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Fantasy NASCAR: Matt Kenseth Is A Daytona 500 Favorite
*Leads all Active Drivers
DR = Driver Rating
ARP = Average Running Position
THE TOP 15
1. Matt Kenseth: First, the bad news – Kenseth had nightmarish finishes at Daytona International Speedway in 2013, finishing 37th (DNF) and 33rd. Now the positive – he led a race-high 86 laps in this race a year ago and his problems can be attributed to faulty engines. In three Daytona appearances prior to 2013, Kenseth posted three straight Top 3s. He’s also led at least five laps in each of his last five starts. Despite the lousy numbers from a year ago, Fantasy owners can trust Kenseth as the top play across all formats.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Earnhardt Jr.’s last three place-differentials at Daytona are +9 (July 2012), +17 (February 2013) and +8 (July 2013). Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, he ranks second in Fastest Laps Run (83). He’s a Salary Cap format stud and is as consistent a performer as Fantasy owners can hope for at this volatile restrictor-plate track.
3. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson swept both Daytona races last season, leading 17 (February) and a race-high-94 laps (July) in each. So why isn’t Johnson No. 1 this week? Between July 2006 and July 2012, Johnson finished inside the Top 10 just twice in 14 races. While consistency has been an issue, the bigger concern is that he’s too valuable in Tiered/Grouping formats and with only nine starts per driver, dropping restrictor-plate races into the mix can be risky. That said, it creates an excellent opportunity to extract maximum value, as most Fantasy owners will employ the above strategy. Go with your gut on this one.
4. Kevin Harvick: The switch to Stewart-Haas Racing will be smooth for Harvick, similar to what we saw with Matt Kenseth moving over to Joe Gibbs Racing last season. He has one Top 5 and three Top 10s in his last five Daytona appearances, but more importantly has always been a consistent restrictor-plate track driver. He won this race from the pole in 2010 and leads all drivers in Fastest Laps Run (85). He’ll be an excellent value option in Tiered/Grouping formats.
5. Kyle Busch: He leads all competitors in Driver Rating and Average Running Position, but scatters DNFs and middling finishes around Top 5s and Top 10s. What Fantasy owners can expect are Laps Led – he’s led at least one lap in 13 of his last 16 Daytona starts. Busch is generally a streaky driver, posting quality finishes in bunches. Fantasy owners looking to roll with him this week need to hope the No. 18 starts hot.
6. Tony Stewart: Stewart will make his return after a broken leg (August 5) shelved him for most of the 2013 season. He’s posted a win (July 2012) and two Top 5s in his last three Daytona starts and is always a strong Fantasy choice at restrictor-plate events. He ranks second in Driver Rating and with seven months to heal, Fantasy owners should expect Smoke to shake off the cobwebs relatively fast. While Stewart’s never won “The 500”, he makes an excellent Tiered/Grouping format option.
7. Kurt Busch: Busch is back in the big leagues, signing a multi-year pact with Stewart-Hass Racing after spending the last two seasons in NASCAR “exile” with a one-car teams. While a win at Daytona has always eluded Busch, he’s generally a pretty safe Fantasy option. He’s not a flashy Tiered/Grouping format choice, but will provide enough value to make it worth Fantasy owners’ while.
8. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski’s disappointing 2013 season actually started quite well, with four consecutive Top 5s. The bad luck eventually kicked in and the 2012 champ missed the 2013 Chase, taking a more than a few Fantasy owners down with him. The good news for Fantasy owners is that the No. 2 will bounce back and come at a superb value along the way. The perception may be that Keselowski is no longer elite, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Anything that could’ve gone wrong last season did, and luck – good or bad – always changes.
9. Jeff Gordon: As is typically the case, Gordon’s overall stats are shimmering. As is also typically the case, most of those big shiny stats came earlier in his career. He hasn’t won at Daytona since 2005 and has just two Top 5s at the site since then. But he has led at least one lap in 11 of his last 13 starts at Daytona with very quality ARPs (12.4, 9.4 and 15.7) in his last three starts. Fantasy owners can consider him a solid play in Salary Cap formats.
10. Clint Bowyer: Despite not winning a race in 2013, Bowyer was one of the most consistent performers on the circuit. That held true for Daytona, where he posted 11th (February) and fourth-place (July) finishes. He’s probably not worth the price of admission in Tiered/Grouping formats this week, but will perform well enough to make a difference in Salary Cap format lineups this week.
11. Carl Edwards: Edwards was streaky for much of 2013, and lousy at Daytona posting 33rd (February) and 29th-place (July) finishes. But he did post two Top 10s (sixth and eighth) in both 2012 Daytona races, and his upside far exceeds his downside. I expect Edwards to be undervalued in most formats for the first part of the season, and Fantasy owners should take full advantage.
12. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin never quite made it all the way back from his nasty injury (compression fracture) last season. He posted a Top 5 (fourth) in this race back in 2012 and is a very nice Tiered/Grouping format play at Daytona.
13. Kasey Kahne: He’s been a model of streakiness in his last eight Daytona starts, either placing 25th-or-worse or finishing in the Top 7. While restrictor-plate races aren’t exactly Kahne’s forte, his all-around talent makes him an intriguing value play in Tiered/Grouping formats.
14. Greg Biffle: The Biff has posted otherworldly ARPs in three of his last four Daytona appearances – 3.1 (Feb. 2012), 4.2 (July 2012) and 7.2 (Feb. 2013). He has one Top 5 and two Top 10s in that span. He’s a solid option in all formats.
15. Joey Logano: In three Daytona starts from July 2011-12, he posted two Top 5s and three Top 10s. Ignore the 19th and 40th-place finishes at the site a year ago and feel free to roll Logano this weekend.
TOP 10 BEST VALUE PLAYS
1. Brian Vickers: He didn’t get to run any restrictor-plate races last season (Michael Waltrip handled those duties) but did manage a win (New Hampshire) as a part-timer in 2013. Overall, he is solid at restrictor-plate events and will start out the season at a quality value.
2. Jamie McMurray: Leads all drivers in Green Flag Passes (3,757) and is a threat to actually win this race.
3. Ryan Newman: He’s a risky Fantasy play in his debut race with a new team, but I expect him hold his own. Will drive with a serious chip on his shoulder after being dumped by SHR.
4. A.J. Allmendinger: He’s back in a full-time ride after being unceremoniously dumped by Penske Racing. He won’t be on many “B-List” Tiered/Grouping format radars, but has the upside to get your season started right.
5. Martin Truex Jr.: Kurt Busch made miracles happen in the No. 78 last season, and Truex Jr. made major strides as a driver in 2013. He has Top 10 potential this week.
6. Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose is good for about five Top 10s a year, and this is one of the non-road course races he’s proven he can do it (sixth at Daytona in 2009).
7. Paul Menard: In three Daytona races from February 2011 to July 2012, Menard logged three straight Top 10s with an Average Finish of 7.7.
8. Aric Almirola: He’s the Fastest on Restarts (173.890 mph) at Daytona, something that can make a huge difference if he’s able to hang around on Sunday.
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: While we’re on the subject of Fastest on Restarts at Daytona, Stenhouse Jr. ranks third (173.785 mph) in that category.
10. Bobby Labonte: One Top 10 and three Top 15s in his last four Daytona starts.
TOP 5 SLEEPERS
1. Austin Dillon: His sleeper status has slowly dissipated after winning the pole for this Sunday and he is a great bet to lead at least one lap. A good race means some early-season confidence which could put Dillon on the weekly must-start list, Tiered/Grouping format edition.
2. Michael Waltrip: He only suited up for four races last season – all restrictor-plate events. He dropped a fifth-place finish in the July race at Daytona and makes an excellent spot start in all Fantasy formats.
3. David Ragan: Ragan won the July race at Daytona back in 2011 with 15 Laps Led. He’s worth a look for Fantasy owners needing to round out their rosters.
4. Kyle Larson: Perhaps the most heralded rookie since Joey Logano, Larson finished 13th (February) and sixth (July) in the 2013 Nationwide Series races at Daytona.
5. Danica Patrick: The Scott Engel Special. She captured the pole and finished eighth in this event last year. Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect a repeat, though a Top 25 isn’t out of the question.
2013 NASCAR.com Fantasy Live Lineup for Daytona (Salary Cap)
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks (Tiered/Grouping Format)
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