NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Daytona 500 season opener

It's almost time to begin the official racing season. Not that I wasn't entertained by The Clash in LA, but there's nothing like an actual points race. Plus we have the new car to figure out, AND we have the return of practice and qualifying. Although it's not exactly like it was in 2019, at least we'll get a clue on who is fast and who needs to dial in their car prior to making our fantasy picks. I do have to admit that I'm feeling a bit nostalgic about saying goodbye to traditional lug nuts, but on the other hand I can't wait to see a 10-second pit stop!

This week's pick strategy: 
My initial picks will be composed of about three quarters Daytona elites and one quarter fast drivers who play well with others, i.e. who I think make great drafting partners. Think Wood Brothers and Hendrick Motorsports.
Drivers with Most Top 10s in the Last Five Years:
By Race
Denny Hamlin - 4
All with 3 - Michael McDowell, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, and Ryan Blaney
All with 2 - Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Corey LaJoie, and Chris Buescher

By Track
Chris Buescher - 6
Both with 5: Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney
Michael McDowell - 4
All with 3: Bubba Wallace, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Corey LaJoie, Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon, Joey Logano, and Erik Jones

Last Year's Race Winner: Michael McDowell

The Likely Suspects: Lots of drivers can be fast at Daytona, but it takes much more than that to win. My tried-and-true Daytona elites are Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Michael McDowell, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Kevin Harvick, the Busch brothers, and Chase Elliott.  

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick is Denny Hamlin. My next picks are Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher and Joey Logano. I'll round out my roster with Daniel Suarez, and Michael McDowell.

Second-Look Driver: This week I have two sleeper picks: rookies Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton. Cindric, the 2020 Xfinity Series champion, had an impressive, yet unsuccessful Clash run. He was aggressive and quite skilled at finding a hole and trying to race through it. Burton was super fast in the Wood Brothers iconic No. 21 car in qualifying. And did you know this is Harrison's second Cup career start and that Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in his second career start in that same car? Stay tuned.
My Final Four: Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, and Michael McDowell
Points to Ponder:
  • Wood Brothers Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are tied for the most wins by an organization at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series with 15 each.
  • The pole position in the Daytona 500 field has produced more winners (nine) than any other position.
  • Among active drivers Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 wins with three (2016, 2019, 2020).
  • Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick lead all active drivers in Daytona 500 Top 5 finishes with eight each. 
  •  Kurt Busch leads all active drivers in the series in runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500 with three (2003, 2005, 2008), followed by Kevin Harvick (2009, 2015) and Ryan Blaney (2017, 2020) with two each.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 Top10s with 10.
  • Denny Hamlin (11.9) has the best average finish among active drivers who have made more than one start; he has made 16 appearances in the Daytona 500. 
  •  Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in laps led in the Daytona 500 with 376. 
  • Among active drivers, Ryan Blaney has led the most laps in a single Daytona 500, when he led 118 laps in the 2018 Daytona 500 and finished seventh.

If you are playing Driver Group Game, remember to make your final picks on Sunday, February 20th at 2:30 p.m. ET.  Enjoy the race!  

Want to play in our NASCAR Fantasy private league?
Join us at Driver Group Game. Go here:

If you played last year, use your same login credentials as last year and simply go to our league and click on “Check-in” and you’re done.

If not, you’ll just need to do register for a free fan account. Once you are logged in using your new password, choose “Join League” on the left navigation at the bottom.

In the next window, click on Private League. ​In the search window, type in 1714, which is our private league ID. Then click on “Go there.” The password is: SSleague


Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 15 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.

When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Daytona 500 season opener NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Daytona 500 season opener Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Thursday, February 17, 2022 Rating: 5