The 2017 NASCAR season finally is here, and with it comes another season of NASCAR fantasy.
For all its spectacle, the Daytona 500 is one of the most difficult races to predict for fantasy purposes. The race is a bit of an equalizer. Sure, the top-tier teams are the favorites to lead the way, but if a driver from an underfunded or inexperienced crew claimed victory Sunday, it wouldn’t be the first time.
You might have a budget, or you might have a limit to the amount of times you can pick a given driver; but we’ve got you covered in determining who to ride with Sunday, and who to stay away from.
Must pick: Brad Keselowski
We could’ve gone with Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, but our money’s on No. 2. He has more wins in plate races than any other driver since 2009, and is one of the best drivers in the sport today. Moreover, Keselowski will start from the fourth spot on the inside row Sunday, putting him in prime position to succeed.
Stay away: Erik Jones
The Furniture Row Racing driver is a much-hyped rookie, and for good reason. He’s displayed a lot of speed so far in his career, and has had a lot of success in NASCAR’s other national series. Given how unpredictable the 500 sometimes is, Jones could be viewed as a sleeper. But we’re not buying it.
After his performance at Thursday’s Can-Am Duels, Jones will start from the 19th spot on the outside row on Sunday. Although the 500 isn’t the most difficult race to make up ground in, the rookie’s inexperience coming from the back against more experienced competitors makes us hesitant to take him this weekend.
Sleeper pick: Austin Dillon
The 26-year-old Richard Childress Racing driver has yet to win on the Cup level, but expect him to perform well Sunday. Dillon had a great year last season, including 13 top-10 finishes. He also has one top-five finish and five top-10 finishes in his career at the 500.
Value pick: Jamie McMurray
McMurray can be had for a decent price in most leagues, and has a great chance of doing well Sunday, as he’ll start from the second spot on the inside. He’s already won a 500, and has four plate-race victories on his resume. McMurray also has a combined 13 top-10 finishes at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images