The final practice sessions are in the books, and the next time the Cup Series drivers take the track will be for the start of the 2013 Daytona 500. Since all three practices following Thursday's Budweiser Duels went off without any major incidents, there wasn't a lot of movement in this latest installment of driver rankings. After solid showings in Happy Hour, I bumped Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya moved up a few spots to 11th and 16th, respectively, but that was about it.
Of course, I'll be the first to admit that rankings at Daytona mean a little bit less than they do at other tracks. The draft and the "Big One" are the great equalizers, and just two years ago, the top four finishers of the Daytona 500 included Trevor Bayne, David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte. Don't get me wrong, Kevin Harvick has more than earned the top spot in this week's rankings with his past success at Daytona and his dominance during Speed weeks. However, this is one race when gambling on a few sleeper options isn't a bad idea, especially in formats that limit how many times you can use each driver during the course of the year.
In an ideal world, I would certainly like Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart on my team this weekend. However, keeping the big picture in mind is never a bad idea. Paul Menard, Jeff Burton and Montoya have all being running well during Speed weeks and have run well at Daytona in the past. Depending on the format, the latter trio might be the better choice.
In leagues where you have to pick a different driver for all 36 races, you might want to dig even deeper. Pole-sitter Danica Patrick, Austin Dillon and David Ragan are all among the drivers sitting in the top 30 of this week's rankings that probably have their best chance to score an unexpected great finish this weekend. Plain and simple, just about every driver is in play at Daytona for fantasy owners, and one of the biggest tricks for handling one of NASCAR's most unpredictable tracks is knowing the strategy that is best for your league and building your roster accordingly.
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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