NASCAR Picks for Daytona 500
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he has finished outside the top 25 in his last two Daytona 500 starts, Gordon has finished 12th or better in three straight July races at the track. Not to mention the fact that he has six wins at the track overall, including three in the Daytona 500. Gordon isn't as dominant as he once was at the plate tracks, but he is still more than capable of providing a solid finish for fantasy owners.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Talladega has been the better plate track for Bowyer, but his feel for the draft is undeniable. He finished 11th in last year's Daytona 500, and over the past two seasons, he has the third-best driver rating at the superspeedways. Not to mention the fact that his 15.8 average finish at Daytona is the sixth-best among active drivers.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He doesn't have a restrictor-plate win, but Edwards has quietly established himself as one of the most consistent drivers at the superspeedways, especially Daytona. He has finished ninth or better in six of his last seven starts at the track and has finished outside the top 20 just once in his last 11. At an unpredictable track like Daytona, Edwards' steady production has plenty of value.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
On the plus side, he finished fourth in the Daytona 500 last season. On the flip side, he has just two top-10s in 14 career starts at Daytona and a 21.0 average finish at the track overall. In general, Hamlin tends to run near the front, but struggles to find the right lane in the closing laps. Yes, he has plenty of potential, but Hamlin is probably best saved for another day in Yahoo! leagues.
Mark Martin, #55 Aaron's Dream Machine, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Although he is a self-proclaimed hater of plate racing, Martin hasn't been too bad in recent Daytona 500s. He has finished 12th or better in three straight starts in the race and finished 10th in 2011 and 2012. Granted, he hasn't had a top-five at Daytona since 2007, but there is nothing wrong with a top-15 finish at this track.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Johnson is the most valuable driver in fantasy leagues, but you may want to wait until the second week of the season to start using him. He has finished 20th or worse in his last Daytona starts and has finished outside the top 30 four times during the stretch. In those six starts, Johnson has compiled a dismal 31.8 average finish.
Juan Montoya, #42 Target, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Last season wasn't his best at Daytona, but overall Montoya has been decent at the superspeedway. He has finished in the top 10 four times in the last seven races, including a sixth-place finish in the 2011 Daytona 500. Assuming he doesn't run into another jet dryer under caution and catch the track on fire, Montoya could be a surprise source for a decent finish.
Jamie McMurray, #1 McDonald's/Cessna, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing [Yahoo Class B]
He only has six career Cup wins, and three of them have come at plate tracks with two coming at Daytona. That being said, there is pretty much no middle ground with McMurray at the track, and he has finished outside the top 30 at Daytona 11 times since 2003. If you want to swing for the fences in the season opener, McMurray's upside is tremendous. Just don't be surprised if he ends up wrecking before the finish.
Martin Truex, Jr., #56 NAPA Auto Parts, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class B]
His 21.2 average finish at Daytona isn't great, and he has never finished in the top five at the track. In fact, Truex has just a single top-10 finish in 15 starts at Daytona. There just isn't a lot of upside with Truex, making him a below average fantasy option in the season opener.
Ryan Newman, #39 Quicken Loans/Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Since winning the Daytona 500, Newman hasn't had a lot of luck at the track. He has finished 20th or worse in eight of his last nine starts, and he has four finishes outside the top 25 during the stretch. Yes, he is a former winner of the race, but Newman's 21.6 average finish at Daytona is more indicative of what to expect from him in the season opener.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., #17 Best Buy/Valvoline/Zest, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class C]
Stenhouse actually made his Daytona 500 debut last year and finished a respectable 20th. He is also driving for the same team that won the Daytona 500 last year with Matt Kenseth behind the wheel. That being said, he never won a plate race in the Nationwide Series, and it remains to be seen what type of superspeedway driver he will be in the Cup level.
Bobby Labonte, #47 Kingsford/Clorox, JTG Daugherty Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Owners looking for an under-the-radar option may want to consider Labonte. He finished 14th in last year's Daytona 500 and followed it up with a 10th-place run in July. In fact, Labonte has finished 16th or better in four of his last five starts at the track.
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