NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona

If you are looking for an action-packed way to get your sports fix, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America. NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, of course!

Make sure to stay tuned to numberFire all throughout Speedweeks, which culminates with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 14th. In our first feature leading up to the main event, numberFire's Jim Sannes took an early look at the odds for the Daytona 500 on Covering the Spread with Dr. Nick Giffen.

The starting lineups for Sunday's Daytona 500 will be mostly set by these twin qualifying races on Thursday evening. Each race is 60 laps on the 2.5-mile superspeedway configuration at Daytona International Speedway -- which is the same configuration for the race on Sunday. As usual at Daytona (or Talladega), tight pack racing will lead to plenty of passing and shuffling of the order, but the aggression and crashes are usually dialed down given that nothing is on the line Thursday except qualifying position -- so best to save your race car!

The starting lineups for Duel 1 and Duel 2 were set by Wednesday night's Daytona 500 qualifying session. Alex Bowman and William Byron were awarded the front row for the Daytona 500 in that season, and the two will start on the pole respectively in the first and second races on Thursday night. Pit stalls were selected in the same order. Worth noting -- FanDuel has both duel races combined into one daily fantasy slate, so players will actually choose to comprise a lineup of five drivers from either duel.

With that, let's preview the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona on FanDuel:

High-Salaried Drivers

Joey Logano ($13,000): In general, stacking teammates in plate races might be slightly overvalued due to the randomness and timing of accidents, but the twin duels at Daytona are very different. No team wants to lose their primary car over a couple of starting positions for "The Great American Race," so the events are fairly tame and follow heavy team orders to best position manufactures for Sunday. The best stack in the first duel is likely going to be Ford cars, as they make up 7 of the 18 vehicles competitive enough to win the race. By far, the best Ford driver and team in the race is Logano, and there is a slight bump to him that he is starting deeper in the field in 11th. Between 2019 and 2020, Logano had a stretch of six top-five finishes in nine races between Daytona and Talladega, but that came to a painful end in 2020 with crashes and four straight finishes outside the top 20. However, with much less risk of an accident today, Logano will look to do what he did one year ago in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel -- find victory lane.

Brad Keselowski ($12,500): Logano is hard to stack with, but his Penske teammates Keselowski and Ryan Blaney ($13,300) in the second duel race are much easier to pair for one of the strongest plate racing teams in the sport. Keselowski is starting the deeper of the two in 13th, meaning he is likely the better pick, but both should correlate well by working together. Keselowski is an objectively good plate racer, with 120 laps led in the last 12 races at Daytona and Talladega, but like Logano, his luck has been terrible, as accidents have kept him outside the top-15 spots in six of the last eight plate races. That comes as no surprise since the two usually run together (and crash together), but with lower accident risk on Thursday, Keselowski is one of the most accomplished racers starting toward the back in either duel race.

Mid-Salaried Drivers

Kyle Busch ($11,000): Keselowski and Blaney are a strong stack, but it appears the stack to beat in the second duel might be Toyota, who will send three of the top five cars from Wednesday's practice into the event. Kyle Busch, starting eighth, is one of them, and the painful luck of 2020 that plagued Busch appeared to take a backseat on Tuesday, as he won the Busch Clash on the road course to open NASCAR's season by catching a break at the end. That does little for him on the oval configuration, but Busch is bizarrely good in the short qualifying races at Daytona. He has nine top-five finishes in his career in the duels -- including three wins. That probably has a sizable amount to do with driving for such a strong team like Joe Gibbs Racing, which works well as a group together, and that should be no different between Busch and his two teammates on Thursday.

Martin Truex Jr. ($9,300): One of the Gibbs' cars in the second duel with Busch is Truex, who may be worth prioritizing over Busch because of his starting spot. Truex's poor time trial on Wednesday means that he will start 14th in the duel, which gives a driver and team accustomed to winning a high floor and potentially high ceiling for the event. Truex fits the theme thus far of normally crashing on plate tracks, as he has finished outside the top-15 spots in 9 of the last 13 races held at Daytona or Talladega. But between those tracks, he is better at Daytona, as all four of his top-15 outings in that span have come here. With fewer crashes likely, Truex should be in store for a finish closer to his 6.0 average finish in the last two duel races at Daytona.

Low-Salaried Drivers

Ross Chastain ($7,500): The low-salary area at a plate racing track may feel more like a roulette table than a FanDuel player pool, but there are still sound-process ways to find high-floor, high-upside plays in this tier. Chastain is an interesting dart throw in this area because he and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kurt Busch are together in the second duel, along with a race-high total of eight competitive Chevrolets. Chastain starts 12th, and the Florida native will draw eyeballs in his true debut in competitive Cup Series equipment after a full Xfinity Series season that saw him land a series-high 27 top-10 finishes in 33 races. Chastain finished second at Talladega in the Xfinity Series last season as well as sixth in the fall at Daytona, but that was after crashing from the lead on the final lap. If his lower-series career is any indication, Chastain should be a strong plate racer in NASCAR's top series.

Michael McDowell ($5,500): For these smaller teams, there is a level of security in a driver who can finish plate races and take advantage of the wild, hectic crashes among frontrunners. McDowell has done exactly that with top-20 finishes in 8 of the last 10 plate races, including two top-five outings in that span. What makes McDowell interesting is he is one of the seven competitive Fords in the first Duel -- as mentioned with Joey Logano. Because most of the other Ford drivers outside of Logano, including Austin Cindric ($6,200), are lower in salary, the optimal strategy may be to stack high-salary cars from Duel No. 2, and get value from the Fords -- like McDowell or Cindric -- inside Duel No. 1.

Austin Swaim is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Austin Swaim also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username ASwaim3. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.