DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The field for the 63nd annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN) will be set on Thursday night at the World Center of Speed. The annual Bluegreen Vacations Duels in Daytona (7 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) will once again set the starting positions for 40 drivers for Sunday’s Great American Race. It will also send four drivers home too.
That’s a big storyline in itself.
The Duels though have been pretty tame as of late. With 36 Chartered cars knowing that their spots into the big show on Sunday is secured, none of them are really willing to risk wrecking their Daytona 500 race car on Thursday night. So, most of the Duels have become a high speed parade.
Then, for those wanting to race their ways in, most are underfunded teams and can’t afford much crash damage already too. They don’t get in there and mix it up much anyways.
For a race that sees no one wanting to tear up a bunch of equipment, you get some tame racing. Heading into Thursday night, 38 of the 40 drivers know that they have a guaranteed starting spot in the field. While points are on the line, are they worth the risk?
That’s why starting position has mattered for the two races lately which has in turn provided us some good bets.
Duels Favorites For Race 1
Alex Bowman – This car finished runner-up last year as Bowman has had good speed in the Duels in the past himself. Does Bowman as the ‘500 pole sitter risk crashing his car to go for a win?
Aric Almirola – He’s a good superspeedway racer and starts third.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – He had a car capable of winning last year’s Duel but as the pole sitter for the Daytona 500, he elected to keep it somewhat conservative so he didn’t get caught up in a crash. Now, he rolls off third and in my mind, is the favorite.
Denny Hamlin – You can never count him out. Hamlin, has won each of the last two Daytona 500’s and has two Duels wins overall since 2014 too including five top 10’s in that time frame.
Joey Logano – He’s won a Duel in each of the last two years to go along with six straight top eight finishes. Furthermore, he’s actually finished in the top three in seven of the last eight years. He will start 11th in Duel 1.
Kyle Larson – He has four top eight finishes in seven tries including a third place result just last year. He has a better car now… He rolls off eighth.
Duels Favorites For Race 2
William Byron – He won a Duel last year as well as the Coke Zero Sugar 400. Be a little wary though as most pole sitters for these races just ride conservatively to save their cars for Sunday’s race.
Kevin Harvick – He’s had just one Daytona 500 win over his career, but Harvick has done his best at Daytona in the Duels. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has six straight top six finishes in these qualifying races including a third place effort in 2017, a runner-up in 2018 and a win in 2019.
Chase Elliott – He’s won two Duels and has scored a top eight finish in four of his five tries.
Bubba Wallace – Worth the risk here. He was quickest in practice on Wednesday, qualified fourth overall Wednesday night and rolls off second on Thursday night.
Kurt Busch – Never say never. Busch, has six top fives in his last eight Duels including 15 top eight’s overall in 20 tries. He was third, third, fifth, fifth and eighth respectively in his last five tries. He starts seventh.
Kyle Busch – Worth a risk here. Three of his last four Duels have seen him finish outside of the top 10. But, he also has three top fives since 2015 too including a win in 2016. He won the Clash and now starts eighth on Thursday night.
Ryan Blaney – He won a Duel in 2018 and has scored four top six results in six Duels starts. He starts ninth in Duel 2.
Austin Dillon – He has four straight top 10 finishes in the Duels and five in eight starts. He starts fourth in Duel 2.
Duels at Daytona Betting Trends
- Over the last 29 Duels, just once has a pole winner that race won.
- 7 straight Duels have been won from the 3rd starting spot on back.
- Last 11 Duels have been won from a starting spot in the top 4 Rows.
- 13 of the last 14 Duels in fact have been won from a top 10 starting spot.
- 20 of the last 24 Duels have been won from Row 2 on back.
- Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing have all combined to win 14 of the last 15 Duels.
- 8 of the last 9 years the Daytona 500 winner has come from the 1st 7 Rows. That means the top 7 finishers in Thursday night’s race will certainly land on the favorites list for Sunday.
- The last Duel winner to win the Daytona 500 was Matt Kenseth in 2012. He’s the only one to do it in the last 16 years. In fact, its only been done just five times since 1996.
- 9 of the last 10 Duels have run to completion in less than one hour including 14 of the last 18. In fact, the longest Duel since 2009 lasted 1-hour, 8-minutes and 25-seconds.