Mike Forbes previews the 2021 Season Kickoff race at the Daytona Road Course!!
The 2021 NASCAR season starts this week with a whole lot of racing from Daytona International Speedway. If you were looking to get your feet wet with NASCAR DFS you will have chances almost every day this week right through Sunday.
The first race of the week is Tuesday night’s Busch Class on the road course at Daytona International Speedway. The 35-lap race will be featured on the road course for the first time in NASCAR’s history. To be eligible to race in the exhibition race you had to qualify through one of the followingways-2020 Busch Pole Award winners; past Busch Clash winners, Daytona 500 race winners, and Daytona 500 pole winners who ran full time in 2020; 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers; 2020 NASCAR Cup Series race winners; and 2020 NASCAR Cup Series stage winners.
This year’s field is made up of 21 drivers competing for the first checkered flag of the season. Although this race is an exhibition there is still a hefty payout for winning the race, which means there should be plenty of action. NASCAR’s commitment to road racing has given the series a chance to add the wrinkle of putting this race on the infield course which should make owners happy as there should be a lot less torn up racecars when this race is over.
If you recall last year NASCAR ran it’s first ever race on this configuration when it was forced to move the races from Sonoma to the less COVID strict Florida racetrack. Chase Elliott beat out Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick to take home the checkered flag and continue his dominance on road courses.
When the drivers come back to the road course in a couple weeks there is no reason to believe that Chase should not be the favorite once again. This race however like most exhibition races adds a small wrinkle and that is the starting lineup is determined by a blind draw that happens Monday night. So as of this article we do not have any information on where any of these guys will be starting.
The other negative to any driver who must start in the back is that there is a planned pit stop on lap 15. That means usual road course pit strategy is not an option to get your driver out front.
There are a couple of drivers who we want up top in our lineup no matter where they start. As a matter of fact we want these drivers starting in the back because they are so good on road courses that they will not only finish in the top ten (if not win) but would rack up a lot of points moving up through the field.
Those two drivers are Chase Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. Both of these drivers are excellent when turning both left and right. Chase is $10,500 currently on Draft Kings and Martin is $10,000.
Both of these drivers will be heavily used at the top of most lineups and with only 21 drivers to choose from we need our driver to finish up front so I am going with Chase Elliott as my number one pick for this race.
For the number two driver in my lineup I am looking for another driver who no matter where they start can get in the top ten if not top five. I like drivers like Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman in this area. Ryan Blaney is currently sitting at $8,600 and that feels about right for where he is expected to finish. Blaney is a driver who has a lot of upside on road courses but in his start at the road course last year he had a disappointing 31st place finish. Alex Bowman on the other hand finished 12th last year but that was in the 88 car. This year he moves into the 48 in which Jimmie Johnson finished 4th last year.
This may be a do or die season for Alex as he is expected to live up to his and his teams lofty expectations and I believe they start off strong Tuesday at DIS so I am going to give Bowman the nod for this race.
For my 3rd and fourth lineup spots I like quite a few drivers in the $8000-$7500 price range. The one that sticks out to me is Kurt Busch. Kurt is not putting up finishes like he was when he won the cup in 2004 but he is still a solid racecar driver. He has the capability to finish in the top five in an event like this. He has some road racing success in his career and at only $7400 he provides us with some solid value and may allow us to pay up later in our lineup build.
Joey Logano at $8100 is another driver to look at as we build out our lineup. With the short field we need to take a few chances so if we can save some salary and go contrarian we start to build in some solid value.
So if we go with Kurt Busch here that leaves us with $24,200 to build out the bottom of our lineup and we should be able to sneak in some top tier drivers if we build it right.
If we leave Joey out of the 4th spot then in 4 and 5 we can pick two of these three drivers who I really like here. Erik Jones at $7,200 is a solid pick here. Erik takes over the 43 car vacated by Bubba Wallace when he moved to the new 23XI car. Erik is a solid racer who was often forgot about at Joe Gibbs Racing. He has something to prove and he is a decent enough road racer that I like his chances of a top ten.
Matt DiBenedetto is a guy who has a lot of potential and is priced for value. At $6,900 a top 15 (depending on his starting spot) is what we need from him. Last year in a full field race that is exactly where he finished (15th). Ideally he improves on that with only half a field so if he gets in the top ten we are doing really well.
The guy I really love is Chris Buescher at $5,900. Buescher and the 17 team have not had many bright spots recently however one of those came last year on the Daytona Road Course where he finished 5th. If we can get anything like that this time around we will gladly take it at that price.
So in the 4th and 5th spots I am going with Erik Jones and Chris Buescher. You can argue for Matt DiBenedetto over either guy but I think this provides us with the most value and opens up any remaining driver in the field for our final spot.
The obvious choice here is Martin Truex Jr. Having both Martin and Chase in your lineup with the build we made is a huge advantage especially without guaranteed starting spots. If one or both these guys start in the back we get even more value.
As a matter of fact, even if we did use both of these drivers we would still have $1,100 to play with and upgrade any other spot in our lineup.
Here are my rankings for the Clash:
- Chase Elliott ($10,500)
- Martin Truex Jr.($10,000)
- Denny Hamlin ($9,600)
- Kyle Busch ($8,900)
- Kevin Harvick ($9,200)
- Alex Bowman ($7,900)
- Kurt Busch ($7,400)
- Joey Logano ($8,100)
- Chris Buescher ($5,900)
- Brad Kesolowski ($8,400)
- Ryan Blaney ($8,600)
- Erik Jones ($7,200)
- William Byron ($7,700)
- Austin Dillon ($5,700)
- Aric Almirola ($6,600)
- Ryan Newman ($5,600)
- Matt DiBenedetto ($6,900)
- Tyler Reddick ($6,300)
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($6,100)
- Cole Custer ($5,800)
- Ty Dillon ($5,500)
Stay tuned as we preview the entire Speedweek’s action from DIS!
You can follow me on twitter @mikejforbes for updates.