After a one-year sabbatical, Matty’s Picks is back for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. I had a great year last year, enjoying a few races from the stands as a fan, but I’m back in action this year on the keyboard and behind the camera lens bringing you my less than expert picks for the races each Sunday.
This year, I’ve decided to expand my picks and because the world of fantasy sports has exploded since the first Matty’s Picks column hit SpeedwayMedia.com back in 2010, I’ll be sharing my Fox Sports Fantasy Auto roster each week. In case anyone is unfamiliar with the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto rules, here’s the skinny; Each week, participants pick a roster of up to five drivers who are given a value each week based on past performances, stats and trends. Players are given a pool of $50,000 to play with each week and drivers earned points based on laps led, positions gained and finishing position. I’ll provide a brief recap of my weekly picks, provide an update of how my team is stacking up and even mix in some Vegas odds for those who might be interested in some financial advice throughout the season.
Hoping to have a bit more success in picking winners this year than in 2013, the year before my sabbatical from sports writing, I’ll be soliciting advice throughout the season, so feel free to drop me a note with your picks throughout the season at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wasting no time getting into my picks for The Great American Race, I’ll disclaimer my column this week by letting everyone know my picks were made prior to the finish of both of the Budweiser Duel at Daytona races on Thursday night – my once-a-year excuse for making poor picks due to the qualifying procedures for the Daytona 500. Without further ado, here are my picks to start the 2015 season off this Sunday at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida:
1. Kevin Harvick – $12,300 – 12/1 odds
There is no other driver carrying more momentum into this race than last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion. Only five drivers have accomplished the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship followed-by-Daytona 500-win double, and if Harvick can pull it off on Sunday, he’d join the likes of Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett as the sixth driver to accomplish the almost unheard of feat.
2. Brad Keselowski – $11,500 – 12/1 odds
No Daytona wins is the story here, but he does have some success at the plate tracks with three wins at the other giant over in Alabama. He won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ most recent restrictor-plate race (Talladega in October 2014), and he’s out for vengeance in 2015 after winning the most races in the 2014 season but walking away fifth in the final standings.
3. Matt Kenseth – $11,400 – 10/1 odds
On the opposite side of the wins fence as Keselowski in 2014 sits Matt Kenseth. Besides winning his Duel race at Daytona last February, Kenseth failed to visit Gatorade Victory Lane for the rest of 2014. The Joe Gibbs Racing car looked great in the second half of the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona last Saturday night, and he’s got another three restrictor plate wins, including two Daytona 500 wins.
4. Paul Menard – $8,500 – 40/1
He pulled the pole position for Saturday Night’s Sprint Unlimited and led seven laps before being collected in an accident 45 laps in. However, Menard has completed over 93 percent of the laps run at Daytona throughout his career, and you know you’ve got to be in it to win it. Needless to say, I like the consistency Menard has had being in the race at the end on the plate tracks.
5. David Gilliland – $5,600 – Field (40/1 odds)
Since Front Row Motorsports decided to give David Ragan’s owner points to the No. 35 car to start the 2015 season, it’s Gilliland I’ll go with for my dark horse this week. Front Row Motorsports has a solid restrictor-plate package and three of Gilliland’s career top-five’s have come at either Daytona or Talladega, so he’s my filler this week, working with teammates David Ragan and Cole Whitt.
That’s all for this week, so as I get back into the swing of NASCAR season, You Stay Classy (and warm) NASCAR NATION!