Now that we’ve talked strategy for the Duel races, let’s dive right into a driver-by-driver breakdown of the 21-car field for the second of the two Gander RV Duel races, which will set the even-numbered starting positions for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Here’s a color schematic of the drivers listed
RED – use sparingly, if at all
ORANGE – underweight front runner or low owned back-marker
GREEN – good play … with an asterisk * means cash game viable
BLUE – race winning contender
GRAY – contrarian play/pivot play in GPPs
If a driver falls into multiple categories, I’ll color code him with multiple colors.
1. Alex Bowman
If Bowman feels he has a shot to win the race, I expect him to race hard for the win. However, like his teammate Byron, he could also choose to play it safe and avoid any wrecks so that he doesn’t have to go to a backup car for the Daytona 500 and go to the rear of the field at the start. Bowman comes in at 20-1 to win per Westgate, so I’d likely look elsewhere. Only three of 12 pole-sitters since 2013 have ended up in the optimal lineup, and I think Bowman is less likely than any of those three (Jimmie Johnson in 2015, Chase Elliott in 2017, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2017).
2. Chase Elliott
I don’t mind using Elliott, because he’ll be racing for the win, since he’s not locked into any starting position. As mentioned, Elliott won his duel in 2017. However, I think it will be tough without any teammates should Bowman back out of things to play it safe. Elliott is +600 to win, although a second-place finish should also land him in the optimal lineup. Thus, I’d consider him about a 25-30 percent play tops. I prefer being a little less than that given his teammate Bowman could play it safe.
3. Joey Logano
Logano is the favorite to win per Westgate at +350, but I actually prefer his teammte Ryan Blaney at plate races recently. Blaney has dominated more, and looked more aggressive over plate races in 2018 and The Clash in 2019. However, 34 of 36 drivers to finish in the top three have ended up in the optimal lineup, so if you think Logano can finish top three, stuff him in your lineup. I just wouldn’t go crazy here, given he starts third.
4. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer is a sneaky pick to win, but certainly not a favorite to win, given he has a strong teammate in the race (Aric Almirola) and the preferred manufacturer (Ford). The Row 2 start, combined with not being a top favorite leaves me hesitant, so 25-30 percent exposure in multi-entry is fine. I would just consider that a top limit, and probably go a bit less.
5. Austin Dillon
Dillon has no teammates in this race and struggled to get anything going in The Clash outside of strategy. I’d consider him a solid underweight/fade candidate here.
6. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin is a chalk play, with the ability to pass and even win at any plate race. He’s +500 to win, so I don’t mind 35-40 percent exposure to Hamlin despite his Row 3 start. I just wouldn’t go crazy, because I think the Fords are stronger. I believe he’ll need his teammate in order to win, so if you play Hamlin, I also like stacking him with Erik Jones.
7. Erik Jones
Speaking of Jones, he’s not really a threat to win or lead, outside of a wreck that takes out some top contenders or a lucky move with Hamlin pushing him, but I don’t mind stacking him with Hamlin should Jones and Hamlin both finish top three. You can also play Jones on his own if Hamlin somehow gets taken out in a wreck that Jones avoids, but I really do like stacking these two when you do play them. Unfortunately, Jones is in the dreaded Row 4, and not a favorite to win, so that doesn’t give him much of a boost. I’d go 20 percent max here, with most of those in stacks with Hamlin.
8. Ryan Blaney*
Blaney is one of the better plays on this slate when you combine a place differential potential of seven with his ability to win. Yes, he’s in the dreaded Row 4, but he absolutely can win this race. If we like Jones at 20 percent maximum, Blaney at 40 percent is fine.
9. Aric Almirola*
Almirola is the Blaney pivot, and I actually like playing them in opposite lineups from each other for most of your lineups if you multi-enter. They both start in Rows that have only a moderate chance of being in the winning lineup, and Almirola starts one spot further back. They each have teammates in the race, so I could see push come to shove one teammate tandem out-dueling the other teammate tandem. That could leave one of these two drivers in victory circle, with the other outside of the top four. Blaney will likely be higher owned, so if you want to flip flop Almirola and Blaney exposure so you have more Almirola than Blaney, I think that’s a fine strategic move in a GPP. Almirola is the driver that starts the farthest back out of the top contenders to win.
10. Kurt Busch
I certainly don’t dislike Busch, but Row 5 isn’t quite Rows 6 or 7, where other cars of similar quality lie. Busch might be heavier owned than he should be, so I’d consider going underweight here. Remember, he’s in a Ganassi Chevy now, not a Stewart-Haas Ford.
11-12. David Ragan and Michael McDowell
I’m just going to lump these two together, because they both have a similar range of outcomes, given they are teammates who qualified and practiced at similar speed, with a similar restrictor plate resume in 207-2018. Ragan’s resume is a bit stronger than McDowell’s but he also starts one spot farther forward. They start in Row 6, which is nice, but other cars of similar speed start behind them.
13. Casey Mears
Mears is locked in on speed, so I expect him to race hard for a good starting spot. He has his teammate Ty Dillon also, so both cars will be racing hard and looking to make some moves. He starts a bit farther forward than I’d like
14. Jamie McMurray
McMurray is locked into the Daytona 500, but also is unlikely to push for the win. However, he does have Larson and Kurt Busch as teammates. I certainly don’t 21mind stacking McMurray with Larson, given their Row 7 and 8 starting positions as two of the last non-back marker cars.
15. Brendan Gaughan
Gaughan is a good plate racer with solid finishes, but because he’s just looking to qualify for the Daytona 500, I don’t expect him to push forward. He was in a similar situation in both 2017 and 2018, starting 16th and 17th, and finishing 12th and 17th respectively. Both of those finishes were good enough to get him into the 500, but not good enough to end up in the winning DK lineup. Now he starts further forward than both of those two races, with no extra incentive to push hard given Joey Gase’s slowness. Gaughan is an underweight candidate.
16. Kyle Larson*
Larson will be the chalk place differential play, and is a fine addition to DFS rosters. While many Row 8 drivers are back-marker-ish, Larson has the ability to compete for a top five. A cash lock, he’s a solid 60ish percent GPP play.
17. Ty Dillon
I like Ty Dillon as a strong contrarian play this weekend. That Germain car has had good plate showing in the past, and now he has a teammate in Casey Mears to work with. He won’t be crazy owned, but is the last car of the cars that aren’t typically back markers, so that puts him in play as a nice contrarian play.
18. Ross Chastain
Chastain is locked into the field, and can be considered a backmarker for all intents and purposes. They’ll want to preserve the equipment.
19. Corey Lajoie
Lajoie starts one spot further back than Chastain, and showed similar speed in practice. I’ll take the one extra spot of place differential potential relative to Chastain if you pick between the two, but neither of these guys will be pushing.
20. BJ McLeod
He’s never raced a plate race at the Cup level, but does have a best finish of 11th at the Xfinity level. However, I just expect him to ride around, since he’s locked in.
21. Joey Gase
There’s obviously incentive for Gase to push hard, given he’s a go-or-go-home driver. But good grief this car is slow. He’s a solid fade.