The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series kicks off the 2011 season with the 53rd running of the Daytona 500. NASCAR Fantasy Cheat Sheet is back by popular demand for the ninth year of providing you with the industries longest-running and most accurate NASCAR fantasy prognostication. We took a long look at past performances, trends, and Speedweek sessions to shed a light on how the field will finish Sunday.When:
Sunday, February 20; 1:20 p.m./etThe Track:
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Raceway is a 2.5-mile tri-oval with extreme 31 degree banking on the corners. The intense banking allows drivers to run wide-open nearly the entire way around the track. As a result of the incredible speeds NASCAR has made all Sprint Cup Series races at the track restrictor plate races. The plate on the engine limits air-intake thus reducing horsepower and slowing top-end speeds.Key to Race:
AVOID THE BIG WRECK
Drivers have given the grip of the new surface at Daytona mostly positive reviews, but as is the case with all restrictor plate races the "Big One" is always one miscue away. The field always becomes bunched in freight-train like packs at Daytona whipping around the track just inches away from each other. It takes just one car to have a flat tire or get loose to cause a massive accident. It isn't IF the big crash will happen it is WHEN. If a driver can get lucky and stay away from the inevitable carnage they have a great chance to finish inside the top 20. Qualifying Procedures:
49 cars will attempt to qualify for starting spots 3-39 during Thursday's Gatorade Duel races. The top two spots were locked in when Dale Earnhardt Jr.
and Jeff Gordon
had the top speeds during qualifying for the Gatorade Duels. Starting positions 3-39 will be determined by order of finish during the Gatorade Duel races and the final four spots will go to Sprint Cup Series past champions or cars that had fast speeds on Pole Day, but didn't fare well during the Gatorade Duel races. Fantasy Cheat Sheet:Top 5
No. 29 Kevin Harvick
: Harvick won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona last year will be great again this weekend.
No. 14 Tony Stewart
: Smoke has brought the fire at Daytona lately. He has won three of the last nine races at the track and has looked fast during Speedweeks. He is a great pick.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson
: It is tough not to pick the five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. He won the 2006 Daytona 500 and has been pretty dominant (nine top 10 finishes in 18 career starts) at Daytona during his career.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth
: Kenseth is consistently strong at Daytona. He won the 2009 Daytona 500 and could take the checkers again on Sunday.
No. 22 Kurt Busch
: Busch won the Bud Shootout on Saturday and is usually very fast at Daytona. He is a solid pick this weekend. 6 to 10
No. 99 Carl Edwards
: Edwards is a solid restrictor plate driver and was great at Daytona in 2010. He will be a top 10 pick most weekends in 2011 including this one.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon
: Gordon has five career wins at Daytona and brought a great car to last July's Coke Zero 400. He should be in the lead-group when the checkers fly.
No. 33 Clint Bowyer
: Bowyer has cracked the top 10 in six of his nine career starts at Daytona. He will be a good shoe on Sunday.
No. 18 Kyle Busch
: Busch was awesome at Daytona in 2008 (fourth and first place finishes) but he hasn't had the same luck at the track since. He appears to be more focused this year and a top five finish wouldn't surprise us.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray
: McMurray, your defending Daytona 500 champ, has won two of the past seven races at Daytona. He isn't usually one of our top picks, but his success at Daytona speaks for itself. 11 to 20
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
: Junior captured the Pole for Sunday's race and there is no race in the circuit that he wants to win more than this one. If there is any race to use him it is the 500.
No. 31 Jeff Burton
: Burton led the most laps during Saturday's Bud Shootout. He will be flying again on Sunday.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin
: Hamlin has just one top 10 finish at Daytona during his career and he has struggled a little during Speedweeks. Wait until next week to use the No. 11.
No. 16 Greg Biffle
: Biffle won the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in 2003, but has just three additional top 10 finishes in 16 career starts.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya
: Montoya has had just two top 10 finishes in seven career starts at Daytona. There are better weekends to use the man from Bogota.
No. 83 Brian Vickers
: Vickers is back behind the wheel of the No. 83 car after suffering a medical scare in 2010. He was one of the surprises of the 2009 NASCAR season and will be flying under the radar in some leagues. This is the time to grab him before his value increases.
No. 20 Joey Logano
: Logano has yet to crack the top 15 at Daytona. We expect big things from "Sliced Bread" this season, but we don't over-pay for him as his value will likely decrease after so-so finish Sunday.
No. 5 Mark Martin
: Martin is off to a good start with quick times during Speedweeks, but Daytona isn't a style of race that he likes. We advise saving him for another weekend.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski
: Keselowski is in the No. 2 car this season and big things are expected from him. His aggressive style can either make or break a driver at Daytona.
No. 4 Kasey Kahne
: The blown engine Kahne suffered during Saturday's Bud Shootout isn't a great start for his career with Team Red Bull. He has had past success at the track and should have success with the new team eventually, but we would wait a few races to take a chance on him.21 to 30
No. 00 David Reutimann
: Reutimann came in fifth last year during the 500. He isn't flashy and is often overlooked in fantasy leagues.
No. 6 David Ragan
: Ragan has two top 10 finishes in seven career starts at Daytona. He is a very good fourth driver on most fantasy teams this weekend.
No. 39 Ryan Newman
: Newman won the 2008 edition of the Daytona 500, but that was his last top 15 finish at the famous speedway. He isn't much more than a weak third or fourth driver in most fantasy leagues this weekend.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr: Truex has been great the past two Daytona 500's. He is a good sleeper pick.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose
: Ambrose has proved he isn't afraid of anything. He is a great sleeper driver this season.
No. 7 Robby Gordon
: Gordon has cracked the top 15 in seven of the last 10 races at Daytona. We like his chances to crack the top 30, but we don't see him breaking into the top 15.
No. 43 A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger proved last year he has is a talented driver. He was terrible at Daytona last year, but could bounce back this year.
No. 77 Steve Wallace
: Wallace takes over the No. 77 car for a limited schedule this year. He isn't much of an option.
No. 15 Michael Waltrip
: Waltrip returns to the No. 15 for the 500. He once was a Daytona 500 Champion, but that was lots of left-hand turns ago.
No. 21 Trevor Bayne
: Bayne was flying during Speedweeks. We will see if he can maintain the pace for 500 laps.Field Fillers
No. 27 Paul Menard
No. 34 David Gilliland
No. 78 Regan Smith
No. 47 Bobby Labonte
No. 13 Casey Mears
No. 09 Bill Elliott
No. 32 Terry Labonte
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 71 Andy Lally
No. 38 Travis Kvapil
No. 37 Robert Richardson Jr.
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 46 J.J. Yeley
No. 97 Kevin Conway
No. 66 Michael McDowell
No. 60 Todd Bodine
No. 64 Derrike Cope
No. 57 Norm Benning
No. 92 Brian KeselowskiBrownie's PicksTop Four:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Tony Stewart
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Matt Kenseth Sleepers:
1. Brian Vickers
2. Robby GordonBust of the Week:Ryan Newman