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FANTASY: Rolling the Daytona Dice

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
With so many question marks at Daytona, using the drivers on the front row could yield 10 much-needed bonus points. Photo: Getty Images

It's that time of year again. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is just days away from kicking off its 2013 season, and with that comes the start of a new year with Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing.  For the second year, we are running the "Fans of NHMS" league and I encourage you to follow the link to sign up and play in our league.

Throughout the season, you can find fantasy tips and advice here on The Granite Stripe.  It was a difficult year for me last season, as my luck seemed about on par with Carl Edwards's, and I finished in just the 69th percentile.  However, after a 98th percentile finish in 2011, I'm going to ask for a mulligan and expect a more successful season in 2013.

To streamline the fantasy preview, each week I'll discuss the fantasy lineups based on the track, the X-factor and underlying strategy, and highlight specific drivers from Yahoo's A, B and C lists to start or park based on that analysis.

The Track

Daytona International Speedway is a superspeedway.  The 2.5-mile oval is the second largest on the circuit and one of just two that uses restrictor plates.  These plates regulate the cars' top speeds and thus they end up pack-racing, as no car can go noticeably faster than the others.  This pack-racing makes the race results far more unpredictable than most races.

X-Factor

The likelihood of a wreck is always the wild card at this track.  The debut of the Generation-Six car compounds this X-factor.  In just a few laps of pack-racing during a test session last month, Marcos Ambrose (in a Ford) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (in a Chevrolet) became detached and set off a huge wreck.  If the different manufacturers cars don't fit together well for drafting, unpredictability might be at an all-time high.

Fantasy Strategy

With only nine allocations to use on a driver throughout the season, this track is a place where you should sit the B and C-list drivers that you anticipate wanting to start often during the season.  One helpful tip would be that in the other 35 races, you need to pick your eight drivers before qualifying, but in this one, you can pick drivers up until five minutes before the green flag.  You might want to consider a driver starting near the front of the pack, as a lap led equates to 10 bonus points.

A-List

Start

  • #14 Tony Stewart - His 96.5 driver rating at Daytona leads last year's Chase field and he has four wins in his career at the track.
  • #20 Matt Kenseth - He's won this event in two of the last four seasons and has finished in the top-10 in half of the races he's started at Daytona.  To put that in perspective, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only driver among last year's Chasers to have a higher percentage of top-10s.
  • #24 Jeff Gordon - With six career wins at Daytona, Gordon is as good of a bet as any.  Plus, remember what I said about bonus points for leading a lap?  He starts on the front row, so he's a favorite to lead Lap 1.

Park

  • #11 Denny Hamlin - He has an atrocious average finish of 21.0 at Daytona despite finishing all 14 races he's started at the track.  Not only might he be due for some bad luck in this one, but even good luck hasn't yielded good results.

B-List

Start

  • #27 Paul Menard - With three top-10s in the last four races at Daytona, he's worth a shot.  This isn't someone a manager will start nine times, so he could definitely save an allocation.
  • #55 Mark Martin - As a part-time driver that performed well last year, he's always worth considering when he starts.  Think of him as a safety net when you don't know whom else to use.
  • #78 Kurt Busch - The midseason switch from the No. 51 to the No. 78 in 2012 seemed to improve Busch's performance.  He won't be a Chase contender like he was in the past, but he showed last year that in races where inferior equipment has little impact, he can put together a strong finish.
  • #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - This is a tough call as Junior is one of the B-list's best offerings throughout the season.  However, he has the best average finish at Daytona (14.5) of any active driver, so it's hard to go against him.

Park

  • #18 Kyle Busch - This driver is going to be a B-list all-star and he has some tracks where he'll clearly be the best option.  There's no need to use a start on this question mark of a race.
  • #99 Carl Edwards - Despite seven top-10s in the last 10 Daytona races, I would use the same logic as that of Kyle Busch and save Edwards for other tracks.  The risks of starting him don't outweigh the rewards.

C-List

Start

  • #10 Danica Patrick - She's the first-ever female to qualify on the pole in a Sprint Cup Series race, and if she can lead the first lap, she'll earn her fantasy teams 10 bonus points.
    #28 Michael Waltrip - A three-time Daytona winner, Waltrip was in the mix at Talladega last fall before a huge wreck on the last lap jumbled the finishing order.  He won't race often this year and would save a C-list allocation on someone that will race the full schedule.

Park

  • #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - He should emerge as the C-list stud and you'll need nine good starts from him to win a fantasy league.  Keep him on the bench this week, as this isn't a guaranteed good start by any means.

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

Click here to join the "Fans of NHMS" Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing group.