Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman will make up the front row of Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) but should they be in your lineup? After five practice sessions and the Gander RV Duel races, we’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as your make roster decisions.
Remember that the garage locks at the end of Stage 2. Once thee final stage starts, your roster is locked in.
RJ Kraft’s Fantasy Live lineup for race-day at Daytona:
1. Joey Logano
2. Denny Hamlin
3. Paul Menard
4. Aric Almirola
5. Alex Bowman
Garage: Matt DiBenedetto
Analysis: I’m changing nothing from my original lineup but I’ll offer some reasoning for these selections. Logano and Hamlin are my main two to build around for Sunday. Both have won this race before, in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Logano won the second Duel on Thursday night with a bold pass and Hamlin ran second for much of that event as well. They have pretty strong records of late in this race so I’m using these two as my building blocks.
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The rest of my lineup is comprised of drivers with recent success and favorable history in restrictor-plate racing as well as drivers that I don’t anticipate using the full 10 uses on in Fantasy Live in 2019.
The Ford camp looked mighty strong in the Duel races. In particular, Menard has looked really stout this week. He has three top-six finishes in his last four Daytona starts. Because the Fords have really so strong, I’d like to have a Stewart-Haas Racing driver in my lineup as well. That said, I would save the use of Kevin Harvick – as strong as he looked in the first Duel withstanding – so I am turning to last year’s heartbreak kid in Almirola.
My last starter will be Bowman. I think he’s flying under the radar quite a bit. Here’s a sneaky reason I like him: He earned stage points in three of four opportunities last year at Daytona. The garage play for me is DiBenedetto – in part because I am bullish on this team in 2019 and also because he has top 10s in two of his last four Daytona starts. I also like this play because he is currently rostered by only three percent of players.
Four other drivers I strongly considered but ultimately decided against playing: Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher. I wanted one of the Penske cars so I went with Logano. As good as the Fords have looked, I am reluctant to stack the deck with a lineup of one entire manufacturer and that also impacted my decision to leave Blaney, Stenhouse and Newman off the roster. I wrestled quite a bit with Buescher as the garage play as he is the only driver to score top fives in both Daytona races last year. In fact, based on odds, DiBenedetto (60-1 per VegasInsider.com) and Buescher (70-1) are my favorite long shot bets on the board.
For the stages, I’m going to pick Harvick in Stage 1 and 2 because I think he will win one of them so I will double down on that. For the winner, I am going to go with Logano. He’s already on my roster, but I feel good about that selection and with only 10 points on the line, I don’t see the need to take a driver not in my lineup.
Each week in this space, we’ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. William Byron will be the race leader for O/U 22.5 total laps. I like the under here. In four of the past six Daytona 500s, the pole sitter has not hit that mark – the two that did: Jeff Gordon in 2015-his final Daytona 500 start and Chase Elliott in 2017 – his second year in a row on the pole. By and large the pole winner in recent years has been a young driver that has less experience in the draft. Throw in the fact that an army of Fords is lined behind him and I expect the Mustangs to get organized quickly and power by Byron to the front early in Stage 1.
2. Which driver will have a higher finishing position: Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano? Logano has finished higher than Keselowski in the past four Daytona 500s and seven of the last nine. The bulk of Keselowski’s plate success has been at Talladega. You could argue Keselowski is due at Daytona, but I believe the numbers don’t lie, so I am taking Logano on this one.
For additional insight, check out the new podcast — Fantasy Fastlane with Steve Letarte — in which he offers up his roster, breaks down some Props Challenge item and analyzes Daytona with the help of Racing Insights’ Russell Wenrich, NASCAR.com’s Jessica Ruffin and NBC Sports’ Jeff Burton.