Thanks to his dominance at the plate tracks over the past couple of years, Matt Kenseth was the easy choice to open the week atop the driver rankings for Daytona. After a solid showing in practice and a second-place effort in qualifying, the two-time Daytona 500 winner retains his hold on the No. 1 spot heading into Saturday night's race. Keep in mind that since the start of the 2012 season, Kenseth leads all drivers in wins, top-five finishes, top-10s, laps led and points scored at the superspeedways. At Daytona alone, he has reeled off three finishes of third or better in his last four starts. Kenseth deserves to be owned in just about every fantasy format this weekend.
While Kenseth holds his ground in the rankings, Dale Earnhardt Jr. slides up into the No. 2 spot after looking very comfortable in practice Thursday. Of course, the guy is also a seven-time winner at plate tracks at the Cup level and has been one of the safest options at Daytona for the past decade. In fact, Junior's 12.9 average finish at the track since 2003 is the best in the series, and in his last seven starts, he has four finishes of fourth or better, including three runner-up efforts. He can help fantasy teams in a big way this weekend.
Another driver who has the potential to help out owners is Greg Biffle, and he cracks the top five in the final set of rankings. Biffle followed a strong showing in practice with a top-10 effort in qualifying, and his recent runs at Daytona suggest a trip to victory lane could be on tap at the track sooner rather than later. After all, Biffle has been running second on the final lap in the last three races at Daytona, and he has a pair of top-six finishes to show for his efforts. Even if he doesn't win Saturday night, he should be well worth a roster spot.
Outside the top 10, Michael Waltrip and A.J. Allmendinger are two sleeper options that warrant serious attention. Waltrip qualified seventh for Saturday's race, and in addition to his three Daytona wins, he finished in the top 10 at the track last July. Meanwhile, Allmendinger turned in the fastest lap and posted the best 10-lap average speed in practice Thursday and will be behind the wheel of the No. 51 car that has finished in the top 10 at both plate track events in 2013. Both drivers land in the top 20 of the final rankings, and both have a chance to sneak into the top 10 this weekend.
In deeper and survival-type leagues where a different driver must be used each week, fantasy owners may want to gamble on Danica Patrick. She practiced in the top 10 Thursday and qualified 11th Friday, moving her into the top 25 of the final rankings. Of course, she did start on the pole and finish eighth in the Daytona 500 earlier this year, so it's not like Patrick would be a complete shot in the dark. More importantly for owners in survival-type leagues, this weekend's race is probably the last realistic chance to grab a top-10 finish from Patrick this season.
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.Follow @BPolking
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