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NASCAR DFS Strategy: The Clash at Daytona

The first race of the 20176 NASCAR season is almost here! DraftKings has released a NASCAR DFS slate for The Clash at Daytona. I’m hoping to repeat last year’s success, where I finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the $100k GPP for this very slate. I’ll break down my NASCAR DFS strategy for this unique slate. This NASCAR DFS strategy article will tell you what you need to know before the field is set by a random draw at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday.

The Clash at Daytona Format

The Clash at Daytona will feature 17 cars racing for bragging rights, and the all important cash prize. The first thing to note is that the starting order will be set by a random draw. The race features 75 laps broken up into two segments. The first segment is 25 laps after which NASCAR will throw a caution flag. From there, it’s a 50 lap race to the end.

Additionally, no Sprint Cup championship points are on the line, so drivers tend to be more aggressive in this format. As a result of this – and due to the nature of restrictor plate racing in general – we’ll typically see multiple wrecks. Each of the last two years, only 12 of the 25 cars finished on the lead lap, and in 2014 only eight of the 18 entrants were still running at the end. This produces a significant amount of unpredictability. Therefore you need to adjust your cash game and GPP strategy accordingly.

NASCAR DFS Strategy — Cash Games

With only 17 cars starting the race and only 75 laps, there are fewer total points available. There are only 598 points available for finishing position, and a maximum of 56.25 points for laps led and fastest laps combined if the race has 75 green flag laps (which it almost surely won’t). That means 8.6 percent of the total points available are dominator points, so we should be focusing on place differential and high finishing position, rather than dominator points. Therefore — and I can’t stress this enough — pick drivers starting further back in the field.

Use the NASCAR Splits App to find strong plate racers, then select from those starting in the back half of the field. After that, pray they don’t get caught up in “The Big One.” Another good strategy is to use drivers that have a low DNF rate at restrictor plate races. Here are DNF rates for the drivers in the field at Daytona, and at all the restrictor plate races going back to 2005 when loop data became available.1

Driver Day.N Day.DNF.Pct RP.N RP.DNF.Pct
Kevin Harvick 24 0.17 48 0.17
Denny Hamlin 22 0.14 44 0.2
Austin Dillon 7 0.14 14 0.21
Kurt Busch 23 0.22 47 0.23
Matt Kenseth 24 0.29 48 0.27
Joey Logano 16 0.19 32 0.28
Brad Keselowski 15 0.33 31 0.29
Jimmie Johnson 24 0.33 48 0.29
Kyle Busch 23 0.26 46 0.35
Jamie McMurray 24 0.33 48 0.35
Martin Truex Jr. 23 0.3 47 0.36
Alex Bowman 3 0 8 0.38
Danica Patrick 9 0.56 17 0.47
Chase Elliott 2 1 4 0.5
Kyle Larson 6 0.67 12 0.5
Chris Buescher 2 1 5 0.6

NASCAR DFS Strategy — GPPs

With GPP strategy, it’s still important to find the driver that starts from the back and makes his way to the front. However, the goal is to score as many points as possible, and that can also be done from picking a driver that starts mid-pack and finishes up front.

With place differential the known strategy for GPPs, we have to find ways to differentiate, but in a smart manner. I’ll use some game theory to find three differentiation strategies.

  1. Focus solely on ownership percentages. Because 50 percent or more of the field typically gets eliminated from this race, ownership percentages should be king when deciding who you play. Chalky drivers have a very good chance of crashing out and picking up very few points, so go underweight on these drivers. We will know more about these drivers after the random draw on Friday, and I will post who I think the chalk will be in my picks article on Friday.
  2. Go a bit underweight on drivers starting approximately 14th-17th, and go heavier on drivers starting approximately 8th-13th. That’s not to say don’t use drivers starting 14th or worse, because obviously they have the most points available for place differential. But it’s a known fact in the NASCAR DFS community that starting further back on a plate track is advantageous, so I expect ownership percentages to be inflated on these drivers. If there is a big crash early that wipes out some or all of these drivers, that will be to your advantage. This happened in the July race at Daytona last year, where all six of my cash game drivers got wiped out in an early wreck. The winning lineup had a bunch of drivers that didn’t start between 20th and 39th instead of 30th to 40th.
  3. Don’t use up all the salary — especially in the lower stakes tournaments where there are more casual and new players. New playesr tend to want to fill the salary cap. Filling up the salary cap, or getting close to it, is not needed at restrictor plate races. My winning lineup from last year used only $48,900 of the $50,000 cap.

Weekend Coverage

We’ll know more specifics after the random draw on Friday. Be sure to check back Friday for my cash game and GPP picks, as well as my machine learning model projections. Additionally, Matthew Freedman and I released a podcast where I talk NASCAR DFS strategy, so be sure to check that out.

  1. Note, Daniel Suarez is in the race but isn’t listed in the table because he has never made a restrictor plate start in NASCAR’s top series.  (back)
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