The Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for this weekend’s GEICO 500, and while NASCAR’s biggest track has been known to deliver some exciting finishes, it can be quite a nightmare for Fantasy NASCAR owners.
Daytona and Talladega, NASCAR’s two superspeedways, have a higher level of unpredictability and variance than any other track on the schedule. With all the cars essentially running identical speeds, the playing field between the top teams and underfunded teams becomes a lot more even. More importantly, the cars bunch up in big packs, and the end result is almost always a big wreck.
The attrition opens the door for mid-level and bottom-tier drivers to come away with strong finishes, and teams that struggle to crack the Top 30 most weeks can finish in the Top 10 at a superspeedway. Some races have been glorified demolition derbies. The unpredictability isn’t ideal from a fantasy perspective, and unfortunately, there is no perfect method for picking drivers who will avoid trouble.
That being said, you can limit the damage and try to use the unpredictability to your advantage. In contests like Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, Sunday’s race is a golden opportunity to save starts from the top drivers and still post an excellent score. At the DFS sites or Slingshot Fantasy Auto, try to exploit the place differential category to the fullest and load up on drivers starting deeper in the field, no matter who they are.
1. Joey Logano
Logano's upside at the superspeedways has been in a league of his own, and over the last 10 races, he leads all drivers with six Top 5s and 242 laps led. During that same stretch, his 346 points scored are 55 more than any other driver. This is a great spot to use him as a Group A option in the Driver Group Game.
2. Denny Hamlin
He has been one of the top superspeedway drivers for a while now, and Hamlin is up to four wins for his career after his third Daytona 500 victory back in February. He also ranks second with five Top 5 finishes in the last 10 superspeedway races.
3. Ryan Blaney
Blaney won at Talladega last fall, and he was the runner-up in the Daytona 500 earlier this year. More importantly, he is always running up front at the superspeedways, and he ranks fourth in points scored over the last 10 races.
4. Chase Elliott
He won at Talladega last spring and picked up a Top 10 finish in the fall race. Elliott has also led laps in each of the last four superspeedway races, leading at least 19 laps three times. He could be a great contrarian to Joey Logano or Denny Hamlin in the Driver Group Game.
5. Aric Almirola
Almirola ranks third in points scored over the last 10 superspeedway races, and he also ranks third with a 12.5 average finish. He has cracked the Top 10 in all five starts at Talladega in that span, notching three Top 5s. I will probably be using Almirola in both Fantasy Live and the DGG this weekend.
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
A former winner at both Daytona and Talladega, Stenhouse ranks fifth in points scored over the last 10 superspeedway races and always seems to be battling near the front. He has led laps in nine of the races in that stretch, leading at least 16 laps in four of the last five. Dial up Stenhouse in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
7. Brad Keselowski
He's been in a slump at the superspeedway, but you can never write off Keselowski at Talladega. He is a five-time winner here, and he has led double-digit laps in four straight starts at the track, leading 20-plus three times. At a track that is unpredictable anyway, I don't mind taking a chance on Keselowski's upside, especially at the DFS sites.
8. Ryan Newman
I would think Newman would be a little nervous in his first superspeedway race since his horrible accident in the Daytona 500, but this guy is as tough as nails, and he has been incredibly reliable in these races. His 8.9 average finish and eight Top 10s in the last 10 superspeedway races are the best in the series, and he is the only driver to finish on the lead lap in every race in that span. I recommend taking advantage of him in Fantasy Live.
9. Kyle Busch
He hasn't been piling up a lot of great finishes at the superspeedways recently, but Busch always seems to have a strong car. He has led laps in each of the last seven races, and he was out front in this year's Daytona 500 when he lost an engine. I will save him for another week in Fantasy Live and the DGG, but don't be shocked if Busch is battling for the win Sunday.
10. Kurt Busch
Busch has crashed out of the last two superspeedway races, but he is one of the better performers overall. In fact, he has three Top 15s in the last four trips to Talladega, finishing sixth or better twice and leading 16 laps here last fall. You should probably save Busch in the DGG because of his overall value in Group B, but don’t hesitate to use him in Fantasy Live.
11. Alex Bowman
Bowman hasn't been bullet proof at the superspeedways, but he has been one of the best at running up front and earning stage points. In fact, he ranks eighth in points scored over the last 10 superspeedway races despite only running in nine of them.
12. Ty Dillon
He has quietly been one of the steadier performers at the superspeedways, and his 15.3 average finish in the last 10 races ranks sixth in the series. Dillon has seven Top 15s and four Top 10s in that span, and he hasn't finished worse than 17th at Talladega. He should be on your radar in all fantasy formats.
13. Austin Dillon
Dillon is a former winner at Daytona, but he has been decent at superspeedways overall. He has seven finishes of 17th or better in his last nine starts, finishing sixth at Talladega last fall and 12th in this year's Daytona 500. Dillon is a legitimate Top 10 threat Sunday, and it might be a good idea to use him in Fantasy Live to save a start from one of the top options.
14. Kevin Harvick
Harvick snapped out of a slump at the superspeedways with a Top 5 finish in Daytona 500 to open the season. He is going to have plenty of upside again this weekend, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in victory lane. Still, Harvick is so valuable on a weekly basis that it would be insane to risk one of his starts at Fantasy Live or the Driver Group Game at a track like Talladega.
15. Erik Jones
He is a former winner at Daytona, but Jones has run hot and cold at the superspeedways, and he has finished outside the Top 15 in each of the last four. The Top 5 upside is undeniable, but he is a high-risk, high-reward option that I’d reserve for DFS contests.
16. Jimmie Johnson
It has been all or nothing for Johnson at the superspeedway recently, and in the last six races, he has three Top 10s and three finishes outside the Top 30. The checkers-or-wreckers approach isn't ideal for season-long contests, but Johnson's upside could get you paid at the DFS sites.
17. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer is a former winner at Talladega, but there has been no middle ground for him at the superspeedways lately. He has finished 20th or worse in seven of his last 10 starts, but he was also the runner-up at Talladega in the fall of 2018, and he finished sixth in the 2020 Daytona 500. He's not my favorite play in season-long contests, but Bowyer's upside gives him plenty of value at the DFS sites.
18. Matt Kenseth
He was somewhat of an underrated superspeedway driver in his prime, winning a pair of Daytona 500s and picking up three wins overall. The last time he was in a Cup race at a superspeedway was 2017, but Kenseth led seven laps and finished in the Top 15 at Talladega that day. The veteran could have one of his better performances of the year this weekend.
19. Chris Buescher
Buescher finished third in the Daytona 500 in his first superspeedway start with Roush Fenway Racing, adding to a respectable resume. He has a 16.6 average finish in the last 10 superspeedway events, finishing 21st or better eight times and gaining an average of 7.1 spots per race. Buescher could make a solid, lower-priced DFS play.
20. Martin Truex Jr.
He has a 22.7 average finish and just a single Top 15 in the last 10 superspeedway events, and this style of racing has never been his strong suit. In 60 combined Cup starts at Daytona at Talladega, Truex has managed only four Top 5s and 12 Top 10s. Do not use up a start from him at Fantasy Live or the DGG this weekend.
21. William Byron
Byron has had fast cars at the superspeedways, but outside of a second-place finish in the July race at Daytona last year, the finishes haven’t been there. He has finished 20th or worse in his other eight superspeedway starts, and he owns a 24.6 average finish overall. History says the risk probably won’t be worth the reward.
22. Corey LaJoie
Despite having some weaker equipment, LaJoie has been a stud at the superspeedways of late. Since the start of last season, he has finished 18th or better in all five starts, posting a 10.0 average finish and gaining an average of 23.4 spots. LaJoie is a legitimate sleeper in all formats.
23. Matt DiBenedetto
He has had a couple of Top 10 runs at the superspeedways, and DiBenedetto picked up a Top 20 in this year’s Daytona 500 in his first start with Wood Brothers Racing. Now that he is driving a Ford, I think his numbers at the superspeedways could be set to take off. I won’t hesitate to use him in DFS contests if he starts in the back half of the field.
24. Bubba Wallace
It has been more good than bad for Wallace at the superspeedways, and he has finished inside the Top 20 in six of his nine starts, notching four Top 15s. He could be a useful option for the Slingshot contest depending on his starting spot, and his value will also jump at the DFS sites if he rolls off from deeper in the field.
25. Michael McDowell
McDowell is in the middle of a hot streak at the superspeedways, cracking the Top 15 in four of the last five races. He has also gained at least a dozen spots in those four starts, picking up a pair of Top 5 finishes. McDowell has some sleeper potential in a lot of formats this weekend.
26. Brendan Gaughan
He is the superspeedway equivalent of a road course ringer, and Gaughan opened 2020 by gaining 37 spots and finishing seventh in the Daytona 500. He has a respectable 17.7 average finish over the last 10 superspeedway events, posting a place differential average of +12.2 in that span.
27. Tyler Reddick
Reddick has a couple of superspeedway wins under his belt at the XFINITY level, but the success hasn’t translated over to the Cup Series yet. He has finished outside the Top 25 in both of his starts, failing to finish either event. Save him for another week in the Driver Group Game.
28. John Hunter Nemechek
The sample size is small, but Nemechek’s superspeedway debut ended with an 11th-place finish in the Daytona 500. It is obviously too soon to tell if he will become one of the better superspeedway options, but he’s in play at the DFS sites if he starts towards the back of the pack.
29. Ryan Preece
Superspeedway racing can be a cruel endeavor, and after opening his career with an eighth-place finish in the 2019 Daytona 500 and a third-place run at Talladega, Preece has finished outside the Top 15 in his last three starts, crashing out in two of them. You are basically flipping a coin if you take a chance on Preece this weekend.
30. Christopher Bell
His superspeedway debut wasn’t terrible, and Bell ended up 21st in the Daytona 500. I’d have no problem using him at the DFS sites if he draws a bad starting spot, but I won’t burn up a start from in the DGG.