Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
The Daytona 500 has a reputation and tradition all its own in the NASCAR world, and the race also has a qualifying format all its own. Last Sunday's qualifying session only set the front row for the 500, and the rest of the starting lineup will be determined by a pair of qualifying races Thursday night.
This year, DraftKings is offering games for both Can-Am Duel qualifying races, so I'm breaking down the field for both duel events to help you cash in.
Chase Elliott will lead the field to the green in Race 1, but for both events, it is important to remember that drivers will have different agendas at work.
Most of the field simply wants to stay out of trouble and keep their cars in good shape for the Daytona 500. If they can pick up a few spots in the process, even better. As a result, it isn't uncommon to see the drivers starting near the front of the field stay there throughout the race.
There are also a few drivers who are still fighting for a spot in the Daytona 500 field, and these drivers are essentially racing the other drivers who aren't guaranteed a spot. These drivers have a lot more to race for.
In general, the qualifying races tend to be much calmer than the actual Daytona 500. The races are also much shorter, and the field is much smaller. In many ways, the race will resemble last weekend's Clash. The place differential category is still going to have some value, but for the most part, building a winning lineup is going to require a lineup of drivers who all finish near the front.
With the strategy piece out of the way, let's take a closer at the drivers to target in the first Can-Am Duel qualifying race at Daytona.
Brad Keselowski ($10,200)
As I already mentioned, I have no issues rostering drivers starting up front in the qualifying races, especially a plate track stud like Keselowski. He ranks second among active drivers with five restrictor-plate wins, and two of those wins came last season. Not to mention the fact that he would have started Speedweeks with a win in the Clash had he not be wrecked by Denny Hamlin. Starting second, I expect Keselowski to lead plenty of laps and contend for the win.
Joey Logano ($9,600)
Like his Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, Logano has been a stud at the plate tracks. He has a series-leading three wins in the last ten plate races, and that doesn't include his win in the Clash last weekend. Logano should be battling for the win Thursday night, and since he starts ninth, he also has a little upside through place differential.
Kyle Busch ($9,100)
While he is still looking for a Daytona 500 win, Busch is no stranger to winning at plate tracks. In fact, he has won three qualifying races at Daytona since 2009. Last year, Busch finished third or better in three of his four starts at plate tracks, and he has race-winning upside again Thursday night.
Jamie McMurray ($8,500)
McMurray is a high-risk, high-reward play, but with just 21 cars in the field, you need drivers with his type of upside if you are going to win a GPP. He is a four-time winner at plate tracks, and he is one of the few drivers starting in the middle of the pack in this race who has a decent chance to come away with the win a big chunk of points through place differential.
Aric Almirola ($7,400)
He has become an underrated restrictor-plate track driver, and over the last ten plate events, Almirola ranks in the Top 10 in points scored. Starting 13th, he is in a good position to pick up a handful of spots and come away with a solid finish. He looks like one of the most dependable mid-priced plays.
Chris Buescher ($6,400)
If you watched last weekend's Clash at Daytona, you saw Buescher stay out of trouble and move from 17th to ninth by the time the checkered flag flew. He starts 16th in the first qualifying race Thursday, and a similar climb into the Top 10 could be on tap. His cheap price tag and upside in the place differential category are both appealing.
Corey Lajoie ($5,100)
You might not be familiar with the newcomer, but he could be a secret weapon Thursday night. For one, he is dirt cheap, so he will give you plenty of roster flexibility. He is also starting dead last in the first qualifying race, so he can only gain points in the place differential category. Lajoie is also one of just four drivers who is still trying to race their way into the Daytona 500, so while most of the field just wants to stay out of trouble, Lajoie has some extra motivation.
Driver to Avoid
Chase Elliott ($9,300)
Elliott starts on the pole in the first duel race, and he is also going to start on the pole in the Daytona 500 as long as he doesn't wreck his car Thursday night. Needless to say, Elliott is likely to get out of harm's way if the racing gets too wild. Of all the drivers in this race, Elliott has the least incentive to win. Throw in his potential to lose a lot of points in the place differential category, and I'm avoiding him altogether.