Daytona 500 fantasy picks
By Taylor Goins
February 24, 2017
This weekend’s 59th annual Daytona 500 marks the start of the NASCAR season. Luckily, for a large number of racing fans, it also marks the start of the fantasy racing season.
Restrictor-plate racing is guaranteed to bring high speeds and tight packs for the field of 40 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers; however, it also commonly breeds unpredictable finishes and unexpected winners.
This inherent even-playing field at restrictor-plate tracks such at Daytona is exciting for spectators but it makes creating a fantasy lineup a difficult task. The good news is that you honestly cannot go wrong, as any of the drivers entered in the race could feasibly end up winning.
The six drivers listed below all have the skills it takes to win the “Daytona Lottery” and perform well on Sunday, and it’s easy to make an argument for any of them to finish well enough to earn your fantasy racing team some serious points.
NASCAR.com’s Roster Value for each driver has been listed in parenthesis next to their name. For purposes of NASCAR.com’s official fantasy game, each player is limited to a weekly salary cap of $100.
Brad Keselowski ($26.50)- Team Penske has been victorious in four out of the last six MENCS restrictor-plate tracks, and no one should be surprised if Brad Keselowski is able to increase that statistic to five out of the last seven with a win at Daytona this weekend.
The Michigan-native has always had a knack for superspeedways, as he claims 6 total wins at Daytona and Talladega. Fresh off a win in last year’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July, look for Keselowski to ride this wave of restrictor-plate momentum to claim his first ever Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 Championship trophy.
Kyle Busch ($27.75)- Looking for his first Daytona 500 title, Kyle Busch enters the 2017 season hoping to cross the sport’s most coveted prize off his racing “to-do” list.
Winning a Daytona 500 championship is one of the few things in NASCAR’s top series that Busch has not yet accomplished, and by qualifying his No. 18 Toyota Camry in the fourth position for Thursday’s Can-Am Duel race, he has shown that he has the speed to make that dream a reality.
Over his career, Busch has accumulated five top-five finishes at Daytona and even won the Coke Zero 400 in 2008. He is a solid bet to make it to victory lane this Sunday.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($25.00)- NASCAR’s most popular driver is making his first start since July 2016 in this weekend’s Daytona 500.
After having to miss the second half of last season due to the lingering effects of a concussion, Earnhardt Jr. wasted no time in proving that he still has the speed to continue his past Daytona domination, as he qualified his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the outside of the front row.
Undoubtedly, the entire racing community is watching Earnhardt Jr. in his return behind the wheel. However, don’t look for this to be a distraction to him. Earnhardt Jr. has a remarkable four wins at Daytona to his credit already, including two prestigious 500 crowns.
Putting him in your fantasy lineup would not be a risk at all, as no one would be shocked to see Earnhardt Jr. take home his third Daytona 500 title.
Clint Bowyer ($15.00)- After a difficult 2016 season with HScott Motorsports where he posted an average finish of 23.1, Clint Bowyer must have been thrilled to get 2017 underway.
Taking over for Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Ford, Bowyer got out of the gate quickly, as he qualified 4th for his Can-Am Duel race and posted times near the top of the charts during last Saturday’s season opening practice.
Bowyer is a low-priced pick for someone possessing so much talent and driving top-tier equipment. Bowyer already has 11 top-ten finishes in his history at Daytona, and he could score major fantasy points this weekend and add another solid finish to his already impressive resume.
Erik Jones ($19.00)-
Categorized as a “Value Pick” for this race because his cost for NASCAR.com’s fantasy league is under $20, the rookie from Byron, Michigan will certainly not be an inexpensive fantasy pick for very long.
One of the sport’s rising stars at just 20 years of age, Jones already has a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title to his name and showed remarkable speed in his three previous MENCS starts.
Driving the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, Jones got his first speedweeks off to an average, yet respectable start by qualifying 10th for his Can-Am Duel on Thursday.
Can Jones, the rookie, establish himself as a trusted drafting partner among NASCAR’s veterans this Sunday? If the answer proves to be yes, look for the first-year driver in NASCAR’s top-series to start his career off with a bang and nab a successful finish in his inaugural Daytona 500.
David Ragan ($6.00)- The fifth place finisher from 2007’s Daytona 500, David Ragan, already has one superspeedway win to his name.
Ragan, driving for Front Row Motorsports, is an extremely talented driver even though he does not pose a threat to win on a weekly basis.
Throw everything out of the window at Daytona and Talladega though, because those with lesser equipment can reap the advantages of a more level playing field.
Ragan has been sneakily good during his last four Daytona races, posting an average finish of 18.5. For just $6, he is a bargain to add to your fantasy team, and with just a few breaks, it’s a bargain that could pay off greatly. DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
IMAGE CREDITS: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts; NASCAR Media