2014 Daytona International Speedway, Daytona 500

Welcome back race fans! The first points race of the 2014 season kicks off this Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, FL. As I was watching the Duels last evening I was wondering what is really going to happen this season. Who will win the championship with the new format where the last race of the season determines the champion between four drivers? Is this the right way to determine a champion after 36 weeks of racing? Who will be the most improved driver? Which drivers will have disappointing season’s? Who will be the rookie of the year?

Those questions can only be answered by watching the races and seeing how the season develops. The first duel was quite tame last evening, with Matt Kenseth proving that once again this season he is going to have great equipment. The second duel started out just like the first until the last lap when all heck broke loose. However, Denny Hamlin proved this week that he is back in top form after a disappointing season last year when he was knocked out of a few races and drove the final races when he was not 100% healthy after a crash that injured his back.

So, lets see what we think is going to happen this week, predict a winner and then set our lineup for the first race of the year. One thing that I would like to caution everyone on that is in a Yahoo league you only get to start each driver nine times throughout the year, so don’t use your best drivers at restrictor plate tracks! There are just too many unknowns at these tracks, and any driver can get caught up in the big one no matter how well they have run the entire race.

DAYTONA 500

Now, with that said I am going to pick Denny Hamlin to win the Daytona 500 this year, but I won’t be starting him in my Yahoo lineup for the reasons that I stated above. Denny is one of the best drivers in the B list and I will probably use him nine other times during the season. I do like the way that he ran all week at Daytona and the Joe Gibbs cars all looked good the whole week.

The driver that will give Denny a run for his money this weekend is going to be Matt Kenseth. Matt is another of the Joe Gibbs drivers that has run well all week. Matt has made a few mistakes on the track and that has cost him and some other drivers a lot of headaches. I think Matt has learned a lot like all of the drivers have about the closing rates of the cars, how they draft this year, and how and where they are the most unstable.

Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano both drive for Penske Racing and both of those cars looked great in the draft last night. Brad made a mistake on pit road that cost him a chance at winning a Duel, but I am sure that he learned a lot from that experience. I think that most drivers trust both of these guys not to make mistakes on the track, so they shouldn’t have trouble teaming up with other drivers to draft with.

Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle both race for Roush/Fenway Racing and they both had extremely fast race cars during Speedweek, but neither of them looked good in the draft last night. Daytona is all about drafting and if you can’t draft well, you will find yourself alone on the track. I am staying away from both of these drivers this week.

Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Danica Patrick are all driving for Stewart/Haas Racing, both Kevin and Kurt are in their first year with the organization and this is only Danica’s second full year in the Cup series. Both Danica and Tony lost engines earlier this week and that concerns me about all of these drivers this weekend. Kevin ran well in his Duel and finished second, but his car didn’t pass post-race inspection. Once again I am going to stay away from all of these drivers this weekend.

Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne are all part of the Hendrick Motorsports stable and every one of these drivers has had good cars this week. However, they have made multiple mistakes that have cost themselves, their teammates, and other drivers their original cars. The cars aren’t the big deal for the Hendrick teams, but they can’t make any more mistakes, because the next mistake ends their weekend.

That is the way that I see this weekend shaping up. Now I will give you my starting Yahoo lineup and predict the top five finishers in this week’s race.

YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

Yahoo Driver Group A

  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Matt Kenseth

Yahoo Driver Group B

  • Jamie McMurray
  • Marcos Ambrose
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Brad Keselowski

Yahoo Driver Group C

  • Michael Waltrip
  • Austin Dillon

MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Matt Kenseth
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  4. Brad Keselowski
  5. Jimmie Johnson

Dark Horse: Jamie McMurray

Stay Away From: Tony Stewart

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