NASCAR Picks for Daytona
Length: 2.500 miles
Location: Daytona Beach, Florida
Read the Practice Recap & NEW Sleeper Picks
The 2014 Sprint Cup season goes green this Sunday with the 56th running of the Daytona 500. While the "Great American Race" is revered by fans and drivers alike because of its history and mystique, NASCAR's most famous race is also one of the biggest headaches for fantasy owners. The same restrictor plate that keeps the high speeds in in check and created the exciting pack racing also creates the perfect atmosphere for devastating multi-car wrecks that can wipe out an entire fantasy roster in an instant. As a result, the Daytona 500 is one of the most unpredictable races of the season. While there is no perfect recipe for success, there are some strategies that can help minimize the damage that Daytona can do to your fantasy team. I always recommend staying away from big names in leagues that cap the number of times you can use each driver; and in leagues that require you to pick a different driver each week, using a sleeper option makes a ton of sense. Regardless of the type of fantasy league you play in or the strategy you use Sunday, luck will also play a large role in determining whether or not you start the 2014 fantasy racing season on a high note or in an early hole.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although it has been a while since Junior has won at Daytona, it hasn't stopped him from being one of the most reliable drivers at the track. He has four straight top-15 finishes and six in his last eight starts. Perhaps more importantly, he has finished second in three of the last four Daytona 500s, and his 9.4 average finish at restrictor plate tracks the past two seasons is nearly four spots better than any other driver.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
In the last 10 races at Daytona, Kenseth has amassed a resume that stacks up with any driver in the series. He has seven top-15s during the stretch, including six top-10s. Kenseth also a pair of Daytona 500 victories during the span and has finished third or better four times.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
The former Daytona 500 winner has been one of the most consistent drivers at the track throughout his career. In the last 10 races alone, he has six finishes of seventh or better, including a win in the July event. Of the drivers that have been in the last 20 races at Daytona, Harvick's 15.7 average finish ranks third.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Only the late Dale Earnhardt has more career wins at Daytona than Stewart, but the Daytona 500 continues to elude him. Still, he has four wins in the July race and has finished either first or second twice in his last three starts at the track. Stewart's 13.3 average finish at Daytona since 2004 is the second best in the series.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Johnson is coming off a phenomenal year at the plate tracks. Not only is he the defending winner of the Daytona 500, but he actually swept both races at the track and posted a 5.0 average finish in the four plate events. Daytona can be fickle, but a Johnson three-peat at Daytona is definitely possible.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he had a rough year at Daytona in 2013, Edwards has been solid at the track in recent years. In his last 9 starts, he has finished in the top 10 on six occasions. Edwards has also finished sixth or better four times during the stretch, so he does pack a little upside along with his consistency.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Talladega has actually been his stronger plate track, but Bowyer has been pretty stout at Daytona, as well. He has a 14.8 average finish at the track, and he has finished 11th or better in nine of his 16 starts. Equally as important is the fact that Bowyer has only finished outside the top 20 in three starts at Daytona, making him one of the safer plays.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
After going through a long drought at Daytona following his Daytona 500 win in 2008, Newman has recaptured his magic at the track. He has reeled off three straight top-10s, posting a 6.7 average finish during the stretch. He moves to Richard Childress Racing this season, and he should have every opportunity to continue his recent Daytona hot streak with an organization that has always had a strong plate program.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., #17 Best Buy/Valvoline/Zest, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Call it beginner's luck if you want, but Stenhouse was great at the plate tracks as a rookie last season. He finished in the top 15 in all four starts, compiling a 9.8 average finish and scoring the third-most points of any driver. At Daytona specifically, Stenhouse logged a pair of top-12 finishes.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Biffle's overall resume at Daytona isn't great, but he has been a stud in the Daytona 500 the past two seasons. He finished third in 2012 and sixth last season, and Biffle was in the mix for the win in both events. Biffle also ranks third in the series in points scored at plate tracks during the past two seasons, so his success is more than just a couple of lucky runs.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Although both of his restrictor plate wins have come at Talladega, Keselowski has been getting the job done at Daytona lately, as well. He has three top-15s in his last five starts at the track and has finished eighth or better twice in his last three starts.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
With his move to Stewart-Haas Racing, there is a good chance Busch could return to form at the plate tracks in 2014. After all, he piled up eight top-15s--including five top-5s--in his last nine starts at Daytona prior to losing his ride with Team Penske at the end of the 2011 season. Expect to see a much different driver on Sunday than the one that struggled at Daytona the past couple of seasons.