Well, we’ve reached the final race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. Daytona International Speedway bookends the season with the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero Sugar 400. These races are high variance and can turn into a bit of a snoozefest if they run single file in the middle portions of the race. In some cases you may see drivers drop to the rear at the beginning of the race. If you’re unfamiliar with superspeedway racing, the field runs in one giant pack. They’ll refer to this as “drafting” and it can be boring to watch on TV. However, it’s phenomenal to see live. Daytona tends to invite chaos and many wrecks. Avoiding “The Big One” is crucial to our NASCAR DFS success. Here are the top drivers and strategies for this week’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 preview.
To start off, this kind of racing is horrendous for DFS. For a while, they were easy for Cash games because you could stack the back and have those drivers move up and score well as everyone in front of them wrecked. For Tournaments, these races are complete lottery tickets. Laps led are hard to gauge unless you nail the one driver who can lead 30-40 laps and not wreck. Fastest laps are more spread out amongst the field. But these races are exciting because anybody can win them. We’ve seen smaller teams score wins here and because of the variance, it’s almost better to place wagers on this race rather than play DFS. But you are here for some drivers to consider, so here we go.
Coke Zero Sugar 400 Preview: The Top Picks
Ryan Blaney (#12 Ford)
Ryan Blaney has simply been very consistent at Daytona. He won this race two years ago and finished fourth at the 2022 Daytona 500 where he led over 30 laps. This past Spring he finished eighth. Even at Talladega he’s won twice and finished runner-up in the last two races. He’s also finished top ten in three straight races at Atlanta. Overall, you could realistically stack him in NASCAR DFS lineups with other Fords and other Team Penske drivers. The way the front nose of the Fords is designed makes them perfect for drafting and pushing each other to the front in this type of race. Blaney is an easy favorite to win Saturday night’s race.
Bubba Wallace (#23 Toyota)
Whether you like him or not, Bubba Wallace is a great superspeedway racer. In the Cup Series, he’s raced at Daytona 12 times and only finished worse than 20th one time and he only has three wrecks. He’s finished second at Daytona on two occasions but scored his first career Cup Series win at Talladega. Perhaps the knock on Wallace is that there aren’t many Toyotas to draft within the field. However, he does tend to work his way to the front in these races and does have some win equity. He may just try to race for points as he tries to secure the last playoff spot. However, we can’t deny how good he is for this kind of race.
Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet)
If you read last week’s Watkins Glen DFS Preview, you know I was convinced Chase Elliott would have a solid run and win. Clearly, that didn’t happen. He ran out of fuel with over 30 laps to go and lost the lead lap. So it all comes down to Daytona. In his last 13 races at Daytona, he’s led 20+ laps in four of them and he’s finished as the runner-up here twice since 2020. He’s a solid superspeedway racer as he’s won twice at Talladega and he has a win at Atlanta’s new configuration. It’s all or nothing for Elliott. He needs a win to make the playoffs after last week’s fueling debacle.
Coke Zero Sugar 400 Preview: Wouldn’t Bet Against Them
Brad Keselowski (#6 Ford)
Brad Keselowski is a high-upside play. But he also has a very low floor. In 13 of his last points-paying races at Daytona, he’s wrecked in ten of them. That’s not a ringing endorsement for a driver in DFS. But he does have a win here from his time with Team Penske. On top of that, he was contending on the final lap of the 2021 Daytona 500 running second, but he and Joey Logano wrecked which gave Michael McDowell the win. He led 42 laps here in the Spring and led 67 laps in last year’s Daytona 500. Since 2016 he’s led at least 30 laps here on five occasions. If he can manage to just finish the race, the upside is massive.
Alex Bowman (#48 Chevrolet)
I’m mostly putting Bowman in the early preview because of track position. Track position is everything at a superspeedway. Since joining Hendrick Motorsports he’s started on the front row seven times in 11 races. Again, if you can bet pole winner, he’s worth it. And starting on the pole isn’t necessarily a blessing. If he goes backward, he’s costing you fantasy points. But he also does need a win. He’s never won at Daytona, but he did finish fifth here in February for the 500. He needs a win to qualify for the playoffs so even if he is on the pole, I don’t think that’s enough to scare me away from playing him in DFS.
Austin Dillon (#3 Chevrolet)
Austin Dillon has raced Daytona 20 times in his Cup Series career. He’s truly an all-or-nothing kind of play in DFS. He’s wrecked here four times. But on the other side of the coin, he won this race a year ago to sneak into the playoffs. He also won the Daytona 500 in 2015. In addition to the pair of wins, he has nine top-10 finishes. Even at Talladega, if he isn’t wrecking, he’s usually finishing in the top 15. He drafts well and may not garner a ton of ownership in DFS.
Coke Zero Sugar 400 Preview: The Sleepers
Daniel Suarez (#99 Chevrolet)
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Suarez. He had a very fast car at Indianapolis for the road course but a slow pit early on cost him track position in a race where his car could have won. Then last week he spun early at Watkins Glen and lost a ton of track position. He’ll need a win to make the playoffs. Suarez’s full career resume on superspeedways isn’t great. But since joining Trackhouse Racing he’s done well. He finished top ten in the last two Talladega races. He also started 24th and finished seventh at Daytona in the Spring. He’s even finished sixth or better in three of the four races at Atlanta the last two years.
Corey LaJoie (#7 Chevrolet)
LaJoie always has tracks like Daytona, Talladega, and Atlanta circled on his calendar. He knows it’s the best chance for his team to get a win. He’s raced here 13 times with seven finishes of 15th or better. Historically he’s also a driver that qualifies deeper in the field. That means he could be a cheaper position differential target. But he’s not really a hidden gem for this type of race anymore. Everyone knows he moves up well in these races and is an underdog that can over-perform. In the last five summer races at Daytona, he’s started 25th or worse. The position differential should be available to us again on Saturday. If LaJoie is too chalky for you, then you could also consider Erik Jones. Jones has a very strong resume on superspeedways.
Ty Dillon (#77 Chevrolet)
If we’re high on LaJoie why not consider his teammate and brother of another driver listed in this article? Ty Dillon was one of my favorite leverage plays for the Daytona 500. You can imagine my disappointment when he had an early engine issue. But last year with Petty GMS Motorsports (now Legacy Motor Club), he had a pair of top-20 finishes here. Even with Germain Racing in 2019, he finished fourth and sixth at Daytona. Dillon bounced back from the engine issue at Daytona with a 14th-place finish at Talladega after starting P32 and he grabbed a top 20 at Atlanta. Ownership likely won’t be very high, and he probably starts deep in the field. I’m willing to go back to the well and play him again at Daytona.
Coke Zero Sugar 400 Preview: Driver To Fade
Kyle Larson (#5 Chevrolet)
How about a new section just for this weekend, shall we? I’m almost confident I’ll have zero interest in playing Kyle Larson on Saturday. Historically, he’s not a great superspeedway driver. And his ownership numbers are always juiced up. What’s a great way to have leverage on the field in NASCAR DFS for a superspeedway race? Leave money on the table and avoid Kyle Larson. In the last four Daytona races, he’s started on the front row for each of them. He hasn’t finished top 15 in any of them. In fact, he’s wrecked in all four. At Talladega, he has one top-15 finish in his last seven races. He’s wrecked in three of the four races at “new” Atlanta. Unless he starts deep in the field, I have zero interest in Larson for DFS.