NASCAR O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 Monkey Knife Fight Picks

February 20, 2021

What better way to follow up a wild Daytona 500 than to reconfigure the track, reload, and hit it again, and to play in a NASCAR Monkey Knife Fight contest or two? This week, the green flag drops on the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at the Daytona road course. 

Chase Elliot will attempt to repeat as champion of this race as he took first in last season’s Daytona road race. Kyle Busch took the checkered last week in a non-points race as a part of the Speedweeks festivities. This is the backdrop for this week’s Monkey Knife Fight NASCAR contests.

Scoring in these contests is based on finishing positions inside the Top 20 with 20 points awarded to first place. An additional 0.1 points are tacked on for each lap led. Below are some picks to help you get started in your MKF contests.

More Or Less

Kyle Busch More Than 14.5 Fantasy Points

For this bet to cash, you are looking for Kyle Busch to finish in 7th or better and lead at least six laps along the way. Thankfully, there is a better-than-average chance he will do that this week. He masterfully avoided the last lap kerfuffle between Chase Elliot and Ryan Blaney to take the checkered at the aptly named Busch Clash last weekend on the same course he’ll run this Sunday. It was certainly a much more favorable finish than his last attempt at the Daytona road course. 

Last season, he crashed out of the Go Bowling 235, the first running of the modern road race on the historic track. Last week, he managed to survive several big wrecks to find himself in seventh place for a three-lap showdown to end the race. He’s coming off at 15-1 odds to win, which is tied for sixth with Brad Keselowski. Given those odds, a Top-10 finish should be in reach. His win at the Busch Clash snapped a rough two-year stretch on road courses. The 2019-2020 seasons were not kind to him, finishing 30th or worse three straight times. Before that, though, he went four seasons without a finish less than seventh on road races from 2015-2018.

A.J. Allmendinger Less Than 13.5 Fantasy Points

At first glance, this pick might seem obvious. But, if you do a little more digging, you might not feel the same. Over his career, A.J. Allmendinger has had some sporadic success on road tracks. But where this gets dicey is that he has yet to see this track configuration, nor has he seen a Cup Series race since 2018. 

He will enjoy a free preview when he takes the track the night before in the Xfinity race. Even still, for him to cash this bet, he’ll need to place inside the Top 8 in an unfamiliar car, with drivers who have already had some Cup level experience on the track. It would be a Michael McDowell-type Cinderella story if Allmendinger were to win on Sunday. At this point though, a finish high enough to make this bet hit seems like a slipper that won’t fit.

Rapidfire

Kevin Harvick (+1.5) More Fantasy Points Than A.J. Allmendinger

It might seem like I’m picking on Allmendinger, but the odds are really not in his favor for a big run this Sunday. As was established, he hasn’t driven a Cup car since 2018. He has no experience on the Daytona road course. He’s in a new car. The list goes on. On top of all that, he’s giving the equivalent of a full position with five laps led to Kevin Harvick. The same Kevin Harvick who just logged a 15th place finish at the Busch Clash last week. Also, the same Harvick that posted a 17th place finish on the course last season. Harvick is in the twilight of his storied career. He has a lot more to drive for and will edge Allmendinger out in this instance.

Kyle Busch More Fantasy Points Than Ryan Blaney (+0.5)

This contest will make you sweat more than you might be comfortable with. Both Blaney and Busch figure to have solid runs this week, so this will come down to the assumption that Busch will have a better day overall. And he should. He won the exhibition race last week and, except for the last two seasons, has had a decent level of success on road tracks. The half-point lead for Blaney here is not enough to tip the scales in his favor. Busch will win this head-to-head matchup without even needing to lead a lap.