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The 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off this Sunday with the Daytona 500. If you play DFS NASCAR, you already got a taste of the action with last weekend's Clash at Daytona, but the official season opener promises to be much more of a challenge.
Unlike last weekend's 75-lap race that featured just 17 drivers, there will be a full 40-car field taking the green flag Sunday, and it will take 200 laps to decide who adds their name to the Harley J. Earl Trophy.
The challenge with restrictor-plate races like the Daytona 500 is that the running order changes significantly from one lap to the next and big wrecks are almost inevitable. Plate races often become a battle of survival, and it is a challenge just to pick six drivers who are running at the finish, let alone six drivers who run well.
Given the chaotic nature of races at Daytona, the safest, and often the most effective, strategy for building a winning lineup is to focus on the place differential category and load up on drivers starting deep in the field. Drivers gain and lose points based on how many spots the gain or lose from their starting position, so drivers starting at the back have the most points to gain and the fewest points to lose in the category.
In last year's Daytona 500, three drivers who finished in the Top 10 started outside the top 20, and three more drivers who finished in the Top 15 started outside the Top 30. On the flip side, two drivers who started in the Top 3 finished outside the Top 35.
Needless to say, starting position means everything for Sunday's race, so pay close attention to Thursday night's qualifying races that will set the lineup for the Daytona 500. In the meantime, I've highlighted several drivers who should be on your radar leading up to "The Great American Race."
Joey Logano ($9,900)
His win in the Clash last weekend added to his growing list of restrictor-plate accomplishments. Over the last ten plate races, no driver has scored more points than Logano, and his three wins also lead all drivers. A second Daytona 500 win could be on tap for Logano, and it could come in dominating fashion.
Kyle Busch ($9,400)
Busch is a former winner at both Daytona and Talladega, and he nearly added to his restrictor-plate win total last year. He finished third or better in three of the four races, finishing third and second in his two starts at Daytona. Busch has also led double-digit laps in four of the last five plate races, so you can count on him running near the front and bringing a car capable of winning.