Fantasy NASCAR Favorites: Daytona 500

Jordan McAbeeFantasy NASCAR, News

Dale Earnhardt Jr out of carThe long-awaited 2015 Sprint Cup season is finally here, as this year’s Great American Race–the Daytona 500–is set to go green on Sunday. We already saw Matt Kenseth win the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night (recap here) and Jeff Gordon won the pole on Sunday by topping teammate Jimmie Johnson. On Thursday, the two Budweiser Duel races will determine the rest of the starting lineup for Sunday’s event.

When it comes to making good fantasy picks for the events at Daytona, there really is no perfect science. Every fantasy NASCAR expert has a different strategy for how they do things, and sometimes they simply pull names out of a hat (I’ve done this before). In reality, practice speeds aren’t all that important, and neither is starting position. Most drivers who finish up front on Sunday in these races can attribute it to luck as much as–if not more than–skill. With that being said, it’s always good to look at the favorites heading into the Great American Race, so without further ado…

Fantasy Favorites for Daytona

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Big surprise, huh? NASCAR’s most popular driver will be the most-picked guy in fantasy this Sunday as well. Junior is the most skilled restrictor plate driver in the series and he has the best equipment to go along with that talent, so what’s not to like? Exactly. Earnhardt hasn’t finished worse than 15th–including all events, points-paying and non–since the 2012 Budweiser Shootout. He’s also the defending winner of the Daytona 500 and finished 2nd in the two Great American Races before that. I’ll venture to guess that the majority of all fantasy NASCAR rosters will have Earnhardt, Jr. on them on Sunday, so there’s the potential there to gain some points if Junior wrecks and you don’t have him…but do you want to take that risk? I wouldn’t. In The Showcase, the driver of the #88 Chevrolet will get 0 handicap points this week. Because of this, I wouldn’t recommend putting him as your All Star Driver, and I’d be even more inclined to avoid Junior as well. But that’s just me…

Matt Kenseth – PJ over at FantasyNASCARPreview had a great article this week on Sprint Matt Kenseth Brad Keselowski NASCARUnlimited winners and how they end up doing in the Daytona 500 that year. What he found was that 60% of the time they end up finishing inside the top 10 in the Great American Race, and even when the winner doesn’t finish up front, they typically run well. I’ll take those odds. Looking at points-paying races at Daytona International Speedway, Kenseth ended up winning the 2012 Daytona 500–his last season with Roush–and was 3rd in the July event. He had a rough 2013 at this track but bounced back with a solid 6th-place finish in last year’s 500. What I like most about Kenseth is that he does all he can to get to the front and lead laps. Personally, I think this is the best strategy a driver can have, and it’s a lot easier to avoid the wrecks when you’re up there. In The Showcase, Matt Kenseth has a decent 3-point handicap going into the race. Therefore, if he’s your All Star Driver, that will be 6 additional points to those he gains you with his finish and potential laps led. The #20 Toyota will probably make my roster this week.

Kevin Harvick – About 5 years or so ago, Kevin Harvick was considered one of the best restrictor plate racers in the Sprint Cup garage. That opinion has since been forgotten about “The Closer,” but he’s still a decent pick when we come to these big super speedways. Also, let’s not forget that the #4 Chevrolet is consistently one of the fastest in the garage. Last year at Daytona, Harvick ended up 13th and 39th in the two points-paying events, but he was 7th and 9th in the Talladega events. On Sunday, I expect a strong showing out of Harvick as a sort of kick-off to his back-to-back title attempt. Let’s just hope him and Joey Logano can keep from wrecking each other… In The Showcase, Kevin Harvick will receive 4 handicap points for the season-opening event, which is a pretty good value when you consider his potential to win Sunday’s race.


Fantasy Racing Online offers two unique fantasy NASCAR games for the 2015 season. The Showcase allows you to pick different drivers every week while you have the same roster all year for the Salary Cap Challenge. There are thousands of dollars in prizes that are up for grabs this year, so get in on the action now!