The Clash at Daytona
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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off this weekend with the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway, and the exhibition event also marks the official return of DFS NASCAR.
The unique setup for the Clash is going to make for an interesting opener. For one, the race is just 75 laps, so there aren’t many points available in the laps led and fastest laps run categories. There are also no points on the line, so drivers don't mind being a little extra aggressive. Case in point, about half the field, has crashed out in the event in each of the last two years.
Perhaps most importantly, there are just 17 cars in the field this weekend, so the points available in the place differential category are very limited. Normally, the category is the most reliable source of points at restrictor-plate tracks, but with just 17 drivers, it becomes significantly less valuable.
Given the short distance of the race and the unusually small size of the field, finishing position is going to be the most valuable category for Saturday's race. In fact, there is a decent chance that the winning six-car lineup will be the lineup with the top six finishers in the race.
There will be a random draw for starting spots Friday afternoon, and you can check out the Clash Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET on FS1.
Brad Keselowski ($10,100)
Keselowski picked up two more restrictor-plate wins last season, raising his career total to five. He also led a series-best 252 laps at plate tracks in 2016, so he is probably the best bet to deliver sizeable bonus points in the laps led category. Keselowski has three Top 10s in four career starts in the Clash, including a pair of Top 5s.
Joey Logano ($9,400)
Logano's restrictor-plate resume continues to grow, and a win in the Clash could be next. He was the runner-up in the event last season, and he has a 3.8 average finish in his last four starts. Expect him to be in the mix for the win this weekend.
Kevin Harvick ($9,000)
He has been the model of consistency at the plate tracks, logging eight Top 15s in his last nine starts. Harvick has also been one of the best in the Clash, picking up three wins in the exhibition race. You have to love the safe floor and high ceiling, especially in such a small field.
Denny Hamlin ($8,600)
Hamlin has won the Clash in two of the last three years, and he is a three-time winner of the event overall. Last season, he won both the Clash and the Daytona 500, cementing his status as one of the premier restrictor-plate drivers in the series. He is flat out underpriced this weekend.
Kurt Busch ($7,500)
While it's true that Busch went through a slump at the plate tracks, he is back in top form since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He has seven Top 10s and a series-leading 9.1 average finish in the last ten restrictor-plate races, and he finished seventh in the Clash a year ago.
Matt Kenseth ($7,200)
Since joining Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth has compiled a 7.0 average finish in the Clash and hasn't finished worse than 12th in four starts. Kenseth won the Clash in 2015, but despite his consistency and high ceiling, you can grab him for a midrange price.
Kyle Larson ($7,000)
His overall record at restrictor-plate tracks isn't much to write home about, but Larson has been on the money in the Clash. He finished in the Top 5 in the 2015 and 2016 events, and he is the only driver in the field this weekend who can make that claim.
Austin Dillon ($6,600)
Put Dillon on the list of drivers who is inexplicably underpriced. Granted, he isn't the most experienced driver in the field, but he picked up a Top 10 in the Clash last year, and he has scored the second-most points of any driver over the last ten restrictor-plate races. You can't beat his reliability, especially at this price.
Daniel Suarez ($6,000)
Suarez is the surprise entry in the field after being thrust into the No. 19 when Carl Edwards abruptly retired. Obviously, experience isn't on his side, but Joe Gibbs Racing's eight wins in the Clash are the most of any organization, and Suarez's teammate Denny Hamlin won this race in his first start. The upside is legit, and he is the third-cheapest driver available at DraftKings.