The festivities of Speedweeks are coming to a close and the Daytona 500 is set to begin. It also brings The Great American Race that much closer to dropping the green flag on the 2021 NASCAR season. Every year, drivers take the track in the hopes of winning the biggest, and first, race of the season. There will be paint traded, tempers tested, and plenty of passing as we crown this year’s winner.
Here are some suggestions as you build your DraftKings lineups for the race. They are broken down by price range and do not suggest a full lineup. These are merely drivers to consider when constructing your rosters. I always suggest you do some more research of your own on top of what I offer. Let’s make this a profitable season and above all, let’s have some fun.
Pay Up For:
Denny Hamlin ($10,400)
Denny Hamlin comes in as the highest-priced driver on the slate. He’s certainly earned that price. The coveted Daytona 500 trophy has his name etched on it three times. Two of those inscriptions were carved in back-to-back fashion. In 2019 and 2020 Hamiln secured the checkered flags in the biggest race of the season. He will take the green flag on Sunday looking to be the only driver in NASCAR history to win The Great American Race three times in a row. There will be ample motivation for him to reach that peak which is a great starting point for putting him in your lineup.
What also makes this play worth the massive price tag will be the almost guaranteed points that will come from his starting position. Hamlin hung back for a considerable part of his leg of the Duels on Thursday. He surged late in the race only to get swallowed by a run and shuffled back in the pack. Ultimately, he finished 13th in his heat. He will now roll off from the 25th position on Sunday. Should he win, his 24 points from differential alone will make you happy. Leading laps at Daytona is a tricky proposition, so banking points from differential is a safe way to go.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100)
Here is a chance to get a little sneaky. Brad Keselowski has run historically well at Super Speedways like Daytona. He boasts six points race victories on these tracks since 2005. It’s the most by any driver in that stretch. The catch is he has yet to cross the finish line first in the February running. He’s been wrecked out of three of the last four attempts at the Daytona 500. There are those who will take a look at this and move on from him. What they will miss is the fact that he had been in the top three each of the times he crashed. Should he manage to keep his nose clean this year, the potential for a tidy return on this costly investment is there for the taking.
Keselowski finds himself one position above Hamlin on the starting grid. Once again, place differential comes into play here. Along with it comes the potential for a few laps led as he is not a stranger to finding his way to the front in Daytona. Not to mention, most of the times when fast cars start mired in the middle, they tend to step on it a bit more often. This brings with it several opportunities to post the fastest lap. The ingredients are here to make Keselowski a solid high-priced addition to your lineups. All he has to do is finish.
If You Must Fade:
Aric Almirola ($8,600)
As you begin to work your way down on the price chart, you’ll find that picking a winning driver proves more difficult. So what you are expecting to get from Aric Almirola will come in a few different ways. Because he is starting in the fifth position Sunday, he is in a prime position to lead a few early laps. Given that assumption, a few of those laps will likely end up as the fastest on the track. He should be able to accumulate enough of these points early. This way, should he not take the checkered, he’ll build a solid base upon which to add his finishing position.
That finishing position has a very real possibility of ending close to where he began. Last season, Almirola logged 18 Top 10 finishes. Six of them fell inside the top five. All that was good enough to rank 15th in the field in both categories. A driver that can place tenth or better for half the season is a smart investment. Not to mention, he was the winner of the first Daytona Duel and looked good doing it. He’ll look to take that sprint and turn it into a successful Daytona 500 mile marathon.
Austin Dillon ($8,300)
Austin Dillion is another duel winner who’ll look to cash in his momentum for a chance at the soda spray. He won the second heat of the duel in impressive manner. First, he and the other drivers had to endure a lengthy rain delay. Then, he had to avoid multiple crashes, anxious trackmates, and a last second serge by Bubba Wallace and a few friends to cross the finish line first. His winning move was a harrowing dart through traffic to slingshot his way to victory. All in all, it was an impressive run that put him fourth on the grid Sunday.
Dillon has the distinction of being the last person not named Denny Hamlin to win the Daytona 500. In 2018, Dillion only needed another last lap pass to cap an emotional ride. He drove the famed No. 3 car into victory lane for the first time since Dale Ernhart did it 20 years before. At the time, he restarted fourth in overtime. On the final lap his competition came in the way of Almirola who was in the lead. Almirola got turned, Dillion charged forward and the rest was history. At $8k, he will work to alleviate the cost of your big dogs.
For The Bargain Shopper:
Bubba Wallace ($7,400)
While Dillon may have won his heat of the duel, Bubba Wallace was making most of the noise. Several times in the race Wallace was shuffled back in the pack. Every time, he charged back up to the front. He darted his way through traffic. He bumped a lot of fenders. Whatever it took to give him the shot at the win, Wallace did it. It almost worked. Even still, he will see the green dropped on Sunday from the sixth spot. As with most of the drivers in the front, you are hoping he holds firm somewhere around his starting position with a few fast laps led along the way.
History is not necessarily on his side in this case, but he does have a second place finish to his credit in the Daytona 500. The year Dillon took first, Wallace was able to hold off Hamlin for second. It’s already been proven by Thursday night’s all out blitz on the track that Wallace will not be happy with anything less than a win. His post-race interview said it all despite his second place finish in the duel. He won’t be holding back and will be on the throttle for 200 laps. His results should net you a nice return on your investment.
Daniel Suarez ($5,700)
In what turned out to be the tamer of the two duels, Daniel Suarez had a smooth run to finish eighth. This will start him in the 15th position when the race begins. Of course this does not provide much in the way of place differential, but if he holds on to a top spot, his position score will pay for the price of admission. While he didn’t even sniff a Top 10 finish last season, he posted double digit Top 10 finishes in two out of the three previous seasons. He’s one of five Chevrolets between the 11th and 16th starting position so he will have friends at the beginning. It won’t take much for Suarez to help you here and his upside at his price makes it easier to swing at the fences elsewhere.