Fantasy Preview: Coke Zero 400

July 2, 2014 No Comments

Coke+Zero+400+powered+Coca+Cola+CYuw8GBoZKFlBrian Wiggins, Senior Writer 

When trying to pick a fantasy roster for a restrictor plate tracks, you’re almost better off throwing all of the names on the entry list into a hat and picking at random. With restrictor plate being the most open races on the schedule in terms of competitiveness, it is truly anyone’s race.

While it’s almost impossible to predict what might happen at a super speedway such as this weekend’s race at Daytona International Speedway, there are some contenders that seemingly pop up in the picture for the win seemingly every time.

There are two strategies for fantasy racing at restrictor plate tracks. Either y0u can go all out and put forward the best roster possible, or you can conserve and start drivers you normally wouldn’t consider and save the big names for more predictable races.

Either strategy has been proven to be sufficient, however in this case I’ll be looking at the best roster possible.

“A” Drivers 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: This seems like the obvious choice. Earnhardt Jr. won his second Daytona 500 back in February after having arguably the strongest car in the race. He drives for Hendrick Motorsports, the team that won this race one year ago with Jimmie Johnson. Earnhardt Jr. is a former 400 winner as well. Pretty much everyone is going to have the No.88 in their lineup, so don’t be that person that leaves him out.

Kyle Busch: The driver of the No.18 may only have one 400 win at Daytona, however he’s usually in the mix during the July weekend. For some reason, Rowdy runs better in the heat of July than he does in February. Who could forget his finish with Tony Stewart at Daytona in the 2009 Coke Zero 400 or his photo finish with Jamie McMurray in 2007. Busch would be a good driver to have as an option seeing how his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin won the last restrictor plate race this year at Talladega.

“B” Drivers 

Tony Stewart: Seriously, there’s probably nobody better than Smoke at the July race at Daytona. In his past two July races, he’s posted a win and a second-place finish. It doesn’t matter how Stewart’s season is going, he always seems to do well in the Coke Zero 400. Needing a win to jump into the Chase Grid, fully expect Stewart to be in contention for the win in the late stages.

Denny Hamlin: He won the last time the Sprint Cup Series visited a restrictor plate track and he was by far the hottest driver over the course of speed weeks back in February. For as little success Hamlin has at plate tracks, he’s been one of the better drivers on these style of tracks in recent times, particularly Daytona. He’s never won a points race at Daytona, but he’s got to be close.

Brad Keselowski: OK, so he won last week at Kentucky which probably means you aren’t likely to use back-to-back starts on him especially at a plate track. That’s totally understandable. But, Keselowski had one of the best cars in the Daytona 500 and was strong at Talladega earlier this year. He’s a solid restrictor plate racer and with how well the Team Penske cars have ran this year, how could you argue putting the No.2 in your lineup?

Paul Menard: This isn’t the most obvious choice, but don’t underestimate Menard. He’s quietly having the best season of his career and a win feels as though it’s just around the corner for Richard Childress Racing. Menard had arguably one of the strongest cars for the Daytona 500, however we never got to see it due to a practice crash before the Budweiser Duels. If you want a sleeper for this section, Menard is your guy.

“C” Drivers 

Danica Patrick: She’s starting to become a regular in this section, which bodes well for this weekend. Patrick is super comfortable on these high-speed,wildcard races, very much unlike her competition. She knows this is her best chance to get in the Chase, so expect her to extra aggressive if her car is up to par come Saturday night.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Quietly, Danica’s other half has been producing some solid results on the plate tracks. He almost won Talladega last year, and finished inside the top-five in the Daytona 500. Roush Fenway’s stuff isn’t up to par on the intermediate tracks, the plate tracks are the great equalizers. It’s very possible that the No.17 could roll into victory lane on Saturday night.

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