**Update: With the Duels complete the field is set for the Daytona 500 and we’ve got you covered with Daytona 500 DraftKings Picks from Chris!
The Super Bowl of NASCAR – the Daytona 500 – is this week, and with that we have some great DFS action over at DraftKings.com. To get things started we have two “Duels” or Daytona 500 Qualifying races that DraftKings is running contests for on Thursday night.
I’ve invited NASCAR expert and DFS player Terry (@TLambertRacing on Twitter) to provide us with some picks and insights for Duel #1 and Duel #2 slates on DraftKings. We will also have more Daytona 500 DraftKings picks for the Sunday slate posted Friday. Enjoy the article!
With the Daytona 500 comes a unique race week. Instead of going with the standard plan of qualifying the Friday before a Sunday race, NASCAR splits the field in two and runs twin 60 lap races to determine the starting grid for the Great American Race.
Last Sunday Chase Elliott set the fastest time of the day followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., locking themselves into the front row of the Daytona 500. They will start first and second, but the rest of the field’s starting positions will be determined by where they finish on Thursday night.
For the first time ever, NASCAR is awarding points for these two events. They will award points to the top ten drivers from each race, starting with ten to the winner, nine to second and so on. This is a new wrinkle that should add a little spice to an otherwise tame night of racing.
This is an exciting tune up event that makes for a rare double NASCAR slate. Let’s dig into some of my favorite plays of the night.
Can-Am Duel #1 DraftKings Picks
The first race of the night will be headlined by Brad Keselowski — one of the favorites to take home the weekend’s biggest prize — the Daytona 500. Keselowski will start second to Chase Elliott, who turned in the fastest time on Sunday during single car qualifying runs.
Keselowski has won two of the last three points paying restrictor plate races. He was in place to go three for three last fall at Talladega, but his engine let go midway through. Brad flexed his muscles once again last weekend in The Clash, leading 18 laps and overcoming a pit road penalty to get back into contention. A Denny Hamlin block ended his chances on the final lap, but Brad put on a show getting to the front in the closing stages.
Keselowski ($10,200) is my favorite play of either slate on Thursday night. He should make quick work of Elliott and go on to lead the majority of the 60 lap race.
After Keselowski, his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano ($9,600) makes a lot of sense. Logano surprisingly starts 9th and should be able to run in the top five for most of the night. He offers you some upside with his place differential potential. Lately if Keselowski hasn’t won a restrictor plate event, Logano has been the beneficiary.
Kyle Busch ($9,100) is my last foundational play of the first duel. Busch will roll off 6th, but should linger inside the top five for most of the night. He was one of the most consistent drivers on the restrictor plate tracks last year, turning in three top five finishes. I’m expecting Busch to hang around 2nd or 3rd with a shot to win late.
Stacking the three of these guys together should give you a nice base for a cash lineup. These are three of the best on the restrictor plate tracks, so fire them up with confidence.
The middle tier guys are simple. I want exposure to Jamie McMurray ($8,500 starting 12th), Paul Menard ($7,800 starting 11th), Aric Almirola ($7,400 starting 13th) and Trevor Bayne ($6,800 starting 10th). Each of these guys are solid plays, but if pressed I would probably prefer Bayne. He showed some speed late last year at the restrictor plate tracks, running up front and leading laps.
This final tier is where you’ll make your money. It never fails — every time we visit Daytona or Talladega one of these low budget teams sneaks up and surprises. If you can nail this driver, you’re likely in for a pay day. With a shorter field of only 21 drivers, these picks become even more important.
You’re shooting for upside this far down on the salary list and nobody has more than Corey Lajoie. He’s making his first start for BK Racing — a traditional bottom-feeder of NASCAR. But restrictor plate racing is the great equalizer. Both Lajoie and his teammate Joey Gase are sub $5,500 plays and start 20th and 21st. Don’t be afraid to fire either of them up.
If you pressed me on these cheap guys, I’d probably lean towards Reed Sorenson ($4,500) as the safest option. He starts 19th and has about a decade of experience over the guys he’s racing against to make the Daytona 500. He isn’t locked into the race, so he’ll have to press a bit to make it. I like Sorenson’s chances of landing a top 15 finish.
Fades for Duel #1
Chase Elliott ($9,300) has a fast car, but I don’t think he has anything for Brad Keselowski. He’s a talented guy, but Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano should eat him up. He has little upside and a massive downside.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,000) and Matt Kenseth ($8,700) sit in the same boat. They start 3rd and 5th, respectively. Neither will likely challenge for the lead and are only set up to lose positions. There are better options on the board.
Can-Am Duel #2 DraftKings Picks
The second duel will feature the return of NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr ($10,900). Earnhardt’s 2nd starting position for the Daytona 500 has been locked in, thanks to the lap he put down on Sunday afternoon. He will lead the second group of drivers to the green flag tomorrow, looking to add to a decorated list of accomplishments at Daytona.
Earnhardt comes with a hefty price tag of nearly $11,000, despite wrecking in all three of his restrictor plate attempts last season. It’s clear that DraftKings is banking on his past history here, which is a risky proposition.
Hendrick Motorsports — the team Earnhardt drives for — has struggled with handling over the past year on restrictor plate tracks. Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne have each failed to finish multiple races as a result.
Consider Earnhardt a tournament play only. Even then I don’t want too much exposure. He could very well go out and lead the whole thing, but he’s got two very good cars starting directly behind him that should make him earn it.
The first of those two cars will be piloted by Clint Bowyer ($9,000) who is filling Tony Stewart’s old seat. Bowyer will be making his first start in the No. 14 machine, as well as his first start in a Ford. Stewart-Haas Racing’s move to Fords should pay dividends at this track in particular. The Ford camp has all the speed right now it seems. Don’t make Bowyer a foundational piece of your lineups, but don’t discount him as a contender either. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a very hungry Clint Bowyer get out front and lead.
Onto my favorite play of the second slate. Denny Hamlin ($9,600) is always strong when it comes to Daytona in particular. The defending Daytona 500 champion rolls off 3rd and should immediately challenge Earnhardt for the lead. I’m betting on Hamlin leading the most laps in the second duel tomorrow, just as he did last Sunday in The Clash — especially without Brad Keselowski to contend with.
There are a host of plays that I love in the $9,000 range that make for easy pairings with Denny Hamlin. Kurt Busch ($9,100 starting 11th), Kyle Larson ($9,300 starting 8th) and Austin Dillon ($8,700 starting 13th) are all great plays. Austin Dillon is probably my favorite from this bunch. He didn’t finish outside of the top ten in four starts at the restrictor plate tracks last year. That’s absurd. Dillon has a knack for this style of racing, so use him as a foundational piece for the second duel.
Below $7,000 brings us several intriguing options to consider. The first I’ll mention is AJ Allmendinger ($6,900 starting 14th). I wouldn’t typically mention Allmendinger at a restrictor plate event, but on a short slate he’s definitely worth a shot.
Elliott Sadler ($6,700 starting 18th) is probably overpriced, but he’s going to offer some of the best value on the board. Sadler is a veteran and doesn’t get many opportunities to race in this series, so expect him to make the most out of it. Coming from 18th, Sadler has a high floor and a pretty big ceiling in a car that has a nice history at this track.
The same can be said for David Ragan ($6,500 starting 16th). Ragan actually has two restrictor plate wins during his career. He’s in one of the best cars of the low salary guys and should only move up.
Finally, Michael McDowell ($5,700 starting 15th) rounds out my bargain bin options. McDowell turned in an average finish of 15th last season on the restrictor plate tracks — a truly amazing stat and a testament to his ability at this type of racing. McDowell should contend for a top ten finish in his duel and quickly move up from his 15th starting position.
Fades for Duel #2
Jimmie Johnson ($10,700) and Kasey Kahne ($8,400) are two guys that I want nothing to do with on Thursday night. Both of their recent history on restrictor plate tracks is atrocious and Hendrick Motorsports clearly has an issue with handling right now. I don’t think either can lead laps and expect both to fall quickly.
Make sure to check back on Friday for more DraftKings NASCAR picks for the Daytona 500. There are some great GPP contests with some big payouts to enjoy the best race of the year!