Daytona Speedweeks 2015 is officially here and Fantasy NASCAR players are looking towards an extremely exciting, yet exhausting, week of NASCAR Sprint Cup events.
To help navigate the busy schedule of on-track activity, I’ve compiled a list of six key tips to help Fantasy NASCAR players distinguish what is important from what should be ignored.
1. Know What (and What Not) to look for in Sprint Cup practice
One of the most common mistakes that I see Fantasy NASCAR players make is overvaluing practice speeds at restrictor plate races. This doesn’t mean that practice offers no value at all, but the speeds themselves, including fast lap, 5-lap averages, 10-lap averages and overall average speed are basically worthless.
The speed of a car drafting is heavily influenced by the number of cars and/or the formation of that draft. Ten cars in a straight line are going to run faster than 8 cars stacked side by side for four rows. Does this mean cars in the second group are not as good as the first? Not at all. It’s just the aero forces related to restrictor plate racing and drafting affecting overall speed.
When it comes to Daytona 500 practice, the most valuable information often comes from the drivers themselves. Listen for those who are happy with how their cars handle, especially as tires falloff later in runs. Unlike Talladega, handling does matter at Daytona and drivers who don’t have to lift off the throttle as tires lose grip are the ones you want on your Fantasy NASCAR team(s).
2. Does qualifying matter? Know your league rules!
Does qualifying really matter in Fantasy NASCAR at Daytona? Yes and no. In Yahoo Fantasy Racing, I see zero value in starting position. First off, we aren’t awarded bonus points for those who qualify in the top 4 for this event. Plus, restrictor plates and drafting basically make starting position irrelevant, so I don’t consider qualifying at all when selecting my four Daytona 500 starters for Yahoo Fantasy Racing.
On the other hand, some Fantasy NASCAR formats like NASCAR.com Fantasy Live and Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing award points for positions gained from starting to finishing position. In these leagues, qualifying is huge as players will want to make sure to pick drivers starting towards the middle and back of the pack to maximize potential improvement points.
3. Watch/DVR the Duel Races
The Duel races are arguably the best Fantasy NASCAR tool to reference since we get to analyze live, meaningful racing on the track. However, when examining the Duel, make sure not to overvalue finishing position alone. Remember, the Duel races split the field in half, so certain teams that have multiple cars in one race have an advantage over those that don’t.
For example, if three Hendrick cars are able to draft together in the first Duel race, they’ll have an advantage over a team that only has one car in that field.
Therefore, be sure to watch and/or DVR both races and evaluate the action on the track. Look for drivers able to make passes with little drafting help or help from non-teammates. Also keep an eye on those that are able to easily work their way from the back of the field to the front. Remember, the field for each Duel is only about half of that for the actual Daytona 500, but cars that can quickly advance through the pack in qualifying races should be able to replicate that on Sunday.
4. Understand conservative vs. aggressive rosters
We all know that drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick are going to be popular Daytona 500 choices in most Fantasy NASCAR leagues. If you want to take a conservative approach, using drivers common among other Fantasy NASCAR teams will minimize your risk of getting the season off to a bad start, compared to the masses.
However, know that this strategy also prevents you from having a blockbuster weekend and getting a fast start out of the gates. If you’re one who wants to be aggressive, avoid popular Fantasy NASCAR picks and focus on off-the-radar drivers.
5. Save your studs
This is just one man’s opinion, but I’m not starting any driver in Yahoo Fantasy Racing (or any format that limits driver starts) that I believe will be started nine times by the end of the season.
Who are these drivers? I’ll be publishing a detailed “Yahoo Fantasy Racing – Daytona 500 Do Not Start List” on Saturday morning, so be sure to check back before setting your Daytona 500 lineups.
Want to be notified when my Daytona Do Not Start List is published? Join our free mailing list now!
6. Embrace the unpredictability
While normal NASCAR races are unpredictable enough, restrictor plates and drafting take that to a whole different level. No matter how much time, effort and research you put in, you’re only one Dancia Patrick wiggle from a 20-car pileup and Fantasy NASCAR devastation. After the green flag waves, your team(s) are at the mercy of the draft and no matter what happens, make sure to enjoy the show.