If Matt Kenseth's announcement that he is leaving Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the year is causing a distraction for the team, it sure isn't showing on the track. After picking up a top-10 finish last weekend at Kentucky, he grabbed the pole for Saturday night's race at Daytona. For those that don't remember the season opener, Kenseth already won the Daytona 500 this season, and he finished second at the track last July. Kenseth has seven finishes of eighth or better at Daytona in his last 10 starts, and he has established himself as the top fantasy option at an unpredictable track.
Three-time Daytona winner Tony Stewart was slated to join Kenseth on the front row, but a violation involving a cooling hose caused his lap to be disallowed. Stewart will now have to start 42nd Saturday night, but it isn't necessarily a death sentence at Daytona. Since 2009, four of the seven races at the track have been won from the top five, including two from the pole, but two races have also been won from outside the top 30 during the stretch. With every position on the track up for grabs on every lap, Stewart could dig himself out of his early hole within the first 20 laps.
The other major storyline this weekend has been the health of Denny Hamlin. Back issues have forced him to skip the Nationwide race and the Cup Series practice sessions. He appears to be on track to be behind the wheel Saturday night, but considering he isn't a top option at Daytona anyway, fantasy owners may just want to avoid him completely. The last thing an owner wants is for Hamlin's back to start hurting, forcing a driver change in the middle of the race.
Fantasy owners looking for a sleeper pick might want to consider Bill Elliott. He is driving for a Turner Motorsports team this weekend that is making its Cup debut, and he qualified a surprising sixth. Elliott is a four-time Daytona winner, and his car clearly has some speed. The team owners made it clear that they are running for the win this weekend, and the veteran Elliott just might have what it takes to survive the carnage and escape with a solid finish.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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