Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: Daytona 500

by Brian Polking on February 22, 2014 @ 15:05:32 PDT

 


If fantasy owners needed a reminder of just how unpredictable Daytona can be, they certainly got one during the Budweiser Duel 150s Thursday. While guys like Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski all finished outside the top 15 in their qualifying races, Josh Wise, Brian Scott and Landon Cassill were among the surprise top-10 finishers. Heck, Scott and Wise ended up logging top-five finishes. Unfortunately, things are only going to be more unpredictable Sunday when 43 drivers take the track at once with a victory in the Daytona 500 up for grabs.

As is typically the case with most restrictor plate races, my rankings tend to change very little. Qualifying and practice times simply aren't great indicators of success on race day at Daytona and Talladega because of the impact of the draft. A few drivers did move up some spots because of strong performances during Thursday's Budweiser Duel 150s, and on the flip side, a few drivers slipped in the rankings after crashing in their qualifying races. On that note, let's take a look at the final driver rankings for the Daytona 500.

The top 3

1) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

He hasn't been dominant during Speedweeks, but Junior has looked strong in his qualifying race, leading 14 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish. Meanwhile, no driver has been better at the plate tracks in the past two years, and he has three second-place finishes in the last four Daytona 500s. Junior topped the rankings to start the week, and he will stay in the top spot heading into Sunday.

2) Matt Kenseth

His recent run of dominance at Daytona continued as he won his Budweiser Duel Thursday. In the past 10 races at the track, Kenseth ranks first in points scored, laps led, top-five finishes and top-10s and wins, and he seems to have a car more than capable of adding to that impressive resume this weekend.

3) Kevin Harvick

Although he will have to start deep in the field after failing post-race inspection, his run in his qualifying race was vintage Harvick. He flew under the radar most of the race, but on the final lap, there he was coming within a few inches of a victory. There is a reason that Harvick has scored the second-most points in the series in the last 10 races at Daytona, and while there is no perfect strategy for handling the chaos at the track, his method is certainly one of the best.

Value picks

9) Kurt Busch

Busch vaults into the top 10 after looking plenty strong in his qualifying race Thursday. He finished third, and after struggling at the plate tracks the past two years while driving for smaller teams, he looked good in his first start with Stewart-Haas Racing. It wasn't all that long ago that Busch reeled off eight top-15s at Daytona in a nine-race stretch from 2007 to 2001, and he could be set to return to form with his new team.

10) Denny Hamlin

Hamlin was one of the few drivers that made a significant move in the rankings, and while his two top-10s in 16 Daytona starts are far from impressive, it's hard to discount what he has done so far during Speedweeks. Hamlin followed his victory in the Sprint Unlimited by winning his Budweiser Duel, and at the very least, you know that Hamlin is bringing a strong car Sunday.

15) Paul Menard

He has been a fairly reliable plate track option since joining Richard Childress Racing, and Menard delivered a fourth-place finish in his qualifying race Thursday. Meanwhile, he has tallied six top-20 finishes in his last 10 starts at Daytona, including five top-15s. Menard isn't a household fantasy name, but he can definitely make a solid addition to rosters this weekend.

Sleeper special

28) Marcos Ambrose

His 23.7 average finish at Daytona leaves a lot to be desired, but Ambrose has been impressive so far during Speedweeks. He backed up a top-10 finish in the Sprint Unlimited with a top-five run in his qualifying race Thursday. He will start inside the top-10, and if you are willing to overlook his past struggles at Daytona, he appears to have a car capable of running up front.

Big names outside the top 10

20) Joey Logano

It has been a rough Speedweeks for Logano, and history says his bad luck could continue on Sunday. In 10 starts at Daytona, he has failed to crack the top 15 on seven occasions. Overall, Logano owns a mediocre 20.9 average finish at the track.

24) Martin Truex Jr.

His week started well when he qualified second for Sunday's race. However, Truex crashed in his qualifying race and will have to forfeit his spot on the front row after switching to a backup car. Starting at the rear in a backup is not an ideal scenario for a guy with just one top-10 in 17 career starts at Daytona.

Overall rankings

Rk
Driver
Car No.
Make Sponsor Team
Starting Pos
1
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
88
Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew Hendrick Motorsports
9
2
Matt Kenseth
20
Toyota Dollar General Joe Gibbs Racing
3
3
Kevin Harvick
4
Chevrolet Budweiser Stewart-Haas Racing
38
4
Tony Stewart
14
Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops Stewart-Haas Racing
21
5
Jimmie Johnson
48
Chevrolet Lowe's Home Improvement Hendrick Motorsports
32
6
Carl Edwards
99
Ford Fastenal Roush Fenway Racing
30
7
Clint Bowyer
15
Toyota 5 Hour Energy Michael Waltrip Racing
20
8
Ryan Newman
31
Chevrolet Caterpillar Richard Childress Racing
19
9
Kurt Busch
41
Chevrolet Haas Automation Stewart-Haas Racing
8
10
Denny Hamlin
11
Toyota FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing
4
11
Greg Biffle
16
Ford 3M Roush Fenway Racing
25
12
Brad Keselowski
2
Ford Miller Lite Team Penske
33
13
Jamie McMurray
1
Chevrolet McDonald's Chip Ganassi Racing
22
14
Kyle Busch
18
Toyota M&M's Joe Gibbs Racing
37
15
Paul Menard
27
Chevrolet Menard's Richard Childress Racing
10
16
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17
Ford Best Buy Roush Fenway Racing
34
17
Kasey Kahne
5
Chevrolet Farmers Insurance Hendrick Motorsports
5
18
Jeff Gordon
24
Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger Hendrick Motorsports
6
19
Michael Waltrip
66
Toyota PEAK BluDEF Michael Waltrip Racing
42
20
Joey Logano
22
Ford Shell/Pennzoil Team Penske
35
21
Danica Patrick
10
Chevrolet GoDaddy.com Stewart-Haas Racing
27
22
Brian Vickers
55
Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine Michael Waltrip Racing
31
23
Bobby Labonte
52
Chevrolet TBA HScott Motorsports
26
24
Martin Truex Jr.
78
Chevrolet Furniture Row Furniture Row Racing
2
25
David Ragan
34
Ford Taco Bell Front Row Motorsports
43
26
Austin Dillon
3
Chevrolet Dow Energy Richard Childress Racing
1
27
David Gilliland
38
Ford Love's Travel Stops Front Row Motorsports
17
28
Marcos Ambrose
9
Ford Stanley Black & Decker Richard Petty Motorsports
7
29
A.J. Allmendinger
47
Toyota Clorox JTG Daugherty Racing
15
30
Aric Almirola
43
Ford Smithfield Richard Petty Motorsports
13
31
Trevor Bayne
21
Ford Motorcraft Wood Brothers Racing
14
32
Kyle Larson
42
Chevrolet Target Chip Ganassi Racing
16
33
Justin Allgaier
51
Chevrolet Brandt HScott Motorsports
40
34
Casey Mears
13
Ford GEICO Germain Racing
28
35
Parker Kligerman
30
Toyota Swan Racing Swan Racing
41
36
Alex Bowman
23
Toyota Burger King BK Racing
29
37
Cole Whitt
26
Toyota Speed Stick Gear Swan Racing
23
38
Michael Annett
7
Chevrolet Pilot Flying J Tommy Baldwin Racing
36
39
Brian Scott
33
Chevrolet Whitetail Circle Sport Racing
12
40
Reed Sorenson
36
Chevrolet Golden Corral Tommy Baldwin Racing
39
41
Josh Wise
98
Ford Curb Records Phil Parsons Racing
11
42
Terry Labonte
32
Ford C&J Energy Go FAS Racing
24
43
Landon Cassill
40
Chevrolet Hillman Racing Hillman Racing
18

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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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