The Silly Season had a handful of important driver shuffles, the most notable being the signing of Kyle Larson to Hendricks Motorsports. We’d also get the announcement of a brand-new team partnership between former NBA Player Michael Jordan and NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin. Former Petty wheel-man Bubba Wallace will serve as the teams sole driver for 2021.
Fair warning for DraftKings players before we kick off the season: There have been a few adjustments made to the points system. This includes changes to positional scoring. Positions two through 10 will be the only spots that remain unchanged. Drivers that finish among the 31st to 40th positions will be hit the hardest, with each driver receiving three less points than last season.
Minor tweaks were also made to the points setup for both fastest lap and race winner. For the fastest lap, instead of receiving 0.50 points per lap, it has now shrunk to 0.45. Additionally, the race winner will receive one less point this year, decreasing from 46 points to 45. Points through laps led will remain unchanged.
Without further ado, let’s delve into the driver options for Sunday’s Cup Series event. I have broken down my selections between high salary, mid-range, and value play. Included are player salaries from both FanDuel and DK. Best of luck to everyone with their lineups this Sunday, let’s build upon last season.
Ryan Blaney (13,300 FD 10,000 DK)
With Hamlin being a back-to-back Daytona winner, you know he’s going to have a lot of fantasy hoopla surrounding him. Instead, I’m going to bypass the chalk and focus on last year’s runner-up. If you crunch the numbers on Blaney’s Daytona stats, you’ll see that he has a knack for keeping himself within striking distance late in races. In four of his last eight Daytona visits, he has finished third or better in the second stage.
Blaney will come off the line 14th, which is deep enough in the field that it offers point value in terms of place differential, fastest lap, and laps led. Having finished second at this event twice over the prior four seasons, one could certainly make the argument for Blaney being the best current cup driver not to win the big one.
Brad Keselowski (12,500 FD 10,100 DK)
We know Keselowski can compete with the best of them on restrictor plate tracks. Keep in mind this is the same driver that has won five times at Talladega. It’s nothing Keselowski has done wrong necessarily, more so his unfortunate luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Consider last year’s event for example. A mistake by a fellow driver would take him out of the running. In fact, he led 30 laps prior to the wreck and was pushing hard inside the top five.
Having qualified so deep in the field with the powerful Ford camp in his corner, I’m prepared to roll the dice on Keselowski. Don’t forget it was here in 2019 that he finished 12th overall after having begun from the 35th starting position.
William Byron (10,200 FD 9,000 DK)
Given that Byron has a best finish of 21st in his three Daytona attempts, you might consider him a gamble play. However, he will have a few things going for him this weekend that you must consider. Byron has shown he can hang out front and lead numerous laps. Two years ago he led 44 laps here to go along with a 114 driver rating. He will be starting opposite teammate Alex Bowman on the front row, so it will be up to Byron to take full advantage of the moment. Additionally, with Larson as a new teammate, it’s going to be interesting to see how they jell as draft partners. Larson has performed well here in the past.
Chris Buescher (7,300 FD 6,900 DK)
Arguably one of the most underrated cup competitors when we come here to Daytona, Buescher is not a name a lot of people would ordinarily look at. However, over the past half-dozen Daytona races, he ranks second (trailing only Hamlin) in both top-five and top-10 finishes. In fact, many fans may have forgotten that Buescher picked up a podium result here last February.
During Wednesdays practice run, he would complete nine laps while hitting a speed of 197.811. This ranked him 14th among the 44 drivers that participated. If he is able to go deep into this race without suffering any serious mishaps, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Buescher challenging for a possible win. He qualified 23rd among the drivers, so there is a lot of opportunity for picking up numerous positions.
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