FOX Fantasy Racing picks: The Daytona 500

BY foxsports • February 21, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 FOX Fantasy Racing season!

Be sure to create your team, join a group and get ready to kick things off with the season-opening Daytona 500.

Throughout the entire season, we'll help you along by providing our suggested picks for the weekend's race.

For each race of the season, you can specify five drivers to earn you points for the race. One driver is designated the 'Captain' and is worth twice the points. The season is broken into segments of 13, 13 and 10 races. The same driver can be used a maximum of four times per segment.

This rule is important, as it should play a role in building your roster strategy. Drivers earn points based on race finish and can earn bonus points for leading a lap, leading the most laps and finishing ahead of their qualifying position.

So, let's get you ready for to pick your team for the first race of the season.

Captain: Matt Kenseth

So far 2014 Speedweeks has been a roller coaster ride for Matt Kenseth. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was involved in two major incidents in the Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500 practice. Kenseth rebounded, however, by winning his Budweiser Duel in dramatic fashion.

While Denny Hamlin has been the star of the Gibbs organization so far this Speedweeks, Kenseth knows how to win the big race, going to victory lane in 2009 and 2012.

He has worked thoroughly in practice on mastering the side-draft in these new cars, and proved he could use it to his advantage to win his Budweiser Duel.

Expect Kenseth to lead laps, race up front and be a factor for the win at the end of the day.

Driver 2: Austin Dillon

There's no doubt Austin Dillon is one of the fastest cars in Daytona. The Rookie of the Year contender captured the Daytona 500 pole last Sunday and was able to make it through his Budweiser Duel unscathed.

The emotions will be high as the No. 3 returns to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the first time since Feb. 18, 2001. However, once the helmet goes on and the engines are fired, Dillon and his No. 3 team will be all business.

Remember, you can only use each driver four times in the first 13 races. Dillon has proven to be a factor at Daytona, but how he will fare the remainder of the season is yet to be known. My advice is to use him now, and let the first few races of the season dictate when and where to use him again.

Driver 3: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Whenever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a threat for the win. The 2004 winner has played bridesmaid in three out of the last four Daytona 500s, finishing second in 2010, '12 and '13.

Earnhardt Jr. showed strength in both the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel, and will start Sunday's race from the ninth spot.

"As far as trying to win one of these races, or not run second again, I think we need to be up front," he said. "We're not far enough toward the front.  When we've run second; we've come from third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth I those last few laps. You are not going to win the race from back there. You might run second, but you aren't going to win. You need to be leading the race. I would much rather be leading ... the Daytona 500 inside of five laps to go than be anywhere else."

Given how the first Budweiser Duel ended - a three-wide battle between Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne - I fully expect Earnhardt Jr. to live up to his word and be at the front much of the day and in the closing laps.

Driver 4: Jamie McMurray

Perhaps one of the most underrated superspeedway racers, Jamie McMurray has proven to be among the strongest cars each time the series heads to Daytona.

The 2010 Daytona 500 winner has had a solid Speedweeks, despite being collected in the last-lap wreck in the second Budweiser Duel qualifying race. Starting at the back of the pack should not be a factor for the experienced drafter, if he can avoid trouble.

Much like Dillon, it might not be a bad idea to burn one of your McMurray picks for the season-opening race.

Driver 5: Greg Biffle

Much like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle has been nearly won three out of the last four Daytona 500s. Unlike Dale Jr., Biffle has never won the 'Great American Race.'

However, scoring solid fantasy points doesn't always picking a winner, especially as your fifth driver. Biffle will start Sunday's race from 25th, and should quickly work his way through the field and contend for the race lead, optimizing your points score at the end of the day.

Remember, anything can - and will - happen at Daytona. The fastest cars and the favorite drivers don't always win. Pick smart, go with your gut, or take our advice. Either way, have fun and best of luck.


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