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Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Matchups for Daytona Duel Races (Feb. 14): Ride with Jimmie Johnson & Kurt Busch

Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Matchups for Daytona Duel Races (Feb. 14): Ride with Jimmie Johnson & Kurt Busch article feature image

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NASCAR Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson

  • Matthew Freedman continues his series featuring one of his favorite bets for each day of 2019.
  • On Thursday, he looks at the two Duels Races at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET, FS1) and the Jimmie Johnson-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kurt Busch-Ryan Blaney driver matchups.

Each day, I publish at least one quick-n’-dirty piece highlighting a favorite prop of mine. See my master list of 2019 prop bets for more information.

Also follow me in The Action Network app, where each day I post additional official player prop picks. On Thursday, we have 11-game NHL and three-game NBA slates on which we’ll want to get down some action.

2019 Year-to-Date Record

91-72-8, +18.62 Units

  • NFL: 21-13-0, +11.72 Units
  • NBA: 30-32-2, +4.38 Units
  • NHL: 21-23-5, -0.73 Units
  • Golf: 3-3-1, +0.50 Units
  • NASCAR: 1-0-0. +1.10 Units
  • NCAAF: 0-1-0. -1.00 Units
  • Exotics: 5-0-0. +2.64 Units

Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Driver Matchups for the Daytona Duel Races (Feb. 14)

Today is special.

Sure, it’s Valentine’s Day, love is in the air, the weather is starting to warm, blah blah blah — but that’s not why today is special.

Today is the Thursday before the Daytona 500, which means that we have two races tonight at Daytona International Speedway.

  • Duel No. 1 – 7:00 p.m. ET, FS1
  • Duel No. 2 – 9:00 p.m. ET, FS1

They don’t call it Speedweeks for nothing.

The first two starting positions for the Daytona 500 are set, but for the rest of the field the order is determined based on how drivers finish in the two races tonight.

So although the Duels are just “qualifying races,” they still count for something. The drivers aren’t going all out because they don’t want to wreck the cars they’re supposed to use in the Daytona 500, but the Duels are more than just an exhibition.

I freely admit that my knowledge of NASCAR is limited. Almost all I know about motor sports I’ve learned from Nick Giffen, who has published a few great RotoViz articles for tonight’s races.

Nick writes primarily from a daily fantasy perspective, but his analysis is easily applicable to sports betting.

Based on what I’ve read and the research I’ve done in the RotoViz NASCAR Splits App, here are two matchups I like for the Duels.

Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Driver Matchups for Duels No. 1: Jimmie Johnson vs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

  • Jimmie Johnson: +105
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: -135

The Duels aren’t as chaotic as the typical restrictor plate races we see during the season: They have a historical did-not-finish rate of just 23.1%.

But the driving is still tight, and the incident rate is higher than that of a regular 1.5-mile oval, so past performance at plate races is still predictive.

Johnson is coming off a rough 2018 campaign in which for the first time in his career he failed to win a single race, and now he’s without longtime crew chief Chad Knaus.

But he’s still No. 48, know what I mean?

Since 2013 (when NASCAR introduced the Generation 6 car), Johnson has been the best plate racer in NASCAR, ranking first with his 95.5 driver rating, 12.7 running position and 71.4% quality pass percentage.

He’s starting second, so he has a clear edge in position over Stenhouse, who is starting 10th. And Johnson just won the Clash at Daytona this past Sunday, so he’s in good form and likely to have a car that can compete.

As something of a plate-racing savant, Stenhouse has higher odds to win the race (+800 vs. +900): He actually has four top-five finishes in his past eight plate races. Stenhouse should compete.

But Johnson is maybe the best driver of his generation, he’s starting on the front row, and he’s at a track where he has 11 top-five finishes in his career.

How can I not take him at plus odds? I’d bet him to +100

The Pick: Johnson (+105)

Freedman’s Favorite NASCAR Driver Matchups for Duels No. 2: Kurt Busch vs. Ryan Blaney

  • Kurt Busch: +115
  • Ryan Blaney: -145

I bet on Busch over Blaney for the Clash, and that worked out. Busch started 19th in the 20-car field, but he made his way through a massive wreck (triggered by Johnson) and finished second.

Blaney was more than respectable, placing fourth, but Busch showed that he’s still capable of competing at a high level even though he moved to Chip Ganassi Racing from Stewart-Haas in the offseason.

I’m backing Busch again. While Blaney is starting eighth once again, Busch has jumped from 19th to 10th, so Blaney’s edge in starting position is minuscule.

And that’s basically the only edge Blaney has. Between the two, Busch is the superior plate racer.

Last year, at plate tracks Blaney had the better driver rating (94.2 vs. 93.8) and quality pass percentage (78.5 vs. 75.0), but Busch led a higher percentage of laps (16.7 vs. 15.0), had a higher percentage of fastest laps (3.6 vs. 1.8) and boasted the superior running position (13.5 vs. 13.8) and finishing position (19.8 vs. 23.5).

In the Gen-6 era, Busch is second in NASCAR with his 13.3 average running position and third with his 91.7 driver rating and 68.0 quality pass percentage at restrictor plate tracks. Blaney trails him in each category, respectively ranking third (14.4) and fifth (88.1 and 65.8).

Blaney is good, but Busch is better.

I’d bet on Busch down to +100.

The Pick: Busch (+115)

Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.

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