The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season is here and Fantasy Live is back in action! Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will lead the field to green for Sunday’s running of the 62nd Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Is the JTG Daugherty Racing newcomer worthy of a lineup spot? What about fellow front row starter Alex Bowman? RJ Kraft offers up his race-day lineup and bonus picks below.
RJ Kraft race-day lineup for Daytona 500:
1: Joey Logano
2: Matt DiBenedetto
3: Aric Almirola
4: Erik Jones
5: Austin Dillon
Garage: Ryan Newman
Just missing the cut for me: Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell and William Byron
Analysis: The fantasy season is a marathon not a sprint and the 10-race use limit can loom large later in the year, so that as well as the unpredictability of superspeedway racing has me going with a set strategy. One anchor or star pick and then a host of mid-tier drivers that have solid superspeedway resumes. My only absolute here is I am completely avoiding Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. They are far too valuable at too many tracks in the regular season and I am not going to burn a use for them at Daytona. Hamlin was one play I did briefly consider but given that the rules package is by and large similar to the one that he, Busch and Truex dominated with at times for much of 2019. I want to save those usages.
Logano is my ace for this one and I realize the play here might cost me down the line. He’s been too strong in Speedweeks and is too good at superspeedway racing for me to pass on the use here. Almirola joins my lineup after an impressive Speedweeks and my desire to go heavier on the Fords in my lineup. DiBenedetto has a solid Daytona history (three top 10s and led the most laps in this race last year) as does his new team in the Wood Brothers. Jones is a bit of an under-the-radar play when it comes to superspeedways, but he won the Clash. I wanted to have a Toyota in my lineup and I was avoiding the aforementioned JGR trio. Dillon has had solid Daytona numbers his entire career and was extremely race-y in this package last year.
As I wrote earlier this week, Newman is the ideal garage pick. He’ll run in the back for much of the race, but with five laps to go, he’ll be in the top 10 and you be thanking his patience instead of cursing his lack of stage points. My main risk is a lack of Chevrolets outside of Dillon and that is something I will weigh on race-day morning one last time.
Bonus picks: Byron to win Stage 1, Hamlin to win Stage 2 with Logano and Ford for the race and manufacturer win.