Daytona 500

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Now back to the great analysis from Pearce!

Daytona 500 Race Data Sheets: Available Here

Here are the possible builds:

  • 6 place differential drivers starting in the back*
  • Lap Leader/Top finish & 5 place differential drivers (back)
  • Lap Leader/Top finish & 4 place differential drivers (back) & and a driver in between
  • 2 Lap leaders/Top finish & 4 place differential drivers (back)

I prefer the first two builds.

*Everyone defines starting in the back differently. This is a contentious plate track topic. Is it drivers 20th and further back or is it drivers 25th and back? How many cars in the 30s is too many or do I dare take a driver starting in the teens? No one can predict wrecks. We can look at the past trends, but there isn’t a certain number or formula. It’s a gut call.

Background about this mess of a race:

Forecasting races lap by lap, more importantly wreck by wreck, can be dangerous, but to a certain extent, it is necessary at plate tracks. My crystal ball says wreckfest. Last season, NASCAR removed more aerodynamic downforce from the cars. The experiment failed to alter the racing at intermediate tracks, but at the plate tracks it resulted in carnage.

2017 Plate Track Lead Lap Finishes:

Daytona 500: 15 cars

Spring Talladega: 23 cars

Summer Daytona: 21 cars

Fall Talladega: 12 cars

Half of the field is toast. It doesn’t matter how hard they try. In the fall Talladega race, the drivers didn’t want to revisit the scrap yard. They couldn’t make it. In the last 35 laps, 40 cars were involved in wrecks. That’s more wrecks than laps. That’s unprecedented.

All NASCAR has done in the meantime is take away the ride height rule, which has made these cars even looser. Every driver is on the record saying these cars are out of control, and the god of plate tracks, Brad Keselowski, says there will be a lot of wrecks this weekend.

Lap Leader Targets:

Brad Keselowski He can still get it done from the back. He’s the best plate racer in NASCAR, and he’s never won a Daytona 500. The Penske Fords are the best cars in the field. The led the parade at the Clash and in the first Duel race on Thursday night.

Joey Logano While Brad is trying to make his way to the front, Joey will already be there. Logano is no stranger to leading laps and winning plate races. Last fall at Talladega, two drivers starting inside the top 10 slid into the optimal lineup. It was Keselowski and Logano, they lead laps and finish up front at plate tracks.

Chase Elliott His car looked good on Thursday night. Although he led a lot of laps, Elliott didn’t have to continuously block two lanes of traffic. Leading a single file pack isn’t that impressive. He was able to block at the end, but Harick didn’t present much of a threat. It’s just a gut feeling.

Ryan Blaney He’s starting up front and he is surrounded by his friends, Logano and Wallace. The Penske Fords are fast and Blaney looked good in the Clash and the Duel. He drove from last to second in the 2017 Daytona 500.

Clint Bowyer/Kevin Harvick/Kurt Busch The Fords look good. Bowyer almost won the Daytona summer race last year, Kurt won the Daytona 500 last year, and before last season, Harvick was the most consistent top 15 finisher at plate tracks.

Place Differential Prayers:

Am I really taking nobodies in the back? Yes, you are. Look at the spreadsheet. The top scores are always nobodies in the back. Think of it this way. At least half of the field will not finish on the lead lap. That means a nobody in the back, by default, leaps ahead of those drivers.

That’s 20 place differential points and 20 finishing position points. You are guaranteed a 40 point floor, if the driver does not wreck. Only the drivers in the back have this guarantee. A driver in the top 20 that does not wreck, does not have as high of a floor or ceiling.

Quick thoughts on the back:

25 – Brendan Gaughan – He finished in the optimal lineup in both Daytona races last year with a 7th and 11th place finish. If he finishes 10th in the Daytona 500, that’s exactly 55 fantasy points and that’s usually the cut line for a top 6 DFS score.

26 – Kasey Kahne – He had the second best average finish in plate races last year. He won at Indianapolis last year which was the mother of all wreck fests. Maybe he’s immune.

27 – Jeffrey Earnhardt – He has one lead lap finish in his Monster Cup career (that’s all track types). That one lead lap finish was Talladega. Before you stuff him into every lineup, he finished 34th in that race.

28 – Danica Patrick – One top 10 at Daytona and seven finishes outside of the top 20.

29 – Justin Marks – He was the first car to wreck at Talladega in the fall.

30 – D.J. Kennington – Three plate races last year, and his best finish was 33rd.

31 – Brad Keselowski – Chalk and the highest owned driver on the slate.

32 – Corey Lajoie – A classic “this doesn’t feel good but I’m picking him because it’s a plate race” play. Two plate wrecks last year and one optimal lineup finish.

33 – William Byron – Ricky Stenhouse air dumped him in the Duel race. This play feels better than Lajoie, but it’s the same philosophy. If he doesn’t wreck, he’s in the optimal lineup. The assumption is that because Byron drives for Hendrick, then he’ll be less likely to wreck. We know that’s not true. Nonetheless, Byron’s ownership will be exponentially larger than Lajoie’s ownership.

34 – Gray Gaulding – He scored the second most fantasy points in the fall Talladega race because everyone wrecked. His team filed bankruptcy this week. They shouldn’t even be on the track. Somehow they got a sponsor and got their assets unfrozen. How fun would a top 10 finish be?

35 – Jimmie Johnson – He looks terrible at plate races. In the 2017 Talladega spring race, Johnson finished in the optimal lineup by driving 30th to 8th;.

36 – Matt DiBenedetto – He’ll be a popular cheap option in the back. He finished 13th and 9th in the Daytona races last year.

37 – Aric Almirola – He’s a good plate racer, he’s in a Ford, and he’s starting in the back. Chalky.

38 – Kyle Larson – Pretty good plate racer starting in the back. He’s known for racing out of control race cars, and that’s what he’ll have on sunday. Chalky.

39 – David Gilliland – He’s had plate success in the past, but you don’t care. You’re just hoping that he doesn’t wreck. He wrecked in the duel. He wrecked in the truck race. A backup car for a small team may be trouble.

40 –  Mark Thompson – The 66 car for Carl Long racing finished on the lead lap once last year. That was the crazy Indianapolis race with a zillion cautions This is the first time this team has raced at a plate track. Thompson wrecked on the 25th lap at Talladega last fall (Premium Motorsports). That was his first Cup race since 1993. Yes, he’s 67 years young. He’s 16 years older than Carl Long. Thompson was in the ARCA race at Daytona last week, and he wrecked, but he made it through 86% of the race.

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Good Luck! ~ Pearce