Welcome one and all to Frontstretch’s Fantasy Racing Insider. This week we’ll take a look at the drivers everyone knows does well at the Daytona 500, and also some that have great success yet fly under the radar in fantasy leagues. We’ll also look at a few big names you DON’T want on your team this week and answer a question from one of our loyal readers. So without further ado, here’s the lineup you’ll want for this Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Everyone knows you want to have Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick on your Daytona 500 team. Harvick, coming off of a Bud Shootout victory last Saturday night, has four top-five finishes in the last seven 500s, including a thrilling drag race to beat Mark Martin and win the race back in 2007. Last year Harvick also won the Shootout and went on to finish the 500 in second. Stewart, has also won Bud Shootouts and Duel races, but no Daytona 500s despite a fairly impressive record in this race. In 12 careers starts, he has compiled six top 20s and five top-eight finishes. His career average finish in the Great American Race is 17th, and if you throw out a blown engine on lap 3 in 2002 it jumps to 14th.
Who Will Carry You
Elliott Sadler – Sadler has compiled one of the most impressive records of any driver in the Daytona 500. In 10 career 500s, Sadler has posted nine top 25s and has finished in the top seven five of the last six years (his other finish during that impressive run was an 11th.) The only time Sadler didn’t finish in the top 25 was his first 500 where he finished 38th, while his best run was in 2002 where he finished second to Ward Burton. The last four Daytona 500 winners were all first-time winners, and Sadler may make it five in a row.
David Ragan – Ragan has a new crew chief, brought in to breathe some new life into a career that took a major stumble in 2009. Donnie Wingo is now calling the shots for Ragan, and there’s no place like Daytona to get the partnership off to a great start. In six career starts at DIS, Ragan has finished worse than 13th only once and has a pair of top fives on his resume. His career average finish at the track is 14th, and David can be had in most leagues for little or nothing based on his 2009 season. Grab him now before his value shoots through the roof.
Robby Gordon – Robby Gordon at the Daytona 500 with nothing to lose. Now there’s a scary thought. Robby at the moment does not expect to run every race and refuses to start-and-park, which we the fans applaud. So with no worrying about the Top-35 rule, Robby will be racing for wins, not points. In 11 career 500s Robby has posted eight finishes of 18th or better and has shown to be an excellent restrictor-plate racer when he can stay out of the Big One. A word of warning for fantasy racers who pick Robby up for Daytona; keep an eye on his schedule to make sure he’s running in any future races that he’s on your team for.
Who Will Bury You
Kyle Busch – With the exception of a fourth-place run in 2008, Kyle does not have a great Daytona 500 resume. His next best finish is 24th and his career average is 26th. Let him post another mid-20 finish and his league value will drop, allowing you to pick him up cheaper in a week.
Jimmie Johnson – Since winning the event in 2006 Johnson has posted finishes of 31st, 27th and 39th. Not exactly on much of a roll to start the seasons. If you are in a league that allots points for driver values, do the same with Johnson as Busch, wait a week and pick him up after Daytona.
This Week’s Question
In a few fantasy games, with no trades, picking a driver who misses a race dooms the player. I have tracked this group closely in this preseason and would like you to rank these drivers in preseason ranking. Much depends on making first five races and with all the car number swapping, mergers, etc., a bloody scene occurs. What insight can you offer into drivers and teams that have been swept into the merger market?
I assume by no trades you mean your team is locked once you pick them and therefore the No. 7 car is the first one out. As of tonight, Robby doesn’t plan on running a full schedule. I would also not touch the Nos. 36, 37, 38, 46 or 66. Chances are these teams are all going to run more start-and-park, especially now that the race purses have been cut. So, with the teams you have left I would put the No. 78 first. Regan Smith finishes races and has shown he can win. I still believe he should have been the winner at Talladega two years ago. Next I would put the No. 34 car. The team is locked into the Top 35 for the first five races, they beat the No. 82 team last year and Travis Kvapil is a bit of a step up from John Andretti in my opinion.
Next I would go with the No. 71. The team was able to get sponsorship for every race Bobby Labonte ran last year and had some good showings, plus his past champion’s provisional will get the car into the field. Next I would take the No. 82. Of the cars outside the top 35, this is the best team and is going to make every race unless Scott Speed wrecks in qualifying. Finally, I would go with the No. 98. Paul Menard has not proved much as a driver and raced his way out of the Top 35 last year in the first five races. The only good thing about signing him is there’s no money issues and the team will run a full race every week.
Hope this helps you out a bit, and good luck with your league!