MENCS: Final Practice Garage Talk Notes Daytona

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One of the best ways to win money in DFS NASCAR or win your season long league is to get as much inside information as possible. Last year my Garage Talk Notes were very popular so I am bringing them back again. This year I added some contacts that agreed to share info with me, so this should give us a leg up on our competition.

Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the practices at Daytona…

 

Track Notes

The weather for final practice was sunny and 78 degrees. The forecast for the race Sunday is sunny and 76 degrees. The track conditions in final practice should translate into similar conditions for the race Sunday (Hot and slick which will affect the handling of the cars).

NASCAR made some rule changes over the offseason. Team will only be allowed 5 pit crew members to service the cars and they are all required to use the same pit gun (Paoli Pit Guns…also called the “Red Devils). I expect there to be more pit road penalties this week since the changes are so big for the teams. This will make the race even more unpredictable.

The new ride-height rule is in affect at Daytona. This rule has been in affect at other tracks but now the rules will be the same for restrictor-plate tracks. Teams can run the cars as low as they want but by doing so the rear spoiler is not as high. This takes the downforce off the car and makes them more difficult to driver.

Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Gray Gaulding had to serve 15 minute penalties for failing inspection twice.

 

Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: Elliott won his Duel race Thursday night and will start 4th in the Daytona 500. His car is very fast and he has the talent to keep it up front.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has crashed two cars so far in Daytona (One is the Clash and one in the Duels). He will start 35th and be a safe pick for DraftKings and the Slingshot Auto Racing Contest. It will be hard to trust the Seven-time Champ in any other game. Chad Knaus said in an interview Friday that he thinks they have the backup car setup so it is just as good as the one they crashed.

Alex Bowman: Bowman will start on the pole for the Daytona 500. He did not make an effort to compete in the Duel Races Thursday night and that upset some drivers. Kevin Harvick said, “Bowman did not even make a effort to run any laps up front tonight. Now he is going to be leading the field in the Daytona 500. How long will it be before he wrecks us all? I just think the No. 88 team made a big mistake tonight.” He did get some drafting practice Friday and Saturday, but how will he do in a pack of 40 cars?

William Byron: Byron crashed his car in the Duel Race so he will start 33rd in a backup car for the Daytona 500. Byron will compete in his first Daytona 500, but do not count him out Sunday. He won the Xfinity Series race at Daytona last year. The No. 24 team really likes their car. Byron said Friday in practice that the balance is a lot better in this car. It is a lot easier to drive.

Kevin Harvick: Big news for the Stewart-Haas Racing restrictor-plate program this season. Kevin Pannell served as the head engineer for the Superspeedway cars at Hendrick Motorsports and now will be in charge of the Superspeedway cars at Stewart-Haas Racing. He was the right-hand man for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at HMS. Harvick led the most laps in the Daytona 500 last year. The No. 4 team knows they have the speed to win. They worked on dialing in the handling of the car and they think it is pretty close.

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer really likes his car. It does not seem to have the same speed as the No. 4 (Harvick) and No. 41 (Busch) but it is not far behind. Bowyer said at Media Day, “Last year I was learning my new team and it took some time to get comfortable. This year we are going after it. We are going to give it 110% to win some races. My goal is not to win one race. We want to win multiple races like my teammates. I think we are capable of that this year. Heck, I think we can win the Daytona 500.”

Kurt Busch: Busch is the defending Daytona 500 Champion and he will have a new crew chief this year. Billy Scott (Crew Chief for Danica Patrick) will serve as the crew chief for the No. 41 car. Busch really liked his car. His spotter told him, “You lap times are top-5 fast.” Busch responded, “It feels a lot better in the pack. It really sucks up well.” They think their car can win again Sunday.

Aric Almirola: Almirola will be making his season debut for Stewart-Haas Racing in the No. 10 car. John Klausmeier will move from lead engineer at SHR to the crew chief for Almirola. Klauseier has never lost a race as a crew chief. He filled in for Tony Gibson with the No. 41 team at Pocono in 2016 and Kurt Busch won the race. His entire team is the No. 41 team that won the Daytona 500 last year. Almirola will have his work cut out for him though because he wrecked his car in the Duel Race so he will start 37th in the Daytona 500. It will help that he gets a practice race since he competes in the Xfinity Series Saturday.

Kyle Larson: Larson crashed in the Duel Race Thursday night so he will start the Daytona 500 from the 40th starting spot. This makes him a lock for DraftKings and Slingshot Auto Racing Contests. They are using the car Larson drove in the Clash race last week. Larson thinks this car needs some work on the handling because it drives on the edge. It does have good speed though.

Brad Keselowski: It has been an up and down week for Keselowski. He won the Clash Race last Sunday and wrecked his car in the Duel Race Thursday night. Keselowski will start31st in the Daytona 500 and keep in mind… Keselowski has not finished inside the top 20 in his last three Daytona 500s. Crew Chief Paul Wolfe told MRN radio that the backup car is just as good and may be better than the primary. When asked if he plans to try to make it to the front or ride around the back for a while Keselowski said, “Heck no… We need to get to the front fast Sunday. Are strategy has always been to stay in front of the wrecks. Our strategy will not change since we start 31st.”

Joey Logano: Big news for the No. 22 team this year. T.J. Majors will serve as the spotter for Logano. Majors served as the Spotter for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the past and he is regarded as the best spotter on the Superspeedways. I feel as though Logano has the car to beet Sunday. The No. 22 car thinks their car runs better in the pack than any other car in the field.

Ryan Blaney: Blaney won his Duel Race Thursday night and should be a threat to win Sunday. Blaney will be competing in his first race for Team Penske. This should increase his odds of winning since he should be close to the No. 2 and No. 22 cars Sunday. The Team Penske Fords have the best handling (they can move wherever they want) of any cars in the field. The No. 12 team said they strategy will be to stay up front for the entire Daytona 500.

Paul Menard: Menard will essentially be a teammate to Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney. Menard finished 3rd and 5th in the two races at Daytona last year. He is one of the best at staying out of trouble. Menard has finished 15 of the last 16 races at Daytona without an accident. He will be a safe pick Sunday.

Kyle Busch: Busch will be looking for his first Daytona 500 win this week. The No. 18 team thinks they have their car dialed in for the Daytona 500. Busch said, “We have speed. Lots of speed. We just need to be able to drive as good as those Fords.”

Erik Jones: Jones will be making his debut at Joe Gibbs Racing this week. I expect him to stay close to Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in the race. The team rebuilt the backend of the car after the Duel race Thursday night. They think the car is good-to-go now. I am surprised JGR did not run Jones in the Xfinity Series race to get him some more experience. Jones said on Media Day, “I really am not that confinable on these tracks. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to plate racing.”

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin will start on the front row for the 60th Daytona 500. The 2016 Daytona 500 Champion has led the second-most laps (Behind Brad Keselowski) in the last 8 races. I expect Hamlin to take the early lead from Alex Bowman and stay out front as long as he can. Hamlin is very, very happy with the car.

Daniel Suarez: Suarez likes his car. On the speed chart it is the fastest of the JGR cars. Suarez just needs some more experience and he will get it Saturday in the Xfinity Series race.

Ryan Newman: The No. 31 team is a great sleeper pick this week. No one is talking about them but Newman keeps showing up near the top of the speed chart. Before final practice Newman said, “The car is pretty good. We are going to run a few laps and check it for squeaks and leaks.” He looked pretty good in the draft.

Austin Dillon: Dillon will start in the rear of the Daytona 500 because the team decided to go to a backup car as a result of damage from the Duel Race Thursday Night. Dillon will be scored from the 14th psotion. Dillon will use the same car he finished 5th in the Clash race.

Ty Dillon: The No. 13 team was fighting a loose racecar. They tried to tighten it up in Friday’s practice and worked some more on it Saturday. Dillon moved up the speed chart at the end of practice so they must have found some speed.

Kasey Kahne: Kahne moves from Hendrick Motorsports to Leavine Family Racing. That does not mean Kahne cannot run upfront. Michael McDowell finished in the top 15 for both races at Daytona while driving this car last year. He is one of my favorite sleeper picks this week.

AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger is the best kept secret this week. He actually may be the best pick in thield. Allmendinger is the ONLY driver to complete every lap in the last 6 races at Daytona. He has NEVER crashed in the Daytona 500. If you want a safe pick this week, Allmendinger is the safest on paper. He ran in a pack with the Hendrick Motorsports cars in final practice. Allmendinger told his crew chief, “I think it is as good as it is going to getting.”

Chris Buescher: Buescher ran single car runs in final practice. The team thinks the car is “OK”. They did not want to jeopardize wrecking it so they did not send him out in the pack.

Darrell Wallace Jr.: Wallace Jr. will be making his season debut with Richard Petty Motorsports. He ran this car at Daytona in July and finished 15th.  Wallace ran really well in the Duel race. Drew Blickenderfer said, “We need experience more then we need speed. The car is fast and we trust Bubba to run it up front.” Wallace was fastest in Final Practice.

Trevor Bayne: Bayne is the 2011 Daytona 500 Champion and he has been hit or miss ever since. Bayne either finishes in the top 10 or crashes out. It has been a quiet speed weeks for the No. 6 team. The car is not great but it is better than half the field. They were working getting the car to suck up to other cars better (Not sure how they do that).

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse Jr. is one of the best restrictor-plate races in the sport. He won two of the four races last year. He does seem to be much better in July then he is in February. The No. 17 worked on fixing cosmetic damage from the Duel Race. They seemed to like their car a lot better than the No. 6 team did.

David Ragan: Ragan won the July Race at Daytona in 2011. He is another driver who runs a lot better in the summer then he does in the winter at Daytona. Front Row Motorsports liked their cars so they did not make any laps in final practice.

Michael McDowell: McDowell is one of the best sleeper picks at Daytona. He has finished four consecutive races at the track in the top 15. He has had some mechanical issues while driving for less-funded teams but McDowell has NEVER crashed at Daytona. That is important this week. Front Row Motorsports liked their cars so they did not make any laps in final practice.

Matt Dibenedetto: Dibenedetto ran really well for Go Fas Racing at Daytona last year. He finished 9th in the Daytona 500 and 13th in the July race. Dibenedeto has more risk this year because he wrecked his primary car in the Duel Race Thursday night. The team said the backup car does not have the same speed as the primary after Friday’s practice. On Saturday Dibenedetto said, “It is much, much better. I drivers a lot better in the pack.”

Danica Patrick: Patrick will be wrapping up here MENCS career with the “Danica Double”. She will run the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 this season. Patrick will be driving the car that Cole Whitt drove to an 18th-place finish last year. He laps speeds were actually pretty good this week.

 

Cars that looked good in practice: Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott

 

Sleeper Picks I like: AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Michael McDowell and David Ragan.

 

Click here for Saturday Feb.10th Afternoon Practice Speeds

Click here for Friday Morning Practice Speeds

Click here for Friday Afternoon Practice Speeds

Click here for Final Practice Speeds

 

 

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