FREE NASCAR DFS Daytona Duels Breakdown, Cheat Sheet, and Cores

Welcome to Run Pure Sports’ FREE NASCAR DFS preview of the Daytona Duels! With speeds reaching up to 200 mph and some of the sport’s biggest names battling it out on the track, the Daytona Duels are a great way to kick off the Speedweeks’ racing action for both fans and DFS players alike. As the races determine the starting lineup for the highly-anticipated Daytona 500, tonight’s events will set the stage for one of the biggest races of the year. So, if you’re ready for high-speed action and want to get in on this special weekday evening NASCAR DFS sweat, then pop a squat and join me as I take a closer look at what to expect from tonight’s Duels at Daytona. The green flag drops for Duel 1 at 7:00 PM EST, so let’s get ready build some line ups!

Brad Keselowski no. 6 Ford takes the checkered flag, Thursday February 17, 2022 to win the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona international Speedway.
Dtb Duel Action 2


The Daytona Duels serve as a qualifying event for the Daytona 500, and as such, drivers will be more conservative on the track compared to what we will see in Sunday’s main event. I view this as essentially a glorified practice session, where drivers are more concerned with feeling their car out for the 500 and less concerned with pushing their cars to the limit. With this in mind, drivers are more than willing to cut each other a break as no one wants to end up with a damaged car that could jeopardize their chances in the 500.

This makes carnage a rarity in the Duels, resulting in less variance than we would normally expect in a Super Speedway race. This allows drivers who are skilled at the drafting techniques required in Super Speedway racing to rise to the top and can provide a more predictable outcome for DFS players. So, as you look to build your DFS lineup for tonight’s Duels at Daytona, consider this race as an opportunity to target those skilled Super Speedway drivers who have a history of success at Daytona.

It’s important to note that the pole sitters in each race are already locked into the Daytona 500 and have no motive to push their cars in tonight’s Duels. In fact, pole sitters will often times pull off and park their cars if they get shuffled from the front of the pack in an effort to avoid getting caught up in an incident that could send them to a backup car. This makes them a less than optimal option for DFS. Only one of the last ten Duel pole sitters has finished inside the top six of DraftKings scoring for their respective slate. That driver also happens to be one of the pole sitters tonight, Kyle Larson, but more on him later.

Last 10 Daytona Duel Pole sitter performances

When constructing your DFS lineup for tonight’s Duels, it’s important to consider the starting position of the drivers you are targeting. Over the last five years, a significant portion of the top six scorers from each slate have come from a specific range of starting positions.

Specifically, 38% of the top six scorers have come from drivers starting in the 6th to 10th position range. These drivers are close enough to the front of the pack to get there and lead some laps, while also providing solid position differential upside considering the short slate and smaller field. Additionally, drivers starting in the 1st to 5th position account for another 25% of the top six DraftKings scorers. These drivers tend to get there by finishing strong, with 14 out of the 15 drivers that made up this 25% all finishing inside the top three, and five even winning their respective heat race.

In total, 63% of the top six DraftKings scorers in the Duels over the last five years have come from drivers starting inside the top 10. And while it’s worth noting that only one heat race winner in the last five years has come from a driver starting worse than 9th. All that said, it’s still possible to find success by targeting good super speedway drivers who start outside the top 10. In fact, of the 22 top six scorers who started outside the top 10, 18 of those came from drivers who have a Cup Series super speedway win in their career.

Percentage of Top 6 DK Scorers in last 10 Duel Races

Another important factor to consider when constructing your DFS lineup for tonight’s Duels at Daytona is the potential for a driver to score dominator points. Over the last 10 Duel races, there have been seven instances where a “dominator” finished inside the top six of the DraftKings scoring. In each of those instances, the driver led over 30 laps. These drivers can be difficult to predict though, with six different drivers making up that sample of 7 dominators. Only driver to do it twice… Kevin Harvick.

However, there is one commonality among these drivers: all of them started 8th or better, with four of them starting inside the top five positions. This is another reason to focus on those drivers starting inside the top 10 for most of your lineup, as it increases your chances of landing on the lap leader and potentially earning those valuable dominator points.

Cheat Sheet Duel 1

Below is my cheat sheet for Duel 1. I have included stats from the last 5 Duels, along with overall Super Speedway data from the last 3 years. Drivers in green are who I am targeting tonight.

Driver Notes Duel 1

With the way Duel 1 has shaped up, I expect the Ford camp to have a strong showing. Drivers like Logano, Blaney, Harvick, and Buescher have a wealth of experience that includes 5 Duel wins, 11 Top 5’s, and 19 Top 10’s in these races over the last 5 years and they all start inside the Top 9. I fully expect this group to control the race from the start and dominate the laps led. All 4 of these guys have dominator upside, with the lowest owned option likely being Chris Buescher.

If you’re looking for a favorite to win, Logano is a solid pick. He’s the returning champ with two Duel wins in his last five starts, and he’s starting third with teammates to help him out. Harrison Burton is another Ford driver starting inside the Top 10 to watch. While he might be overlooked by many, he finished third in last year’s Duel and could hook up with his Penske affiliates for a strong finish at a low ownership.

For position differential plays, Austin Dillon is a solid option. He won his Duel race in 2021 and has had four top-10 finishes in his last five attempts. The other obvious option is Ricky Stenhouse. I am going to avoid Ricky today though, that car was barely faster than McLeod in qualifying and this single car team has been struggling. Think he will be popular as well, so it never hurts to get away from a chalky Ricky.

Christopher Bell starts 11th and even though he is not driving a Ford, I think he can muscle his way close to a Top 5 which would in turn be a solid fantasy day. He’s had two top-five finishes in three Duel attempts in his young career. Erik Jones and Michael McDowell round out the list of position differential plays. Jones and this 43 team was one of the best cars on SS last year and I expect 5-6 + positions out of him today with upside for more. McDowell starts 13th and again will likely be overlooked. Great Super Speedway driver and he has the right emblem on his hood for this race. Really like his upside if we see green flag pitstops, pitting with the Fords will be a nice advantage if that happens.

Core Duel 1

I am not playing cash today. I will be using this core in both 3max and GPP today.

Cheat Sheet Duel 2

Below is my cheat sheet for Duel 2. Just like for Duel 1, I have included stats from the last 5 Duels, along with overall Super Speedway data from the last 3 years. Drivers in green are who I am targeting.

Driver Notes Duel 2

When looking at Duel 2, the first thing that stands out on this slate is we don’t really have a ton of solid options for guys starting in the back half of the field. I am going to lean into the data I laid out earlier on this slate and really focus on playing guys starting in the front half.

The obvious option tonight would be Denny Hamlin. Top priced driver starting 13th and odds on favorite to win this race on many sportsbooks. Will surely carry heavy ownership. However, as good as Denny has been on Super Speedways, for whatever reason he has under performed in the Duels. He only has 1 Top 6 DK performance in his last 5 duels, and has finished outside the Top 10 in his Duel race the last 3 years. Excluding Denny in our pool is going to instantly make our lineups different from the vast majority of the field.

With Denny carrying much of the ownership at the top of the Salary range, It gives us a great opportunity to key in on a great Super Speedway driver like Chase Elliott with what could be suppressed ownership. Best on Super Speedways in 2022 and has been lights out in the Duels. HMS has speed as usual here and I expect Chase to find his way to the front.

Kyle Larson is another guy I am avoiding tonight as he is on the pole. I know he did not park from the pole in this race last year and led 30+ laps for a solid DK day, but he had shared the front with teammates in that race. I don’t think Larson parks, but I also think he has some stout Fords breathing down his neck to start that won’t let him lead. If he doesn’t lead and doesn’t win, it’s going to be tough for him to score well.

Speaking of the Fords breathing down his neck, I love having shares of Almirola, Briscoe, and Cindric tonight. My favorite would be Almirola as he has proven he has the ability to lead a pack and control a SS race. Last year’s Daytona 500 winner, Austin Cindric, is more than capable of piloting his #2 Penske Ford to the front. Wild card would be Briscoe, not a ton of SS success, but he did finish 4th in last years Duel. A hungry Kyle Busch, starting 5th, is also in play as a potential lap leader and I would not be shocked at all to see the #8 RCR in victory lane.

Brad Keselowski, Ryan Preece, and Martin Truex are all guys I like for “PD” in this slate. There is not a lot there for these guys, but all do have the potential for 4-5 PD points and a Top 5 finish. Truex will likely be the highest owned as this is a dumb price tag on a guy who had really fast SS cars last year. Kes is always a threat on Super Speedways and won his Duel race in this car last year, will likely be popular as well. The man no one will play once again is Ryan Preece. Preece is a talented SS driver and he is with a much better team than previously in his career. Even in lesser equipment he had 2 Top 10s and a Top 5 in 3 Duel races. There are enough Fords out there for him to stay in contention.

If you are looking for an ever cheaper option as a pivot off chalk Truex, you can go to Lajoie. Back to Back finishes of 11th of better in this ride in the last 2 duels.

Core Duel 2

Again, I am not playing cash today. I will be using this core in both 3max and GPP today.

As always, thanks for reading! Good luck and play within your means! NASCAR is Back!!!


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