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NASCAR Fantasy Picks for the 2024 Daytona 500

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns with the 2024 Daytona 500 on Saturday, February 18th. NASCAR Fantasy is underway, and who should you play?

With NASCAR Fantasy Live, fans will have the chance to make teams every Cup Series race weekend.

One will select five starters and one “garage” driver per event. The garage driver will not receive any points but acts as a replacement for a starter who may face trouble in the first part of the race. At the end of stage two, picks will lock and no changes can be made. Points are awarded based on stage points and finishing positions in addition to four “head-to-head” driver picks. A driver may only be picked ten (10) times across the 26-race Regular Season and then five (5) times in the 10-race Playoffs.

See NASCAR’s website here for rules of how to play and here to start a team now.

The 66th running of the Great American Race will occur tomorrow, February 18th from Daytona International Speedway at 2:30 pm ET (12:30 pm PT) on FOX. Rain may postpone the event as the National Weather Service predicts a 90% chance for Sunday.

Nonetheless, here are my NASCAR fantasy recommendations for the 2024 Daytona 500.


Week One of picks is the most difficult to call. Firstly, the beginning of the season always starts with unknowns. How has everyone prepared in the off-season, and how will teams ultimately perform on race day? Secondly, superspeedway racing is always unpredictable. Usual suspects find their way to the front, but the mass speeds and small room for error make crashes near inevitable.

However, prior history at Daytona International Speedway and success in the Next Gen car have a few drivers on my radar.

Pick 1 – Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin is in the prime of his racing career. The 43-year-old is a three-time winner of the Daytona 500 (2016, 2019, 2020) and a frequent threat at every superspeedway. His ability to position himself in prime contention for the taking seems more likely than not, and he proved his talents by taking the 2006 Budweiser Shootout in his rookie season. The risk, however, is somewhat high, as Hamlin has not finished inside the Top 10 at the track since the 500 in 2021.

Hamlin brings momentum with his win at the Busch Light Clash and strong third in Duel One. The early motivation and hope to one day claim the Championship are precursors for success in the running. His starting spot will lead to a big collection of stage points. If that is the case, and even with a wreck, Hamlin would have a buffer over the field.

Pick 2 – Ryan Blaney

Why not pick the defending Cup Series Champion? Like Hamlin, Ryan Blaney is one of the greatest superspeedway racers of our time. He has finished second twice and Top 10 in five of his nine attempts. Blaney also won the 2021 Coke Zero Sugar 400 and the race at Talladega Superspeedway. Per NASCAR’s fantasy site, Blaney has the best average finish on drafting racetracks (9.75) of all full-time drivers.

It appears that Blaney’s biggest threat will be getting wrecked by his competition. In the last two points-paying races, he has suffered wrecks from the top five by getting turned in the right rear. In Thursday’s Duel, a similar vicious incident would happen once more. Blaney will start in a backup for this year’s Daytona 500, and as a result, NASCAR fantasy goers may avoid him for the lack of possible stage points. If anyone can mount a fast charge to the front, Blaney is the one to do it.

Pick 3 – Bubba Wallace

Another driver always talked about at Daytona is Bubba Wallace. His abilities were put on display by finishing 3rd and 2nd in his 2018 rookie year Duel and 500, respectively. Wallace would also take second place in 2022’s running. He looks to rebound after crashing out from the Top 10 on last year’s final lap.

Wallace is going to have a mediocre start of 24th. With Legacy Motor Club’s manufacturer switch, and with Jimmie Johnson in the field, Toyota will have additional help when it comes to drafting and pit stops. I think their strategy will be better than in years’ past, and this will boost Wallace to some definite stage points. Additionally, teammate Tyler Reddick won his Duel, and car owner Denny Hamlin will bring the heat. Again, wrecks are unpredictable, but if Wallace can avoid the melee, he will be in the picture come the checkered flag.

Pick 4 – Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski has 14 starts in the Daytona 500 but only three Top 10s. Despite the finishing result, the 2012 Cup Series Champion has come close many times before. Keselowski’s decorated superspeedway resume includes winning the 2016 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona and six checkered flags at Talladega. He has been wineless since the 2021 Spring Talladega running.

Keselowski led the most laps in both the 2022 and 2023 Daytona 500 with Top 5 finishes in three of the four total stages (excluding the finish). There are not as many competitors as motivated as the RFK Racing team owner. He and his soon-to-be-mentioned teammate are going to remain threats from the drop of the green flag. Can Keselowski take the 66th running in his 15th 500 bid?

Pick 5 – Michael McDowell

After 358 starts, Michael McDowell accomplished the feat of a lifetime. The Phoenix, Arizona native won the 2021 Daytona 500. This wineless stretch was second to Michael Waltrip for the most starts without a trip to victory lane. Many thought his day would never come, but drivers and fans always noticed McDowell’s abilities in lesser-funded opportunities.

From 2016 to 2022, McDowell had a miraculous seven-race Daytona 500 stretch with no finishes or DNFs outside the Top 15. Unfortunately, the run was stopped last year with a late-race incident and 28th place result. The season was filled with strong runs including multiple Top 10s and a victory at the Indianapolis Road Course. I like the chances of McDowell as my fifth and final NASCAR fantasy Daytona spot. He will start on the front row tomorrow afternoon.

Garage – Chris Buescher

Chris Buescher is fresh off the best season of his NASCAR career. Three wins, nine Top 5s, 17 Top 10s, and an average finish of 12.1 resulted in a seventh-place finish in the points standings. The third of the victories came in the Regular Season finale at Daytona’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Although he has crashed out in four of his 500 attempts, three of the eight have come inside the Top 5. With teammate Brad Keselowski, the two never appear to separate on the track. RFK Racing’s progression into a Championship-caliber team makes me confident in their chances to start the year with a bang. Buescher did miss practice due to the birth of his second child, but this is nothing more than motivation.

Alternate Options

  • Ryan Preece: returning to Daytona after a horrific wreck in 2023 fall race; two Top 10s in four Daytona 500 starts
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: last year’s winner of the Daytona 500 with three wins at superspeedways; fresh off the best cumulative average finish of NASCAR Cup Series career
  • Justin Haley: racing first full-time season with Rick Ware Racing; two Daytona wins and two Talladega wins in NASCAR Xfinity Series
  • David Ragan: first start since 2022; not a full-time driver resulting in saved starters; four Daytona 500 Top 10’s and 2011 Coke Zero Sugar 400 victor.
  • Erik Jones: switch to Toyota with Legacy Motor Club; 2019 podium with third place and 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400 winner.


Ty Gibbs vs. Joey Logano

A friendship was not formed after the 2024 Busch Light Clash between Ty Gibbs and Joey Logano. The two had multiple run-ins during their exhibition two weeks ago, and the pairing did not appear to come to an agreement.

Logano’s aggression at Daytona has bit him in the past. However, I like his chances for a rebound year. The 2015 Daytona 500 winner has only four finishes outside the Top 20 in his 15 races while Gibbs has one lone 25th to his name. Although I am saving him as a starter, give me Logano.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. vs. Michael McDowell

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell also had their incidents at the Clash. The pair make up two of the last three Daytona 500 winners bringing home wins for the smaller NASCAR Cup Series teams. Last year, they finished back-to-back in points with McDowell in 15th and Stenhouse Jr. in 16th.

A coin could be flipped for this selection. In the last twelve Next Gen drafting tracks, McDowell leads eight to four (8-4) over Stenhouse Jr. For that reason and his overall consistency at Daytona, I’m picking McDowell.

Ross Chastain vs. Tyler Reddick

Another Clash battle? Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick enter the 2024 season as sleeper picks to win the Cup Series Championship. Each driver scored two wins in last year’s season and finished top ten in points.

I had Chastain picked up until Reddick’s showing in the Duel. Toyota’s race pace was something to watch. Although stage points do not matter in head-to-heads, I will take Reddick over Chastain in the final results.

Josh Berry vs. Zane Smith

Did these two have a run-in at the Busch Light Clash? I do not recall, but it should come as no surprise if they did. The two wheelmen will fight tooth and nail for success in their first full-time Cup Series seasons.

My pick goes to Zane Smith. His back-to-back Truck Series wins in the 2022 and 2023 Daytona races were mighty impressive. Additionally, his brings the expertise of teammate 500 Victor McDowell. Fords appear to have also brought a little more speed this year than Chevrolets. Give me Smith to navigate the wrecks and find a Top 10.

What does your 2024 Daytona 500 NASCAR fantasy lineup look like? Tweet us @LWOSMotorsport. Stay tuned here at LWOS Motorsports for NASCAR news, results, updates, and more.


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