Mike Forbes previews the Daytona 500
Here it is, the biggest race of the season, which happens to also be the first points paying race of the season. The exhibition and qualifying races are over and hopefully you are sitting on a nice stack of winnings from both the Clash and the Duel races.
If you faded the front row starters, Alex Bowman and William Byron, then most likely you are doing alright right now. I was shocked to see how many people used these guys in their duel lineups. I was also surprised they both stayed in the pack for much of their respective races and now at least William Byron will now have to start at the back of the pack.
Let’s break down both duel races and go over what we learned and can take forward into the Daytona 500.
In duel one we saw some tight racing in the first couple laps before things settled down for most of the race. The Ford drivers were the class of the field in this duel. Aric Almirola was strong all night working with Joey Logano. Aric led most of the race and was able to hold on during the last lap to win.
Ryan Newman who we were very bullish on in our rankings finished third and once again showed how strong he is on restrictor plate racing. You may remember during last year’s Daytona 500, Ryan was up front battling for the lead when he had the horrific accident on the last lap.
Another driver who really impressed me was Christopher Bell. He and crew chief Adam Stevens have the potential to be the breakout team this year and they showed us just how strong they can be by finishing second in the duel. I am not sure that if Hamlin did not run out of gas the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas would have been in victory lane instead of Almirola.
In terms of Hamlin he faded early which I believe was calculated to stay out of any early race trouble, but he was able to move up through the field quickly. Denny will be going for his third straight Daytona 500 victory Sunday. A feat that has never been done before and he showed that he will be a factor in the finish Sunday.
The drivers that disappointed in the first duel included Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, and Tyler Reddick. I know Kyle hasn’t been in a cup race for a while, but I was expecting better things from the Hendrick guys in the duels. Kyle just never showed any strength in the 60 laps Thursday. Maybe it was because his teammate Alex Bowman had troubles and the rest of the Chevy’s were not that strong, but Kyle’s performance may have taken him down a few spots in my final Daytona 500 rankings. He still could provide some value, but it should be taken with some caution based on Thursday’s performance.
Erik Jones moved from the JGR 20 car to Richard Petty’s famed 43 and I love this guy’s talent. Having said that I was disappointed in how he ran during the first duel. I was expecting better things from that team and they just never materialized Thursday. I think he will bounce back Sunday, but that performance soured me a little bit.
Tyler Reddick is a driver who I believe can take a step up this season, but his performance Thursday was not indicative of that at all. While his teammate won the second duel Tyler was stuck in the back for much of his duel. Initially he came up through the field quickly but once he faded, he was never able to get back up into contention. Perhaps that was planned but from what I saw I will be staying away this week.
Let’s turn our attention to duel two where Austin Dillon beat out Bubba Wallace. We were all over that finish and in terms of the duels the second one was really great for our bank accounts. Both drivers should provide excellent value Sunday. I love what I am seeing from Dillion these past two years. I thought his career was over a few years ago as the entire organization was faltering, but Austin is showing that we may have written him off to soon. It was refreshing to see a Chevy battling up front after what we saw in the first duel.
Bubba Wallace was fantastic in his first action with his new team. He was in position to win at the end but his line kind of fell apart as they maneuvered around Martin Truex Jr as he faded in the middle lane. Bubba will be a target all year with the new team and I really like him heading into the 500 Sunday.
The other take away I had from duel two was just how strong those Toyota’s looked. Martin Truex Jr was leading to start the final lap, Bubba Wallace we just talked about, and Kyle Busch was pushing Bubba. All that and you add in Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell from the first duel and you have what looks like be one heck of a clash shaping up in terms of Ford’s vs. Toyota’s Sunday. That is not to say a Chevy driver cannot win, but these first two races really showed who is ready come race day.
It was unfortunate that the outside pole sitter William Byron was involved in the wreck that plagued the 2nd duel. William was surprisingly battling all race long and got caught up in something he didn’t have to be a part of. I understand feeling out your car and seeing where you need to adjust but if it were me, I would not have been in the main pack after the first few laps and protected my front row starting spot. Maybe that is one of the many reasons I am not a racecar driver!
So unfortunately, William will have to go to the back of the pack in a back up car Sunday and forfeit his 2nd starting spot. The good news for William is that he won in Daytona last summer to get into the playoffs and he has a strong car. Also, in pack racing going from the back to the front and vice versa is very common.
I also like the 4 car of Kevin Harvick in the 2nd duel. I don’t think he showed us everything he has for the field on Sunday. Clint Bowyer mentioned on the broadcast that he thinks Kevin is out to revenge last year’s disappointing finish to the playoffs and if that is that case watch out. His teammate won the first duel and he was strong with limited help in the second. Kevin should be a driver to look out for Sunday afternoon.
Chase Elliott was ok in the 2nd duel and I admit I thought he would be better. I think when the Hendrick guys all team up with some other strong Chevy’s Sunday they can challenge the other manufacturers, but it just looks like it will be tougher for them.
I am also a little concerned after Alex Bowman had his engine issue (which may cause him to go to the back to start) and then Kurt Busch had a power issue. They seem unrelated but with two Chevy teams having issues it makes you wonder if more are to come.
So with all that done there are two more practices for teams to make adjustments to their cars for Sunday’s 500. I want to start with my full field rankings and then go over some lineup builds.
Here are the rankings. (DraftKings salaries)
- Denny Hamlin ($10,400)
- Austin Dillon ($8,300)
- Kevin Harvick ($9,700)
- Kyle Busch ($9,500)
- Chase Elliott ($10,300)
- Martin Truex Jr ($9,300)
- Joey Logano ($9,900)
- Christopher Bell ($7,600)
- Brad Kesolowski ($10,100)
- Aric Almirola ($8,600)
- Alex Bowman ($9,200)
- Ryan Newman ($7,000)
- Kurt Busch ($8,800)
- Ryan Blaney ($10,000)
- Bubba Wallace ($7,400)
- William Byron ($9,000)
- Kyle Larson ($8,500)
- Cole Custer ($6,700)
- Jamie McMurray ($6,400)
- Erik Jones ($7,300)
- Daniel Suarez ($5,700)
- Tyler Reddick ($7,100)
- Michael McDowell ($6,300)
- Matt DiBenedetto ($7,900)
- Chris Buescher ($6,900)
- Ross Chastain ($7,800)
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($8,100)
- Ryan Preece ($6,000)
- Chase Briscoe ($6,600)
- Austin Cindric ($6,100)
- Corey Lajoie ($5,800)
- David Ragan ($5,400
- Anthony Alfredo ($5,200)
- Kaz Grala ($4,900)
- Joey Gase ($4,500)
- Quin Houff ($4,500)
- Josh Bilicki ($4,600)
- Cody Ware ($4,500)
- B.J. McLeod ($4,800)
- Dericke Cope ($4,500)
Looking at those ranking there you will see there is plenty of value to go around. In these plate races the rankings are more about who has the best chance to stay out of trouble and win rather than finishing position. At the end of this a driver listed above could get into the right line and shock the world with a top five finish. On the other side of that any driver up top can get caught up in a wreck and totally ruin your lineup.
So my strategy at Dayton and Talladega is I build a couple different lineups usually revolving around three main stays. If one of those three crash well then there isn’t much you can do about it unfortunately.
Being that the site is strong on core four’s I am going to give you those four drivers I think have the best chance in finishing up top.
My first choice is Denny Hamlin. He won’t win you any money, but he shouldn’t lose you any either. You need steady drivers in your lineup and there isn’t anyone better in Daytona than Denny right now. You will pay a lot for him but you can make up for it in other ways. Also with him running out of gas in the duel he will be starting towards the back so if he can finish up front those are easy points.
My next driver in the core will be Bubba Wallace. Bubba can shock the world Sunday. I would not be surprised to see him in victory lane when all is said and done. He has been strong all week and with the backing of the JGR teams he has a legitimate shot at winning.
Next, I like Austin Dillon. He will be starting towards the front, which isn’t ideal, but Austin is cheap, and he knows how to use the draft. A lot of people will be on him due to his duel performance, but he is another guy who usually finishes these races and we need that in our lineups.
My final core four driver is Ryan Newman. After last year’s horrific crash, I think Ryan comes out and battles once again for the win. He is a smart driver when it comes to the draft and I loved the Ford performances in the duels. Ryan is the kind of driver who if you put in your lineup can make your day with his low salary. I have no idea why he is priced where he is on DraftKings, but I am going to use that to my advantage Sunday.
That core four will give you $16,900 to spend on your final two spots. There are all kinds of possibilities you can go with after that including paying up for guys like Harvick, Blaney, or Kyle Busch. From there you can go finish it off with either McMurray or McDowell. Heck in Daniel Suarez impressed me enough to put in the final spot.
The other option is two mid-priced guys like Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch. This option is one heck of a scary lineup when you think about it.
Remember when it comes to plate races having a variety of lineups is great. Aric Almirola is a guy who I would sub out for any position and not think twice about it. If I were to go with a core five he would be in there so if you don’t want to pay up for Denny then sub in Aric and fill your roster with Elliott or Kyle Busch.
My ideal lineup is as follows.
- Denny Hamlin
- Aric Almirola
- Kurt Busch
- Austin Dillon
- Ryan Newman
- Bubba Wallace
You can follow me on twitter @mikejforbes for updates.