By admin | February 12, 2009
By Richard Allen
Track and Location: Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, FL
Track Layout: 2.5 miles with 31 degrees of banking in the turns and 18 degrees of banking in the tri-oval.
Radio Coverage: MRN(2:30 Eastern)
Television Coverage: Fox(2:00 Eastern)
Start Time: 3:30(Eastern)
Needless to say, this is NASCARâ€™s biggest race. Winning this one event can make a career. For example, wherever he goes, Derrick Cope will always be thought of as a Daytona 500 champion. On the other hand, remember the excitement and the sense of relief when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. finally did win this race. Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte and Mark Martin are all great drivers who have been unable to win this race and have a bit of a void in their careers because of it.
If the past couple of Daytona 500s are any indication it would be reasonable to expect the drivers to race fairly hard for a few laps in the early stages of the 500 then settle into a rhythm throughout the middle section of the event. Then, with about 50 laps to go it should be all out competition for the win. This is one race in which points really do not seem to matter, only the trophy.
For fantasy players the most difficult thing about these races is not knowing who will be fast. The most difficult thing is knowing who will get caught up in the â€˜Big Oneâ€™, the wreck that almost inevitably happens on restrictor plate tracks.
One thing to keep in mind, restrictor plate racing and the other 32 races on the schedule are completely different. If you are in a league that limits trading be careful to choose drivers who can run well on other tracks.
Drivers who should do well:
Last year, Joe Gibbs Racing dominated the races in Daytona and Talladega. That organization won 3 of the 4 races run on those tracks. Look for them as well as Hendrick Motorsports to run near the front all day. In these type races money does equal power.
One great advantage to picking this race is that there have been three preliminary events to serve as guides. Two Gatorade Duel qualifiers and the Bud Shootout have already been run on the very same track.
Kyle Busch- One of those dominating Gibbs cars who showed at the end of his qualifying race that he can make the moves to put himself up front.
Jeff Gordon- He has had a bit of a dry spell but came out of it in his qualifier. He can never be counted out in restrictor plate racing and he seems to always rise to the challenge in big races.
Denny Hamlin- Another Gibbs driver who looked strong in his qualifying race. He too can be aggressive at the end, which is what this race calls for.
Mark Martin- He seemed to be leading while at the same time taking it easy in the second qualifier. He was wise to not push the issue too far on the last lap. That car looked too good to have destoryed in a warm up race.
Jimmie Johnson- He will be strong. The three time Sprint Cup champion also knows how to run well when it matters most.
Robby Gordon- He was very good on plate tracks last year. With Toyota power this year he could be even better.
Drivers to avoid:
Big teams tend to do well here but simply being on a big team does not guarantee success. However, small teams are really fighting an uphill battle.
Ryan Newman- He won here last year but is racing for a new team in 2009. He may be a bit overpriced because of winning this race last year. His team has to prove itself first.
Joey Logano- He is driving for Gibbs, but he has had a difficult time adjusting until the very end of his qualifying race. This is a long race with many pit stops which also opens a door for mistakes. At 18 years of age, he may have trouble finding drafting partners in the late going.
Bill Elliott, Scott Riggs and Jeremy Mayfield- Each of these drivers has provided a feel good story this week. However, each of these teams is running on a somewhat limited budget which shows itself on pit road and in durability around the 400 mile mark. These drivers may be cheap but still may be a risk.
Winner of the Daytona 500: Kyle Busch
These are only suggestions. Do your own research and enjoy the â€˜Great American Raceâ€™.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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