Finally, it is back…. The Fantasy NASCAR season is ready to waive the green flag on the 2023 season and one of my favorite games is the Driver Group Game. My friend Darren worked hard to make the game better this year and he added the Xfinity Series to the Cup and Truck Series games. My picks have had a lot of success in this game dating back to the old Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing Game. I will do my best to guide you to the top of your league standings once again.
STRATEGY FOR DAYTONA 500
The key to winning your Driver Group Game is to use your allocations wisely. We can only use each driver 9 times throughout the season and it will be important to get top-five finishes out of our top drivers. Daytona is an unpredictable race. The drivers do their best to control their destiny in this race, but the Daytona 500 comes down to being in the right spot at the right time.
I am not worried about saving allocations with my drivers in Group A. There is plenty of talent in Group A to get us through the season. Group B and Group C is where we need to take some chances Sunday with some drivers we do not plan to use much this season. We need to save the top drivers for the more predictable tracks.
Here are the picks for the Daytona 500 …
DRIVER GROUP GAME LINEUP
GROUP A DRIVERS
(START) RYAN BLANEY (9): Is Blaney the best Superspeedway driver in the Cup Series? He does not have as many wins as Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano, but Blaney has been more consistent than those drivers over the last three seasons. Blaney finished second in the 2020 Daytona 500, won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona in 2021 and finished fourth in last year’s Daytona 500. That is either some incredible luck or a driver who knows what he is doing at this track. I think it is the latter. Blaney scored the most Driver Group Game points in the two races at Daytona last year. He should do it again Sunday.
(BENCH) JOEY LOGANO (9): One of the strategies I like to use at the Superspeedways is to select the drivers who like to run up front and score Stage Points. Once a driver scores Stage Points, they are adding to your score and they cannot be taken away, even if the driver crashes. This raises the driver’s floor and makes him a safer pick for your team. The best driver at scoring Stage Points at Daytona is Logano and it is not even close. He has scored 43 more Stage Points than any other driver over the last four years at Daytona (Ryan Blaney is second and closing the gap on Logano). Logano is a good driver if you want to play it safe Sunday.
GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Ryan Blaney 2) Joey Logano 3) Denny Hamlin 4) William Byron 5) Chase Elliott 6) Ross Chastain 7) Christopher Bell 8) Kyle Larson
GROUP B DRIVERS
(START) AUSTIN CINDRIC (9): Cindric finished second in his Dual Race last year and I thought… “That is a fluke.” Then Cindric went out and won the Daytona 500. Again, I thought… “He just had a good week. It will not happen again.” Cindric came back to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400 last August and he finished third. Cindric also finished second in his Duel race this week. OK, maybe this kid is really good at Daytona. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I am not going to be fooled again by Cindric’s ability to finish up front at Daytona.
(START) ARIC ALMIROLA (9): Almirola is still looking for his first Daytona 500. He is no stranger to Victory Lane at the Superspeedways. Almirola won at Daytona in 2014 and at Talladega in 2018. He should have won the Daytona 500 in 2018 but Austin Dillon wrecked Almirola in the final turn of the race. Almirola has a fast car and he knows how to use the draft to his advantage. The No. 10 car won Duel Race 2 this week and Almirola said the team hasn’t even dialed any handling into the car yet. He is just too fast and too good to fade Sunday.
(BENCH) BUBBA WALLACE (9): I expect Wallace is going to be one of the better drivers in Group B this season, so I want to use my allocations with the No. 23 car wisely. It is hard to fade the stats Wallace has on the Superspeedways. He finished second in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in 2021, won at Talladega in 2021, finished second in the Daytona 500 last year and Wallace finished 11th in the summer race at Daytona in 2022. The Toyota’s are outnumbered Sunday, but that hasn’t stopped them from finishing up front. Wallace is a great pick for the Daytona 500.
(BENCH) BRAD KESELOWSKI (9): There are a lot of reasons to use Keselowski Sunday. Keselowski has the most wins in the Cup Series on Superspeedways (7). He has never won the Daytona 500, but he has won the summer race and many Dual Races. Keselowski also loves to run up front, score bonus points for leading laps and bonus points for Stage Points. Keselowski led the second-most laps (44) and scored the second-most Stage Points (16) in the Daytona 500 last year. I doubt I will use Keselowski nine times this year, so I may use an allocation with the No. 6 car Sunday.
GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Austin Cindric 2) Aric Almirola 3) Bubba Wallace 4) Brad Keselowski 5) Kevin Harvick 6) Martin Truex Jr. 7) Austin Dillon 8) Kyle Busch 9) Alex Bowman 10) Michael McDowell
GROUP C DRIVERS
(START) COREY LOJOIE (9): When I did my research for the Daytona 500, the numbers screamed “Play Corey LaJoie.” My gut screamed, “Don’t be dumb.” So, here we are… I am playing LaJoie. He is not good at many tracks, but LaJoie is really good at Daytona (especially the Daytona 500). LaJoie finished 14th, 9th and 8th in the last three Daytona 500’s. The only two drivers with a better average finishing position than LaJoie in the last three Daytona 500’s are Austin Cindric and Michael McDowell and both of these drivers won the Daytona 500. LaJoie looked awesome in his Duel Race (He finished 5th), so I will use him Sunday and save my other drivers for more predictable tracks.
(BENCH) RICKY STENHOUSE JR (9): I created the groups for the Driver Group Game and I guess I should have given us more options for the Superspeedways. Usually we have Michael McDowell to use in Group C, but I put him in Group B this year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a good option Sunday. Stenhouse is the most aggressive driver in the field on the Superspeedways. Most drivers refuse to work with him in the race. He does run up front, lead laps and score Stage Points. Stenhouse led 16 laps and scored 13 Stage Points in the Daytona 500 last year. That is 18 bonus points that cannot be taken away, even if he crashes. Stenhouse is a high risk, high reward driver. I will take the risk this week.
* JIMMIE JOHNSON (9): I really do not know what to do with Johnson this week. The rumor is that Johnson will run the Daytona 500 and four of the road course races. The No. 84 has speed but how much rust will Johnson have in his first race in the Gen-7 car? There are a lot of questions, but it is hard to fade a seven-time champion in Group C. I am not expecting much from Johnson this week, but he has shocked me many times before. Johnson should be a decent pick in Group C if you want to take a chance, but he starts too deep in the field for me (Johnson starts 39th)
** RYAN PREECE (9): Preece is the best pick in Group C this week, but his allocations are too valuable to be used in this unpredictable race. Preece finished 4th and 5th in his last two races at Daytona. He looked awesome in his Duel Race Thursday night too. Preece is a short track ace so I need to save him for the nine short track races this season.
*** HARRISON BURTON (9): Burton has a fast car and he has great teammates to work with (Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric). Burton has been awesome in the Duel Races but he has not been able to keep his car up front for 500 miles. Burton should be able to get to the front and run with his Team Penske alliance teammates, but I do not trust him to stay up front when the drivers start to battle for the lead in the final laps. I doubt we will use Burton nine times this year, so if you want to take a chance with Burton, I am OK with it.
GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Ryan Preece 2) Corey LaJoie 3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 4) Jimmie Johnson 5) Harrison Burton
* Be sure to check back Saturday after final practice for my updated starting lineup. (If I do not post anything, that means I am running this lineup)
XFINITY SERIES PICKS
*Be sure to check back Saturday after final practice for updated picks.
TRUCK SERIES PICKS
Be sure to check back tonight after qualifying for updated picks.
Good Luck This Week!
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