NASCAR DFS: Daytona 500
The pre-500 exhibitions are in the books...the next time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runs a lap, it will be for real.
NASCAR’s 2016 season will officially kickoff...or go green if you will...with the 58th running of the Daytona 500, commonly referred to as the “Super Bowl of NASCAR”. In what we hope, nay, pray, is more exciting than football’s version of the Super Bowl, 40 drivers will race to the checkers, seeking to bring home a win in NASCAR’s premiere event. Below, we tell you who to start and who to sit...or park...in this week’s NASCAR DFS update...
Race: Daytona 500
Laps: 200 laps (500 miles)
Venue: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL (2.5 miles)
TV: 1 PM EST, Fox
Active Winners: Michael Waltrip (2), Matt Kenseth (2), Jimmie Johnson (2), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2), Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano (defending winner)
Ever since its earliest days, when it was literally held on the sands of Daytona Beach, the Daytona 500 has been one of auto racing’s biggest spectacles. One of two restrictor plate tracks on the circuit, the beauty of Daytona is that anyone in the field has a shot at Victory Lane. The restrictor plates keep the cars’ speeds lower on the notoriously fast Daytona surface, keeping them bunched together. While this provides for some exciting racing, it also leaves the drivers vulnerable to trigger huge wrecks, known as “The Big One”. Several big crashes have already been apparent during the exhibition events. For example, Matt Kenseth, who nabbed a spot on the front row during last Sunday’s pole day session, was caught up a big wreck toward end of Thursday’s CanAm Duel, and will be forced to the rear of the field in a backup car.
Three to Start
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Starting 3rd)-Dale Jr. and Daytona will forever be linked by the tragic accident that took his father’s life 15 years ago, but Little E has made a name for himself at the track to say the least. Earnhardt’s previous quartet of Daytona 500 starts have yielded the following results: 2nd, 2nd, a win, 3rd. Furthermore, Junior not only got 2016 off to a great start with a win in his CanAm Duel, but also captured the checkered flag in the last points race at Daytona, last season’s summer event. It was Junior’s 4th win at Daytona, and, with a tough Chase campaign behind him, he’ll look to join illustrious names such as Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty as part of an exclusive club that has won 3+ 500’s.
Ryan Blaney (Starting 7th)-Blaney saw some experience last season, running a part time schedule before entering the Rookie of the Year battle this season. Driving the famed Wood Brothers #21 Ford, which finally returns to full time racing this season, Blaney doesn’t have much experience at Daytona, but this young rookie could be the perfect dark horse for your squadron. A good CamAm Duel performance earned himself a Top-10 start, and he has had one of the faster cars all week. Last year, Blaney picked up his first Top 5 of his Sprint Cup career at the other restrictor plate track, Talladega. If anything, he’s a solid, inexpensive pickup who can race with the big guys.
Danica Patrick (Starting 16th)-As mentioned last week, Patrick has six Top 10s in her Sprint Cup career, and two of them are at Daytona. Patrick, like Chase Elliott after her, won the pole for the 500 in her own rookie season, so that’s something to keep an eye on, as she has shown she is capable of harnessing the Daytona asphalt’s massive ego. Also, despite chaos seemingly breaking out every other lap at Daytona, she has been running a mostly clean week, with her new sponsor Nature’s Bakery ending up in the Top 10 for the week in her team’s CanAm Duel.
Three to Park
Chase Elliott (Starting 1st)-This isn’t meant to be a full-on slight on Elliott, who has a promising Cup career ahead of him, one that will begin with him leading the field at the start of the Daytona 500. However, just because Elliott, who faces the thankless job of taking over the #24 car upon Jeff Gordon’s retirement, won the pole for the 500, does not mean we can enshrine in Charlotte already. He’ll still have several growing pains to run into. After running strong in the early stages, other high profile rookie polesitters, like Patrick and Austin Dillon, failed to nab a Top 5 finish in their debuts, nor were they able to lead the most laps, despite starting 1st.
Kyle Larson (Starting 14th)-Now for all we know, this could simply be a case of small sample size syndrome for the young Larson, who has made a mere four total Daytona starts at the Sprint Cup level. Larson has completed just 79% of his Daytona laps here, and has completed just one race, failing to finish on the lead lap in each. And while he displayed potential future talent while racing at Daytona in the Xfinity series, to the tune of 4 Top 10s, I’m not sure he’s ready to take that next step. Larson will look to recover from his sophomore slump, but Daytona may not exactly be the best place for him to break out of that funk.
Ryan Newman (Starting 38th)-Don’t let Newman’s victory in the 2008 Daytona 500 fool you. Daytona has been as kind to Newman as college football has been to his alma mater Purdue lately. Since that magical win in ‘08, Newman’s Daytona 500 finishes are the following over three different race teams: 36th, 34th, 22nd, 21st, 5th, 22nd, 38th. Also, ever since leading that last lap in February 2008, Newman has led a mere 40 laps at all Daytona races combined ever since.
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