Fantasy NASCAR season is back. FantasyRacinTips.com had a lot of success in 2018 and I plan to be even better this year. My picks finished 46th overall in the Fantasy Live game and the DraftKings picks returned most people enough money to pay for their annual subscriptions. I put a lot of work into research for the upcoming season so let’s start the season off with some good picks for the Daytona 500.
The MENCS will have a unique schedule for the week. The cars set the front row for the Daytona 500 last Sunday and now the rest of the field will be set Thursday in the Gander RV Duel Races. The first race is at 6 p.m. ET and the second race is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET (both on FS1). There will be two practices Friday (1 p.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET, both on FS1). The final practice will be Saturday at 12 p.m. ET on FS1. The Great American Race will drop the green flag on the 2019 season at 2.30 p.m. ET on Fox.
What Happened Last Year
Alex Bowman won the pole for the 2018 Daytona 500 and led 13 laps. The first Stage had multiple lead changes and a big wreck as the cars came to the Stage ending flag. Kurt Busch won the 2017 Great American Race and he won Stage 1 of the 2018 Daytona 500. Ryan Blaney dominated Stage 2. He also led the most laps in the race (118) and he finished 7th. Denny Hamlin and Aric Almirola took turns leading the final laps but Austin Dillon decided to move Almirola on the final lap to take the checkered flag and win his first Harley J. Earl trophy.
Race Rewind at Daytona: Daytona 500 (2018)
What to Expect Sunday
This will be the last restrictor-plate race for the MENCS. When the cars return to the Superspeedways they will have a tempered spacer. It is similar to a restrictor-plate but not the same. The Fords have dominated these races since 2016. They will have a new car this week. The Ford Mustang GT will make its debut. I do not expect any problems with this car since the success Ford has had on the Superspeedways had more to do with the Roush-Yates engines then it did with the chassis.
NASCAR Loop Data Stats for the Daytona 500
DraftKings NASCAR Preview
Forget about the dominators this week. There are 200 laps in the Daytona 500. That means there are 50 bonus points available for leading laps and 100 points for fastest laps. The trend in the last four Daytona 500s is for one driver to lead 75 laps, another to lead 30 laps and two drivers to lead 20 laps each. The top dominator usually scores 20 bonus points for leading laps and fastest laps but it is risky to try and select dominators for this race. The drivers who lead the most laps usually start up front. If they crash out, they will lose all of the lap led points they earned and sink your lineup.
We need to focus on place differential points (positions gained in the race). Starting positions are meaningless at Daytona. Drivers who qualify outside the top 30 can easily finish inside the top 5. It will be ok to select one driver who starts inside the top 15, but most of your drivers should start outside the top 20 this week.
One more piece of advice… Do not be afraid to leave some of your salary cap on the table this week. My picks have consistently cashed in at the restrictor-plate tracks and the lineups usually leave $1K or more salary cap on the table. Our goal is to pick the best drivers possible to score our team maximum points. You do not need to spend all $50K to do that. Just look at the drivers who have scored the most points at Daytona over the last two years (See chart below)…
Top 15 DraftKings Drivers in Last 6 Races at Daytona
|Avg. Finish Pos.||Laps Led||
|1. Michael McDowell||
|2. Aric Almirola||
|3. Brendan Gaughan||
|4. Darrell Wallace Jr.||
|5. Ryan Newman||
|6. Paul Menard||
|7. Martin Truex Jr.||
|8. Austin Dillon||
|9. Kyle Larson||
|10. Matt DiBenedetto||
|11. David Ragan||
|12. Denny Hamlin||
|13. Ryan Blaney||
|14. Erik Jones||
|15. Chris Buescher||
I will post my final DraftKings picks Sunday morning.
Fantasy Live Preview
Nascar.co m decided to bring back the Fantasy Live game without any major changes. This is good news for you because my picks finished 46th out of 400K entries last year. It was the sixth consecutive season my picks beat 99% of the competition, so you should be in good hands if you follow my picks this season.
I am not a fan of the Garage Driver format but I made this known to NASCAR and their goal is to get eyes on TVs, so using the Garage Driver is their way of ensuring you watch the race. I will do my best to Tweet out any changes with my Garage Driver during the race but sometimes I am at the track and it becomes difficult. Follow me on Twitter to see if I make any changes (@MrFantasyNASCAR).
The Fords have won seven of the last 10 races at Daytona. Some people were concerned that the new Ford GT car would not be as fast as the Fusion. The test session at Las Vegas (Brad Keselowski had the fastest car) and the Advanced Auto Parts Clash Race (Paul Menard led 51 of the 59 laps) show that the Fords did not lose any speed with their new car. Kyle Busch said after the race, “The Ford drivers work so good together and their cars are so fast that it is very tough to beat them on these tracks.” I plan to load up on the Fords this week with my picks unless the Gander RV Duel Races show me a reason to go in a different direction.
I would love to use Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick in this race but their allocations are too important to use in a race where a wreck can take out half of the field. I mapped out my allocations for the entire season and I have the top drivers at each track planned out. Staying close to the script has worked out well in the past so it will be my strategy again in 2019.
Here are the drivers I have penciled in right now…
5 Starting Drivers
Denny Hamlin (10): I just finished writing how I was taking as many Fords as possible and my first driver is in a Toyota. So what gives? Yes, I want as many Fords as possible but I have a good feeling about Hamlin this week. He has not won a race in over a year and I heard it has really been bothering him. He wants to get back to Victory Lane ASAP. Why not just start the season with a win? Hamlin has finished 3rd, 17th, 1st, 4th and 2nd in his last five Daytona 500s. He is usually really good in this race so I plan to have him in my lineup Sunday.
Ryan Blaney (10): Blaney dominated this race last year. He led 118 of the 207 laps. Blaney leads the series in Driver Rating in the last four races at Daytona. He also leads the series in average running position. Blaney will likely spend most of the race up front. He will either be in front or right behind Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. That is a good place to be on the track. I would not be surprised if Blaney won his first Daytona 500 Sunday.
Paul Menard (10): Pretty much everything I wrote about Ryan Blaney can be said about Menard. His Wood Brothers Ford has a tight alliance with Team Penske. The four drivers usually work well together and spend a lot of time up front. Menard looked really good in the Advanced Auto Parts Clash race. If he looks that good again Thursday night, he will be in my lineup for sure.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (10): Stenhouse Jr. has been better in the summer races at Daytona then he has been in the Daytona 500, but he is still one of the drivers I will be watching Thursday night. Stenhouse won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in 2017. He has averaged 26.3 laps led in his last three races at the track. Stenhouse has some risk but that is what the Garage Driver is for. I plan to use him and save my allocations with the top drivers for other tracks.
Ryan Newman (10): Newman is now part of the Ford team and that makes him a great pick. Newman finished 5th, 8th and 8th in his last three races at Daytona. That was in a Chevy. Newman has a history of working with many of the Ford drivers so I expect him to fit nicely into their plans to work together. Newman should have his Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile up front at the end of the race.
I plan to have Aric Almirola (10) in the garage this week. I need a driver who is a relatively safe pick. What good is a Garage Driver if he crashes out early in the race? Almirola has been good at staying out of trouble on the restrictor-plate tracks. I will decide Thursday night if this pick will be Clint Bowyer or Almirola but right now I am leaning towards Almirola.
My Bonus Picks will be updated after I see the cars on the track this weekend. Here are my thoughts right now…
Pick for the Pole: Picked Alex Bowman and missed out by .003
Stage 1 Winner: Brad Keselowski
Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano
Race Winner: Joey Logano
Winning Manufacturer: Ford
** Photos from NASCAR Media
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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