NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway Fanduel Preview

Brian Polking

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to action after an off weekend, and it returns to action at Talladega Superspeedway. NASCAR’s largest track is also one of its most unpredictable and violent, and despite a new rules package being used for the first time this weekend, I don’t expect Sunday’s GEICO 500 to be a calm, orderly affair.

If anything, the low-horsepower package being used this could cause more chaos as drivers learn how to exploit the package to its fullest as the weekend goes on, pushing things to the edge and undoubtedly over the edge at times.

When setting DFS lineups, the safest and most effective method for superspeedways like Talladega has typically been loading up on drivers starting deeper in the field. My philosophy on that isn’t going to change ahead of Sunday’s race, but I do think it is important to remember that Fanduel includes laps completed in its scoring system.

You need to be a little more cautious about using just any driver starting deep in the field. It doesn’t help you to roster a driver starting dead last if they end up parking the car with more than 100 laps to go, even if they did gain a couple of spots in the process. You also need to be careful about using too many bigger names who tend to be all-or-nothing plays.

A lineup full of drivers who hang back for a while, avoid early trouble and come away with decent finishes can post a strong score. Yes, place differential points are still valuable, but I’d rather sacrifice a few differential points here and there to roster a driver who usually finds a way to finish these superspeedway races on the track instead of in the garage.

Needless to say, make sure to check back after the starting lineup is set on Saturday before finalizing any of your Fanduel lineups. In the meantime, take a closer look at my favorite DFS options for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

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Must-Own Drivers

Joey Logano ($13,500)

Logano is everything you want in this scoring system, an elite performer who is also consistent. Over the last 10 superspeedway races, his six Top 5s and seven Top 10s are both the most in the series, and he has led the second-most laps during that stretch. Logano has five Top 5s in the last six superspeedway races alone, cracking the Top 5 in all three starts at Talladega in that stretch. He is on the very short list of drivers I would consider using no matter where he qualifies.

Denny Hamlin ($12,800)

He opened the season with a win in the Daytona 500, but Hamlin’s long track record of success at the superspeedways is what I find appealing. He has seven Top 15 finishes and the third-most driver points scored over the last 10 superspeedway races, finishing sixth or better five times and leading double-digit laps six times. Hamlin has shown one of the highest ceilings and safest floors at Daytona and Talladega.

Aric Almirola ($12,500)

He has arguably been the most reliable driver at Talladega recently, finishing eighth or better in five straight starts and winning the fall race here last year. Almirola has actually been one of the best at superspeedways in general lately, posting a series-best 11.0 average finish over the last 10 races while also gaining an average of 11.4 spots per race.

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Difference Makers and Value Plays

Brad Keselowski ($13,200)

Keselowski has shown some cracks in his superspeedway armor recently, but he is still bringing fast cars to the track, and his numbers at Talladega remaining eye popping. His five wins here are the most among active drivers, and Keselowski has led laps in each of the last six races here, leading 20-plus laps five times. He is one of only a couple drivers who have shown the ability to go out and dominate a superspeedway race for long stretches.

Ryan Blaney ($11,600)

His 22.1 average finish in the last 10 superspeedway races isn’t pretty, but keep in mind that Blaney has led laps in seven of those races and has led the third-most laps overall in that stretch. He will likely have one of the best cars this weekend, and if he can actually find a way to finish, Blaney could be the top scorer. You can’t ignore that type of upside, especially for GPP contests.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($10,500)

Stenhouse can get himself and others into trouble with his aggressive driving style at these superspeedways, but the style has also led to some great finishes. After all, he is his five Top 5s in the last 10 races are the second most in the series, and he has a pair of wins in that stretch. Stenhouse has led laps in eight of the last 10 superspeedway races, leading double-digit laps five times. His upside is on par with the elite options this weekend.

Paul Menard ($7,800)

Menard has enjoyed success at the superspeedways throughout his career, and over the last 10 races, his 14.4 average finish ranks sixth in the series. He has seven Top 15s and five Top 10s in that same stretch, and he has finished on the lead lap seven times. As long as he doesn’t qualify too well, Menard should be a safe, solid option this weekend.

Alex Bowman ($7,500)

He will never be mistaken for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the superspeedways, but since taking over the No. 88 full time in 2018, Bowman has finished 11th or better in three of his five superspeedway starts, leading laps in three of them. If he starts in the bacl half of the field, don’t forget about Bowman this weekend.

Ryan Newman ($7,300)

Talk about avoiding major trouble. Over the last 10 superspeedway races, Newman leads all drivers with eight finishes on the lead lap. He has piled up seven Top 15s in that stretch, including five Top 10s in the last seven races alone. Take advantage of one of the steadiest superspeedway options out there, especially if he qualifies deeper in the field.

Ty Dillon ($6,500)

He struggles to crack the Top 25 most weeks, but Dillon has posted great numbers at the superspeedways. In nine starts, he has managed a 16.4 average finish, gaining an average of 8.4 spots per race. More importantly, Dillon has finished on the lead and gained at least 13 spots in seven of those nine starts. He’s a great value at this price.

Chris Buescher ($6,200)

Buescher has been a DFS juggernaut at the superspeedways lately because he tends to start way in the back and work his way forward. He has finished 17th or better in six of the last eight races, and he has four finishes of 11th or better. The best part is that Buescher has gained at least 11 spots six times in the same stretch, and he has gained 19 or more positions three times. If he qualifies poorly again this weekend, he will be a steal.

Sleeper Specials

David Ragan ($5,000)

Ragan is a bit of a boom-or-bust option among the cheaper plays, but there aren’t any other drivers in this price range that can match his upside at the superspeedways. In addition to owning Cup wins at both Daytona and Talladega, he also has four Top 10s and five Top 15s in the last eight superspeedway races. The risk could be worth the reward if his starting spot is right.

Bubba Wallace ($4,500)

He doesn’t boast the crazy place differential margins of some of the other cheaper options, but Wallace has shown a knack for avoiding trouble at the superspeedways. In six starts, he has five Top 20 finishes and a 17.3 average finish. If he starts outside the Top 20, keep him in mind if you need a little cap relief.

Ross Chastain ($4,000)

While you may not need to free up a bunch of cap space this weekend, Chastain could be a great option if you do need to go that route. He has made four Cup starts at superspeedways, compiling a 20.0 average finish and gaining an average of 15.0 positions per race. Chastain has actually gained double-digit spots in all four of those starts, and he delivered an epic DFS performance in this year’s Daytona 500, gaining 26 spots on his way to a Top 10.

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