It’s Daytona week again, and from a Fantasy NASCAR perspective, I’d bet that you either love or hate the races both here and at Talladega. Personally, I love these races when it comes to fantasy games simply because there are so many options available since any driver–and I mean any driver–can finish up front. When it comes to constructing a lineup for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest, I have one thing and one thing only on my mind: place differential points. So my major recommendation this week is to have some fun with it and enjoy the unpredictable race. Starting position and practice speeds mean almost nothing at a track like Daytona, and this is a great week to leave plenty of the salary cap on the table as well!

Click here for the starting lineup for Saturday night’s race at Daytona. Also if you’d like to analyze the results from Thursday’s first practice, you can do so by clicking here. For speeds from the second practice (Happy Hour), click here.

*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on Sunday.*

Slingshot Fantasy Auto Picks for Daytona 2

Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Erik Jones ($10,600) – The defending winner of this race is in desperate need of a good finish, and I think Erik Jones has a pretty good shot at accomplishing that on Saturday night. He’s going to start from back in 17th when the Coke Zero Sugar 400 goes green, but Erik should be able to make his way toward the front by the time the checkered flag waves. In three of his five career starts here at Daytona, Jones has posted top 10 finishes, and over at Talladega, the #20 Toyota came home 8th in the fall race last season after starting 15th. For what it’s worth–and, in my opinion, it’s not much–the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas swept the top 3 in Happy Hour practice here on Thursday, just like they did in the finish of the Daytona 500 earlier this season.

Austin Dillon ($10,300) – If you follow me on Twitter (click here if you don’t) you know that I despise Austin Dillon, but to that same point, I’m not stupid when it comes to Fantasy NASCAR. And if there is any driver/track combination that is rock solid, it’s Austin Dillon at Daytona International Speedway. Austin actually has the best average finish of any driver in the series here at Daytona (13.6) and has posted seven top 10 finishes in his twelve career starts here. He also has just two results outside of the top 20. This Saturday night, the #3 Chevrolet will roll off the grid from 21st, which means there’s plenty of room for Austin to move up and get some place differential points.

Chris Buescher ($8,200) – Buescher was always one of my favorite drivers at the superspeedway racetracks before he was running really well, so it only makes sense that I really like him this weekend, too. This #37 team swept the top 5 in both Daytona races last season, and also have a 10th-place finish in the 2017 July race to their credit, giving Buescher three top 10s in the last four races at this track. He wrecked out at Talladega this year and ended up finishing 30th, but has three finishes between 11th and 17th in the last five races there as well. I wish Buescher started a little further back here on Saturday night (he’ll roll off the grid from 22nd) but I love how this team is performing on a weekly basis so I’m willing to roll the dice a bit.

Michael McDowell ($7,900) – Really, the entire Front Row Motorsports organization is on the table for me this weekend. Just going off of recent finishes, though, my favorite of the three is Michael McDowell. This #34 Ford finished 5th in the Daytona 500 earlier this year and also led 20 laps in the July race last season. Overall, McDowell has ended up 15th or better in six of his last seven starts at Daytona, and he’s starting from back in 28th when the Coke Zero Sugar 400 goes green this weekend. Obviously McDowell’s good luck at Daytona is going to run dry sooner rather than later, but you can’t doubt the fact that he knows how to finish up front at this race track. Like I said, his teammates, David Ragan ($7,100) and Matt Tifft ($6,700) are definitely viable options in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest this weekend as well.

Brendan Gaughan ($5,800) – Here is a very good superspeedway driver that starts 2nd-to-last on Saturday night, meaning it’s impossible for him to score negative points when it’s all said and done. Also, with how easy it is to fit in a bunch of “big name” drivers this weekend, chances are Gaughan is going to be super low-owned on Saturday night. But like I said, there’s only one way for the #62 Chevrolet to go in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, and that is up. This season, Brendan came home 8th at Talladega back in April after wrecking out of the Daytona 500 (but still finishing 23rd). Overall, Gaughan has finished 12th or better in three of his last five starts at Daytona, and they’ve all been with a no-name organization (Beard Motorsports). Anything close to that this weekend would be a massive score in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest.

As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.