After a long day of both rain and shine the duel races began as scheduled. With the washout of practice a competition caution was set for lap 25. The first duel was won by Chase Elliott who raced like it was the 500. He displayed great power even though he was locked into the pole position for Sunday’s race. His loaded Hendrick power plant showed the ability to hold off both Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick on several late race charges. McMurray had fantastic car control and was able to gracefully plot his Chevrolet into tight spots the entire race. The speed, and pack style racing at Daytona paired with strong beachfront winds make car control paramount. Harvick was up near the front for the entire race and looks to be his typical strong self at Daytona. Matt Kenseth showed his smooth style and consistency around the track, and will likely be a solid cash game selection for the 500 starting in the 9th spot. Kyle Bush not taking tires proved to be a bad move and it effectively took him out of contention for the win. He will start the 500 from the 23rd spot but I would expect him to move up considerably throughout the race on Sunday.
The 2nd duel was very quiet up to the competition caution where two tires were taken by most of the leaders at lap 25. Dale Jr. showed (like his teammate Elliott in duel 1) that the Hendrick power provided proved to be ample in herding drivers high and low behind him for the majority of the race. His restarts were especially quick as he pulled away from the pack initially.
Jimmie Johnson was involved in a late race crash with David Regan, and Ryan Blaney, and he will now be forced to go to a backup car. The #48 looked a little free most of the night but I would expect him to be sharp on Sunday. He will have to start from the rear of the field after qualifying 26th for the 500. Blaney in the #21 Wood Bros. car looked like he will be live in the 500. Meaning he is starting 38th but appears to have the power and control to make some noise and move up. David Regan showed his superspeedway vigor as he clearly has power and skill for restrictor plate tracks like Daytona where he will start 22nd. Regan may prove to be a value pick, albeit a chalky one.
Kyle Larson starting the 500 from the 18th spot did not have the car control of his teammate McMurray. Larson still appears to be a little uncomfortable with the handle of his car at this point in the week.
The star of the 2nd Can-am duel and winner was Denny Hamlin. His Gibbs Toyota overcame a pit penalty to pass Dale Jr. late on a masterful outside move with the help of Austin Dillon. The #11 car of Hamlin appeared to be the strongest in terms of pure horsepower in either of the duels. Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch showed strong moves and will start 6th and 8th in the 500 respectively. Austin Dillon showed once again that restrictor plate racing is not too big for him. He had great control of the draft and essentially took the highly skilled Hamlin to the win.
Quick Thoughts on the Duels:
- Daytona is still a handling track whether it be by car control or tire wear. On Sunday (4) tires will be the call in most pit cases, but there will be two tire stops to improve track position. Once it gets late in the race if there is a caution than anything goes to get track position.
- It will take structured team work to make passes for the lead as running double and even Three wide will hold the leader up front. The cars ran stronger in clean air than what I had seen in a while at Daytona. The simple slingshot was not as effective of a power move as seen in years past.
- Due to clean air stability starting spots will be a little more valuable in this race compared to years past.
- Although stacking is not typically done in NASCAR this is a race where a Hendrick, Gibbs or even Stewart-Hass stack makes sense.
- The young sons (Elliot and Blaney) starting on opposite ends of the grid are live for the 500.
- The handling packages on the cars for the duels will be significantly different on Sunday. If the sun is out on Sunday the track will be much more loose.
- The amount of rain over the weekend will play a large role in how “green” the track is on Sunday. Meaning the rain storms between now and the race will work to wash away the existing rubber that was built up on the track.
This was a basic recap of the duels, however I will enter more of the analytical side in terms of quick hits and numbers on behalf of the drivers of interest after practices are complete. Additionally major updates will be added as needed.
This is a discussion into the both NASCAR DFS and legal wagering. Please be responsible with your bankroll, and as mentioned before Daytona is a true wildcard where accidents can be field and roster destroyers. Go easy.
UPDATE: Martin Truex Jr.(qual. 13th), AJ Allmendinger (qual. 10th), and Chris Buescher (qual. 32nd) were all penalized during post race inspection and will start from the rear of the field. This is in addition to Jimmie Johnson as mentioned above.