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FANTASY: Fireworks at Daytona

Thursday, July 5, 2012
Matt Kenseth picked up his second Daytona win in February. (Getty) Photo: Getty Images

Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (and Repetition) Fantasy Preview

Hopefully everyone managed to get in a fireworks show last night.  There were severe thunderstorms rolling through the state of NH right around dusk, so the sky was filled with a different form of flashing light.

I was in Manchester for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats game and the lightning provided quite the "ooh-aah" backdrop in centerfield.  However, it stayed dry, as the storm missed the downtown part of the Queen City.  The home team battled back with two outs twice: they tied it in the bottom of the ninth and hit a walk-off home run (while trailing) in the bottom of the 11th.

Afterward, the Fisher Cats put on perhaps the best firework display I'd ever seen.  If you've never been to one of their games, they have several each month after which they fire off about 10-15 minutes of fireworks.  It's definitely worth a trip.

However, if you did miss out on all the fireworks last night, fear not, the Sprint Cup Series is headed to Daytona.  Normally, this is the only night race down there, but thanks to steady rain in February that forced a Monday Night race, it will be the second evening race of the season at the superspeedway.

The restrictor plate race always creates fender-bending, spark-flying action, and the adrenaline under the lights only adds to that.  If February's race was any indication, we could be in for quite the evening.

In that event, Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick, and 2011 track winners Trevor Bayne and David Ragan were all wrecked on the second lap.  Later on, of course, Juan Pablo Montoya infamously lost control of his car under caution and exploded the back of a jet dryer.

All in all, Daytona makes for an exciting, night race.  It also makes for a tense fantasy owner, as it's very hard to predict which drivers won't get the short end of the luck when it comes to getting wrecked in a "Big One."

Strategy: Be extremely cautious about using the best drivers, especially on the B and C-Lists, where allocations are going to get tough to come by.  As mentioned, Bayne and Ragan won the two races last year, so they proved that anyone can win here.  They also proved that anyone can get wrecked on the second lap as well!

A-List

Start

#17 Matt Kenseth - The points leader has two wins at this track, including the Daytona 500 earlier this year.  In that race, he got up to the front and stayed there, which is a pretty good way to avoid getting caught up in The Big One.

#29 Kevin Harvick - Chances are that Harvick starts aren't exactly flying off the A-List shelf, as he's been very quiet in going about his business.  He leads the A-List in fantasy points over the last 11 Daytona races, which includes two wins.

#99 Carl Edwards -  The No. 99 team seems to becoming distant cousins, to reference its driver's nickname.  That said, they're really only a win away from making noise, and Edwards is one of only two drivers with seven top-10s in the last five years (11 starts) at Daytona.

Park

#2 Brad Keselowski - His highest finish at Daytona is 15th.  To put things in fantasy perspective, Casey Mears has averaged more points per race this season than Keselowski has in his Daytona starts.  Would you really consider starting Mears as your A-List driver?

B-List

Start

#15 Clint Bowyer - For whatever reason, Bowyer seems to get more hype at Talladega than Daytona.  He's good at restrictor plate racing in general and his 14.8 average Daytona finish is second among all active drivers.

#27 Paul Menard - Don't jump out of your seat with excitement on this one...  In all seriousness, Menard's 17.3 average finish at this track isn't half bad.  Considering he's probably not one of the guys with which you'll have allocation difficulties, he's definitely worth considering.

#51 Kurt Busch - With the Phoenix Racing team finally seeming to have turned a corner toward mediocrity, Busch could be a savior this week.  Along with Edwards, he's the only other driver to have seven top-10s in the last 11 Daytona races, and nothing equalizes a lesser machine like a good driver and a restrictor plate.

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Suggesting Junior as a start goes against everything I said in terms of saving the ace of the B-List.  His series-leading 14.5 average Daytona finish makes him hard to ignore, you'll just have to make your own choice based on how many allocations you have to spare.

Park

#1 Jamie McMurray - In winning Talladega and Daytona in the span of a few months, McMurray got the reputation of restrictor plate stud.  The stats say otherwise.  Over the course of the last five years (11 races), he's the worst driver on the B-List at Daytona.  I'll repeat that: the worst.

#16 Greg Biffle - The Biff raced very well here in February.  However, he's not a standout like Junior, and thus is worth saving for the plethora of other tracks where he's an attractive option.

C-List

Start

#21 Trevor Bayne - The part-time driver is a good option most weekends he enters, especially when he's racing at the track where he picked up his only career Cup win.

#34 David Ragan - Last year's race winner isn't in the same Roush Fenway Racing machine in which he won.  That said, a restrictor plate race neutralizes a lot of the advantage gained from having better equipment and Ragan has shown an ability to race well at Daytona.

Park

#43 Aric Almirola - No way, no how should the C-Lists only good week-to-week option crack the starting lineup.  That's not a risk worth taking.

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The picks in this blog are based around Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game and its standard scoring rules.  The preview is designed to provide suggestions, while still encouraging managers to make their own decisions.  Once sorted into Yahoo's A, B and C-Lists, they are organized based on car number and not directly associated with a rank value.

You can sign up and play for free, by visiting http://racing.fantasysports.yahoo.com.  If signed up, the "Fans of NHMS" group may be joined by clicking here.