NASCAR Picks for Daytona
Length: 2.500 miles
Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
For the third time this year drivers will have to deal with the chaos that comes with restrictor plate racing when the Cup Series visits Daytona International Speedway Saturday night for the Coke Zero 400. The summer event at the track may not have the same aura surrounding it as the season-opening Daytona 500, but that doesn't mean the wrecks aren't just as big and the outcome just as unpredictable. Plain and simple, this weekend's race is one of the few on the schedule that almost every driver believes they can win and one of the few races that every driver knows could end with them being involved in a violent, multi-car wreck.
For fantasy owners, there aren't many things as frustrating as a trip to a restrictor plate track. One bobble or ill-timed tap by any driver on any lap can wipe out a dozen or more cars in the matter of seconds. There really isn't a safe spot on the track or safe strategy that a driver can use to survive and avoid the carnage, and there isn't a safe strategy for fantasy owners either. That being said, I always recommend minimizing the potential damage as much as possible depending on the format. In any fantasy league that limits the number of times a driver can be used or in leagues where a different driver has to be used every week, this is one of the races to rely on the lesser-known, sleeper drivers in the series. For one, it prevents a wasted start from a big name if they happen to get caught up in a wreck. Meanwhile, the race is also one of the best chances to score a solid finish out of some of the bottom feeders in the series.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he blew a motor while dominating the Daytona 500 earlier this year, Kenseth has still finished third or better in three of his last four starts at the track. Meanwhile, he leads all drivers in wins, top-five finishes, top-10s and laps led at restrictor plate tracks since the start of the last season. During the stretch, Kenseth has scored 24 more points and has led 363 more laps than any other driver.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
The Daytona 500 continues to elude Stewart, but he has owned the July event at the track. He is the defending winner of this weekend's race and has won at Daytona in July four times since 2005. There is something about this particular race that brings out the best in Stewart.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
Junior hasn't won a plate race in a while, but he has remained one of the best drivers in the series when it comes to handling the draft. Dating back to the start of last season, he has scored the third-most points at superspeedway events. At Daytona specifically, he has four top-five finishes since 2010, including three runner-up efforts.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
While he has never won a race at Daytona, Bowyer has had a knack for piling up solid finishes. Since the start of the 2003 season, his 15.5 average finish at the track is the fourth best in the series. Since the start of last year, Bowyer has also scored the sixth-most points at the plate tracks overall.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His two plate track wins have come at Talladega, but Keselowski has been close to adding Daytona to the list recently. He finished eighth at the track last summer and followed it up with a fourth-place run in this year's Daytona 500. Throw in the fact that he has scored the second-most points in the series at plate tracks since 2012, and Keselowski is a fairly safe pick by Daytona standards.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has been an innocent victim in both of the big wrecks Kyle Busch has triggered at the plate tracks this season, but Harvick's overall numbers at the superspeedways remain solid. He has been particularly strong at Daytona where he is a two-time winner in his career. More importantly, Harvick has finished seventh or better four times in his last seven starts at the track, winning the July event in 2010.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he is still searching for a superspeedway win at the Cup level, Edwards has quietly become one of the more reliable fantasy options at Daytona lately. He has finished in the top 10 in six of his last eight starts at the track, and he has finished sixth or better five times in the last six July events. Edwards might not win this weekend, but a top-10 finish can be as good as a victory at Daytona.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
After struggling at the plate for most of his career, Biffle has come on strong lately. He has scored the fourth-most points in the series at the superspeedways since the start of last year, and his 110 laps led during the span are the second most of any driver. At Daytona, Biffle has finished sixth or better twice in his last three starts.
Paul Menard, #27 Menards, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Menard has emerged as a silent assassin at the plate tracks for fantasy owners in recent years. He doesn't get a lot of hype, but he has an 11.6 average finish at Daytona since 2011 and has finished in the top 15 four times in five starts during the stretch. Menard also has three top-10 finishes in the five races, so he has plenty of upside.
Jeff Burton, #31 Caterpillar/Cheerios, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
The veteran has actually been a fairly reliable option at the superspeedways recently. Since the start of last season, Burton ranks fifth in the series in points scored at the plate tracks. He has four top-10s in six starts during the stretch and has finished in the top five in two of his last three Daytona starts.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
As his victory in the Daytona 500 to open the year suggests, Johnson can never be counted out. That being said, he has been wildly inconsistent at Daytona and has actually finished outside the top 25 in five of his last seven starts at the track. A season sweep at Daytona can't be ruled out, but fantasy owners probably want to save him for another day in leagues that limit the number of times a driver can be used throughout the year.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Logano is in the middle of a nice little hot streak at Daytona. He has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four starts at the track, compiling an 8.8 average finish during the stretch. Logano has also finished in the top five in his last two starts at Daytona in July, so a big night isn't out of the question.