FANTASY: Daytona's Fireworks
Coke Zero 400 Fantasy Preview
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Fireworks are a Fourth of July tradition in America, and that's exemplified by the Independence Day weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Flying sparks, dented bumpers, wrecked cars, the Coke Zero 400 will certainly pack excitement this coming Saturday night.
It will be a fun race to watch for the holiday weekend, but it might not be as fun of a race in which to participate. The pack race created by restrictor plate racing makes for an unpredictable and entertaining viewing experience.
But, it's the time of year that drivers have positioned themselves in a position to make the Chase or are working their tails off to get in that position. The notion of an increased level of unpredictability is not exactly what their championship hopes need, but that's racing.
On a smaller level, the same holds true for Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing managers. The hope is to not lose much ground this week, and here's a look at who might help accomplish that not-so-simple goal.
Daytona International Speedway is 2.5 miles around, which explains the need for the restrictor plates. These plates ensure that the cars don't go too fast for their own safety features. They force a maximum speed that is less than the true potential speed for the car, and this results in the cars racing together in a pack, as opposed to getting spread out.
The Big One is always the X-factor at a restrictor plate race. Getting caught up in these wrecks tends to come down to luck or lack thereof. A car is certainly better off running up front than in the middle, but some think they'll have a better chance of avoiding a wreck if they're in the back of the pack. The truth is that no driver is really safe from a wreck anywhere, save the start-and-parkers that have already packed it up and headed back to North Carolina.
You only get nine starts a year on a driver. It's not a good week to use one on a driver with whom you might run out of allocations. Play it safe; don't risk your best drivers.
- #14 Tony Stewart - Chances are that you're not going to start the four-time Daytona winner for nine races this year. He's been inconsistent, but has a capability of winning any race, so he's a safe play this week.
- #20 Matt Kenseth - He's one of the guys I'd normally tell you to park, as he's been so good at most tracks this season. That said, Kenseth won the 2012 Daytona 500 by leading 50 laps and led a race-high in each of the last two races at the track (89 last July and 86 in February).
- #24 Jeff Gordon - He needs a win to get himself into Chase contention, so this could be a rewarding week if all goes well. Gordon has won at Daytona six times and has 19 top-10s in 41 career starts at the track, which is about as good as you're going to do at a restrictor plate track.
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - I know he won the race here in February, but he's too valuable at too many other tracks to risk a start here.
- #27 Paul Menard - No risk, no reward, that's the name of the game this week for me. Menard has just four top-10s in 17 races this season, but has yet to record a DNF. To sound obvious on this one: he finishes races. His 17.3 average finish at Daytona ranks him 10th among active drivers.
- #39 Ryan Newman - Like his teammate/owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, he hasn't had the season that's begging owners to start him nine times, so he has one to spare this weekend. He won at Daytona in 2008 and has three top-fives in the 11 most recent starts at the track.
- #78 Kurt Busch - He had been my go-to as a driver to start at a track like this, where you wanted someone good that you might not use nine times. However, he's been good enough that I might actually start him nine times. Still, with six top-10s in the last 11 races, he's a top choice on the B-list.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - This driver loves restrictor plate racing more than most. His 14.0 average finish at Daytona is the best in the field.
- #18 Kyle Busch - Like Johnson, his nine starts are too worthwhile at other tracks to dabble around with a restrictor plate start. He could win this weekend, but he's not worth the risks.
- #99 Carl Edwards - See "#18 Kyle Busch."
- #10 Danica Patrick - Her only top-10 of 2013, an eighth-place finish in February, came at Daytona. I'm not guaranteeing that she does that again, but it's worth taking the chance on the C-list.
- #55 Michael Waltrip - There's a reason why he only climbs behind the wheel for restrictor plate races. He likes these tracks and they're the only ones where he really ever had much success. Waltrip has won only four races in 772 starts and three of those were at Daytona.
- #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - He's been the cream of the C-list crop and is not worth risking this week, as you'll really wish you could start him about 15 times.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.
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