Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona
We truly are spoiled this week in daily fantasy NASCAR. It's going to make the rest of the year feel like a let-down.
Not only is this our only three-slate week of Cup Series action, but we get some fun, unique formats for DFS. Tuesday was a shorter race with a small field. Thursday is another short, small-field event... except we get two of them. On the same slate. It's a truly delicious, once-a-season opportunity (pending how sites play things for the Bristol dirt race).
That does not mean it's an easy one for DFS on FanDuel.
With the unique format come unique challenges for which we must account within our lineups. And unfortunately, due to various factors, there aren't a ton of hard-and-fast rules.
Let's run through some of the obstacles here and outline how each impacts our strategy for DFS. Then we'll wrap it all up at the end and go through a checklist within our lineups.
The Multi-Race Format
As with Tuesday's Busch Clash, points will be at a premium on Thursday. There are just 6.0 FanDuel points available for laps led, and with 22 cars in each field, place-differential upside is lower than it will be on Sunday.
Here's the one major difference, though: instead of having one driver get 43 points for a win, there will be two. That's a game-changer.
It's not just the 43 points for a win, either. Two drivers will get 40 points for second, two will get 38 for third, and on and on. You're going to want to pull whatever tricks you can to maximize your potential in that department.
This means being hyper-cognizant of how many drivers in each of your lineups come from each race. If you use four drivers from one race, the maximum number of finishing points you can get on that roster is 201. It goes up to 204 if you do three from one race and two from the other.
That's just three points, but in a low-scoring event, you don't want any limitations in place. Past duel races show us this is the case.
If you look at the five highest-scoring drivers for each year across the two duels combined, none of them have had four drivers in the same duel crack the top five in scoring. Here's the scoring order along with which duel the driver was in.
|Year||Highest Scorer||Second Highest||Third Highest||Fourth Highest||Fifth Highest|
This gives us our lone must-follow rule for lineups in the duels: you need to make sure you're not stacking a single duel race. It makes sense in theory and has played out as such in the past. We have little reason to expect that'll change on Thursday, especially with Wednesday's qualifying sessions being largely routine. Actively make sure you're limiting yourself to three drivers from a single duel in each lineup you fill out.
The Speed Element
Speaking of qualifying on Wednesday night, that set the starting grid for these races. It was single-car qualifying, meaning the fastest cars on Wednesday will start near the front on Thursday. That's factor number one.
Factor number two is that these races tend to be pretty clean. Nobody wants to junk their primary car for the season's biggest race. As a result, only 19 of 211 drivers in duel races the past five years have failed to finish the event. Two of those were disqualifications, four were mechanical issues, and one was a blown tire. Only 12 failed to finish due to a crash. For comparison, 15 of 40 drivers failed to finish last year's Daytona 500 due to a crash.
Attrition is a big part of the reason we stack the back in the Daytona 500. That's less of a factor here. We also do it because the starting order Sunday is set based on finishing order in these races rather than speed. There's more room for inefficiency there with faster cars starting toward the back. We're not going to have that here.
Combine those two factors together, and we get a much less back-of-the-order-centric strategy on Thursday than we'll have on Sunday. Once again, we can look at past races for evidence of this.
The table below is the same as the one above. However, instead of showing which duel the drivers were in, it shows where the highest scorers for that year started in their respective duel.
|Year||Highest Scorer||Second Highest||Third Highest||Fourth Highest||Fifth Highest|
Only 3 of the 25 drivers started outside the top 15, and only 7 of 25 started outside the top 10. With less wrecking and the fastest cars at the front, it's a different beast than what we're used to on superspeedways.
Across those five seasons, 39 drivers have scored at least 45 FanDuel points in a duel race (7.8 per year). More than two-thirds of them started the duel inside the top 10.
|Starting Range||45-Plus FD Points|
|1st to 5th||14|
|6th to 10th||13|
|11th to 15th||6|
|16th or Lower||6|
If you want to find drivers with the upside to win -- a necessary endeavor with two winners on the slate -- you likely need drivers who had enough speed to qualify decently well. We should be willing to roster drivers starting at the front even with that being counter to our usual strategy at Daytona.
This does not mean we have to ignore the back of the pack. In 2016, Kevin Harvick had an issue in qualifying and started 22nd. He went on to finish fourth and scored the second-most FanDuel points by a non-winner in this stretch. There is value in using drivers starting further back; you just need to make sure they have the requisite speed to get a good finish. With Harvick, that obviously was not a concern.
So, if we can't just pepper the back of the field to pick our drivers, how should we select them? The obvious answer is to just pick drivers who are good on superspeedways. But we can also utilize team and manufacturer stacks.
Stacking is a common thread at Daytona and Talladega, and it applies here. In the second 2017 race, a pair of Stewart-Haas cars were on the podium. Penske drivers swept the top two spots in the first 2018 race, Ford controlled the top three spots in both 2019 duels, Hendrick Motorsports had the top two spots in last year's second duel, and four Fords were atop the leaderboard in the first race. If you guess correctly at which group works best together, it'll make pinning down those top finishers a whole heck of a lot easier.
With the duel lineups set for Thursday, look through each race individually. Does one team have two or three cars in the same duel? Is that team good on this track type? If you can find teams that fit in those buckets, you should be willing to stack them, and this should be a key focus for trying to identify high-end finishers for your lineups. It's far more subjective than loading up on place-differential upside, but we have to work with the reality we have in place.
The Dangers of Pole-Sitters
You'll notice in the table above that only one driver who started first wound up among the five highest-scorers. That's likely neither an accident nor a product of the scoring rules; it's because of NASCAR's rules.
The drivers starting on the pole in the duel races are those who qualified first and second in Wednesday's qualifying session. Those two drivers are locked into their starting spots for the Daytona 500, the lone drivers in the entire field who know where they will start Sunday's race.
The only time they wouldn't start on the front row? It's if they wreck in the duel race or practice and have to go to a backup car. If the goal is to win Sunday, their only incentive to run well on Thursday is to get an extra test session in.
In our five-year sample, only one pole-sitter for a duel race has finished in the top four spots. Half of them finished 13th or worse. Those drivers have terrible floors due to their potential to just not try, and their ceiling is muted because of where they're starting. As a result, you should be very wary of those drivers when filling out lineups.
This applies for stacking, as well. This year, the pole-sitters for the duels are Alex Bowman and William Byron. You could be tempted to stack them Bowman with Kyle Larson or Byron with Chase Elliott. Those two drivers could make sense individually due to the speed, but the idea of stacking them becomes a lot riskier with nothing on the line for Bowman and Byron.
As you can see, there are a lot of moving pieces here. So let's run through a quick recap just to make things easier.
First, you want to keep your lineups balanced between each race. Each lineup should include at most three drivers from an individual duel so that you can maximize the finishing-point upside of your lineup.
Second, you don't have to stack the back like we will on Sunday. These races are less chaotic than others at Daytona, and the most lively cars are likely to start near the front. We should be more content peppering drivers starting in the top 10 and accepting place-differential where we can find it elsewhere.
Third, to circumvent the inability to target a specific starting spot, we should stack teams and manufacturers. Look for groups that may have strength via numbers in each duel and build around them, hoping they can band together and push toward the front.
Finally, be wary of pole-sitters. Not only do they have no place-differential upside, but there's lots of downside if they dip out of the pack to avoid trouble.
It's more complicated than we'll have for other slates this week, which does make things difficult. But that checklist can at least put us on the right path toward filling out lineups with the upside necessary to win a tournament.