The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series kicks off the 2015 season with the 57th running of the Daytona 500. NASCAR Fantasy Cheat Sheet is back by popular demand for our “lucky” 13th year. We took a long look at past performances, trends, and Speedweek sessions to shed a light on how the field will finish Sunday.
When: Sunday, February 22; 1:20 p.m./et.
The Track: Daytona InternationalSpeedway
Daytona International Raceway is a 2.5-mile tri-oval with extreme 31 degree banking on the corners. The intense banking allows drivers to run wide-open nearly the entire way around the track. In an effort to promote safety NASCAR has made all Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona restrictor-plate races. The plate on the engine limits air-intake thus reducing horsepower and slowing top-end speeds.
Key to Race: ANOTHER RESTRICTOR-PLATE CRAP SHOOT?
Without preseason testing this year we anticipated that cars that were strong in 2014 would be tough to beat again at Daytona in 2015. This theory seems to be proving to be correct with Joe Gibbs Racing finishing first and third in the Sprint Unlimited and Hendrick Motorsports qualifying two cars on the front row during Daytona 500 qualifying.
We are writing this prior to Thursday’s Budweiser Duels so you might want to check the results of these features prior to finalizing your team. As always in restrictor-plate races there are 30 to 35 drivers that can take the checkers. If you are in a league that limits the amount of starts you can use per driver for the season this isn’t the best weekend to use Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and/or Dale Jr. Save them for later in the year when skill and quality equipment will have more of an impact on the final outcome of the race.
Okay bear with me I will do my best to explain this confusing qualifying style. 49 cars will attempt to qualify for starting spots. Positions No. 1 and No. 2 were set during qualifying on Feb. 15 (Jeff Gordon pole and Jimmie Johnson outside pole). Positions No. 3 through No. 32 are set by the results of the Budweiser Duel 150 on Thursday. Drivers who finish in the top 15 in their respective Budweiser 150 races earn spots in the Daytona 500 and the 16th-place driver gets in as long as one of the top-15 drivers already occupies one of the two front row spots. Positions No.33 through No. 36 are made up of the fastest four drivers from qualifying not in already in from the Budweiser 150. Positions No. 37 through No. 42 are made of the highest drivers in the previous season's owner points standing not already in the race. Starting spot No. 43 is designated to a former Sprint Cup Champion not already in, if there isn’t a former Sprint Cup Champion. The final slot goes to the next driver highest placing driver in the highest in the final 2014 owner point standings.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior got caught with a too low left-front in post-qualifying inspection and will need to make the race during the Budweiser Duels. This won’t be an issue for last year’s 500 winner.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski’s finished third in last year’s 500. He will be a top option most weekends this season.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: It is tough not to pick Mr. Six-Time. He swept both races at Daytona in 2013, finished fifth in last year’s 500 and was fantastic in qualifying this year.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin, like Junior, failed post-qualifying inspection and will need to qualify for the race during Thursday’s second Duel. He finished second during the 500 last year and will be fast once again.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon, this year’s pole sitter, has five career wins at Daytona. He would love nothing more than to begin his final Cup campaign with a win in the “Super Bowl” of the sport.
6 to 10
No. 20 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth is consistently strong at Daytona. He won this year’s Sprint Unlimited, the 2011 Daytona 500, and the 2009 Daytona 500. He is one of our favorites to take the checkers on Sunday.
No. 4 Kevin Harvick: Harvick is a two-time winner at Daytona and is always a threat to win restrictor-plate races. He will be great again this weekend.
No. 19 Carl Edwards: Edwards is a solid restrictor-plate driver and was great at Daytona in five of the last nine Daytona races. He is a top 10 choice in his new JGR ride.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Kyle has never won the Daytona 500, but he has driven well in most restrictor-plate races. He should finish inside the top 10 this weekend.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: No one is more excited to kick off the 2015 season than Smoke. He has driven great at Daytona and will be eager to put 2014 behind him.
11 to 20
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne was just the 12th fastest driver in qualifying on Sunday, but we like all Hendrick Motorsports cars.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle was 14th fastest during qualifying on Sunday. He is worth using as a third driver in most leagues this weekend.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer lost his mind after wrecking in the Unlimited. If you haven’t seen the interview google it. So worth it. Use him in most leagues.
No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. Truex led the most laps in Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited Race. He is always a great pick at Daytona.
No. 22 Joey Logano: Logano finished sixth in the Unlimited on Saturday. He will have the Double-Deuce in the top 20 on Sunday.
No. 42 Kyle Larson: Last year’s ROY finished fifth in the crash-filled Sprint Unlimited. He proved last year he is worth being owned in all fantasy leagues.
No. 41 Kurt Busch: Busch was a bit slow in Sunday’s qualifying and failed to lead a lap during the Unlimited. There are better options this weekend.
No. 31 Ryan Newman: Newman is a past Daytona 500 winner and came on strong down-the-stretch last season. He is a decent pick.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray won the 2010 Daytona 500. He isn’t usually one of our top picks, but his success at Daytona speaks for itself.
21 to 30
No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse was very average during Speedweek. There are better choices.
No. 6 Trevor Bayne: The 2011 Daytona 500 winner moves into the former No. 99 ride, now converted to the No. 6. He is a nice under-the-radar choice.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona last year. He is a very solid choice to round-out your roster.
No. 47 A.J. Allmendinger: Dinger was great last season. We like his chances.
No. 34 David Ragan: Remember Talladega in 2013? Ragan can drive on restrictor-plate tracks as well as anyone.
No. 55 Michael Waltrip: We all have seen what Waltrip can do at Daytona. There are worse options.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard finished sixth during the 2012 Daytona 500, but struggled the past two years. He isn’t much of an option this weekend.
No. 9 Sam Hornish Jr.: Hornish was 16th fastest during qualifying on Sunday. He isn’t a bad fifth driver.
No. 38 David Gilliland: Gilliland is always a fine choice in restrictor-plate races.
No. 13 Casey Mears
No. 10 Danica Patrick
No. 21 Ryan Blaney
No. 30 Ron Hornaday
No. 32 Bobby Labonte
No. 40 Landon Cassill
No. 51 Justin Allgaier
No. 44 Reed Sorenson
No. 46 Michael Annett
No. 66 Mike Wallace
No. 7 Alex Bowman
No. 62 Brian Scott
No. 95 Michael McDowell
No. 23 J.J. Yeley
No. 26 Jeb Burton
No. 35 Cole Whitt
No. 29 Justin Marks
No. 83 Johnny Sauter
No. 98 Josh Wise
My Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR Team for this Week:
A. Jeff Gordon
C. Ty Dillon