The NASCAR Cup Series has a unique way of setting the field for the Daytona 500. There will be two qualifying races Thursday night called the Bluegreen Vacations Duel Races. Each race is 150 miles in length and the driver’s finishing position in the race will dictate where he will start in the Daytona 500.
The trend in the Duel Races is for one race to be calm and the other will have a lot of wrecks. That probably will not happen tonight. Almost every driver at Media Day said the same thing… “The most important thing is to bring the car home in one piece so we will have it for the race Sunday.” The teams put a lot of work into their primary car so it is important to have it for the Daytona 500.
The first Dual Race last year had ZERO CAUTIONS. The second Dual Race last year had one caution for one lap. There are more open teams who will be trying to race their way into the Daytona 500 than last year, but I still think this race will be tamer than the Daytona 500.
Denny Hamlin said, “I am not worried about my starting position. I will try to get to the front, but if I get stuck in traffic, I will not put myself in danger of wrecking my car. I have won the Daytona 500 from the back before.”
Martin Truex Jr. said, “My team told me that this is not only our Daytona 500 car, but they want to use it next week at Fontana. I have to keep this car in one piece.”
Joey Logano said, “I do not plan to get too aggressive in the Duel Race. I just want to get through the race clean. Starting position in the Daytona 500 is not that important.” It sounds like the Duel Races are going to be a game of “follow the leader” tonight.
Brad Keselowski was the one driver who was not planning on playing it safe Thursday evening. Keselowski said, “We came down here to races. Our goal is to qualify up front, win the Duel Race and win the Daytona 500. We expect to take some damaged cars back to Concord, North Carolina, so we are going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman will start from the front row in the Daytona 500 as long as they do not wreck their cars. I do not expect Larson or Bowman to race very long tonight. The cars that have their starting position in the Daytona 500 locked in typically run a few laps to shake down their car and then head to the Garage. You need to fade Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman in their Dual Races.
Jimmie Johnson and Travis Pastrana are locked into the Daytona 500 on Speed. These two teams do not have a backup car and they could be in big trouble if they wreck tonight. I would be shocked if Johnson or Pastrana race tonight. These two drivers are a fade for me too.
The strategy for Superspeedways races is to pick drivers who start in the back and hope they score a lot of place differential points. That will NOT be my strategy tonight. I expect the drivers to stay in line for the majority of the Duel Races. My strategy will be to pick drivers who can finish in the top-10, regardless of their starting position. All of the drivers will have a lot of ownership since there are only 21 cars in each race. We need to find the drivers who finish in the top-10 and have a bit lower ownership than the chalk plays.
DUEL RACE 1
All of the fantasy experts are going to tell you the same thing… “You MUST fade the chalk.” That means, you should not play the drivers who are likely to be the highest owned. That is true, but let’s not be dumb. Alex Bowman is not going to risk wrecking the fastest car in the field. He will either drop to the back or go to the garage early in the race. That opens the door for Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Harrison Burton to dominate this race. They all start up front, so their ownership could be lower than expected. I do not mind playing a Team Penske Stack in Duel 1.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon will be the chalk from the back. Both are great at Daytona. I will do not recommend playing both of these drivers in any lineup, but you can play one of them. I plan to pivot to AJ Allmendinger and Ty Dillon in most of my lineups.
My three favorite plays in Duel 1 are Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher and Ty Gibbs. Harvick has been a beast in the Duel Races. He finished 10th, 3rd, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in his last seven Duel Races. Harvick should have a good chance to be in the top-five. Buescher started 14th and won his Duel Race last year. He could do it again tonight. No one is going to own Ty Gibbs. I expect this young driver to work with Bubba Wallace and Christopher Bell in the race. I do not mind playing them in a Joe Gibbs Racing Stack.
CORE DRIVERS DUAL 1
JOEY LOGANO ($9,500), RYAN BLANEY ($9,200), BUBBA WALLACE ($9,700), CHRISTOPHER BELL ($7,900), KEVIN HARVICK ($7,700), AJ ALLMENDINGER ($7,400), CHRIS BUESCHER ($6,900), MICHAEL MCDOWELL ($6,600), TY GIBBS ($6,300), TY DILLON ($6,000), HARRISON BURTON ($5,600)
DRAFTKINGS DUAL RACE 1 LINEUP
I want my lineup to tell a story. I love the Team Penske Stack and I will be playing Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano in the same lineup, but not this one. I will stack Blaney with Harrison Burton. I think that stack will be a bit more contrarian, because I do not expect Burton to be highly owned. I will also be playing the Joe Gibbs Racing stack, but I will fade Bubba Wallace. Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will work Wallace in the race. I expect they will all finish up front, but Wallace will be highly owned, so I will fade him. I doubt Bell or Gibbs have enormous ownership. I will pair the Team Penske and JGR stacks with Kevin Harvick and Michael McDowell. Harvick has just been too good in these races to fade and McDowell finished second in his Duel Race last year. He should move up 5-6 spots from his 13th starting position. (You can switch McDowell to Austin Dillon in Single-Entry or Cash Contest lineups).
DUEL RACE 2
Kyle Larson is in the same situation as Alex Bowman. He has a fast car and he is locked into the front row of the Daytona 500. I doubt Larson races too much tonight. There should be two stacks in this Duel, just like I expect two good stacks in Duel 1. The Stewart-Haas Racing cars had a lot of speed in qualifying and they should work together tonight (Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece). The other stack is the Joe Gibbs Racing Stack. Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. are two of the best drivers in the field. I expect both to work with Tyler Reddick (now in a Toyota) tonight. I will have a lot of exposure to these two stacks tonight.
CORE DRIVERS DUAL 2
DENNY HAMLIN ($10,000), TYLER REDDICK ($9,300), BRAD KESELOWSKI ($8,900), JUSTIN HALEY ($8,300), RYAN PREECE ($7,800), MARTIN TRUEX JR. ($6,900), COREY LAJOIE ($6,300), NOAH GRAGSON ($6,100), TODD GILLILAND ($5,800)
DRAFTKINGS DUAL RACE 2 LINEUP
The most logical way for this Duel Race to play out is for Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. to work their way to the front and dominate the race. Do we fade these two drivers because they are going to be two of the highest owned drivers in the field? It is tough to do because if they do dominate, it is going to be impossible to win your contests without Hamlin and/or Truex in your lineup. I will play them in this lineup, but I will have only one of them in the other half of my lineups.
I expect Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Preece to work together. Almirola and Briscoe start too high in the field and do not offer enough upside, so I will fade them and play Preece. People probably forgot that Preece is awesome on the Superspeedways.
Brad Keselowski is a great play. He won his Duel Race last year. I would love to play him in this lineup, but pairing Keselowski with Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. will make this lineup too popular and I do not want to split the money with 100’s of people. I will pivot from Keselowski to Tyler Reddick. I will play Reddick as part of my Joe Gibbs Racing Stack.
Justin Haley has won races on the Superspeedways before and he should be a good pick from the 15th starting position. He will have some ownership, but it should not be too high. I also like Corey LaJoie as a punt play.
FANDUEL DUEL RACE LINEUP
FanDuel groups the drivers from both Duel Races into one contest. The most important thing to do in the FanDuel Contest is to find the winners of each Duel Race and pair them with some contrarian picks. I will go with Ryan Blaney winning Duel 1 and Denny Hamlin winning Duel 2. I will pair them with Tyler Reddick (who should be on the bumper of Hamlin) and two drivers who should move up 6-7 spots in the race and have low ownership. These two drivers are Michael McDowell and Justin Haley.
Good Luck this week! Let’s go make some $$$!!
**Stats from Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Pro
** Photos from NASCAR Media
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