By Jordan McAbee
Another NASCAR season is set to begin, which brings along with it the joys of Fantasy NASCAR. While there are many games to choose from–especially the ones we have here at Fantasy Racing Online–one very popular choice in Yahoo! Auto Racing. The Yahoo! game requires quite a bit of strategy, as you have to plan out your “starts” (or uses) of each driver; you’re limited to 9 starts per driver, who are all broken down into 3 main groups (A, B, and C).
Yahoo! A Group Picks for Daytona
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – As of Thursday evening, Junior is the most popular A Group pick (71%), and for good reason. The #88 Chevrolet is consistently one of the best on these restrictor plate tracks, and Junior showed his strength by winning his Duel race as well. That is the same car that he will use in Sunday’s Daytona 500. The #88 Chevrolet will roll off the starting grid in 3rd on Sunday thanks to the win, and that means Junior is right where he needs to be to start the Great American Race: up front. Earnhardt loves to lead at Daytona and there aren’t many other cars in the field that can challenge him. Strategy-wise, the A Group is so stacked, I don’t think we’re going to run low on starts with him, so go ahead and use him this week.
Denny Hamlin – The #11 Toyota was dominant in the Sprint Unlimited last Saturday, and all of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were pretty impressive during the Duel races on Thursday as well. Statistically, Denny Hamlin has been the best driver here at Daytona over the last two years–yes, even better than Dale Earnhardt, Jr.–with no finish worse than 6th. Although there are probably going to be plenty of races that Denny Hamlin is going to be start-worthy during the 2016 season, it’s hard to go against the two strongest cars to start out the 2016 fantasy season, and those two cars are the #11 and the #88.
Yahoo! B Group Picks for Daytona
Austin Dillon – While I’m not too concerned about saving driver starts in the A Group, it is something I’m keeping an eye on with the secondary B Group. It is pretty important to keep the “better” mid-tier drivers for races that are more predictable, but the good thing for us strategic players is that there are some good value plays in the “average drivers”–and that starts with Austin Dillon. Daytona might be the best track on the circuit for Austin, even though he’s never really had a flashy start. Still, it’s only the finish we want here at Daytona. Since taking over the #3 Chevrolet in 2014, Austin Dillon has never finished worse than 14th at this track. That’s good enough for me.
Casey Mears – No, I’m not kidding. Somehow only 12% of rosters have Casey Mears on them (as of Thursday night) despite the fact that he has a better average finish than all but two drivers over the last two years at Daytona. Those two drivers? Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Currently, Casey has five straight finishes of 11th or better in points-paying races here at Daytona, and considering his name won’t even be mentioned until we’re at another restrictor plate race, the #13 Chevrolet makes an excellent strategy pick at Daytona this weekend.
Greg Biffle – The Roush Fenway Fords were absolutely terrible last season, but they really started to turn things around in the latter part of 2015. I enjoyed knocking on the RFR bunch as we went through the last Sprint Cup campaign but I actually think they might surprise some people this year. In the last four Daytona 500s, The Biff hasn’t finished worse than 10th. He knows how to stay out of trouble and that’s the kind of racer I like here at Daytona.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – A very popular pick in this spot is going to be Jamie McMurray, and I can’t even argue against it. I think the #1 Chevrolet is going to be very good in Sunday’s Daytona 500. However, I’m thinking long term with Jamie Mac, and I think we’re going to use him all 9 times this year, so I’ll save him for now. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is one of my favorite picks every time we come to a restrictor plate track because he was a very safe pick in his early Sprint Cup career. Last year was kind of rough for Ricky, but it was for the entire Roush Fenway Racing organization. He’s still a good plate racer and we’re not going to use him all 9 times this season so I’m sticking with him (for now…this may change).
Yahoo! C Group Picks for Daytona
With the whole Tony Stewart injury situation, the C Group is an interesting situation. Vickers is in the #14 Chevrolet for the Daytona 500, with rumors flying that Ty Dillon might take over once we go on to week 2. That’s not official though. Looking at the group as a whole, though, we need 36 total starts for the season. Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney will give us half of those, with Brian Scott probably contributing another 9.
So that leaves 9 more starts that we need. There are 4 restrictor plate races, and those give us a pretty good opportunity to use some “start fillers”–which are those that I consider below the top 3 of Elliott, Blaney, and Scott. I would not touch those top 3 C Group drivers this week under any circumstance. There’s quite a few options with the “start fillers,” and I’d rank them as follows for Sunday’s Daytona 500:
- Brian Vickers
- Chris Buescher
- Landon Cassill (sleeper pick)
- Regan Smith
- Michael Waltrip
- Ty Dillon
- Michael Annett
Right now I’m leaning toward Brian Vickers and Regan Smith but I haven’t made a definite decision yet. Final rosters in the Yahoo! game for Daytona are due at 1:25 pm ET on February 21, 2016.