NASCAR DFS DraftKings Daytona 500 Results: It Was All About Place Differential This Year

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Sergio Balatan

NASCAR DFS Writer.NFL Fan, Detroit Lions Fan and NFL DFS DraftKings player.
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The Daytona 500 preseason build up lived up to the hype. It was exciting to have NASCAR back in season, as well as seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr. back in the Nationwide #88 Chevrolet. If you had money on the line, it was nerve-racking. If you were a superfan of a particular driver, you could have come away disappointed as the race was marred by many crashes taking out big-name drivers such as the reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Matt Kenseth. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin sustained some damage to their cars, making them ineffective by end of the race.

In the end, it was Kurt Busch, who after 16 starts at the Daytona 500, wins his first checkered flag, beating Kyle Larson who ran out of gas on the last lap. Chase Elliott, who has won the Pole Position the past two years in this race, was leading with under five laps to go, but he also ran out of gas. Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, and Paul Menard round out the top five.

One particular DFS strategy worked this year, and that was focusing on the scoring stat, Place Differential. To put that in plain English, the strategy is to “pick the guys starting in the way back”.     For a few of my GPPs, I did setup some pure play Place Differential lineups. Let’s review my Place Differential lineup that cashed, as well as the winning GPP lineup in the $20 NAS Daytona $500K contest.

Place Differential Scoring Stat

In restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega, Place Differential(the difference between a driver’s finish position and a driver’s starting position) is the most important scoring stat in DraftKings. Restrictor plates limit a driver’s speed, so a single driver usually doesn’t run away with the race and the lead changes multiple times. So, the Laps Lead and Fastest Laps scoring stats are not as important at Daytona. Additionally, with this year’s new rule change of breaking the race into Stages(where drivers can earn valuable championship points), the race has intensified and increased the sense of urgency creating even more lead changes and new race strategies.

With the unpredictability, volatility, and chance for the “Big One”(crash) at every Daytona 500 race, any driver who survives can win the race. In my cash games, I try to pick drivers who perform well at Daytona and similar track Talladega such as Keselowski, Earnhardt, and McMurray. But for my GPPs, I load up on drivers who start in the back, focusing on the Place Differential stat.

My Place Differential Lineup

I picked a lineup where I looked purely at drivers starting 20th or worse, expecting that these drivers make their way all the way to the front, and not really worrying about picking the winner. I am sure the NASCAR DFS experts slotted multiple lineups using Place Differential as their only criteria. Here are my six driver lineup and thought process that scored me a modest $30 for my $20 ticket in the NAS Daytona $500K DraftKings contest.

1. Kyle Busch($9400, Started 21st, 40% Owned): -6.00 Points
Even though Kyle Busch has never won at Daytona, Busch is an elite driver and was very attractive starting at 21st. He won Stage 1 but crashed soon afterward.  In retrospect, he was an unlucky choice earning negative points while placing 38th.

2. Jimmie Johnson($10,000, Started 24th, 23.7% Owned): 5.25 Points
Jimmie Johnson had a lousy week, wrecking at both the Clash and Duals and having to go to his backup car. He is also expensive at $10K, so I thought he would be lowly owned for a three-time Daytona winner. He was caught up in a crash that ended his day and finished 34th.

3. Ryan Blaney ($7,300, Started 36th, 40.6% Owned): 82 Points
Blaney performed well in the Clash and the Duals this week, so I thought he was a no-brainer pick since he started 36th. Blaney stayed out of trouble and finished 2nd behind Kurt Busch at the finish. He was the highest DK fantasy performer this week.

4. Martin Truex Jr($9,000, Started 35th, 51.1% Owned): 57.50 Points
Truex Jr. lost the Daytona 500 in a photo finish last year and started 35th. It was hard not to start him at this position, even though he would be highly owned. His car was damaged in a wreck but was competitive at the very end. He faded on the last lap to finish 13th.

5. Kasey Kahne($7,600, Started 26th, 28.1% Owned): 59.25 Points
I thought Kahne was a contrarian pick as he has never won at Daytona, and generally performs poorly at restrictor plate races. I liked his starting position at 26 and value. He finished 7th.

6. AJ Allmendinger($6,700, Started 38th, 33.1% Owned): 79.50 Points
Allmendinger was my “roster filler” as his price fit my salary cap nicely, and his starting position at 38th(out of 40) was quite attractive.

This team scored a total of 277.50 Points, netting $30 for my $20 buy-in. The #1 winning lineup scored 412.75 Points, netting the 5 winners a cool $21,400 each in the NAS Daytona $500K DraftKings contest. The winning lineup consisted of Blaney, Allmendinger, Kahne, Truex Jr., Paul Menard(Started 33rd), and first time Daytona driver, Brendan Gaughan(Started 39th). In the chart below showing the Top 10 Daytona 500 DraftKings Fantasy Points leaders, six of the top seven fantasy points earners were in the winning lineup(highlighted in yellow). Race winner Kurt Busch was 8th in fantasy points.

Great Strategy, But Don’t Go Crazy
Sprinkling in several pure-play Place Differential lineups in your GPPs would have rewarded DFS players with a great return on investment this week. This will be a great strategy for the three remaining restrictor-plate races at Talladega and the July Daytona race. But, don’t go all in and go overweight with lineups with this strategy. These tracks are highly volatile and unpredictable, where a typical big restrictor plate crash at the back-end of the pack could completely wipe out all of these lineups.

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Sergio Balatan

NASCAR DFS Writer. NFL Fan, Detroit Lions Fan and NFL DFS DraftKings player.

Sergio Balatan

NASCAR DFS Writer. NFL Fan, Detroit Lions Fan and NFL DFS DraftKings player.

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