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Fantasy NASCAR: 2017 Daytona 500 Quick Picks

Fantasy NASCAR Expert Brian Polking reveals his Yahoo, Fox and NASCAR.com quick picks to help you win your season-long league!

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Daytona 500

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Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks

While DFS NASCAR has been in full swing since last weekend's Clash, season-long fantasy NASCAR leagues will start this weekend with the Daytona 500.

Unlike DFS NASCAR, you have to keep the big picture in mind when planning your strategy for season-long fantasy leagues. Finding a balance between weekly and long-term success is crucial, and when it comes to the season opener at Daytona, damage control needs to be your No. 1 priority.

Restrictor-plate races are easily the most unpredictable of the season, and the Daytona 500 is no exception. Multi-car wrecks can erupt at a moment's notice, taking out a chunk of the field in the process. In fact, simply fielding a lineup of drivers who are still on the track at the end of the race should be considered a win.

Given how unpredictable and chaotic Sunday's race is likely to be, a conservative approach designed to minimize any potential loss is recommended.

In the Yahoo game, this means loading up your roster with the weaker options in each of the three tiers. Sleeper drivers are still more than capable of delivering solid finishes at a plate track like Daytona, and even if they end up crashing out, at least you didn't waste a start from any of the top options. You can only use each driver nine times, so use them wisely.

In the NASCAR.com game, your focus should be on place differential. Drivers gain one point for every spot they pick up compared to their starting position, and they also lose one point for every spot they lose. In other words, drivers starting in the back have more points to gain in the place differential category, and they also have the least to lose. Needless to say, you should strongly consider stacking your lineup with drivers who are starting in the back of the pack.

The FOX game also places emphasis on place differential, and the category is the main source of bonus points for drivers. However, drivers only gain points for each spot they pick up. They don't lose any for finishing with a negative differential. You still want to pick drivers starting deeper in the field, but big names starting in the middle of the pack are also in play.

Now that you are refamiliarized with the rules let's dive into my season-long fantasy lineups for the Daytona 500.

Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (A)

Junior offers the best of both worlds this weekend. I actually view him as one of the weaker A-List drivers, so I’m not worried about using up one of his starts this weekend. Meanwhile, he is one of the most dominant restrictor-plate track drivers in the history of the sport and one of the favorites to win Sunday. He should also be an extremely popular pick, so if he wrecks, I won’t lose much ground on the competition.

Aric Almirola (B)

Almirola projects as one of the weakest B-List options overall, so I certainly don’t mind throwing him into the chaos of Daytona. As a bonus, he has been pretty good at the plate tracks. He ranks 10th in driver points scored in the last ten plate races and has seven finishes of 16th or better in that stretch.

Trevor Bayne (B)

Barring a sizeable jump in performance, I don’t expect to use Bayne much over the course of the year. In other words, I’m not afraid of potentially wasting one of his starts if he is caught up in a wreck Sunday. Plus, he does offer the potential for a decent finish. Bayne has three Top 10s in his last six plate races, and he has finished 17th or better in his last three.

David Ragan (C)

Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, and Ty Dillon look like the clear C-List studs to me, and while they can cover 27 races between them, that still leaves nine openings. A wild-card race at Daytona is the perfect chance to go with a sleeper play, and Ragan has two restrictor-plate wins to his name and has looked solid throughout Speedweeks.

NASCAR.com Fantasy Live

Martin Truex Jr. ($27.25)

He came with inches of winning the Daytona 500 last year, so you could make an argument for Truex based on his performance alone. The fact that he failed inspection and has to start 35th pushes his upside through the roof. The place differential category tends to be the most valuable at restrictor-plate tracks, and Truex has a legitimate chance to gain 30-plus spots Sunday.

Kyle Busch ($27.25)

Busch isn’t starting way back in the pack, but starting outside the Top 20 still minimizes the potential damage if he does happen to wreck. Meanwhile, he has shown plenty of muscle during Speedweeks, so he is more than capable of challenging for the win while gaining 15-plus positions. As a bonus, I expect him to be running near the front a lot, potentially padding his score with points for running in the Top 10 at the end of each of the first two segments.

Erik Jones ($19.00)

It remains to be seen if Jones can live up to the hype, but he’s got a ton of raw talent and will be driving excellent equipment. More importantly, he starts 34th, so he has huge upside in the place differential category and only needs a mediocre finish to post a big point total.

A.J. Allmendinger ($16.00)

Part of the reason I like Allmendinger this weekend is that he has almost no chance of losing points through place differential since he starts back in 38th. However, there is also reason to believe in his upside. He finished in the Top 15 in three of the four plate races last year, finishing with a combined place differential of +48 and gaining at least nine spots in all four races. He could be one of the biggest movers and highest scorers Sunday.

Chris Buescher ($9.00)

Like most of my roster, Buescher is a low-risk option with legitimate upside. He starts back in 37th, so he is almost guaranteed to finish with a positive place differential. If he can just manage to crack the Top 25, he will outperform his price tag by a wide margin.

FOX Fantasy Auto Racing

Kyle Busch ($11,700)

I'm looking for drivers who have room to move forward and who have a chance to challenge for the win, and Busch checks both boxes. He starts 21st, and last year, he finished third or better in three of the four restrictor-plate races, including both races at Daytona.

Jimmie Johnson ($10,500)

It's been a rough Speedweeks for Johnson so far, but if any driver can flip the switch, it's the seven-time champ. He is a two-time winner of the Daytona 500 and a five-time winner at plate tracks overall. Starting 24th, I'll take my chances with one of the best to ever climb behind the wheel of a stock car.

Martin Truex Jr. ($9,000)

In last year's Daytona 500, Truex charged from 28th to come within inches of winning the race. He starts 35th this year, so he could score even more bonus points through place differential if he has a similar run to the front. Even a mid-pack finish will result in 40-plus fantasy points. He has a high floor and even higher ceiling.

A.J. Allmendinger ($7,800)

He starts back in 38th, so the potential to pile up bonus points is there. Equally as important, Allmendinger has shown a knack for moving forward at plate tracks. In four plate races last year, he finished with an overall place differential of +48, and he gained at least nine spots in all four events.

Ryan Blaney ($6,700)

Blaney is one of my favorite plays this weekend. Not only is he super cheap, but he also has the upside I am hunting since he starts back in 36th. To top it off, he showed a ton of muscle in his qualifying race, battling for the lead before contact sent to him to pit road. I think he has a car capable of winning Sunday, and I wouldn't be shocked if he ends up being the steal of the race.

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