Fantasy NASCAR Analysis: (FREE) – Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona

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Do-da do-da do-do-do-do do-do-do Daytona!


In the past, the simple theory was stack drivers from the back at plate tracks. If you can shrink your player pool, then you might be able to win a GPP. In 2017, it worked every time. In 2018, that method has been a disaster, or at least it has seemed that way. The wrecks have happened, but they have been discriminate. The drivers in the back wrecked. The good plate drivers wrecked. It seemed that only the average drivers starting close to the front did not wreck in the Daytona 500.


It’s back to the drawing board, but honestly, it was foolish to believe that we had figured something out. That all we had to do was play drivers in the back and count our money. It’s a plate race, anything can and will happen. That anything can be 160 green flag laps. It could also mean eight cars on the lead lap at the end.


The MME guys do not have as much of an edge this week. Typically, this is a week where they take their biggest hit. Plate lineups mean dead lineups for everyone, and if you enter a lot of lineups, then that’s a lot more dead lineups. With the way the GPP payouts are structured, unless you produce a lineup that is in the 99.99998 percentile, then you will lose money this week. A lot of the very smart MME DFS NASCAR players stopped mass entering plate races a year ago. Some, are still lured in by the large payouts. If they don’t finish second, then they’re losing money if they maxed out their entries. Third place will likely split the payout several ways and barely cover the entries cost. Theoretically, the very sharp MME guys will sit this one out or play a lot less, which is good for the regular player. That’s theoretical, I’m not an MME player nor do I like to set money on fire. Maybe, with less MME players entering, then MME players that do enter will have an edge, but if an MME player believes this, then they all end up entering, and that small edge is gone, and they all lose money. What do I care? Why do you care? It’s dart throws.


What if you knew how the race was going to play out? What if you knew that Daytona would, for the most part, be a single file follow the leader lap turner? Do you suppose that you would then only roster drivers up front? I don’t think you would. Think about it. If it’s a green safe race, then the first place car does not wreck, but neither does the 40th place car. One of the issues with rostering drivers in the back is that every car in front of the car in the back represents a wreck. If there aren’t any wrecks, the fear is eliminated. At the very end, the field will develop two lines and some cars will move forward. The drivers in the back have the most upside. If there are few  wrecks, the GPP upside still resides with drivers in the back (obviously you will need a lap leader in a green race).


If it’s a wreck fest, first of all, you just want 6 drivers that finish. Unfortunately, you can’t predict who those drivers will be. If it’s a wreckfest, driver skill and equipment is thrown out the window. A Starcom car is better than a wrecked Penske car. Again, the upside rests with drivers towards the back.


Let’s look at this year’s scoring.


Daytona 500 – 2018finish(+/-)FastLedtotalavg posratingfintop 15start$fppk
Ryan Blaney37-42.529.5654132.6797.6386007.6
Austin Dillon46135.50.2564.751884.8140.61479008.2
Aric Almirola332630.2562.251388.91170.13777008.1
Chris Buescher391620571973.3540.12161009.3
David Gilliland30251.5056.52550.2145.839510011.1
Paul Menard38105.50.2553.751091686.51670007.7
Michael McDowell351350531781.4935.82258009.1
Justin Marks32171.50.2550.752752.3124.429480010.6
Denny Hamlin41-145.549.515100.8366.7298005.1
Darrell Wallace, Jr.4252.5049.511101.2278.3768007.3
Kyle Larson2519304720591919.83893005.1
A.J. Allmendinger34101.50.2545.751781.31052.72059007.8
Ryan Newman36540451290.9867.61366006.8
Joey Logano4012.50.7544.2512105.2474.9596004.6
Trevor Bayne3154.5040.51585.21346.41869005.9
Mark Thompson221800403139.72204045008.9
Gray Gaulding241400382545.32010.13446008.3
Martin Truex, Jr.2662.5135.51085.31881.62495003.7
William Byron21102.5033.520612321.33373004.6
Jamie McMurray283103226491601980004.0


Five cars in the DFS top 10 started outside of the top 20.Three cars started 29th or worse. Playing drivers starting the back still works, but the optimal lineup had a driver starting 3rd, 14th, and 16th. That’s why it does not feel like it worked. A very good lineup with drivers from the back likely resulted in a players being in the green. You would have been fine with Almirola, Gilliland (decent plate racer, if that even matters), and Larson lineups.


The optimal lineup does not seem as random as it should be, but the top 20 scores are pretty random and there are plenty of drivers that started in the back that cracked the top 20. Now, at a plate track because of salary freedom, a top 20 score is worthless. A top 10 score doesn’t win the GPP. You need one through six. Possibly the reason that the optimal lineup does not reflect the chaos of plate racing is because the race was too chaotic. Only 10 cars finished on the lead lap.


My overall analysis of Daytona is that playing drivers that start in the back still works.


Talladega 2018pts(+/-)FastLedtotalavg posratingFinTop 15start$fppk
Joey Logano468117.572.56132186.29103007.0
Aric Almirola373310711480.6762.84081008.8
Chris Buescher331420.2549.251970.31136.22561008.1
Alex Bowman3633.56.5491296.8864.41176006.4
David Ragan38650491788.1654.81263007.8
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.39251471589.6551.6791005.2
Kurt Busch4203.51.2546.7513110.8270.2286005.4
Ryan Newman35920461772.6946.31869006.7
Chase Elliott4121.5044.51394.8362.85101004.4
Kevin Harvick40-33.5343.511104.4468.6198004.4
Ty Dillon29140.5043.52461.41526.12967006.5
Daniel Suarez3443.50.2541.751775.91052.11470006.0
Matt DiBenedetto251411.541.52251.61914.43352008.0
Kyle Busch31630401296.51376.61996004.2
Cole Whitt231520402253.62115.43648008.3
Kasey Kahne27930.2539.252163.61729.82664006.1
Jimmie Johnson3241.5037.510101.81285.61688004.3
D.J. Kennington241110362947201.63147007.7
Ryan Blaney26530341287.218662390003.8
Gray Gaulding20130.5033.53141.82403751006.6


Five cars inside the DFS Top 10 started inside the top 10. That may be a record. Recency bias may be affecting my perspective. Only two cars started outside of the top 25 (Almirola, again). What I find crazy, is that Chase Elliott drove from 5th to 3rd and scored the 9th most points. If a driver goes from 21st to 10th, which is not that crazy, then they score more than Elliott, but that didn’t happen. It sort of did with Newman going from 18th to 9th. Harvick sets the 10th place cut at 43.5 points. That seems low. At Daytona, it was 49.5 points. Last fall at Talladega, everyone wrecked. Gaughan’s 35th to 19th and 44.5 points set the top 10. The summer Daytona 2017 jumps up to 52.5 points. Spring Talladega 50.25 points. 2017 Daytona 500 53.5 points.


The spring Talladega was a safe race. It looked like a lot of drivers learned their lesson at Daytona. The scores reflect that. Also, drivers complained that the low downforce package made it impossible to pass the top line underneath. If a mini-line formed, drivers would bail and slide up into the top line, if they ever got a chance. Eventually, drivers gave up on two lines.


Are drivers smart? If they’re smart, then they remember the mess that Daytona was. It was the most wrecks in the history of Speedweeks. However, if they’re smart, they won’t run single file. That’s the easiest way to lose. Blaney had the Daytona 500 won, but the drivers got nuts. They formed two lines and got aggressive. Logano won Talladega because the drivers refused to take a chance. The front pack played it sage. The middle pack played it safe. Even the guys a mile behind the action played it safe. If you play it safe, you are guaranteed that you will lose. If you are aggressive, then you are very likely to lose by wrecking, but there is a small chance that you can win.


It doesn’t matter. They all wreck or they don’t wreck at all, it doesn’t matter.The scoring system favors the drivers in the back. Perceptually, drivers in the back are more likely to wreck, but there isn’t any data that supports that. If it does, then it’s not overwhelming.


My expert advice – pick the cars that don’t wreck.


Dart Ranking System. Let’s assume that starting position does not matter. The following is a 0 to 10 scale.


Brad Keselowski – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Joey Logano – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Denny Hamlin – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Kevin Harvick – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Kyle Busch – 🎯🎯🎯
Chase Elliott – 🎯🎯
Martin Truex, Jr. – 🎯🎯🎯
Kyle Larson – 🎯🎯🎯
Ryan Blaney – 🎯🎯🎯🎯
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – 🎯🎯🎯🎯
Kurt Busch – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Aric Almirola – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Jimmie Johnson – 🎯🎯🎯
Clint Bowyer – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Erik Jones – 🎯🎯
Jamie McMurray – 🎯🎯🎯
Austin Dillon – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Alex Bowman – 🎯🎯🎯
Paul Menard – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
William Byron – 🎯🎯
Ryan Newman – 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯
Daniel Suarez – 🎯🎯
Trevor Bayne – 🎯🎯🎯
David Ragan – 🎯🎯🎯🎯
Darrell Wallace, Jr. – 🎯🎯🎯
Ty Dillon – 0️⃣
Kasey Kahne – 🎯🎯🎯
A.J. Allmendinger – 🎯🎯
Chris Buescher – 🎯🎯
Michael McDowell – 🎯🎯🎯
Brendan Gaughan – 🎯🎯🎯
Matt DiBenedetto – 🎯🎯
Ross Chastain – 🎯
Timothy Peters – 0️⃣
Landon Cassill – 🎯
Corey Lajoie – 0️⃣
Joey Gase – 🎯
J.J. Yeley – 🎯
Ray Black, Jr. – 🎯
D.J. Kennington – 🎯
Jeffrey Earnhardt – 🎯


Cars on the Lead Lap in the 500 vs. the 400


year500 LLF400 LLF


Generally speaking, the summer race is more chaotic. For the most part, the red line is below the blue line. It may not seem like much, but that’s overlooking the obvious fact that the Daytona 500 is 500 miles long. That’s 40 more laps. Basically, more opportunities to wreck, but that doesn’t happen. More cars end up a lap down in the shorter race.


There are a couple theoried for this this. The track is hotter and slicker in the summer, but the summer race is at night and the February race is during the day. The 2017 Daytona 500 started with a 73 degree temperature. The temperature at the start of the summer race was 80 degrees. That’s not enough of a difference.


The likely reason for the wrecks is that the drivers are more aggressive in the summer race. The Daytona 500 is the first race of the season. No one wants to start the season with a wreck. Drivers are less likely to make risky moves.


If you listened to the podcast, Phil is in the process of taking over the cheat sheet. We did not kill the cheat sheet, but I thought about it. I can’t because people paid for the service for the year. NFL, NBA, PGA, and MLB have larger player pools. You cannot research every player and every matchup. Even if you bury your nose in the research, you’re going to miss something. Major sport DFS picks articles not only help you find the players that you’ve missed, but it helps you review your own process. They also help out lazy people or busy people.


There are 40 drivers in NASCAR. Ten are worthless. Ten need luck. Ten are decent. Five are top 10 drivers, but not elite. Five are elite. Done. What else do you need to know? The picks are the same every week. My picks are the same. Phil’s picks will be repetitive. Everyone picks the same drivers every week.


There is limited NASCAR data and we all watch the same race. It should not be surprising that we all end up in the same place. Make your own cheat sheet and compare it to the “experts.” They’ll be the same. Congratulations! You’re an expert.


You might think that the experts know the “secret” plays or the low owned GPP plays. No one knows who will wreck. No one knows who will get a pit penalty, or have a bad pit stop. That makes or breaks the mid tier and value plays. Paul Menard in the 2017 Chicago race, got 2 of the 4 lucky dogs and he was in the optimal lineup. What expert predicted that Menard would be the first car down right when two cautions occurred? They didn’t, but I bet they said, Menard is starting near 30th, so you should have some exposure.


Paul Menard’s salary jumped up this week. He finished 28th, so it wasn’t due to performance. It has to be high ownership (don’t look at me, he wasn’t in my article). Menard must have been in a lot of lineups, and he burnt a lot of players. This seems like an ideal spot to play Menard. Over his last 15 races he’s averaging a 19th place finish. His worst finish at Chicago over the last 7 years is 22nd. Menard is fine in cash, but because of last week’s burn, he’ll be under owned in GPPs.


That’s from my Chicago article last year. I must be a genius, or maybe I can see the future. Actually, neither. I thought he was a 20th place car. I had no way of knowing that he would get 2 lucky dog wave arounds and be optimal. The research said he looked good, but luck is such a big factor in DFS NASCAR when it comes to value and mid tier drivers.


The hog predictions… I believe the experts deserve some credit here, but not with punts, value, and mid tier drivers. There is too much “variance.” Which I have learned is professional luck or research based luck.


I want to fade out. Writing a weekly DFS NASCAR Variance Sheet every week has made me feel a little dirty. Phil is a very pious individual, so I am sure his faith will allow him to deal with fate. Besides, most of the people that read cheat sheet, don’t need the cheat sheet. If you’ve had the subscription this year, and have been following along each week, then you’re apprenticeship is over. You’ve graduated. You’ve got your wings. I honestly mean this, you know what you’re doing. Check the spreadsheet, check the cheat sheet, and make your picks. Listen to the podcast if you have the time. I would tell you to read the article, but if you’ve made it this far, then I don’t have to tell you, and if you didn’t make it this far, then how can I tell you?


Enjoy Daytona. Variance does not even begin to describe this DFS contest.


Do-da do-da do-do-do-do do-do-do Daytona!