February 19, 2014

FANTASY: 2014 Drives Into Daytona

Daytona 500 Fantasy Preview

The only thing that can be predicted at Daytona is that The
Big One will collect some perfectly good race cars. (Getty)
It's time!  NASCAR season officially gets underway this weekend with the historic 56th annual Daytona 500.

Every team is optimistic.  Every fan is enthusiastic.  And somewhere, far away from New Hampshire, there's a place that's snow-free and ready for stock car racing.

Here at NHMS, we can at least get in the spirit of things with Fantasy NASCAR.  If you haven't joined the "Fans of NHMS" league, be sure to do so by Sunday.  We might still be shoveling out from another storm, but it's racing season in America and we're ready for it.

Here's the first Fantasy NASCAR preview of the 2014 season:

The Track

Daytona International Speedway is a 2.5-mile superspeedway, the second largest track on the circuit to only Talladega.  It is so big that cars use restrictor plates to regulate speeds and stop them from going dangerously fast (which always sounds like a NASCAR oxymoron when it's worded that way).  That leads to pack racing.

The X-Factor

The Big One is always the X-Factor at the restrictor plate races.  Pack racing can only stay clean for so long, then sooner or later a wreck is going to happen and it's going to claim a lot of cars.  There's no predicting where or when it will happen, nor which cars will be involved and which will be unscathed.

Fantasy Strategy

There are three tiers of drivers in Yahoo! Fantasy, the A, B and C groups, and you only get nine starts per driver.  It's best not to use up a start on a top-of-the-group driver, when he could so easily get swallowed up in an unpredictable wreck.



  • #4 Kevin Harvick - It seems that Harvick's starts never get used up on the A-list, despite his consistency most every season (he's finished third in three of the last four seasons).  He has two wins at Daytona and ranks fifth among active drivers in finishing position.
  • #24 Jeff Gordon - With six career wins and 665 laps led at Daytona, Gordon could be the first driver to clinch a Chase berth this season.
  • #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Over the past few years, he's been a must-have commodity on the B-list.  Now on the A-list, he becomes much more expendable at unpredictable restrictor plate races, where he performs abnormally well.  His 13.8 average finish leads active drivers at Daytona and 16 top-10s in 28 starts is an impressive percentage.


  • #48 Jimmie Johnson - It doesn't matter if he won last year's Daytona 500.  There's no need to start the best fantasy driver at the most unpredictable track.



  • #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - He's finished on the lead lap in all three races he's started at Daytona and also finished third at Talladega last fall.  So, he clearly is capable of pack racing.
  • #27 Paul Menard - There are only two B-list drivers with more than three top-10s in their last 10 Daytona races.  Menard is right at three, so he's as good of an option as any.
  • #31 Ryan Newman - With several big names on the B-list, Newman is good, but not the cream of the crop.  That makes him an attractive guy to start when in doubt of the elite drivers on the list.  His Daytona stats don't jump off the page, but no one's do, and he's a former winner of the Great American Race.
  • #34 David Ragan - To quote Wedding Crashers: "it's the first play of the big game and you want to throw up a Hail Mary!?"  Starting Ragan when there are nine other starts available on over a dozen drivers who are better than the No. 34 seems silly, but all the cars go the same speed.  Ragan won on a restrictor plate track last year and can certainly be competitive with all things being equal.


  • #14 Tony Stewart - This is a tough park, as Stewart has four wins at Daytona.  However, it's just too difficult to start a driver that might end up being a B-list ace, considering the high risk of wrecking out.
  • #99 Carl Edwards - With six top-10s in his last 10 Daytona starts, Edwards is appealing.  But, like Stewart, he's going to be too attractive of an option at too many other tracks to waste a start now.



  • #21 Trevor Bayne - He holds the title of being the youngest Daytona 500 winner in history.  That's enough to consider him this week.
  • #66 Michael Waltrip - He only leaves the owner's box or broadcast desk for the restrictor plate races.  Frankly, they're the only tracks at which he's ever had much success, and three of his four career Cup wins have come at Daytona.


#3 Austin Dillon - With Dillon starting on the pole, there's certainly some appeal to starting him.  That said, the C-List is so ridiculously shallow that team managers might want to start Dillon 20 times this year.  A start shouldn't be wasted at a restrictor plate track.


Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily rank order.

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