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NASCAR DFS Picks and Projections for the Daytona 500

Nick Giffen, AKA @RotoDoc has a Ph.D in mathematics, is a three-time qualifier for the DraftKings NASCAR Main Event. RotoDoc placed 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th in the $125k DFS tournament for The Clash at Daytona in 2017, one year after placing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the same event. In 2016, RotoDoc finished 8th out of over 20,000 entrants in the $400k DraftKings NASCAR Daytona 500 slate after being in 1st place going into the last lap. In 2017, RotoDoc finished in 8th place in the $300k Daytona 500 slate. Here are his NASCAR DFS picks and projections for the 2018 Daytona 500.

The field is set for the Daytona 500, and thanks to a wild Duel 1, there are some very strong drivers starting at the back. DraftKings has a $600k guaranteed prize pool (GPP) tournament with a $20 buy-in for Sunday’s race. I’ll break down the Daytona 500 slate, and give my NASCAR DFS picks, fades, and machine learning model projections for Sunday’s Great American Race.

If you’re new to daily fantasy NASCAR, or simply need a refresher, check out the restrictor plate section of my track types article. Brush up on your general GPP strategy and game theory if you want to have a shot at taking down first place. If you’re more of a cash game player, check out how to target high floor drivers and remember, at a track as wild as Daytona it is not a requirement to find a race dominator.

Make sure to look out for my DraftKings NASCAR Daytona 500 slate strategy article, coming out tomorrow morning, where I’ll talk roster construction tips, and GPP game theory to help you for Sunday’s slate. Also, be sure to check out tonight’s RotoViz Live show, where I’ll break down all 40 drivers, dive into strategy, and answer all your questions for Sunday’s race, live on my Twitch page at 9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT.

In a short time, the Optimizer, the Splits App, and the Sim Scores will be updated as well.

For now, let’s get to the NASCAR DFS picks and projections.

NASCAR DFS Model Projections

The model projections assume that the driver finishes the race – hence why you don’t see any average finishing positions lower than about 21st. The Pts column shows the average DraftKings points for races when the driver finishes the race. The Pts column is calculated by the following formula:

Pts = (44-Finish) + (Start – Finish) + (LL/4) + (FL/2)

Here are the model projections, followed by my NASCAR DFS picks for the Daytona 500.

Alex Bowman113.7611.364.0822.3675005.9%
Denny Hamlin210.6622.513.2531.93980015.4%
Ryan Blaney39.2611.254.2233.4186007.1%
Chase Elliott410.7919.284.3533.421020016.4%
Joey Logano59.1717.474.1937.13960019.3%
Kevin Harvick611.0812.323.5632.70990017.6%
Darrell Wallace Jr713.353.194.2127.2168008.9%
Erik Jones812.066.344.3331.6384006.6%
Ricky Stenhouse Jr912.185.343.7431.85890014.7%
Clint Bowyer1010.934.334.1335.29820010.0%
Kurt Busch1111.545.493.8735.2387009.4%
Kyle Busch1211.8010.674.0237.091000022.9%
Ryan Newman1314.721.654.4430.2066008.0%
Austin Dillon1415.242.274.3430.2579009.4%
David Ragan1517.571.423.4325.9462006.0%
Paul Menard1614.942.074.5832.9270009.2%
Daniel Suarez1714.271.844.3635.1072008.6%
Trevor Bayne1815.831.594.3932.9369008.5%
Jamie McMurray1912.422.785.1441.42800022.5%
AJ Allmendinger2018.020.864.4930.4159007.5%
Chris Buescher2116.561.054.3034.2961007.9%
Michael McDowell2216.630.854.3435.1358005.1%
Ty Dillon2316.090.784.4037.21640014.4%
Martin Truex Jr2411.259.414.4150.06950034.7%
Brendan Gaughan2518.571.173.7634.0352004.3%
Kasey Kahne2614.333.503.4043.92650022.8%
Jeffrey Earnhardt2720.190.643.6332.6049002.4%
Danica Patrick2816.410.704.2641.48560019.9%
Justin Marks2920.700.623.2833.4048003.8%
D.J. Kennington3020.300.713.5735.3747004.7%
Brad Keselowski3111.1816.834.1058.901040058.2%
Corey LaJoie3220.010.733.6638.0050006.8%
William Byron3314.971.564.4449.67730026.5%
Gray Gaulding3420.890.592.6837.7146005.4%
Jimmie Johnson3511.944.614.4858.52910050.4%
Matt DiBenedetto3619.951.054.0842.40540010.9%
Aric Almirola3715.881.014.0951.55770023.5%
Kyle Larson3812.638.794.2661.07930050.8%
David Gilliland3920.100.813.1444.5851006.8%
Mark Thompson4021.680.552.6142.0945006.8%

NASCAR DFS Picks – Cash Games

Kyle Larson ($9300) — Larson starts 38th thanks to a crash in the second Duel race. Larson nearly won the race last year, and was one of the top three or four drivers in 2017 prior to a late-season sequence of DNFs. Remember, the Daytona 500 is all about place differential, so a top-tier driver starting 38th is a cash game lock.

Jimmie Johnson ($9100) — Don’t worry about all of Johnson’s crashes. Most of them can be attributed to bad luck. Certainly his two crashes this week were a result of bad luck, rather than any lack of skill on his part. Starting 35th is about as safe as you can get in cash games with a two-time Daytona 500 winner.

Brad Keselowski ($10,400) — Team Penske has been the team to beat so far at Speedweeks, and the Penske trio of Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney were en route to another Daytona race placing all three cars inside the top four until Keselowski got caught up in a last lap crash battling for a top five. He also won The Clash, and alongside his teammate Logano, should be considered one of the favorites to win the race. He starts 31st thanks to that crash in Duel 1.


Almost any driver starting 30th or worse — Seriously. The nature of the Daytona 500 means there will be multiple drivers starting in the 30s that end up in the winning lineup. Don’t count out someone like Matt DiBenedetto or David Gilliland surviving the wrecks and scoring a 13th place finish on the heels of mass carnage. I’d probably avoid much exposure to Gray Gaulding as that car is incredibly slow, and the team is under-funded, and he starts 35th instead of 40th. But the rest I’d consider having a percentage of if you multi-enter contests.

Kasey Kahne ($6500) — Kahne hasn’t had a superb car so far at Speedweeks, but he’s been able to hang around the pack and move forward at times. The thing with Kahne is, people just don’t like rostering him. He had one of the lowest residual scores (Actual ownership – predicted ownership) in all of 2017 among my ownership projections, and was incredibly low owned in The Clash and lower than I expected in the Duel. If he survives carnage, he’s a great GPP play. I also think Danica Patrick grabs more ownership percentage being $900 cheaper with a lot of chalk in the back and starting two spots farther back. I’m going play the percentages, and have more Kahne than Danica.

Jamie McMurray ($8000) — I don’t normally recommend drivers inside the top 20 at plate tracks, but McMurray will be my exception. He’s been incredibly aggressive at getting toward the front, and if he gets there that should keep him out ahead of the mayhem, unless he’s one of the ones starting it. Starting 19th still gives plenty of place differential, but it’s not so far back that it’s going to be hard for him to work his way to the front. If you sort the model projections by points, McMurray falls into a tier with drivers starting 26th or worse, so consider his potential to score about the same as someone like Danica Patrick’s, but with probable lower ownership.


Alex Bowman ($7500) — An obvious fade, but don’t be tempted by the dominator points. Bowman has little-to-no experience being out front at a plate track, and I expect plenty of other cars to lead the race and have a far better shot of winning this than Bowman.

Darrell Wallace Jr. ($6800) — Bubba put on a fine display at the Duels, but you could see his inexperience in the final laps as he was unable to get help to get around Blaney, and ultimately lost second place to Logano at the line. It’s going to be near impossible for a Daytona 500 rookie starting seventh to end up in the winning lineup.


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