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NASCAR Fantasy Cheat Sheet

Daytona 500 Cheat Sheet

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: February 12, 2020, 2:35 pm ET

The superspeedways host the least predictable races on the schedule.

No matter how one parses the data, a 'Big One' crash can change the running order in the blink of an eye. Last week’s Busch clash was a harsh reminder of what can and often does happen in races at Daytona and Talladega.

The law of big numbers suggests that a driver will occasionally earn consecutive top-10s on even the most unpredictable courses. These strong runs move them to the top of the chart in terms of potential, but ultimately even that is a less than a perfect measuring tool. Last year three drivers earned top-10s in three of the four superspeedway races, but it is extremely rare for someone to sweep that mark in a given season.

Looking back on the most recent 18 superspeedway races, only one driver has earned top-fives in half of their attempts. Joey Logano had a strong run from the fall Talladega race through spring 2019 but that streak is bookended by results of 25th or worse.

One never knows what might happen on this course type.

1. Joey Logano
Logano was holding a steady wheel on the aero-restricted superspeedways until last summer's Coke Zero 400. Six of his previous seven attempts on this course type ended in top-fives.

2. Ryan Newman
If one goes strictly by the numbers, Newman has to be considered one of the favorites this week. He has not won a superspeedway race since 2008 but eight of his last 10 attempts ended in the single digits.

3. Aric Almirola
If not for an accident in the Daytona 500, Almirola would probably have swept the top 10 on superspeedways in 2019. Luck is unpredictable, but his skill is without question.

4. Ty Dillon
Dillon crashed and finished 39th in the 2018 Daytona 500. Since then, he has four top-10s and a worst of 17th in seven superspeedway races.

5. Ryan Preece
Preece could be one of the most pleasant surprises this year on this track type. He finished eighth in the Daytona 500, was third in Talladega 1, and 18th in Talladega 2.

6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
By winning the pole for Sunday's race, Stenhouse has already served notice that he must be taken seriously in his new JTG-Daugherty ride.

7. Denny Hamlin
For the past two seasons Hamlin has bookended his superspeedway with top-fives in the Daytona 500 and Talladega 2. Last year he won the season opener to become the first driver to punch his playoff ticket.

8. Austin Dillon
Dillon's 2018 Daytona 500 win is still fresh in our memories. He finished ninth at Daytona that summer and almost cracked the top 15 again in last year's kickoff.

9. Alex Bowman
With the second-fastest time last Sunday, Bowman is one of two drivers who knows where he will start before the qualification races. His last two superspeedway attempts ended outside of the top 20.

10. Kyle Busch
Busch helped push his teammate Hamlin across the line last year, but he often runs into trouble on the big tracks. Play him in unlimited games if you wish, but avoid in in allocation management contests.

11. Kurt Busch
In the past two years on superspeedways, Busch has scored three top-10s and another top-15. His odds of being in the front half of the pack are about 50%.

12. Chris Buescher
Buescher was extremely strong in 2018 on superspeedways with a fifth in the Daytona 500 and three results of 11th or better. He failed to crack the top 15 last year.

13. Chase Elliott
Elliott's ill-advised move late in the Busch Clash indicates that he lacks the patience to be a good value on a plate track. His Talladega 1 win from last year tells a different story.

14. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson will be willing to take risks he'd otherwise avoid this week in a quest to win the Daytona 500 and lock himself into the playoffs during his final year.

15. Erik Jones
Jones already has a Daytona win under his belt this Speedweeks, but since only six cars were running at the end of the Clash, that is not a predictive race.

16. Corey LaJoie
After finishing outside of the top 30 in three superspeedway races in 2018, LaJoie swept the top 20 last year. He earned one top-10 each at Daytona and Talladega.

17. Bubba Wallace
Wallace's second-place finish to Austin Dillon in 2018 proves he can race with the leaders when he stays out of trouble on superspeedways. Last year he had only one top-15 though.

18. Ross Chastain
Chastain's 10th-place finish in last year's Daytona 500 was reinforced by a 12th in Talladega 2. He has a penchant for avoiding trouble on the big tracks.

19. Michael McDowell
McDowell underscores how frustrating handicapping plate races can be. He has two top-fives in the last two years, but he also has two 40th-place finishes.

20. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex runs well on nearly every track. 'Nearly' is the important word in that sentence, however, because he has only four top-10s at Daytona in 29 previous attempts.

21. Ryan Blaney
In the past three seasons, Blaney has scored one top-15 each year. It's anyone's guess as to when that will happen in 2020. Last year he had to wait until Talladega 2. The good news is he won that event.

22. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer has earned two top-10s in his last 12 superspeedway races. Remarkably both of them were second-place finishes with a runner-up at Daytona in 2017 and at Talladega 2 in 2018.

23. Matt DiBenedetto
DiBenedetto will probably end 2020 with a career-best average finish, but it's anyone's guess as to how it is going to start out.

24. William Byron
Byron is an example of how everyone eventually has a good finish on superspeedways if they run long enough. His second-place in Daytona 2 last year is his only top-15 and one of just two top-20s on plate tracks.

25. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has a best of 19th and five DNFs in his last seven attempts at Daytona. There will simply be better opportunities to start him later in the year.

26. BJ McLeod
McLeod had a respectable finish in last year's 500. He was 19th. When the series returned in July, he fell to 28th, but that was acceptable in light of his cap value.

27. Kyle Larson
The top-10 earned by Larson last year in the Daytona 500 is his only such finish in the past three years on superspeedways.

28. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski was livid after being involved in yet another accident on a superspeedway caused by blocking. He seems to forget that his 2017 Talladega 2 win was accomplished when teammate Logano impeded the field.

29. Brendan Gaughan
Gaughan will make one last circuit around the superspeedways this year. He has the right mix of aggression and patience to run well in the draft and is usually a great plate value.

30. David Ragan
Even though Ragan has retired, he couldn't resist the temptation to roll off the grid one last time on a track where scored his first Cup win in 2010.

31. Christopher Bell
In order to score a good finish, Bell will have to curb his enthusiasm and ride patiently in the draft. If he does that, he will log a lot of laps and bank some valuable experience.

32. Joey Gase
Gase made three superspeedway attempts last year and failed to finish in the top 25 a single time. One of these attempts was a failure to qualify through his 150-mile qualifier for the Daytona 500.

33. Quin Houff
Houff made one start on a plate track last year and finished 37th in Talladega 2.

34. Tyler Reddick
Reddick already has a little track time at Daytona. He was running well in last year's 500 before he sustained damage late in the race. He DNF'd. He finished 27th.

35. Cole Custer
The Xfinity series has not been overly kind to Custer at Daytona. The key to his success is going to be in how well he manages to stay out of trouble.

36. Brennan Poole
Last year this team was one of the most pleasant surprises in the Daytona 500 when Chastain finished 10th. Poole has some big shoes to fill.

37. John Hunter Nemechek
This team finished 36th and 37th in the first two superspeedway races last year. There is not enough data to assume Nemechek will do much better in his first race of the rookie campaign.

38. Justin Haley
Haley will garner a lot of attention as the Coke Zero 400 winner. That race was determined by weather, however, and his other plate attempt ended in a 32nd in Talladega 1.

39. Daniel Suarez
This is certainly not the position Suarez wanted to find himself in. He has to be the top-finishing non-chartered driver in his qualification race to insure he makes the 500, but he wrecked out of the majority of his plate starts last year.

40. JJ Yeley
Yeley is scheduled to run the rest of the races for Rick Ware this year, but his path to the Big Show has to go through the qualification race and that is always a crapshoot.

41. Reed Sorenson
Sorenson has not started a race at Daytona since 2017. Last year he finished 18th and 22nd at Talladega.

42. Timmy Hill
Hill will get some seat time behind the wheel of the No. 66, but without a charter and one of the two best speeds in time trials, he is unlikely to make it all the way to the Big Show.

43. Chad Finchum
Finchum is going to have to race his way into the Daytona 500 through his qualification race. That is a lot of pressure to put on a driver with limited experience.

Daytona Coverage

Fantasy Live Preview
Daytona 500 Qualification Report
Bluegreen Vacations 150, Clash Practice Report
Four to Watch: Ty Dillon
Accident Waiting to Happen: Superspeedway success

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.