Thursday, February 23, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: 2017 Daytona 500


by Carol D'Agostino

The Daytona 500 and the beginning of the 2017 racing season is upon us. I don't know about you, but I'm going to need some extra cheat sheets to remember all of this year's changes. The official name of the series and who is in which car are the least of my concerns. I'm still trying to figure out the stages of the race and the new point system. It's either going to evolve seamlessly or continue to hurt my brain. Fortunately, my focus is fantasy stats, so let's get this party started!

Drivers with Most Top 10s in the Last 5 Years:
By Race
Both with 4: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin
All with 3: Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson
All with 2: Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski

By Track
All with 5: Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer
Both with 4: Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick
All with 3: Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Michael McDowell

Last Year's Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

The Likely Suspects: The unpredictability of a restrictor plate race makes it fun for the fans to watch, but nightmarish for fantasy players. The Daytona 500 is particularly challenging for number- crunchers since a fast car and some knowledge of drafting can catapult a car driven by a rookie from the back of the pack to the front in less than a lap. I'll be focusing on these drivers as we begin our new season: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick is a tie between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon. My next choices are Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray. I'll round out my fantasy team with Michael McDowell and Landon Cassill. David Ragan is also a nice dark horse pick. 

My Final Four: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Michael McDowell

Points to Ponder:
  • The pole position is the most proficient starting position in the Daytona 500 field, producing more winners (nine) than any other position, followed by the outside pole (seven wins) and starting in fourth place (seven wins).
  • Eighteen full-length races at Daytona have been won from the pole. The last to do it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the July 2015 race.
  • Nine different manufacturers have won the Daytona 500, led by Chevrolet with 23 victories, followed by Ford (14), Dodge (four), Plymouth (four), Buick (three), Mercury (three), Oldsmobile (three), Pontiac (three) and Toyota (one).
  • The Wood Brothers have won 15 races at Daytona, more than any other organization.
  • Among active drivers, Denny Hamlin has led the most laps in a single Daytona 500, when he led 95 laps on his way to victory last season. 
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-five finishes with eight. Earnhardt Jr. is tied with Benny Parsons, Bobby Allison and Buddy Baker for fifth-most all-time. Dale Jr. also leads all active drivers in average finishing position in the Daytona 500 with a 13.5 in 17 appearances.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

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