course racer, but you don't have to worry about budgeting his starts because he is running a limited schedule. This is a golden opportunity to have a shot at a Top 5 while saving a start from the top full-time drivers.
Garage Driver – Michael McDowell
There is no denying his road racing skills, and with his Daytona 500 win in his back pocket, McDowell can afford to be aggressive this weekend. He finished 12th and 10th in the two Roval events last year, and a front row starting spot gives him a greater potential for stage points. If he is able to hang near the front Sunday, I’ll swap him in and save a start from one of the bigger names in my starting lineup.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Chase Elliott (A)
He will probably be the chalk Group A play this weekend, especially starting on the pole, but it is hard to against the guy who has won four straight road course events, including last year’s race at the Daytona Roval. If you want to pivot off Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. my top alternative.
William Byron (B)
Byron has quietly become an excellent road racer in a short amount of time, and he has been excellent at the Rovals. He has finished eighth or better in the last three races, leading 20-plus laps twice and earning points in all six stages. I think he's a Top 5 play and a sleeper contender for the win.
Kurt Busch (B)
He's not the flashiest road course racer, but Busch has seven Top 10s in the last 10 races, including a fourth-place run at the Charlotte Roval last year. Group B has a little more muscle than usual this year with Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson in the mix, so I don't mind using a start from Kurt to give myself a great shot at a solid finish.
A.J. Allmendinger (C)
Michael McDowell from the front row is another intriguing pick, but even though he starts deep in the field, I think Allmendinger’s upside is on another level. He finished seventh at the Charlotte Roval in his most recent road course starts at the Cup level, and he has piled up four wins and nine Top 5s in 11 XFINITY road course starts since then.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Martin Truex Jr. ($12,300)
Truex has been nipping at Chase Elliott's heels for the title of best road course racer, logging three wins and six Top 3 finishes in the last eight races. While Elliott starts on the pole Sunday, Truex has 30-plus place differential points up for grabs.
Ryan Blaney ($11,200)
He nearly won the Busch Clash at the Daytona Roval earlier this month, and Blaney has four Top 5s in the last six road course events, including a win at the Charlotte Roval. Starting 27th, Blaney could push for 50-plus place differential points.
William Byron ($10,600)
His teammate Alex Bowman has more differential points available and a solid road course resume, but Byron starts outside the Top 20 in his own right and has been a borderline Top 5 driver at the Rovals. I'll roll the dice on Byron's higher ceiling.
A.J. Allmendinger ($8,700)
I think he will be another chalk play Sunday, but it is hard to pass up one of the best road racers in NASCAR from the 34th starting spot. Allmendinger has nine Top 10s, including a win, in 21 road course starts at the Cup level, and he has spent the last couple of years crushing the competition on road courses in the XFINITY Series.
Ty Dillon ($7,200)
With guys like Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Newman and Erik Jones all starting outside the Top 30, you could certainly go with a balanced approach but swapping out someone like William Byron or Ryan Blaney. However, I am going with more of a punt play for my final roster spot in order to roster four guys with Top 5 potential and plenty of differential upside. Dillon's ceiling is probably a Top 25, but from the 38th starting spot, he's practically a lock to gain positions.
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.
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