Saturday, February 20, 2016

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Season Opener at Daytona


Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Auto Club Speedway (Fontana)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway  • Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway
Talladega Superspeedway
Distance: 2.5 Miles

By Carol D'Agostino

Welcome to the 2016 NASCAR racing season. As a sold-out audience -- 101,500 race fans -- check out the new fan experience at the Daytona International Speedway, the rest of us with buckle up for what will surely be a memorable Daytona 500, the 58th running of this iconic race. Remember, this race will not feature the new rules package, so when picking your fantasy drivers stick to historic Daytona and restrictor-plate race greats with a sprinkling of rookie standouts.

Drivers with Most Top 10s in the Last 5 Years:
By Race
Both with 4: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle
Both with 3: Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson
All with 2: Joey Logano, Regan Smith, Carl Edwards, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth

By Track
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 6
Denny Hamlin - 5
All with 4:  Casey Mears, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer,  Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick

Top 15 Active Drivers for Past 10 Years on Restrictor Plate Tracks:
  1. Chase Elliott           
  2. Chris Buescher           
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.           
  4. Ty Dillon           
  5. Clint Bowyer           
  6. Austin Dillon           
  7. Jimmie Johnson           
  8. Kevin Harvick
  9. Brad Keselowski           
  10. Denny Hamlin           
  11. Greg Biffle           
  12. Kurt Busch           
  13. Matt Kenseth              
  14. Kyle Busch             
  15. Carl Edwards
SOURCE: Yahoo Sports

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Daytona:
  1. Kyle Busch             96.2
  2. Matt Kenseth          91.6
  3. Kurt Busch             90.5
  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  90.3  
  5. Tony Stewart          87.9
  6. Jeff Gordon            87.1
  7. Jimmie Johnson     87.0
  8. Denny Hamlin        86.4
  9. Clint Bowyer           83.7
  10. Joey Logano          82.5
SOURCE: NASCAR Media. Driver Ratings are compiled from 2005-2014 races (18 total) at Daytona  

The Likely Suspects: The Daytona 500 is a fun race to watch because a good car from the back could win as well as a medium-good car with friends. A rookie could win, a restrictor plate great could win, or a one-off driver who you may not see in every race this season could take the checkers. This scenario makes picking fantasy drivers a bit of a nightmare. Try not to over think it though. Stick to consistent drivers and add perhaps one sleeper pick. My favorite Daytona fantasy picks include: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenneth, Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears.

My 2 Cents: Odd, but likely things, such as over-heating cars with debris on the grille may be an issue. Apparently Daytona Rising is not only an amazing redo of the track experience, but also a wrapper and debris magnet. Focus your picks on drivers with the best ability to overcome obstacles.

It appears as though this race may be Joe Gibbs Racing's best chance to end its 23-year draught at the Daytona 500, if Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn't snatch it from their hands. Dale Jr. is in his favorite car, named Amelia. In 2015, he drove the chassis to three wins – one in the first Daytona Duel in February, another at Daytona in July and one at Talladega in May.

My no-brainer pick is a tie between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin. My next picks are Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer. I will round out my fantasy team with Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon.

My final four: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Chase Elliott.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

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