Restrictor-plate races are so freaking hard to predict, which makes them fun to watch but agonizing when there’s money on the line.
So for those playing DraftKings this weekend — and there’s a $350,000 total payout contest, so that includes me — a bit of extra strategy is needed. I hopped on the phone with DraftKings’ Pearce Dietrich on Friday morning to go over some lineup ideas for the race.
“What I’m going to suggest is going to make people throw up a little bit,” Dietrich said. “Don’t even worry about the drivers or track history. If you look at the past leaderboards, you just pick guys from the back. It sounds crazy, stupid, ridiculous, but the best starting position on the optimal lineup in the Daytona 500 was 26th.
“You’ve got to take the guys at the back. It happens at every plate race. But no one wants to do it.”
Dietrich is right: It’s not exactly appetizing, but the best bet is to rely heavily on place differential. DraftKings scoring is plus or minus one point for every position gained, and laps led (0.25 points) and fast laps (0.5 points) just aren’t going to matter as much at Daytona. So it’s banking on drivers who qualify poorly but end up surviving the wrecks and finishing well.
The best possible lineup in the Daytona 500 was Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Michael Waltrip, Brendan Gaughan and Kasey Kahne. At last summer’s Daytona race, it was Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Trevor Bayne.
Those lineups involved leaving lots of salary cap money on the table ($10,000 for the 500), but it doesn’t matter. Dietrich said to resist the urge to take drivers who start in the top half of the field.
“It’s like, ‘Yeah, right, you’re crazy, I’m picking Denny Hamlin because he’s good at the plate tracks,'” Dietrich said. “But that’s not going to win you $50,000.”
That’s why my lineup for Daytona is Landon Cassill, Ty Dillon, David Ragan, Elliott Sadler, Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Whitt — all of whom start 25th or worse. And even that might be a little too high in the lineup.
My lineup of Daytona drivers was $11,900 under the salary cap — which seems nuts, but that’s supposedly the right call.
“Even when people read this, it’s still going to be hard to leave money on the table,” Dietrich said. “But the facts are there. This is how you win. Do this for just one week only and go back to the normal strategy next week.”
I’m playing DraftKings this season and will be posting my picks here each week. Disclosure: If you want to play and sign up using this link, DraftKings will give my website a commission. Disclosure No. 2: I might be America’s worst daily fantasy player.
Last race’s results: Played $8 MEGA Beast and finished 9,600th out of 47,000; won $12.
Season results: $38 wagered, $49 won in 12 contests.
This week’s contest: $9 Firecracker ($350,000 total payout).