The Monster Energy Cup series returns for the second Daytona race of the year, for the Saturday night Coke Zero 400 race. As usual, races at Daytona are exciting due to the restrictor plates, where cars cannot run away from the pack and lead changes are very common on any given lap. Of course, with cars generally driving closer together all the time, “The Big One” can occur at any time, where multiple drivers are involved in a crash, ending the day for some.
Because of the volatility of Daytona races and that no lineup is really safe for a cash lineup, I only submit GPP lineups for these restrictor plate tracks. No cash lineups for me this week. This is my preference as I have found that my cash lineups get torn up pretty easily after a few crashes and that my GPP lineups cash more at both Daytona and Talladega(another restrictor-plate track).
The DFS Strategy to Use: Place Differential
Place Differential is the difference between a driver’s starting position and his/her finishing position. A positive place differential is when a driver starts in the back and finishes in the front or higher than his starting position. In the Daytona 500 in February, the winning lineups contained several of the drivers starting in the 30th or later position. Multiple crashes wiped out many big named drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Only the lucky survived, and several of them happened to be from the back. Ryan Blaney took 2nd place starting from 36th. AJ Allmendinger took 3rd after starting 38th, while Paul Menard took 5th starting in the 33rd position.
So, many of my lineups will be overweight with drivers starting from 18th place to the back of the pack.
My Top 6 Drivers for the Coke Zero 400
Martin Truex Jr.( $9,700): Martin Truex Jr. is having an excellent year. He leads all drivers in Stage wins. Last week at Sonoma, he was running first for a good part of the race, but engine problems doomed his day to finish 37th. In the 2016 Daytona 500, Truex lost to Denny Hamlin in a close photo finish. He is a very attractive play this week as he starts 25th.
Joey Logano($10,000): Logano has the highest average finish at Daytona in the last 5 races over all other drivers. Logano won the coveted Daytona 500 in 2015 and has a stellar performance of three Top 10’s in the past 3 races. Even though he starts near the front in 7th, he could easily win the race as he is getting desperate for a win.
Denny Hamlin($9,900): Hamlin won the Daytona 500 in 2016 edging out Martin Truex Jr as mentioned above. His average finish in the past 5 races at the Daytona Speedway is 8.40, which is right behind Joey Logano. He starts in the 18th position, so I really like this former Daytona winner here.
Kyle Larson($9,200): Week in and Week out, Larson performs well in every race by either winning pole positions, working his way to the front to lead laps, or finished 1st or 2nd in a lot of the races this year. After a disastrous start at Daytona in his first 3 races in his career, he has made a nice comeback with two Top 10’s in his past 3 races. I like him here as he starts in the 21st position.
AJ Allmendinger($6,500): Can AJ do it again with another Top 5 finish? He finished 3rd in the Daytona 500 earlier this year but will be hard pressed to even make the Top 5. However, you just never know in a volatile race like this. He starts in the 27th position and has a nice affordable price tag.
Austin Dillon($7,900): Austin Dillon does fairly well at Daytona with five Top 10 finishes at this racetrack. His highest finish is 5th, and he starts in a favorable Place Differential position at 19th.
Making a Case for Dale Earnhardt Jr.($10,300)
It’s hard for me to pick Dale Earnhardt Jr for my DFS lineups as he has been really under-performing this year. His best finish was 5th in Texas but that was very early in the year. At this point, he needs to win to make the playoffs. This is his best chance to do it as Daytona is one of his best tracks where has won here four times, with thirteen Top 5’s and 19 Top 10 finishes.
This week, he does have a fast car and qualified for the pole position for the Coke Zero 400. While the pole position is not ideal for place differential for this race, being out front does have a few advantages. With a fast car, he can pick up some Laps Lead points to offset any negative Place Differential points. Also, by being out front in the clean air, he can avoid the “Big One” as they occur behind him. I will sprinkle him into a few of my lineups, but buyer beware as momentum is a big part of racing, and Dale Jr. does not have any right now.