Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Daytona 500

by Cory J. Bonini on February 13, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


One of two restrictor-plate tracks, Daytona International Speedway will host the 52nd Daytona 500 Sunday, Feb. 14. The pole is held by Hendrick Motorsports' Mark Martin, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. begins on front row, as well.

Daytona is a very, very fast track, and drivers rarely let off the gas pedal. Drafting is the name of the game here. The track is known for "The Big One" as some amazing accidents have occurred at Daytona. Qualifying tends to have little bearing on this race's outcome.

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Shape: Tri-oval
Length: 2.50 miles
Laps: 200
Turns 1-4: 31 degrees
Front stretch: 18 degrees
Back stretch: 3 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 Stanley Tools Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

Crowning success hasn't necessarily been Sadler's calling card in 22 starts at the track, but he has been very good at times. He has a high driver rating of 107.4 (average of 78.9, though) in the past five years, and his average finish is a strong 14.1. Last year he finished fifth, and he registered a sixth-place result the year before. He has four top-fives and nine top-10s, but Sadler has failed to complete four races in his last 22 Daytona International Speedway starts. He is a risky driver, but considering he has only one finish outside of the top six in his last four Daytona starts, give him a whirl.  

A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Best Buy Dodge | Richard Petty Motorsports

In three starts at Daytona, Allmendinger has an average finish of 20.67, which includes a non-DNF, 42nd-place result at the 2008 Coke Zero 400, but that also factors in a third-place finish in last year's Daytona 500. He'll start 15th this year, and you should consider Allmendinger to gain a few sneaky points.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing
A must-start this weekend

Bowyer runs well at the track; his average finish in the past five seasons is 13.4, with a high driver rating of 106.5. Although winless, he has one top-five but five top-10s in eight races. Last year, he finished fourth at the Great American Race, and starting ninth this year only helps his chances of success. Bowyer should be in all fantasy lineups this weekend.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Crown Royal Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Last year's winner, Kenseth starts 24th this weekend. Knowing his history and that Daytona starting places often don't seem to matter, consider Kenseth for your lineup this weekend. He has racked up three top-fives and nine top-10s in his career (20 races) at the track. His average finish of 15.4 in the past five years is respectable, but be aware of five DNFs in these 20 career starts. He has the third best average driver rating in the past five years (96.1), too. Make sure he is in your lineup, but brace of a possible letdown.

Marcos Ambrose | No. 47 Kroger Floral Toyota | JTG Daugherty Racing

With only two career starts at the track under his belt, Ambrose could go either way. In his first crack at Daytona, the Australian cruised to a respectable 17th-place finish. In his second attempt, though, Ambrose finished sixth at the Coke Zero 400. This leaves him with an average finish of 11.5, which won't be sustained long term, of course. Nevertheless, such improvement of an already impressive showing makes him worthy of strong consideration. He will start in 18th place this weekend.

Temper your expectations

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

While experienced (34 career starts) at Daytona, and successful (six career wins), Gordon has been shaky the past few years. He finished 39th in 2008 after his suspension gave way, and he followed it up with a 30th-place result in the Coke Zero 400 that year. Last year, Gordon's Daytona experience was a little better. He started third in the 500 but finished 13th. The Coke Zero 400 was another story, however, as the star racer limped to a 28th-place result after starting second. Start Gordon, but be aware of this recent string of letdowns. 

Joey Logano | No. 20 Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing
Too risky?

Starting 16th Sunday, the second-year driver hopes to turn around his 2008 misfortunes at the track. In his very first run at Daytona, Logano crashed his way to a 43rd-place finish. In his second attempt at the track in the Coke Zero 400, he wound up racing to a 19th-place result. We say temper your expectations, because a relatively inexperienced driver like Logano can easily get caught up in The Big One and derail his race-day plans. Just as the above heading says, keep high expectations at bay this weekend.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Edwards has raced Daytona 10 times in his career, but consistent success has been elusive. With a very good trio of top-five finishes comes as many DNFs and an average finish of 19.7. Last year, he finished 18th, which was preceded by a 23rd-place finish (2007) and a 19th-place result (2008). Start Edwards if you must, but expect his 2008 winless streak to continue through this weekend, at least.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle has raced 14 times on the track in his career, with an average driver rating of 70.5 - not good. His career average finish of 22.1 at Daytona dips to 24.5 in the past five years. He has one win, one top-five, three top-10s but a whopping six DNFs in 14 starts. Biffle is very risky, and having only three career top-10s at the track doesn't make us very comfortable starting him Sunday. 

Jamie McMurray | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

Inconsistency has been the name of his game at Daytona International Speedway. McMurray, having moved this offseason to his new team, gets a fresh start Sunday. His 14 career starts at the track have yielded mixed results. He has one win, two top-fives and three top-10s. Now the bad: Average finish of 25.6 and eight - yes, eight - DNFs in 14 starts at the track. Yikes! There are better drivers to take a chance on this week, so leave McMurray in the garage.

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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