Fantasy NASCAR Picks for the 2014 Daytona 500
The 2014 Fantasy NASCAR season will begin with the 56th running of the Daytona 500.
While the race is the Super Bowl of NASCAR, it is one of the most unpredictable races of the season. Any driver who starts the race has a realistic chance of winning on a restrictor plate race track. Just look at David Ragan’s win last season at Talladega or Trevor Bayne’s victory in the 2011 Daytona 500.
The Daytona 500 provides fantasy teams plenty of opportunities to watch the drivers on the race track before the race on Sunday. The NASCAR teams will have the Sprint Unlimited, Daytona 500 qualifying, The Gatorade 125 races and five practices. If a driver is strong throughout Speedweeks, make sure the driver is on your team.
The key to getting off to a good start in 2014 is for your team to avoid the big wreck. If your team is unlucky and has a poor start, do not panic; there is plenty of time to make up the points.
Here are my fantasy NASCAR picks for the 2014 Daytona 500…
Yahoo! Group A Picks
There is plenty of talent in Group A to get you through the season. Any of the choices in the group could win the race this week.
Jimmie Johnson is the class of the field. He won both races at Daytona last season and is the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Although he is the best, he is too risky to use on your team this week. Since teams only are allowed nine starts with a driver, the last thing you want is to use Johnson at a race track where he has little control over his finish.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A…
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Group A is loaded with talent, and you will probably not use all nine starts with Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season. This is his best race track, so this is the week to use him.
Earnhardt has a series-best average finishing position and the third-best driver rating the last two years at Daytona. He is the best at making his way through the field and avoiding trouble.
Earnhardt must be on all teams this week.
Matt Kenseth is one of the top-five restrictor-plate racers in the sport. Last year he dominated every race on these race tracks. In the 2013 Daytona 500, he led 86 laps before his engine failed. The only thing that could prevent Kenseth from a top-10 finish on Sunday would be another engine problem.
Other good choices: Kevin Harvick, Jimmy Johnson and Kyle Busch
Yahoo! Group B Picks
Some of the best drivers in the Daytona 500 are in Yahoo! Group B. Fantasy NASCAR players will have to decide if they want to use one of their nine starts with these drivers at a race track where anything can happen or save them for more predictable race tracks.
Denny Hamlin looked great in practice and won the Sprint Unlimited last Saturday night. He would be a great pick this week, but I suggest saving him for more predictable races. This will be a huge bounce-back year for Hamlin.
This is the week to take a chance with a driver you know you will not use all nine allocations for this season. The Daytona 500 is so unpredictable; any driver in this group could finish up front.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B…
The Roush-Fenway Racing cars have looked fast all week, and Greg Biffle has had the best car out of the three cars. Biffle qualified third for the Daytona 500, and his driving style will give him a chance to win the Budweiser Duel race on Thursday.
Biffle has the second-best driver rating and the fourth-best average finish in the last four races at Daytona. This would be a great week to have Biffle on your team.
The Richard Childress cars have been the fastest cars on the race track this week. All three qualified in the top 10 with Ryan Newman qualifying in the fifth spot.
Newman won the 2008 Daytona 500 and could be up front again this week. He has a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes going at Daytona. He should make if four in a row this week.
Paul Menard has always been good at Daytona. Usually it was because Richard Childress Racing provided him with a fast car and he followed teammate Kevin Harvick around the race track. This season he has another fast car, but he will have to follow his new teammates instead of Harvick.
Menard will not be a popular pick this year in Group B, so this would be a great week to get a start out of him.
Logano looked good in last Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited race. He avoided trouble and finished fourth in the race.
Logano has the eighth-best driver rating in the last two years at Daytona. He knows how to get around the restrictor-plate race tracks. Use Logano as a backup this week, and if one of the drivers listed above has problems, feel confident plugging him into your starting lineup.
Other good choices: Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.
Yahoo! Group C Picks
Yahoo! Group C will not be as tough in 2014 as it has been in the past. Yahoo! gave fantasy players some good drivers to choose from. Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson will be popular picks each week, but there are other drivers worth using throughout the season.
Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip should be used each time they drive the No. 66 Michael Waltrip Racing Car.
Trevor Bayne is scheduled to drive in at least 12 races. He will make for a good selection at the intermediate and restrictor-plate race tracks.
Other drivers who may be worth using this season include Parker Klingerman, Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C…
I really wanted to save Austin Dillon until he got some experience in the Sprint Cup Series. After winning the pole for the Daytona 500, it will be hard to keep him off your roster. Last year, Danica Patrick won the pole and finished eighth. Dillon should be able to at least duplicate Patrick’s 2013 run in the race.
My strategy for Group C is to use the driver of the No. 66 Michael Waltrip Racing Car whenever Michael Waltrip or Jeff Burton is the driver. I am sticking to that strategy.
Waltrip was pretty good at Daytona last season. He finished the July race fifth and the Daytona 500 in 22nd place. Waltrip should finish in the top 20 this week.
I could also see using Trevor Bayne in the spot. His car looked fast this week.
Other good choices: Kyle Larson and Trevor Bayne
Fantasy Live Picks (nascar.com)
Fantasy Live on nascar.com is one of the most challenging fantasy games. It is one of the few games to offer live scoring, uses pit crews, requires players to pick the winning manufacturer and does not restrict the amount of times a driver can be used throughout the season.
The key to winning the Fantasy Live game is to understand the rules. Your team is awarded points for leading laps, having the fastest lap, quality passes, the difference between starting position and finishing position and where your driver finishes the race.
The best strategy for the Daytona 500 is to pick a combination of drivers who have looked strong all week and will start up front and drivers who will start in the back with the ability to move to the front. Your team will need a good finishing differential to get a high score this week.
Here are my picks for the Daytona 500 in the Fantasy Live game..
$27 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the best in the business on the restrictor-plate race tracks. He has finished three of the last four Daytona 500 races in the runner-up position. Earnhardt is the safest pick in the field.
$23.25 Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin is my sleeper pick to contend for the title in 2014, and that title run will begin at Daytona.
Hamlin has won the last two races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He won the season finally at Homestead and the Sprint Unlimited race last Saturday night. He has a lot of momentum heading into the Daytona 500.
At $23.25 Hamlin is one of the best bargains in the field. His price may go up more than any other driver after the race. It would be smart to get him now before his price reflects his driving ability.
$23 Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart will start the Daytona 500 from the back of the field because he had engine failure in last Saturday’s practice. He should easily finish ahead of where he starts the race which would give your team some much-needed bonus points for finishing differential and quality passes.
Stewart is a bargain at $23. With a good finish this week, his price could skyrocket.
$20 Austin Dillon
Austin Dillon has been fast all week. He will be driving the No. 3 car for Richard Childress Racing. There is something special about that number at Daytona. It would not be surprising to see Dillon drive the car to a top-10 finish.
The price for Dillon is kind of high for a rookie, but he is not your average rookie. He is the past champion of the Camping World Truck Series and the defending champion of the Nationwide Series. The competition will be much better, but he grew up in this series and will be able to handle the pressure.
$5 Reed Sorenson
Reed Sorenson is worth a gamble this week. He will be driving the No. 36 car for Tommy Baldwin Racing. He will have veteran crew chief Todd Parrott to help guide him through the race.
Sorenson has competed in 189 Sprint Cup Series races, so he has some experience racing with the top talent in the sport. His price will allow you to load up on the better drivers in the field.
Pit Crew: Denny Hamlin
Fox Fantasy Racing
This will be my first season playing Fox Fantasy Racing. What makes Fox Fantasy Racing unique is the use of the Captain pick. The Captain of your team each week receives double the points he scores in the race.
The season is broken into two 13-race segments and one 10-race segment. Each team can only use a driver four times during each segment.
The secret to the game is to pick drivers who will start in the back and move to the front. Teams are reward one point for every position the driver finishes the race ahead of where the driver started the race.
My strategy this week is to save the top drivers for more predictable races and pick two drivers who will start in the back and will finish up front.
Here are my selections for the Fox Fantasy Racing game…
Captain: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Driver No. 2: Clint Bowyer
Driver No. 3: Denny Hamlin
Driver No. 4: Kevin Harvick
Driver No. 5: Tony Stewart
If you need further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
If you like Fantasy NASCAR, LIKE my Fantasy NASCAR Page on Facebook: Chad’s Fantasy NASCAR Tips