The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by value of each driver. Note: fppk = average fantasy points per $1,000 of salary.
1. Chase Elliott ($11,000) - It is hard to ignore Elliott’s potential score this weekend. He can score 72 points, but it’s more likely that he wrecks. He has more skill and a better car than most of the field, but that does not matter. Wrecks are not a product of a driver’s skill, it’s the product of another driver’s skill. (4.1 fppk)
2. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($8,300) - His average finish at the plate race tracks is the fourth best (since 2016), but he hasn’t earned a top 10 finish at Daytona since his win in 2017. He only has two top 10 finishes at Daytona in his last nine races, but he’s starting 31st. It’s hard to fade a top car starting outside of the top 30. (2.9 fppk)
3. Bubba Wallace ($6,600) - In six Daytona races, Bubba has five top 15 finishes. That’s great, but 15th isn’t good enough, and that’s typically where he finishes. A 10th place finish is not good enough for Bubba. A top 5 might seem like a stretch, but if this race is Fury Road, then anyone can earn a top 5. (3.8 fppk)
4. Michael McDowell ($6,900) - His Daytona stats are significantly better than his Talladega stats. McDowell has been in the most Daytona optimal lineups (4). He’s starting 26th. DraftKings DFS players can’t ask for anything more, but that means his ownership will be high and worth a contrarian fade in GPPs. (5.0 fppk)
5. Denny Hamlin ($10,400) - He’s won three of the last nine Daytona races, and two of the last three. Those are great numbers, but plate wins are overrated. His optimal lineup appearances are due to place differential points, not wins. In the 2019 Daytona 500, Hamlin won and was optimal, but if it wasn’t for nine place differential points, he would not have been optimal. (5.1 fppk)
6. Ty Dillon ($6,100) - There are two questions DraftKings DFS players have to ask themselves this week. Is the driver starting near the back and have they survived plate races in the past? Ty Dillon checks both boxes. (4.1 fppk)
7. Ryan Blaney ($10,000) - He’s won the last two Talladega races, and finished several feet behind the leader in the 2020 Daytona 500. It’s fair to pretend that he’s won the last three plate races. Blaney is either lucky or good, and it doesn’t matter which one it is. (4.2 fppk)
8. Aric Almirola ($8,100) - Is Aric Almirola the best plate racer in NASCAR? He has eight straight top 10s at Talladega, but he has not been as good at Daytona. Despite the difference in results, Almirola understands plate racing. He has been in eight optimal lineups in the last 18 plate races. (4.4 fppk)
9. John H. Nemechek ($6,800) - There is an imaginary line somewhere towards the back of the field. Does that line separate the top 20 from the back of the field or is that line closer to 30th? Nemechek is near this imaginary scoring line. It’s math or maybe it’s greed, but the drivers with a top 20 starting position that survive the mayhem do not score enough points. JHN has scored over 48 points in both plate races this season. (4.2 fppk)
10. Ryan Preece ($5,800) - In the past, the JTG Daughtery cars typically played it safe and cruised in the back until the end. Now that Stenhouse is on the team, that strategy has gone out the window. Preece could still play it safe and get another solid plate finish, but what’s the point? He’s already destroyed a dozen cars this year. He may lose his ride. Why not push for the win? (3.2 fppk)
11. Christopher Bell ($7,500) - Chasing place differential from the worse options is definitely a strategy this weekend. Bell has not been good or lucky in his first two plate races, but that can change because this race is pure luck. Half of the field will wreck Saturday night. Maybe three-quarters of the field won’t be on the lead lap. If Bell is the lucky one-quarter, then he’ll be optimal. (3.7 fppk)
12. Ross Chastain ($7,100) - The rules are different this week. The strategy is pretty simple - pick drivers starting in the back. If that driver survives the mayhem, then he’ll score over 20 place differential points and be optimal. The problem is that some drivers do not survive the mayhem, and worse yet, some drivers, like Chastain, create the mayhem. (3.7 fppk)
13. Brendan Gaughan ($8,600) - The Daytona 500 was his last final race (it was actually the 5th or 6th time that he’s retired, I’ve lost count), but then he came back for one last race at Talladega, and then another retirement race at the Daytona Road Course. He’s back again and he’s starting in the very back. Narratives do not mean anything this weekend. Only starting position matters. (5.5 fppk)
14. Kevin Harvick ($9,200) - Everyone expects this race to be the craziest Daytona race ever. It’s the last chance for drivers to make the playoffs. A regular Daytona night race is crazy, so this will be wild. That means everyone is chasing place differential and no one is playing Harvick. (5.8 fppk)
15. Ryan Newman ($6,500) - Over the last 19 plate races, he has the second best average finish (13th). Newman finishes in the same spot, no matter the track, but this week his consistency is an achievement. It’s one thing to finish 15th every time at an intermediate track, but it’s another thing to finish inside the top 15 every time at a plate track. (3.3 fppk)
16. Brad Keselowski ($9,600) - His transformation from the best plate racer in NASCAR to the worst is unbelievable. DFS players have been waiting for BK to turn it around for the last two years, but it has only gotten worse. He won plate races in 2016 and 2017, but he has failed to earn a top 10 in each of the last three seasons. (4.8 fppk)
17. Joey Logano ($9,400) - The kingdom of plate racing is constantly at war. No one is the king for long. The reign of Dale Jr. was followed by Keselowski. Logano then usurped the title, but it’s been a year since Logano earned a top 10 at a plate track. The new ruler has not emerged, but the throne is vacant. (3.7 fppk)
18. Erik Jones ($9,800) - He needs to win to make the playoffs. His career might be on the line, as well. Desperation is never a good thing, but in GPPs, it’s what DFS players want. If Jones settles for a top 10, it doesn’t help him or DFS players. It’s all or nothing. (3.8 fppk)
19. Clint Bowyer ($7,600) - No one is good at plate racing anymore. The stats are clear, not one driver is consistent and can be trusted. Bowyer was once a trusted plate racer, but now he’s as risky as anyone in the field. Over the last ten plate races, Bowyer has two top 10 finishes and an average finish of 21st. (3.9 fppk)
20. Chris Buescher ($6,000) - In the last six Daytona races, Buescher has four top 10 finishes. Three races were top 5 finishes. Strangely enough, the question is not about where Buescher can finish. The question is about his starting position. Is 17th too close to the front? (3.8 fppk)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is greenflagradio2) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.