Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
NASCAR is giving you double the fun Thursday night with a pair of qualifying races that will set the field for the Daytona 500, and DraftKings is giving you double the chances to cash in by running DFS NASCAR games for both races.
If you haven't already checked out my preview for Race 1, make sure to take a look at my top picks.
Switching gears to Race 2, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will lead the field to the green. Overall, there aren't as many big names in the second race, but there are several quality options starting in the middle of the pack.
As with the first race, there are only 21 cars in the field, so repeat lineups are inevitable, and one driver could be the difference between a winning lineup and failing to cash all together.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($10,900)
He is by far the most decorated restrictor-plate track driver in the series today. In addition to his series-leading ten wins at plate tracks during the season, he has five wins in the Daytona qualifying races. He will lead the field to the green in Race 2 Thursday night, and while you do run the risk of Junior playing it safe to keep his car in one piece, there is also a great chance that he dominates the event on his way to being the top scorer.
Denny Hamlin ($9,600)
Hamlin is the defending winner of the Daytona 500, and he has been one of the top plate track drivers for the last couple of years. He nearly won the Clash last Sunday, and he is starting third in his qualifying race. I expect him to be one of the frontrunners for the win, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him lead his share of laps.
Kurt Busch ($9,100)
He has been the model of consistency at the plate tracks recently, notching a series-best seven Top 10s in the last ten plate races. He starts 11th Thursday night, and he is on the short list of drivers starting deeper in the field who figures to have a real shot of fighting for the win.
Austin Dillon ($8,700)
Dillon is probably going to be a popular pick, but I'd still recommend having plenty of exposure to him in lineups Thursday night. He has been ridiculously consistent at the plate tracks, logging 11 Top 15s in 12 attempts. Last year, he was the only driver who finished in the Top 10 in all four plate races. Dillon starts outside the Top 10 in his qualifying race, and with another strong finish, he has the potential to be the top scorer by the time place differential points are factored in.
Ryan Blaney ($7,200)
Equipment means a lot at restrictor-plate tracks, and it is worth noting that Blaney is essentially driving Team Penske equipment. This is important because Team Penske drivers won three of the four plate races in 2016 and won the Clash last Sunday to kick off Speedweeks. Blaney himself logged three Top 15s in the four plate races last year, and he could be a surprise contender for the win in his qualifying race. Starting in the middle of the pack, I think the second-year driver could be overlooked and end up being a key piece of a winning GPP lineup.
David Ragan ($6,500)
Ragan has pulled off shockers at the plate tracks before, winning at both Daytona and Talladega during his career. Even last year, he proved to be an effective fantasy option, gaining 22 and 16 spots, respectively, in the final two plate races. He starts back in 16th in his qualifying race, so he could score a chunk of points in the place differential category. I love his upside, especially at such an affordable price.
Michael Waltrip ($6,300)
Say what you want about Waltrip, but the guy knows how to work the draft. In his last seven restrictor-plate starts, he has an average place differential of +11.7, and he has gained 20-plus spots in two of his last three plate races. He starts 17th out of 21 drivers in his qualifying races, so he is in prime position to be one of the bigger movers. Waltrip could be a steal at this price.
Michael McDowell ($5,700)
McDowell was a fantasy gem at the plate tracks last season. He gained double-digit spots in all four plate races, and no driver gained more spots overall. He starts 15th, so he has upside through the place differential again Thursday night. Meanwhile, his cheap price tag could allow you to roster a couple of the studs starting near the front of the field.
Driver to Avoid
Jimmie Johnson ($10,700)
Johnson has had his share of success at restrictor-plate tracks, including a pair of Daytona 500 wins. That being said, he has been in a slump lately. He has five straight finishes outside the Top 15 in plate races, and if his two spins in the Clash last weekend were any indication, the No. 48 Chevy isn't handling all that well in the draft right now. Starting seventh, he could lose a decent amount of points through place differential if he wrecks again Thursday night, and the price tag is sizeable for a driver who comes with some question marks.