The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head back to Daytona this week for the Coke Zero 400.
Saturday night’s race will be the first time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to a racetrack in the Gen-6 car. The Daytona 500 was the first race in the new car, and teams were still trying to figure out how the car would race this season. After two restrictor plate races, teams now have an idea of what they need to win the race Saturday night.
The Gen-6 car has been fast all season, but the one problem the car has had is producing exciting races on the restrictor plate racetracks. Both the Daytona 500 and the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega ended up as a game of follow the leader. I expect Saturday night’s race to be the same kind of race.
Restrictor plate racetracks can be a nightmare for fantasy NASCAR players. David Ragan’s win at Talladega earlier this season proves that any driver who starts the race has a legitimate chance of winning.
The best strategy to use this week is to select drivers who have had success at Daytona in the summer race and hope they do not get caught up in the “big one."
This is a unique week in Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing. There will be two practices on Thursday before qualifying on Friday. Fantasy NASCAR teams must be selected by Friday morning, so you will get to see two practices before your team must be selected. Use the information from practice to help select your team this week.
The strategy for the Fantasy Live game should be to select drivers who will start in the back and have a good chance to finish up front. There are only 160 laps in the race, so leading many laps will not be as important this week. Finishing differential will score you the most points.
This will be the week to take a chance on some drivers that you may not have used much this season. Since picking a winner at Daytona is like throwing darts at a dartboard, I changed the format for the fantasy article this week. Instead of predicting the top 30 finishers, I am providing 10 drivers to consider for Saturday’s race and five drivers to avoid.
Drivers to Consider
1. Matt Kenseth has been the best driver over the past four races at Daytona. He led the most laps in the Daytona 500 before his engine blew up. In the other three races he finished in the top three. He will be up front at the end of the race Saturday night.
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is always good at any restrictor plate racetrack. He finished second in two of the last three races at Daytona and he will be up front again. Unless your team is running out of starts with Earnhardt, I would strongly consider him for your team.
Who will win the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona?
3. Tony Stewart has never won the Daytona 500, but he has won the summer race at Daytona four times. When the racetrack gets slick, Stewart gets fast. He has a great chance to win Saturday night.
4. Kevin Harvick has been good at Daytona. He has won one Daytona 500 and one summer race at Daytona. He will not lead the most laps, but “The Closer” will be there at the end.
5. Jeff Gordon has six victories at Daytona, but his last win was in 2005. Gordon has not forgotten how to get around Daytona. Don’t be surprised to see Gordon finish up front this week.
6. Kurt Busch has been the surprise driver of the fantasy NASCAR season. He is a very good restrictor plate racer as well. He struggled in his last two races at Daytona, but he did not have the momentum that he has now. Busch would be a good selection for any team this week.
7. Clint Bowyer is much better at Talladega than he is at Daytona, but his restrictor plate resume makes him a good choice this week. Bowyer learned a lot from his teammate Kevin Harvick when he was at Richard Childress Racing about getting to the front at the end of the race at Daytona. Bowyer will easily finish in the top 10.
8. Kyle Busch would be in the top three on this list if your fantasy league does not restrict the number of times you can use a driver. Busch is ranked No. 8 on this list because of the chance of him getting caught up in a wreck on Saturday night. He has the talent to win the race, but the risk is not worth the reward in games that limit the number of times a driver can be used during the season.
9. Jeff Burton may be the best-kept secret in fantasy NASCAR this week. He finished two of the last three races at Daytona in the top five. This would be the week to take a chance with Burton.
10. Paul Menard has had a lot of success at Daytona. He finished four of the last five races at Daytona in the top 15. Menard has learned a lot from his Richard Childress Racing teammates (Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton). He has a good chance to finish in the top 10 this week.
Drivers to Avoid
1. Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500, so why is he on this list? Johnson is either very good or very bad at restrictor plate races. He finished six of the last seven races at Daytona outside the top 20. The risk is not worth the reward with Johnson this week.
2. Denny Hamlin has been fast at Daytona in the past, but his luck is horrible this year. If there is going to be a big wreck Saturday night, I think Hamlin will be in it based upon his luck this season.
3. Kasey Kahne has had some success at Daytona, but I think there are better racetracks to use him on. He is like his teammate Jimmie Johnson; he is either very good or very bad in restrictor plate races. Save him for next week.
4. Martin Truex Jr. has only finished one or his 16 races at Daytona in the top 10. Truex is good on the 1.5-mile racetracks. Save him for the Cookie Cutter racetracks.
5. Juan Pablo Montoya ran into a jet-dryer at Daytona under caution. Do I need to say any more?
Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing Picks
Group A: Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth
Group B: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton
Group C: Michael Waltrip, Trevor Bayne
Fantasy Live Picks
Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Michael Waltrip
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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