Race Weekend Central

Daily Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings Forecast: 2023 Daytona 500

It’s finally time for the NASCAR Cup Series to run at Daytona International Speedway for its first points race of the 2023 season.

With that comes Frontstretch’s daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings forecast for the Daytona 500, airing Sunday, Feb. 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

Daytona is one of two big superspeedways on the NASCAR circuit, with Talladega Superspeedway the other. You could also consider Atlanta Motor Speedway as similar to these tracks, as it’s high in speed and the field is more bunched together than before its reconfiguration. It’s just about 1 mile shorter than the other two.

The iconic season opener is prestigious; everybody wants to win this one. As a result, aggression ramps up throughout the race at the end of stages and in the final laps.

This creates a bit of chaos sometimes, which could be frustrating for DraftKings users. How do you choose your drivers when they might get caught up in a crash?

Well, certain drivers seem to have a knack for drafting and avoiding the wrecks. They’ll often have more top 10s than others; the more recent, the better.

Sometimes it’s as simple as picking drivers starting in the back. Other times, it’s like last fall’s Talladega race where hardly any cars wrecked. Even in that event, quite a few cars that began further back gained spots on the track.

I recommend doing the single-entry contests or, if you want to have a better chance, multiple lineups in the multi-entry contests.

Before I share my DraftKings picks, let’s review the scoring rules.

The winner on the racetrack tallies 45 points, while second place gets 42, third 41 and so on. Tenth place scores 34, while 11th gets 32, and decreasing by one from there through 20th. This pattern repeats for 21st through 30th and 31st through 40th.

Additionally, drivers can earn or lose a point, depending on where they finish. For example, if Bell started third and won, he would gain two points in addition to his finishing position points, totaling 47 fantasy points.

See also
Jimmie Johnson Takes Friday Daytona Cup Practice

Drivers also can earn .45 for each fastest lap and .25 for each lap they lead.

NASCAR DraftKings Scoring

Also, I will be hosting a free NASCAR DraftKings league that will run each week for the Cup Series only. It’s free to join, but as of now it’s just for bragging rights. You’ll get to compete against me and some of my colleagues.

Here is the link to the league:

2023 Frontstretch NASCAR DraftKings League

Now, here are my picks!

Note: Stats below include Cup only at Martinsville Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway

DraftKings Picks: Top Tier ($9,000-$10,400)

Denny Hamlin ($10,300)
Career at Daytona: 34 starts, 3 wins, 11 top fives, 12 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 16.8

Though last year’s Daytona 500 didn’t work out well for him (finishing 37th), Denny Hamlin is still a worthy choice in any superspeedway race. He’s a three-time champ of this event and is usually able to hang around at the end to contend for the win.

He’s starting 18th Sunday, so he can definitely score some bonus fantasy points if he finishes well.

The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has a top five in each Daytona 500 from 2018-2021 and one additional top five in the summer race there. Plus, at Talladega Hamlin has six top fives and eight top 10s in the last 13 events, including a victory in 2020. Look for Hamlin to be up front when the checkered flag flies.

Ryan Blaney ($10,100)
Career at Daytona: 15 starts, 1 win, 4 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 18.1

Ryan Blaney is another driver who is stellar at these drafting tracks. Last year he helped to push his Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric to the victory before hitting the wall at the end. He still came home fourth, earning his second straight top five at Daytona (winning in 2021). Blaney also has a pair of runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2020.

Last fall at Talladega, Blaney came in second after starting in 19th, leading 31 laps in the process. Though it was just his second top 10 in the past five events there, he still has a couple of wins in fall 2019 and the first 2020 race.

Could Blaney win his first Daytona 500 this weekend? That may be what he needs to do for DraftKings purposes, since he’s starting seventh. Otherwise, a crash could set your score low.

Bubba Wallace ($9,400)
Career at Daytona: 11 starts, 0 wins, 4 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 12.4

Blaney may have pushed Cindric for much of last year’s race, but it was Bubba Wallace who just missed getting his first Daytona 500 victory. Cindric edged him out at the finish line.

It was actually his second consecutive runner up and third overall at the 2.5-mile oval, with the first one coming in 2018 with Richard Petty Motorsports (now Legacy Motor Club), and the next one in fall 2021 with 23XI Racing.

Wallace also has a win at Talladega, in the rain-shortened event in fall 2021.

He’ll start a few spots ahead of his Toyota cohort Hamlin in 15th, so he might not score very high this time on DraftKings. Wallace should still produce a good score, though, if he gets another top five.

(Also consider Kyle Busch at $9,600)

Middle Tier ($7,100-$8,800)

Austin Cindric ($8,200)
Career at Daytona: 3 starts, 1 win, 2 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona:

I was a bit surprised to see Cindric this far down the running on DraftKings. I mean, he’s the reigning Daytona 500 champ. He’s on my initial group of drivers I’m considering.

See also
Thinkin' Out Loud Special Edition: Conor Daly's Miracle Saves Some Lackluster Daytona Duels

The only problem for the driver of the No. 2 Ford is that he’s starting up front just ahead of Blaney. However, earning two top fives for both Daytona races in 2022 is enough to keep him in my lineup. He also snagged a ninth last fall at Talladega after starting 17th, showing that he’s learned how to finish well from some of the best superspeedway racers in Blaney and Joey Logano.

Austin Dillon ($8,000)
Career at Daytona: 19 starts, 2 wins, 4 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 14.7

Austin Dillon has two victories at Daytona, which includes the 2018 season opener when he bumped Aric Almirola on the last lap en route to the win. Most recently, he won last summer after a small patch of rain wiped out half of the field that was left. After the race resumed, Dillon was scored as the leader and eventually got back to the front by the end, nabbing his spot in the playoffs.

There were 10 cars on the lead lap. Not exactly flashy, but a win’s a win, right?

Dillon also has two top fives and five top 10s at Talladega, with three top 10s in the last seven races. Last spring he placed second, while the previous year he finished eighth.

This year he has a new colleague at Richard Childress Racing in Busch. Busch has proven not only to want to work with Dillon on the racetrack (the pair placed second and third at the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum), but also that Busch’s still fast on the superspeedways (crashed out while leading in the second duel). I expect both to be up near the front by the end, if the Chevys can work better together.

Low Tier ($4,500-$6,900)

Ryan Preece ($6,800)
Career at Daytona: 6 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 19.3

Welcome back to the Cup Series, Ryan Preece! What better time to play him than in his first points race of the year?

No, seriously, Preece is a good option this weekend. In half of his starts at Daytona, Preece finished in the top 10 while with JTG-Daugherty Racing, including each race in 2021. His numbers aren’t as good at Talladega, as he only has two top 10s there, one of which is a third in spring 2019.

Now Preece is in a Ford, the No. 41 of Stewart-Haas Racing. SHR is fairly good at working together (especially with other Fords) and getting in the top 10 at the end. I fully expect the same Sunday.

Michael McDowell ($6,500)
Career at Daytona: 23 starts, 1 win, 3 top fives, 8 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 20.3

I’m a little wary about playing Michael McDowell this week because he’s starting 11th. However, he was on my radar long before Thursday’s duels, as he’s a pretty good plate racer.

He’s the 2021 Daytona 500 champion and finished seventh last year after starting sixth. Additionally, in 2019 the Front Row Motorsports pilot placed fifth in the Great American Race.

At Talladega, the Arizona native has two top fives and three top 10s in the last four races. McDowell can avoid the chaos and thread his way through the field to the lead.

Justin Haley ($5,600)
Career at Daytona: 5 starts, 1 win, 1 top five, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Daytona: 14.2

Before Thursday’s duel races, I had Corey LaJoie in my first roster. However, he’s now starting 12th, just behind McDowell, so I switched to Justin Haley.

Haley’s also a Daytona winner, though mostly by luck. In 2019 a big wreck happened, then the rain came. Those in front of him pitted, so he inherited the lead and won after lightning halted the race.

But Haley added another top 10 two years later, a sixth place. Plus, the No. 31 Kaulig Racing driver has two wins each at Daytona and Talladega in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

A 28th-starting position is all the more reason to place him in your DraftKings lineup.

About the author

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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