On to the Duels! After a wreck-filled Clash on Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Cup Series drivers will be in blocking mode yet again on Thursday night, or whether they’ll tone it down a bit to roll in to Sunday. From a DraftKings perspective, these quick, 60 lap races require kind of a different approach that normal, especially for a superspeedway race. The thing is, the drivers and teams tonight will have a wide variety of strategies. The finishing order of these Duel races determine the starting lineup for Sunday’s Daytona 500, so that means that if a driver wants to start in the back, all he has to do is hang out in the back during his Duel, and his wish will come true.

Additionally, this race is probably going to be follow the leader for most of the time. So while it’s not typically a great strategy to worry about laps led in DraftKings at Daytona and Talladega, there’s probably going to be one main hog getting the majority of those points. You should also focus a little more on finishing position with these Duels than just zeroing in on place differential, which is easy to do at superspeedways.

Before we get into these two races for DFS, make sure you check out the FREE Daytona Duels contest I am running where you can win a share of $150 cash. You can click here for more information.

GPP Plays and Fade for Duel #1

Ryan Blaney Brad Keselowski Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

PLAY: Clint Bowyer ($8,300) – With this race essentially being about half of a full field, you can’t rely solely on place differential points like most superspeedway races–you have to target finish points as well. And one driver that I think can get you those finish points is Clint Bowyer. The #14 Ford will roll off the grid from 7th on Thursday night, which is right in that range where some people will take a risk, but not a lot of people. In other words, I love being overweight on Bowyer in DraftKings on Thursday night. Looking at recent Duel performance, Clint has finished inside the top 5 in each of the last three years, and in four of the last five.

PLAY: Bubba Wallace ($6,600) – Daytona might be Bubba Wallace’s best track on the circuit. In his five career starts here, Bubba has just one finish worse than 15th at “The World Center of Racing,” including his 2nd-place run in the 2018 Daytona 500. As far as Duel races, Wallace is averaging a finish of 5th in them, although he’s only made two attempts thus far. He finished 6th in his Duel last year and and 3rd in his Duel two years ago. Bubba starts back in 17th, too, so his floor is quite high.

CHALK: Joey Logano ($10,000) – Joey Logano isn’t a super chalky play here on Thursday night, but among the top drivers in the field, he’s going to be highly owned. The #22 Ford will start from 6th in Duel #1, and in terms of performance in this race, Logano is stellar; over the last five years, Joey has an average finish of 3.4 in his Duel race, which translates to a 6.8 average starting spot. Of course, he had a stellar record in Clash races as well, and we all saw what happened there… I like being underweight on Logano on Thursday night. Another guy that might be even chalkier than Logano on Thursday night is his teammate, Ryan Blaney ($8,800), who starts back in 14th. Personally, I’ll have plenty of Blaney exposure.

FADE: Brad Keselowski ($8,300) – You probably weren’t expecting this one, were you? Well, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I love to go contrarian in DraftKings, and Brad Keselowski is going to be one of the highest-owned drivers in the first Duel race on Thursday night. He starts back in 12th–which gives him great upside for place differential points–and he’s considered one of the best superspeedway racers in the series. Not to mention, the #2 Ford was very strong in the Clash on Sunday before Keselowski wrecked. And while this is a contrarian fade for sure, I have a number to back it up: 27.4. This is Keselowski’s average starting position in the last five Daytona 500s, meaning his average finish in his Duel race over those five years is 13.7. This is a risky fade, but at a track like Daytona where a wreck can happen at any moment, I’ll take that risk any day.

GPP Plays and Fade for Duel #2

Kevin Harvick Las Vegas 2019 Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

PLAY: Kevin Harvick ($9,700) – As I said with the other Stewart-Haas driver above (Clint Bowyer), you have to focus on finish points as well this week. Kevin Harvick rolls off the grid from 6th for his Duel race on Thursday night, but he’s going to be a contender. Looking at the last five years, Harvick has never finished worse than 5th in this race, and he’s tied with Joey Logano for the best Duel average finish over that time span (3.4). Last year, Harvick went to victory lane in his Duel while Logano won his (surprise, surprise, right?).

PLAY: Ty Dillon ($6,200) – Ty Dillon is a master at hanging around and being there at the finish, which is a trait that results to good finishes at tracks like Daytona and Talladega. As far as the former goes specifically, Ty has finished 6th or better in each of the last three points-paying races here, and in his Duel races over the last five years, he’s averaging a finish of 10.5. If you look at just the last four, that average jumps to 9.4. In DraftKings on Thursday night, I like Ty Dillon as a pivot off of a couple others drivers, which we’ll talk about in a little bit.

CHALK: Kurt Busch ($9,000) – Kurt is the only “big name” driver starting outside of the top 10 in Thursday night’s second Duel race, which in and of itself is going to send his ownership percentage skyrocketing. Add in the fact that he’s been really good in this race over the last five years, and he might be the highest-owned in the race. Looking at Kurt’s last four Duel races, he’s never finished worse than 6th, and his average result is 4.9.

FADE: Michael McDowell ($6,700) – In points-paying races at Daytona, Michael McDowell is one of the best options out there. In the Duels, though? I’ll gladly find someone else to roll the dice with. Looking over the last five years, McDowell has never finished better than 11th in his Duel race, and his average result is 14th. That’s the worst of all full-time drivers except Corey LaJoie ($6,000). Now, as far as LaJoie goes, I’m kind of torn here, as he’s never finished better than 15th in a Duel race, but he starts back in 18th so the risk is very low there. And don’t forget that Corey LaJoie scored in the most DraftKings points on superspeedways last year (click here to read that). Honestly, I’ll probably be underweight on both on Thursday night. I’d rather pivot to Ty Dillon ($6,200).

As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.