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Walsh: My Favorite Bet for Thursday’s NASCAR Duel Races at Daytona

Walsh: My Favorite Bet for Thursday’s NASCAR Duel Races at Daytona article feature image

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Front row winning teams of NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman (88) and NASCAR Cup Series driver William Byron (24)

  • Thursday's NASCAR Gander RV Duel races at Daytona (7 p.m. ET, FS1) are offering solid value for savvy motorsports bettors.
  • Based on past performance and motivation for tonight's races, we detail one bet to snag immediately.

Starting with tonight’s Gander RV Duel races at Daytona, there are four straight days of meaningful NASCAR racing for motorsports fans and bettors, culminating in Sunday’s 61st running of the Daytona 500.

The Duel races serve as qualifying races that set the field and starting lineup for the Daytona 500. While qualifying time trials were held on Sunday, those only lock in the top two starting spots for The Great American Race.

Hendrick Motorsports drivers William Byron (pole) and Alex Bowman (second) snagged the front row, meaning no matter where they finish in tonight’s Duel races, they’ll start first and second in the 500.

However, should either driver wreck in his respective Duel race and be forced to go to a backup car, he will lose his starting spot and have to start the Daytona 500 at the back of the field.

This creates a unique scenario for these two drivers as they both want to get in the draft tonight and see how their cars react in traffic to prepare for Sunday, but they also want to make sure to protect their cars and starting positions.

With truly nothing to race for except information, the lack of motivation for these drivers to finish well offers a very interesting opportunity for savvy motorsports bettors.

And because of this, there is one bet I’m jumping all over for tonight’s NASCAR Duel races at Daytona.

Paul Menard (-120) over William Byron in Duel 1

I liked this matchup even before the added bonus of each driver’s motivation to finish well. Menard easily bested Byron in every major statistical category at Daytona last season, including finishing position, average running position and driver rating. Simply put, Menard was just better over the course of both Daytona races in 2018.

In addition, Menard ran very well at the Advance Auto Parts Clash four days ago, leading a whopping 51 of 59 laps before wrecking while racing with Jimmie Johnson for the lead. Byron did not qualify for the Clash, and therefore was not involved.

This provides another big advantage for Menard as he not only has experience running in real race conditions this week, but he also performed very well doing so. Byron, who is in just his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, has seen zero racing so far during Speedweeks, which is even more significant for such an inexperienced driver.

This inexperience also means that Byron and crew chief Chad Knaus could be hesitant to race hard tonight in fear of wrecking the car and having to start at the back of the field for the Daytona 500.

In fact, during NASCAR’s Media Day on Wednesday, Byron mentioned that he wants to stay up front, but if he gets shuffled back he won’t attempt to get back to the lead. That sure sounds like a driver who is more interested in projecting his equipment than securing a good finish.

Based solely on expected performance at Daytona, Menard should already be a bigger favorite over Byron than -120. Then throw in Byron’s questionable motivation to finish well, and you can quickly see the value of snagging Menard in this matchup.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter to see all of my pending and future NASCAR bets for Daytona, including tonight’s Duels, Friday’s Trucks race, Saturday’s XFINITY race and Sunday’s Daytona 500.

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