Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: Coke Zero 400

by Brian Polking on July 4, 2014 @ 19:19:48 PDT

 


Ricky Stenhouse Jr., NASCAR
Stenhouse sneaky

It has been a quiet weekend at Daytona International Speedway so far, and after all drivers escaped from the first practice session unscathed, rain washed out the final practice session. Qualifying was also accident free, although you won't see a front row of David Gilliland and Reed Sorenson very often. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, practice and qualifying are likely just the calm before the storm, and once the green flag waves Saturday night, the "Big One" is looming to take out a big chunk of the field and destroy fantasy lineups in the process.

Overall, there were few changes between my initial driver rankings and the final set of rankings, but that is typical at a restrictor plate track. After all, drivers can move from the back to the front of the field in just a couple of laps so qualifying results don't matter nearly as much as they do at other tracks. Meanwhile, the restrictor plates keep the field bunched in a big pack so practice speeds don't mean as much either. At the end of the day, picking the drivers that stay out of trouble and are in the mix at the finish will be the difference between having a great day and having a rough one.

The top 3

1) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Unless Junior had decided not to race this weekend, there was no way he was losing the top spot in the rankings. Not only does he own a series-leading 10.2 average finish in the last 10 restrictor plate races, but his 5.6 average finish at Daytona during the stretch is more than five spots better than any other driver. He is starting in the top 10 Saturday night, and while no driver is a safe pick at Daytona, Junior has been pretty darn close lately.

2) Jimmie Johnson

Johnson chose not to work in the draft during practice, but given his recent results at Daytona, I'm guessing he is pretty confident in his setup. After all, he swept both races at the track in 2013, and he delivered a top-five finish in this year's Daytona 500. Johnson has also led a series-high 126 laps during his three-race hot stretch. At an unpredictable track like Daytona, it is never a bad idea to play the hot hand, especially when it belongs to the best driver in the series.

3) Matt Kenseth

He ranked seventh in terms of 10-lap average speeds in practice Thursday, and consistent speed has been Kenseth's trademark at restrictor plate tracks lately. Since 2012, he has led 507 laps at Daytona and Talladega combined, which are 300 more than any other driver. He is also a two-time winner at Daytona in his career, and he has four finishes of sixth or better in his last six starts at the track. Kenseth qualified sixth, and don't be surprised if he works his way to the front and leads a decent amount of laps.

Value picks

11) Greg Biffle

Biffle doesn't get mentioned among the top restrictor plate racers in NASCAR, but over the past couple of seasons, he has been one of the best. He has scored the second-most points of any driver in 10 races at restrictor plate tracks since 2012, and he has three top-10s in five starts at Daytona during the stretch. Biffle turned one of the 10-fastest laps during practice Thursday and qualified in the top 10 Friday, and he should be back in the mix for another solid run.

12) Jamie McMurray

While his resume at the restrictor plate tracks speaks for itself, there is still something comforting about seeing McMurray at the top of the charts during Thursday's practice session. He is a three-time winner at restrictor plate tracks, and two of those victories have come at Daytona. Yes, a driver can pick up one lucky win at a plate race, but a driver doesn't win three times without knowing what they are doing. McMurray offers excellent upside this weekend.

14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

His car appeared to be handling well in the draft during practice Thursday as Stenhouse turned the seventh-fastest lap and logged the fourth-best 10-lap average speed. Meanwhile, he has never finished outside the top 20 in seven Cup starts at restrictor plate tracks, and he has finished 12th or better in his last three starts at Daytona. Stenhouse has quietly been one of the most reliable drivers at Daytona, and he should make a solid addition to fantasy rosters this weekend.

Sleeper special

28) Landon Cassill

He is barely more than a field-filler most weeks, but Cassill has been surprisingly effective at restrictor plate tracks this year. He finished 12th in the Daytona 500, and he finished 11th at Talladega in May. Meanwhile, Cassill cracked the top 10 in practice Thursday and qualified third. Despite driving for a single-car team, he continues to show he can more than hold his own when restrictor plates are involved. He could be the biggest surprise of the weekend.

Big names outside the top 10

17) Kurt Busch

His overall numbers at Daytona are solid, but Busch has really struggled at the track in recent years. He has finished outside the top 20 in four of his last five starts and has three finishes outside the top 25 over the same stretch. Driving for four different teams in four years probably hasn't helped the cause either. Until Busch breaks out of his slump, he is a risky pick.

21) Kasey Kahne

Although Kahne is certainly capable of delivering a solid finish at Daytona, the odds are not in his favor. In 21 starts at the track, he has managed just two top-five finishes to go along with a 19.5 average finish. More concerning is the fact that Kahne shows no signs of turning a corner. He has five finishes of 25th or worse in his last seven starts at Daytona, including three straight finishes outside the top 30.

Overall rankings

Rk
Driver
Car
Make
Sponsor
Team
Pos
1
88
Chevrolet
Diet Mountain Dew
7
2
48
Chevrolet
Lowe's Home Improvement
5
3
20
Toyota
Dollar General
6
4
2
Ford
Miller Lite
26
5
4
Chevrolet
Budweiser
13
6
14
Chevrolet
Bass Pro Shops
12
7
11
Toyota
FedEx
37
8
24
Chevrolet
Drive to End Hunger
9
9
15
Toyota
5 Hour Energy
34
10
18
Toyota
M&M's
39
11
16
Ford
3M
10
12
1
Chevrolet
McDonald's
36
13
99
Ford
Fastenal
11
14
17
Ford
Best Buy
16
15
31
Chevrolet
Caterpillar
20
16
22
Ford
Shell/Pennzoil
28
17
41
Chevrolet
Haas Automation
40
18
3
Chevrolet
Dow Energy
23
19
55
Toyota
Aaron's Dream Machine
30
20
27
Chevrolet
Menard's
21
21
5
Chevrolet
Farmers Insurance
14
22
66
Toyota
LandCastle Title
41
23
33
Chevrolet
Little Joe's Auto
4
24
13
Ford
GEICO
22
25
42
Chevrolet
Target
35
26
9
Ford
Stanley Black & Decker
18
27
38
Ford
Love's Travel Stops
1
28
40
Chevrolet
Carforsale.com
3
29
78
Chevrolet
Furniture Row
19
30
34
Ford
Taco Bell
8
31
10
Chevrolet
GoDaddy.com
29
32
47
Toyota
Clorox
24
33
43
Ford
Smithfield
15
34
21
Ford
Motorcraft
25
35
51
Chevrolet
Brandt
31
36
26
Toyota
Scorpyd
17
37
98
Chevrolet
Phil Parsons Racing
33
38
36
Chevrolet
Golden Corral
2
39
7
Chevrolet
Pilot Flying J
32
41
32
Ford
C&J Energy
38
42
23
Toyota
Burger King
43
43
83
Toyota
Burger King
42
49
95
Toyota
Leavine Family Racing
27

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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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