NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway DraftKings Preview

Brian Polking

Coming out of an off weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to action at its biggest track, Talladega Superspeedway. Pack racing, violent crashes and high attrition have been the calling cards of Talladega, and although Sunday’s GEICO 500 will mark a shift from restrictor plates to NASCAR’s reduced-horsepower package at the track, I don’t think we will see a complete change in the track’s identity.

That being said, I’m not exactly sure what we will see when the green flag waves. There has been talk of two-car, tandem drafting returning, and NASCAR has already made it clear that they could make adjustments to the rules throughout the weekend as drivers and teams begin to explore the benefits and limitations of the new rules.

From a DFS standpoint, I’m still planning on catering a majority of my lineups to the place differential category. This strategy has been a proven method at the plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega) in the past, and I as already mentioned, I expect the typical Talladega trends to continue this weekend.

Whenever the draft is as important as it is at a massive track like Talladega, the fastest laps run category is going to be spread out to the point that you can ignore it. Yes, certain drivers do tend to lead more laps here than others, but it isn’t as common to see one driver lead 100-plus laps.

On the flip side, it is routine to see a few drivers gain 20-plus spots from where they qualify and vice versa. For one, it is just a lot easier to pass when everyone is essentially going the same speed and stuck in a large pack. It also helps when large portions of the field usually get wiped out before the finish.

This is a race where I won’t care about securing dominator points, and I won’t even care about leaving money on the table. I want drivers who are starting deep in the field, and if those drivers have also had some success at the superspeedways in the past, even better.

Make sure to check back after Saturday evening’s qualifying session for updated picks and lineup strategies. Until then, here is a closer look at some of my favorite options at DraftKings for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

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Must-Own Drivers

Joey Logano ($11,200)

The superspeedways are the toughest tracks to predict, but Logano has been the closest thing to a sure thing. His two wins, six Top 5s and seven Top 10s in the last 10 races all rank first in the series, and Logano has led double-digit laps six times and the second-most laps overall in that same stretch.

Brad Keselowski ($10,700)

He's actually in a bit of a slump at the superspeedways by his standards, but few drivers have ever dominated at Talladega like Keselowski. His five wins here are the most among active drivers, and he has led laps in each of the last six races, leading 20-plus laps five times. Keselowski is one of the few drivers who have shown they can dominate a superspeedway race from start to finish.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,400)

Stenhouse can be an accident waiting to happen at the superspeedways, but he always seems to have a fast car and isn't afraid to force his way to the front. He is one of two drivers with multiple wins over the last 10 races, and his five Top 5s in that span are the second most. Stenhouse has also led laps in eight of those races, leading double-digit laps five times.

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Difference Makers and Value Plays

Ryan Blaney ($9,800)

He hasn't been able to finish a lot of the superspeedway races, but Blaney has shown plenty of speed. He has led laps in seven of the last 10 races, and despite a 22.1 average finish in that stretch, he ranks fifth in driver points scored because of all the stage points he has piled up. The bottom line is that Blaney is usually running up front. If he can find a way to finish, he could end up being a real X-factor in a GPP lineup, especially as a contrarian to his teammates.

Denny Hamlin ($9,200)

Fresh off his second Daytona 500 win earlier this year, Hamlin continues to build one of the best resumes at the superspeedways. He has seven Top 15s over the last 10 races, finishing sixth or better five times and leading double-digit laps six times. Hamlin is one of the better bets to lead some laps and contend for the win, and I love him as an alternative to the Ford powerhouses this weekend.

Erik Jones ($8,700)

His superspeedway career began with five finishes outside the Top 30 in his first six races, but his fortunes sure have changed. Jones won the July race at Daytona last year, and he followed up the win with an eighth-place run at Talladega last fall and a third-place finish in this year's Daytona 500. Why not see if he can keep the momentum going this weekend.

Aric Almirola ($8,100)

Almirola has developed into one of the top superspeedway drivers in the series, and he has finished 11th or better in seven of his last nine starts while gaining an average of 11.4 spots per race. He has been exceptional at Talladega, finishing eight or better in all five starts at the track during that span and winning the fall race here last year.

Ryan Newman ($7,800)

Newman has quietly been one of the steadiest performers at the superspeedways lately, piling up seven Top 15s in his last 10 starts and five Top 10s in his last seven starts. An offseason move to Roush Fenway Racing puts him in elite superspeedway equipment, and Newman responded with a 14th-place run in the Daytona 500. He will have Top 10 upside this weekend.

Chris Buescher ($6,900)

He has been locked in at the superspeedways recently, finishing 17th or better in six of the last eight and finishing 11th or better four times. More importantly, Buescher has gained at least 11 spots six times in the same stretch, gaining 19 or more positions three times. If he's starting deep in the field, he is someone you will want to target.

William Byron ($6,800)

His record at the superspeedways has been awful thus far, and in five starts, Byron owns a 25.0 average finish and has never finished better than 20th. Why is he on my radar? Byron has also led laps in four of those five starts, leading double-digit laps three times. He has had fast cars at the superspeedways, he just needs to figure out how to finish. I'll gamble on him in some GPP lineups, especially if he has some place differential points available, as well.

Paul Menard ($6,700)

He had one of the strongest cars throughout Speedweeks, and Menard is no stranger to running well at the superspeedways. Over the last 10 races, he has seven Top 15s and five Top 10s, and he ranks sixth in driver points scored. Dial him up if he has some decent differential upside.

Ty Dillon ($6,500)

Dillon has shown a knack for staying out of trouble at these superspeedway events, and in nine starts, he has compiled a 16.8 average finish and an average place differential of +8.4. Dillon has finished 16th or better and gained at least 13 spots in seven of those starts, and he has cracked the Top 15 in each of the last four superspeedway races. He can be a serious DFS asset if the starting spot is right.

Sleeper Specials

Ross Chastain ($5,800)

He has been able to exploit the place differential category to its fullest at the superspeedways, and in four starts, Chastain owns a 20.0 average finish and has gained an average of 15.0 spots. He's gained double-digit spots in all four of those starts, and earlier this year, he moved up 26 spots on his way to a Top 10 in the Daytona 500. If he qualifies outside the Top 30, why not see if the trend continues?

David Ragan ($5,400)

Ragan has always had a good feel for the draft, and he owns Cup wins at both Daytona and Talladega. He also has four Top 10s and five Top 15s in the last eight superspeedway races. There are a lot of bigger names who can't came close to matching those numbers.

Parker Kligerman ($5,200)

Kligerman more than held his own in the Daytona 500 earlier this year, gaining 10 spots on his way to a Top 15 finish. He's shown a decent feel for the superspeedway in other series, and both of his career wins in the Truck Series came at Talladega. If Kligerman starts deep in the field, he could be a sneaky sleeper.

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