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Statistically Speaking

Start or Park: Coke Zero 400

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Choosing a roster on restrictor-plate superspeedways is a little more than simply flipping a coin. Not much, but a little.

While anyone can get swept into a 'Big One' crash, there are a few drivers who have a knack for getting away unscathed to a greater degree than the rest of field at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Sometimes they are lucky, occasionally they sense danger and either get ahead or behind it, and some of them know how to bide their time until the closing laps.

One way or the other, drivers have to survive Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400. So do fantasy players. Make your best guesses and be prepared for a couple of your selections to wreck – then sit back and enjoy the show.

Level One

Start: Joey Logano
This is a good week to avoid the Big 3, but there is no reason not to put a couple of Level One drivers on your lineup. While anyone can crash, the top of the order is still dominated by superteams and Joey Logano and Team Penske are among the best on restrictor-plate superspeedways. Logano has won four plate races in the past four years and enters the weekend with three consecutive top-fives on them. He won the last race on this track type at ‘Dega.

Start: Clint Bowyer
Clint Bowyer’s 15th-place finish in this year’s Daytona 500 was neither impressive nor a reason to park him. That means the focus shifts to something else. While some drivers can tell the difference between the draft at Daytona and Talladega, Bowyer adds a dimension and can also seem to tell the difference between the spring Daytona race and the summertime Coke Zero Sugar 400. He enters the weekend with five consecutive top-10s in this race despite having an uneven record in February.

Park: The Dominators
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. have each struggled in the past couple of years at Daytona. Harvick, in particular, has not scored a top-20 on this track in his last four attempts and while most of those disappointments came as the result of crash damage, that intangible is very much part of the game. Save the Big 3 for tracks on which they can control their destiny because they will pick up where they left off next week at Kentucky Speedway.

Level Two

Start: Ryan Blaney
Some of the best values this week will come from Level Two. Ryan Blaney has Penske power under the hood and a pair of teammates that now how to – and more importantly, are committed to – contributing to the success of the entire organization. Logano and Brad Keselowski might not always be in a position to help Blaney, but if they are, the team will work well together.

Start: Aric Almirola
It was no fluke that Aric Almirola was in position to win this year’s Daytona 500. He has been solid on this track in the past, as a win in the 2014 Coke Zero 400 attests. And while he has not found Victory Lane again, he has been inside the top 15 in every race since then with a fourth to his credit in last year’s 500.

Park: Erik Jones
Some drivers are just crash prone on plate tracks. Occasionally one of them will survive the damage and score a top-10; that has not been the case with Erik Jones. In six previous starts on this track type, he has ended his day in the garage five times and all of those results were in the 30s. On the one occasion that he managed to avoid catastrophe, he finished ninth in last year’s Coke Zero 400.

Level Three

Start: Trevor Bayne
Trevor Bayne is a good driver to start this week in allocation management games. Since he is no longer running the full schedule, it is unlikely that he will be exhausted before the end of the season, but even without that caveat, he is a good value. Bayne finished 13th in this year’s Daytona 500. He was third at Talladega last fall and about one-third of his career starts on this track type ended in the top 20. He won’t anchor many teams, but he could be a good differentiator.

Start: Michael McDowell
Daytona has been kind to dark horses ever since the dreaded restrictor-plates were added to cars in the late 1980s. Since no one has found a way to separate from the draft for long periods of time, success on this track is mostly about staying out of trouble and stacking time. Michael McDowell is among the best at doing this and his last five races have provided him with one top-five, two more top-10s, and a perfect record of top-15s.

Previous Start or Parks

Daytona 500 
Geico 500 (Talladega) 
Overton's 400 (Chicagoland) 
Toyota / Save Mart 350 (Sonoma) 
Firekeepers 400 (Michigan) 

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.