NASCAR DFS: Sprint Unlimited
The green flag is about to unofficially drop on the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the first since 1991 that will be completely Jeff Gordon-free (on the track, anyway, as Gordon will be calling races for Fox this year).
With Gordon gone, you may be at a lost on who to play this year during your daily (or, in this case, weekly) fantasy exploits, as picking Dale Jr. each and every week isn’t going to you win the possible money. Never fear, as SG will be here to help you through the sports that is way more than just cars going around in an oval, giving you three to race, and three to park every week. We start this week with an exhibition race to warm up, the Sprint Unlimited.
Race: Sprint Unlimited (non-points event)
Laps: 75 (2 segments; 25 laps/50 laps)
Venue: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL (2.5 miles)
TV: 8 PM EST, Fox
Active Winners: Kevin Harvick (3), Dale Earnhardt Jr (2), Denny Hamlin (2), Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth (Defending Winner)
The Sprint Unlimited, formerly known as the Budweiser Shootout, is traditionally the unofficial start to the Sprint Cup season. Not all drivers participate in the event, with the criteria for invitation, as well as the race’s format, constantly changing, sometimes on a year to year basis. This year, 25 drivers will compete in the event, with all 2015 pole winners, former Unlimited winners and active Daytona 500 pole winners eligible for the event. In addition, all 16 Chase for the Sprint Cup competitors from last season earned invites, with remaining spots filled in via the 2015 points standings. Gordon, as well as former Unlimited champ Tony Stewart, will not participate in the event. Gordon’s spot will be taken over by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. via points standings, while Brian Vickers will drive Stewart’s No. 14 car due to the latter’s injury.
Three To Race
Danica Patrick-Two of Patrick’s six Top 10 finishes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have come at DIS. Her pole prior to the 2013 Daytona 500 is why she’s here in the first place, so it’s no secret he can turn up the speed when NASCAR hits the beach. Patrick’s much hyped foray into NASCAR has been mostly a dud so far. Perhaps her fourth year racing full time on the circuit can get some much needed early momentum with a good showing in the Unlimited. She posted a 10th place finish in last year’s event.
Brian Vickers-Vickers ran only two races last season, with blood clots again preventing him from running a full time Sprint Cup schedule. While he recovered, his team, Michael Waltrip Racing, ended up shutting its doors, leaving him without a full time ride for 2016. He gets a major opportunity to show off his talent, as he’ll be piloting the injured Stewart’s ride for the Daytona festivities. Vickers has typically run well at Daytona, nabbing a runner-up finish in his last start here during the summer night race in 2013. Furthermore, Vickers is even more fueled for a victory by the fact he has pretty much nothing to lose.
Joey Logano-To be honest, Logano's Daytona numbers leave a lot to be desired. His average finish at the track is 18th, and, through the randomized lineup setting procedures for the Unlimited, he'll be starting dead last in 25th. However, remember how he started off last season? If you don't, then he won the Daytona 500. Logano, thanks to some shenanigans between he and Matt Kenseth last season, ended up missing the final round of the Chase despite stellar performances all year long, which included a three race stretch during the Chase where he ended up in Victory Lane each time. Where better to continue that momentum than Daytona in a race for a big ol' cash prize?
Three to Park
Ryan Newman-In his second Daytona 500, back in 2003, Newman went for a wild ride on the infield grass. Fortunately, he was uninjured, but, despite earning a win in the Great American Race in 2008, Newman has had great difficulty at the track. In 28 career Daytona races, he has a mere 7 Top 10 finishes. Of those seven, three game in a consecutive stretch between 2012 and 2013, although he did come in 8th in last year's summer night race.
Martin Truex Jr.-Truex likewise picked up a Top 10 at Daytona last year, as an 8th in the season opening 500 began a streak of 7 Top 10's to start the year. However, Truex's other Daytona numbers aren't so pretty. In 21 career DIS starts, he has just 2 Top 10 finishes, and has failed to finish the race 5 times. Furthermore, this will be the first race for Truex's Furniture Row team running a Toyota, so you never know how they're going to perform.
AJ Allmendinger-You may see Dinger up near the front at the start, as he drew the 3rd starting spot for the Saturday night showdown. However, reconsider that Allmendinger has only 2 Top 10's in Daytona races (sensing a theme here?). His last time finishing in the first decade of cars at DIS was back in 2011, when he finished 10th in the July race.
Enjoy the races every body!
Geoff Magliocchetti is excited for another season of NASCAR action. Cheer along with him on Twitter @GeoffMags5490.
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