Post Final Practice Update: Out of the 25 drivers that participated in final practice, Darrell Wallace Jr. ($6,800) was the fastest. He also was sixth in final practice and finished third in the first Can-Am duel race. Despite being a risk to losing PD points since he starts seventh, Wallace is showing better speeds than most and will finish around his starting position.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,100) was fifth in final practice. He is the only driver in the field to have won the Daytona 500 twice and he starts 35th. Johnson’s starting position means that he will collect plenty of PD points, making him one of the best picks. Justin Marks ($4,800) was 10th in final practice. He also was 15th in second practice and 10th in third practice. He has consistently been the best of all the drivers priced under $5,000 and is the only option to consider for that price range. Marks starts 29th.
A.J. Allmendinger ($5,900) was sixth in final practice and fourth in fourth practice. Allmendinger starts 20th and has finished in the Top 10 in his last two Daytona starts. Watch for Allmendinger to pick up PD points while finishing in the Top 10. All other driver outlooks are much the same.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins the 2018 season with the biggest race of them all, the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. As a Restrictor Plate track with an emphasis on pack racing and identical speeds between most drivers, almost everyone has an equal chance to win. In this weekend’s field of 40 drivers, here are the standout picks to consider starting in your lineup.
Note: Updated picks and analysis will be provided after Saturday’s final practice sessions
TOP PRICED DAYTONA 500 PICKS
Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr has retired, Brad Keselowski ($10,400 on DraftKings) is the top driver to watch with six wins on Restrictor-Plate tracks, which is the most of active drivers. In 17 starts at Daytona, Keselowski has one win and 190 laps led, which is sixth of active drivers. Keselowski ranks 10th in both Average Running Position at 17.4, and Driver Rating at 80.5. He starts 31st after going to a backup car from wrecking in the Can-Am Duels. He was ninth in fourth practice. His starting position offers great Place Differential potential and his history on Restrictor Plate tracks make him the most worthwhile pick.
Kyle Busch ($10,000) has not won a race at Daytona since 2008. In 25 starts at the site, Busch has one win, eight Top 10 finishes, and 382 Laps Led, which is second of active drivers. Since 2005 at Daytona, Busch has the best ARP of 13.7, the third-most Fastest Laps at 101, the second-most Laps in the Top 15 at 2,930, and the best DR of 93.4. Kyle Busch was first in first practice, seventh in third practice, fifth in fourth practice, and starts 12th. Busch has been faster than most throughout first, third, and fourth practices and is in the Top 3 of most Loop Data categories. A Top 5 performance from Busch is expected.
Defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. ($9,500) has never won the Daytona 500, but came close to accomplishing the feat two years ago. In 25 starts at Daytona, Truex has three Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at the site, he has the eighth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 2,256, the eighth-most Quality Passes (passes of drivers in the Top 15 under green flag conditions) and the eighth-most Fastest Laps at 56. Truex starts 24th and was 13th in first practice, third in third practice, and seventh in fourth practice. Truex will finish ahead of his starting position based on first, third, and fourth practice speeds and will attain some points from PD.
Kyle Larson ($9,300) has finished ahead of his starting position in three of his last four Daytona starts, which also include three finishes of 12th or better. In eight Daytona starts, Larson has two Top 10 finishes. Larson starts 38th and is in a backup car after wrecking during the Can-Am duels. He was 20th in third practice and 19th in fourth practice. Larson must be played just for his starting position alone as he offers massive PD potential.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Jamie McMurray ($8,000) has a strong history on Restrictor Plate Tracks, with four wins and 14 Top 10 finishes throughout 61 starts in his career. In 30 starts at Daytona, he has two wins and five Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at Daytona, McMurray has the ninth-best ARP of 17.2, the most Quality Passes at 4,135, the sixth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 2,496, and the ninth-best DR of 80.6. McMurray starts 19th and was sixth in first practice. McMurray’s starting position provides him with a good chance of compiling points from PD, and he shows great promise for his price.
Daytona is the venue of Aric Almirola’s ($7,700) only Cup Series victory. In 12 starts at Daytona, Almirola has seven Top 20 finishes. He starts 37th after wrecking in the Can-Am Duels and was 27th in third practice, and 14th in fourth practice. Almirola’s starting position makes him a driver that must be highly considered for any lineup as he offers a huge amount of PD potential.
Daniel Suarez ($7,200) has made two starts at Daytona. His best finish at the site is 17th. Suarez starts 17th and was third in first practice, eighth in second practice, and first in both third and fourth practices. He had the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in third practice and the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in fourth practice. Suarez has been fast throughout practices and will pick up some points from PD and finish in the Top 10 based on practice speeds.
Kasey Kahne ($6,500) is making his first career Cup Series start with Leavine Family Racing at Daytona. In 28 starts at Daytona, Kahne has nine Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at Daytona, Kahne has the ninth-most Fastest Laps at 77, the fourth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 2,539, and the eighth-best DR of 82.5. Kahne starts 26th and was 25th in first practice, 23rd in second practice, 14th in third practice, and eighth in fourth practice. Kahne’s practice speeds indicate a finish ahead of his starting position, in the Top 20.
Michael McDowell ($5,800) is one of the most consistent drivers in recent seasons at Daytona. He has finished in the Top 15 in five of his last six starts at the site, including three Top 10 finishes. McDowell starts 22nd and was 10th in second practice and third in fourth practice. Based on his second and fourth practice speeds, expect McDowell to compete for a Top 15 finish while picking up a small amount of points from PD.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,400) starts 36th in the Daytona 500 after going to a backup car. In five starts at Daytona, DiBenedetto has two Top 15 finishes, which include his last two starts at the site. DiBenedetto’s starting position provides nearly no risk to using him as well as an extremely high chance of capturing PD points, making him a great value pick.
XFINITY SERIES PICKS FOR THE POWERSHARES QQQ 300
Post-Qualifying Saturday Update: Austin Dillon did not set a qualifying lap after failing pre-qualifying inspection. He will start 40th and is now a must-start. Alex Labbe ($4,800) qualified 23rd after running 22nd in first practice and 14th in final practice. His starting position allows him to pick up plenty of PD points and makes him one of the top value plays.
Daniel Suarez ($8,900) will start 18th. He was second in first practice and is a driver I recommend for his PD potential. Kaz Grala ($6,700) qualified 29th and despite making his Xfinity Series debut, is a strong play that will gain PD points. Notably, he also won the Truck Series race at Daytona last season and was 23rd in both practices. All other driver outlooks remain much the same.
The 2018 Xfinity Series season will also begin at Daytona for the Powershares QQQ 300. JR Motorsports drivers have won two of the last four events at the site and expect newcomer Tyler Reddick ($8,100 on DraftKings) and veteran Elliott Sadler ($9,600) to be threats to end up in Victory Lane. Reddick was fastest in first practice and fourth in final practice while Sadler has two Top 5 finishes in his last four Daytona starts. He was also third in final practice.
Make sure you focus on Cup Series veterans participating in this race, as both Chase Elliott ($10,400) and Aric Almirola ($9,100) had won at Daytona within the last two years. Joey Logano ($10,200) and Austin Dillon ($9,400) are strong models of consistency at Daytona. Logano has only one finish outside of the Top 10 at the site since 2013, while Dillon has only two finishes outside of the Top 5 in nine starts at Daytona..
To save on salary, consider Ross Chastain ($7,300), Spencer Gallagher ($6,600), or Ryan Ellis ($6,100). Chastain has four finishes of 11th or better in his last six Daytona starts while Gallagher has one Top 10 finish in three starts at Daytona. Gallagher has been faster than most throughout practices, as he was third in first practice and eighth in final practice. Ellis started 37th and finished 15th in his only start at Daytona two seasons ago.