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NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Daytona in last three seasons

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Handicapping a restrictor-plate NASCAR race is one of the most difficult things to do. The ever-present threat of the “’Big One” crash is only one of the problems faced. The capriciousness of the draft can play havoc with a fantasy roster just as readily because a driver who makes a move at the wrong time can drop from the top five to outside the top 20.

Still, there are a few drivers who manage to find the front with greater regularity than others, so setting this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster does not have to be an exercise in frustration.

The biggest thing to note before the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC) is the absence of the Big 3 among the top 10.

Kyle Busch has not scored a top 15 on this track in his last three starts. Martin Truex Jr. has not finished that well in four starts. Kevin Harvick hasn’t cracked the top 20 in four races. The odds are good that at least one of them will be able to reverse that trend, but fantasy owners who like to play the odds, will find some great dark horses in this week’s top-10 list

1. Bubba Wallace (three-season average: 8.50 in two races)
Before fantasy players discount Wallace’s second place in this year’s Daytona 500, they should note that he finished 15th in this race last year driving in relief for Aric Almirola. Occasionally a driver develops an immediate affinity for a course.

2. Aric Almirola (three-season average: 10.50 in four races)
Streaks are hard to maintain on a restrictor-plate track because of the finicky nature of the draft and the prevalence of “Big One” crashes, so when someone has four consecutive top-15 finishes, fantasy players need to pay close attention.

3. Michael McDowell (three-season average: 10.50 in four races)
Ultimately, it is the finish that matters. The majority of points are paid out when the checkered flag waves, so a driver like McDowell – who may spend a large portion of the race in the back half of the lead pack – is often more valuable to the roster than one who spends most of the race in the middle of a volatile pack.

4. Joey Logano (three-season average: 11.00 in four races)
There are not a lot of marquee drivers in the top 10 this week. None of the Big 3 make the list, so Logano stands out. Anyone can get swept into an accident at Daytona – which is what happened to Logano in this race last year – but otherwise, he’s finished sixth or better since the start of 2016.

4. AJ Allmendinger (three-season average: 11.00 in four races)
Allmendinger tends to be crash-prone at Talladega Superspeedway, but he has been able to stay out of trouble at Daytona. One doesn’t need to know the reason behind this, but if the trend continues, he will be one of the greatest difference-makers in the field.

6. Denny Hamlin (three-season average: 12.40 in four races)
Hamlin makes the list this week based on two stellar finishes in the last three seasons. He won the 2016 Daytona 500 and finished third in this year’s 500. He deserves a spot on one’s roster, however, because of top-10 sweeps in 2014 and 2015.

7. Ryan Newman (three-season average: 12.60 in four races)
Newman has three top 15s in the past five Daytona races. Two of these came in back-to-back races last summer and this spring. The best news regarding the No. 31 is that Newman has been able to stay out of trouble recently and that allows him to be in a position to make late-race moves to maximize his finish.

8. Paul Menard (three-season average: 13.60 in four races)
Menard gained some momentum last week with his Chicagoland pole. That might actually carry over to Daytona this week if it adds to his confidence. Of course, a sweep of the top five last year on this track and a sixth in the 2018 Daytona 500 won’t hurt either.

8. Ryan Blaney (three-season average: 13.60 in four races)
Blaney is capable of scoring strong results when he is able to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, that has not been all that easy for him because he has been involved in at least 11 accidents in his last eight races. He managed to keep his car running on several occasions and score decent results, but starting him is a lot like playing Russian Roulette.

10. Austin Dillon (three-season average: 14.40 in four races)
Dillon’s victory in this year’s Daytona 500 was only his second top five there, but he has been one of the most consistent drivers during his career. Seven of his 10 starts on this track have ended in top 15s and that is about as good as anyone gets on a plate track.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Hendrick Motorsports has always been solid in qualification at Daytona. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were perennial threats. Chase Elliott has carried on the tradition.

Segment Winners: Kurt Busch and Blaney won the stages in this year’s Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski and Logano won them in last year’s Coke Zero 400, while Kyle Busch and Harvick won them in last year’s 500. A pattern has failed to emerge about who might repeat, but it seems likely that the stage winner will be a driver with a big name and marquee team.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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Cup champion’s celebration painful to those who didn’t win title

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A year after being feted for his first NASCAR Cup title, Joey Logano returned to Champion’s Week with a different feeling.

“These banquets aren’t really the same after you’ve won it and you know what it’s like to see your car plastered everywhere and your team and everyone is having fun together,” Logano said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re in Nashville, there’s a lot of really cool things, but it really stinks for the competitor to come to the banquet because it’s just like another reminder that you got beat. That’s not much fun. I don’t really like that part.

“When you leave the banquet that night, you really wish you could race the next day because that’s about the most motivating thing you could do is go to a banquet that you didn’t win because all you want to do is change that. And you want to do it as quickly as possible but you’ve got to wait until Daytona to get going again.”

The sport celebrates Kyle Busch’s championship at 8 p.m. ET today on NBCSN. This marks the first year the NASCAR Awards Show has been in Nashville. Busch was a part of the WWE event in the city on Monday, was honored by the Nashville Predators before Tuesday’s NHL game and took part in the Burnouts on Broadway on Wednesday with many other playoff drivers.

While Busch basks in the celebration, teammate Martin Truex Jr. deals with the pain of finishing second in the championship for a second consecutive year. Logano passed Truex late to win last year’s championship. Truex’s title run this season was derailed, in part, by his crew putting the wrong tires on the wrong side of the car in last month’s championship race in Miami.

Had things gone a little differently, Truex could have won three consecutive championships, matching Cale Yarborough’s accomplishment from 1976-78.

“I’ll tell you when I get over it,” Truex said of the pain of finishing second again for the title. “It’s a  big deal. Work all year long to put yourself in that position. When it doesn’t turn out the way you hope, it’s tough.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into it. It’s not something that goes away. It takes time. Honestly, I’m still sour about finishing second last year, too. Two years in a row finishing second hurts. you have to learn from it and move on, but you never forget it.”