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NASCAR DFS Picks and Projections for The Duels

The Duels at Daytona are two qualifying races that set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. I’ll give my NASCAR DFS picks and fades for each of the two races.

The Duels are two 60-lap races, with half the field in the first race, and the other half of the field in the second race, for a total of 20 drivers in each race. That means, compared to The Clash, place differential would normally be even more important, but due to the nature of the Duels tending to have fewer cautions, I see most scenarios where two or even occasionally three drivers starting inside the top 10 end up in the winning DFS lineup in either race. For a strategic breakdown of the race, check out RotoViz Live which covers strategy for this slate.

Since our NASCAR DFS Lineup Optimizer can only handle one race at a time, the Optimizer currently only displays lineups for Duel 1. The Optimizer will be updated for Duel 2 as soon as humanly possible after lineups lock for Duel 1 (within a handful of minutes).

Here are the projections and picks for the Duels.

NASCAR DFS Projections – The Duels

As a reminder, these average projections assume a driver finishes the race.

Alex Bowman110.602.573.05125.968300
Jimmie Johnson27.785.601.98132.848900
William Byron310.664.121.92127.677700
Daniel Suarez410.543.301.87128.677200
Ricky Stenhouse Jr56.874.012.91137.719100
Joey Logano65.597.012.53141.849700
Aric Almirola78.201.442.75136.348000
Ryan Blaney85.204.502.48143.969400
Kurt Busch95.463.791.91143.988600
Brad Keselowski105.309.091.85146.5910100
Ryan Newman117.071.472.77142.616500
Jamie McMurray127.462.212.24142.767600
Darrell Wallace Jr1311.451.303.09135.986300
Ty Dillon1410.801.172.86138.136000
Chris Buescher1511.401.352.91137.996600
Brendan Gaughan1613.711.493.92134.925800
Justin Marks1715.651.533.42131.785300
Jeffrey Earnhardt1815.711.302.89132.355500
David Gilliland1914.801.283.74135.605600
David Ragan2012.741.462.91140.346900
Denny Hamlin15.519.541.78237.259500
Kyle Busch25.678.872.25238.009900
Erik Jones37.342.662.06234.038500
Kevin Harvick47.996.601.88234.619300
Chase Elliott57.747.432.37236.569800
Paul Menard68.811.992.91234.347500
Austin Dillon79.641.942.82233.628200
Clint Bowyer87.461.962.34238.747800
Kasey Kahne910.843.542.31233.377200
Trevor Bayne108.091.822.80239.676700
Kyle Larson116.621.901.94243.218800
Michael McDowell129.791.153.60238.516900
Martin Truex Jr138.421.602.32241.729100
Danica Patrick1411.311.253.02237.196300
AJ Allmendinger159.211.354.10242.986400
Matt DiBenedetto1612.161.463.11237.606000
D.J. Kennington1715.651.333.06231.565500
Mark Thompson1815.711.443.64232.775100
Corey LaJoie1914.551.273.10235.785700
Gray Gaulding2016.070.902.58233.385300


Brad Keselowski — Keselowski was the winner of The Clash and the Fords seem to be the top manufacturer in the draft. Keselowski has won his last two plate races if we count The Clash and last year’s playoff race at Talladega, and starts a comfortable 10th out of 20 drivers.

Jamie McMurray — McMurray starts 12th of the 21 driver field, but is one of the better plate drivers in the field. He is a multiple time winner at Daytona, and showed strong early in The Clash before fading late in the race. There is safety with how far back McMurray starts already built in.

David Ragan — I expect Ragan to race and try to improve his starting position as he did last year when he started 16th and finished 10th in Duel 2 last year. Ragan gives you the ultimate floor, starting dead last.


Penske Stack  — Along with Keselowski, both Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano start in comfortable positions in eighth and sixth respectively. I expect a calm race (there was only one crash per race last year, and no incidents beyond two cars) and teammates to work together to get to the front. Penske has been the team to beat at plate races. Note: this should be a popular stack.

Kurt Busch — If people focus too heavily on Penske stacks, a great leverage play is by playing only one or two Penske drivers and adding the older Busch brother to your lineup. Kurt Busch had a late charge in The Clash that got stalled out due to the multi-car wreck behind him, and he also won last year’s Daytona 500. Busch has multiple 2nd place finishes and is a solid bet for a top five finish in a reduced field.

The RCR affiliate stack A stack that could go overlooked is the Richard Childress Racing and affiliate stack. This includes Ryan Newman, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Ty Dillon (I mistakenly said Chris Buescher was also an RCR affiliate on the RotoViz Live show, but JTG Daugherty Racing has switched to a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports). All three of them start 11th or worse, and could hook up together in a contrarian surprise. Stacking these three in low percentages could pay off.


Brendan Gaughan, Justin Marks — I doubt Gaughan and Marks try to use up their equipment here, and instead happily ride around the back, preserving their primary cars.


Martin Truex, Jr. — NASCAR’s 2017 Cup Series champion starts a lowly 13th place, and with three other pseud0-teammates starting 1-2-3, I expect him to get to the front, hook up with those guys, and have a nice calm top five finish.

A.J. Allmendinger — Aside from possibly Matt DiBenedetto, I expect Allmendinger to be the driver that starts farthest back that tries to race his way forward in Duel 2. That makes him an auto-cash start for me

Kyle Larson — Larson would absolutely like to start up front and avoid any possible early mayhem in the Daytona 500, so I see him attempting to race his way forward. He nearly won the Daytona 500 last year.


Chase Elliott — I know people will look at JGR and try to stack 2-3 of their drivers (if you count Truex as a JGR affiliate driver).

Trevor Bayne — I like Bayne as a contrarian play as Truex, the JGR drivers, Elliott, Larson, and Allmendinger should all draw heavy ownership. We know Bayne can race at plate races, and is in a Ford, which is the top manufacturer at plate races until proven otherwise.

Matt DiBenedetto — I think DiBenedetto could also possibly be racing come Sunday, but I wouldn’t play him in huge percentages. Last year he did start 15th and finish 13th, so he might be looking to move up, but it’s definitely a risky play.


Danica Patrick — She has already been on record saying she expects to ride around in the Duel and preserve her equipment. Starting 14th, that’s a no-go for me.

Gray Gaulding I know he starts dead last, but just don’t do it. He’s going to park the car at some point in the race.


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