The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Daytona International Speedway this week for the Coke Zero 400. There were two practices scheduled Thursday before the cars lineup to qualify Friday evening. Final practice was canceled because of rain. Qualifying will be single car qualifying (NASCAR will set the qualifying order) and it will be two rounds (top-12 advance to the second round).
I usually do not receive as much information about the cars at the restrictor-plate tracks as I do at the other tracks. I included stats for each driver on the Superspeedways to help you determine which drivers are the best for the race Saturday night. I did include all of the information I found out about the cars this week.
Here are the Garage Talk Notes for the practice at Daytona…
The Coke Zero 400 is an impound race. That means the teams will not be able to make any adjustments to their cars after qualifying Friday evening. If the teams make any adjustments to their cars they will have to start in the back Saturday night. This is important for two reasons. 1) Some teams may give up qualifying speed in order to ensure their cars are setup for the race. 2) Some teams may make adjustments to their cars after qualifying and give up their starting position since it really does not matter where you start the race this week. I will update any drivers who go to the back in the forum on this website, my Fantasy Racing Tips Facebook Page, and my Twitter account (@MrFantasyNASCAR).
I heard from one of my friends who works for one of the Ford teams that Stewart-Haas Racing, Team Penske and Wood Brothers Racing had a meeting earlier this week to discuss strategy for the Coke Zero 400. The three teams want to work together to ensure the Fords are up front Saturday night. I am sure Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing did the same.
Final Practice Was Canceled!
Chase Elliott: Elliott is a lot better at qualifying on the Superspeedways than he is at finishing the races up front. Elliott has 3 poles and a 5.2 average starting position at the restrictor-plate tracks and a 20.4 average finishing position at Daytona and Talladega. He has crashed out of 3 of the last 5 plate races. Elliott has led 50 laps at Daytona so he should run up front. He just needs better luck at the end of the race. Elliott told his team, “It has a lot of speed. I feel like we are on the edge but it is controllable.”
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 3 wins at Daytona in his career but the last trip to Victory Lane was in 2013 when the No. 48 car won both races at the track. Johnson usually likes to run up front and try to stay out of trouble. His average running position at Daytona is 5th-best. His strategy usually does not work. Johnson has crashed out of 3 of the last 4 races at Daytona.
Alex Bowman: Bowman has only competed in two races on the Superspeedways in the last two years. He finished 17th in the Daytona 500 this season and 8th at Talladega. Bowman was able to win the pole for the Daytona 500 and he should be a threat to win the pole this week. Bowman made a single car run followed by a run in the pack with his Chevy teammates. When asked how his car was Bowman gave two thumbs up.
William Byron: Byron has not had much luck on the Superspeedways in the MENCS. He finished 23rd in the Daytona 500 and 29th at Talladega. There is hope for the young driver of the No. 24 Chevy. Byron won the Xfinity Series race at Daytona last year. Byron ran in a pack of Chevys and said, “It really lacks the stability I need to make any moves around other cars.”
Kyle Larson: Larson is still trying to find his groove on the restrictor-plate tracks. He has a 17.3 average starting position and a 20.9 average finishing position in his 10 races. His average running position is 24th best so he does not spend much time up front in these races. He has 3 finishes in the top 10 on the plate tracks and 2 of them came at Daytona, so there is some hope for the No. 42 car this week.
Jamie McMurray: The Coke Zero 400 will be the best chance for McMurray to win this season. He has two wins at Daytona (2010 and 2007). McMurray has been pretty good in his career on the Supersppedways. He has finished 4 of the last 5 races on the lead lap.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick is no doubt one of the best restrictor-plate drivers in the sport. He has won two races at Daytona (2010 and 2007). Harvick usually runs up front but he often gets caught up in other driver’s wrecks. Harvick has only finished 1 of his last 4 at Daytona. Harvick has a brand new car this week. He told MRN, “We have a car fast enough to run up front but we have not had much luck here. We just need to be able to stay out of trouble and we should have a real good chance to win Saturday night.”
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is much better at Daytona than he is at Talladega. He has finished 3 of his last 4 races at Daytona in the top 15, including a 2nd-place finish in this race last year. Bowyer usually works very well with Kevin Harvick in these races. I expect both drivers to run up front and stay out of trouble.
Kurt Busch: Busch only has one restrictor-plate track win (2017 Daytona 500) but he is still one of the best plate track drivers in the sport. He has the 5th-best driver rating at Daytona and he has finished half of his starts at the track in the top 10. Since winning the Daytona 500 last year, Busch has crashed out of the last two races at Daytona. He will need some better luck this week. Kurt made some single cars runs in the first practice and he said, “The side skirts are really grinding the track.” The brought him in to raise it up a tick.
Aric Almirola: Almirola could easily be the defending champion of the Daytona 500. He was leading the last lap of the race when he was dumped by Austin Dillon. Almirola did not become a good restrictor-plate track driver when he joined Stawart-Haas Racing. Almirola has always been good at these tracks. Almirola only has one win in the MENCS and it came in the summer race at Daytona in 2014. He is my sleeper pick to win Saturday night.
Brad Keselowski: Keselowski is one of the best restrictor-plate drivers in the sport. He is much better at Talladega than he is at Daytona. Keselowski has 5 wins at Talladega and 1 win at Daytona. Actually Daytona ranks as his worst track. His average finishing position at Daytona is 22.28 in his 23 races but he has led 190 laps. Keselowski has a streak of three consecutive races at Daytona without a top 25 finish. Kezelowski was having problem with his temps and water shooting out of the overflow in the first practice.
Joey Logano: I consider Logano the best restrictor-plate driver now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired. Logano has 3 wins at Talladega and 1 win at Daytona. Logano has finished 4th, 6th, 4th, 6th, and 35th in his last 5 races at Daytona. Logano won the last race at a Superspeedway (Talladega) and he will be one of the favorites to win again Saturday night. It never hurts to have TJ Majors as your spotter (Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s old spotter). He is considered by most to be the best spotter on the plate tracks.
Ryan Blaney: Usually we see many drivers lead laps at Daytona. That was not the case in this year’s Daytona 500. Blaney led 118 of the 207 laps and easily had the best car in the field. I heard the team is bringing back the same car this week. Blaney has competed in 5 races in the MENCS at Daytona and he has a 13.6 average finishing position. The race Saturday night will be a good chance for Blaney to get to Victory Lane and clinch his sport in the playoffs.
Paul Menard: Menard is one of the most underrated drivers on the restrictor-plate tracks. Fantasy players need to consider him for their team this week. The Wood Brothers are very good at setting up cars for these tracks and Menard is very good at bringing them home in one piece. Menard has finished 6th, 3rd and 5th in his last 3 races at Daytona.
Kyle Busch: Busch is one of the best restrictor-plate drivers in the sport. He only has 1 win at Daytona and 1 win at Tallaga but he has 15 finishes in the top 10 at the tracks. Busch has also led 383 laps at Daytona and most of them have come in the summer race. In 2016 Busch finished 2nd and 3rd in his two races at Daytona. He has more than enough talent to win the race Saturday night.
Erik Jones: This is probably not the week to take a chance with Jones. His average finishing position in his 3 restrictor-plate races is 28th. He was able to finish 9th in this race last year so there is some hope for him. His average finish in his 6 races in the Xfinity Series at Daytona is 20.7.
Denny Hamlin: If a non-Ford driver is going to win Saturday night it will probably be Hamlin. He is one of the best restrictor-plate drivers and he is much better at Daytona than he is at Talladega. Hamlin finished 3rd in the Daytona 500 and won the Daytona 500 in 2016. Hamlin has led the second-most laps in the last 4 races at Daytona. Hamlin is still looking for his first win this season and no one would be surprised if it came this week.
Daniel Suarez: Suarez has 3 career races in the MENCS at Daytona. He has finished 37th, 19th and 29th. He usually tries to stay with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates in the race but has a hard time doing so. Suarez did not have a lot of luck at Daytona in the Xfinity Series either. His average finishing position is 25th in his 7 races.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has never won at Daytona in his 26 starts but he came inches from winning the 2016 Daytona 500. Qualifying has been a big problem for the No. 78 team at Daytona. Truex has only started 1 race inside the top 24 while driving for Furniture Row Racing. His average finishing position is 19.2 and he has only led 9 laps in 5 races.
Ryan Newman: Newman often gets overlooked at Daytona but he shouldn’t. Neman won the 2008 Daytona 500 and his teammate won the Daytona 500 this year. Newman finished 5th in this race last year and 8th in the Daytona 500 in February. Newman is usually one of the safest picks because he has not wrecked at Daytona since 2010 (15 races!!!!).
Austin Dillon: Dillon won the Daytona 500 this year. There is something special about watching the No. 3 car make laps at Daytona. Just like his teammate (Ryan Newman), Dillon is very good at staying out of trouble at Daytona. Dillon has finished 9 of his 10 races at the track on the lead lap. The best way to pick a good fantasy team at Daytona is to pick drivers who can finish the race. Dillon is one of those drivers.
Ty Dillon: Dillon has not been very good at Daytona in his career. He has only finished 1 of his 5 races inside the top 25. Dillon has crashed out of 2 of his last 3 races at the track. He finished 39th in the Daytona 500 earlier this season.
Kasey Kahne: The strategy for Kahne at Daytona is to get to the front as soon as possible and try to stay there. His average running position at Dayton is 5th-best. Kahne has never won at Daytona in his 29 starts and he has only led 54 laps at the track. Kahne finished 34th in the Daytona 500 earlier this season. Kahne made a short run and said, “The handling is all over the place.” He brought it into the garage for adjustments.
AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger is one of the best kept secrets in restrictor-plate racing. He has won me a lot of money on DraftKings. Allmendinger is often thought of as a road course ace but he is actually better on the Superspeedways. Allmendinger has finished 3rd, 8th and 10th in his last 3 races at Daytona. Allmendinger has not crashed at Daytona since 2014. Allmendinger made a run with the RCR and Hendrick Mortorsports cars. He Said, “Wow, it is fast. I think we have something here boys.” He was the fastest on the speed chart at the time.
Chris Buescher: Buescher had one of his best races in the MENCS at the Daytona 500 this year. Buescher qualified 21st and finished 5th. It was his 2nd consecutive top-10 finish at Daytona. He is a good driver to take a chance with this week. Buescher followed his teammate (AJ Allmendinger) in practice. Both cars were about the same.
Darrell Wallace Jr.: Bubba has driver the iconic No. 43 car twice at Daytona. He finished 15th while filling in for Aric Almirola last year and 2nd in the Daytona 500 in February. Bubba also has 2 finishes in the top 10 at Daytona in the Xfinity Series. He probably will not be a sleeper pick since he ran so well in the Daytona 500 and the tv cast will continue to bring that up this week.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: I expect the No. 17 team to bring the best car they have and do everything they can to win this race Saturday night. This is the best chance for Stenhouse to win a race and clinch his spot in the playoffs. Stenhouse has won 2 of the last 5 restrictor-plate races, including this race last year. He also finished 5th in the Daytona 500 this season. This is the week to take a chance with Stenhouse.
Trevor Bayne: Although Bayne has a Daytona 500 win on his resume, he often gets overlooked at the restrictor-plate tracks. Bayne has a 12.25 average finishing position in his last 4 races at Dayton. Bayne should be a safe pick because he has finished 10 of the last 11 races at Daytona on the lead lap.
David Ragan: Ragan won the summer race at Daytona in 2011. He has been hit or miss at the track since he left Roush Fenway Racing. He has finished 5 of the last 6 races at Daytona on the lead lap but his average finishing position is only 19.28. Ragan ran in a pack of Fords and said, “The ride quality is good. It feels pretty smooth and the speed is pretty consistent.”
Michael McDowell: McDowell is another great sleeper pick this week. He has finished the last two races at Daytona in the top 10, including a 4th-place finish in this race last year. McDowell has never crashed at Daytona while driving for Leavine Family Racing or Front Row Racing (7 races). His average finishing position in his last 7 races at Daytona is 12.76. McDowell made some single car runs and said, “Drives good, runs good. We are going to be fine this weekend.”
Matt DiBenedetto: Dibendetto has been hit of miss on the restrictor-plate tracks. He has finished 4 races outside the top 25 and 2 races inside the top 15. Dibendetto qualified 36th and finished 27th in the Daytona 500 earlier this season.
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