Talladega Superspeedway is one of the toughest tracks to predict, but now that the starting lineup for the GEICO 500 is officially set, we can start building some winning lineups at DraftKings.
Whenever the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits a restrictor-plate track, the place differential category needs to become your focus when assembling a DFS lineup, and you need to load your lineups with drivers starting deep in the field.
With pack racing constantly shuffling the running order, drivers starting at the back have no issues moving to the front. Throw in the fact that we will be lucky if half the field is still on the track at the end of the race, and any driver who qualifies up front is a ticking time bomb waiting to destroy your lineup.
This isn't a race where you need to be concerned with targeting big names, and you don't need to worry about leaving bunches of salary cap space on the table. Stack the back of the field and cross your fingers that all of your drivers survive the wrecks and are still on the track when the checkered flag waves.
Check out all of my top DFS plays for Sunday's race, and make sure to finalize all your lineups at DraftKings for the GEICO 500 at Talladega.
Ryan Blaney ($9,000)
His Team Penske teammates are both starting in the Top 10, but you can still get some safe exposure to the best restrictor-plate equipment in the series right now by utilizing Blaney. He starts 23rd, and he led a race-high 118 laps and finished in the Top 10 in the Daytona 500 to open the year. Blaney is the only driver on the short list of potential winners who is also starting in the back half of the field.
Aric Almirola ($8,100)
A mechanical issue in qualifying will force Almirola to start dead last Sunday and giving one of the top plate drivers maximum upside in the place differential category. He has five straight finishes of 11th or better in plate events, including back-to-back Top 5s at Talladega. Meanwhile, his 11.3 average finish over the last 10 plate races is the best in the series, and he has gained an average of 13.1 spots per race in that span.
Kyle Busch ($9,600)
Busch qualified 19th, so while that is not deep enough to make him a no-brainer play, it does make him one of the few elite drivers with legitimate upside in the differential category. He always seems to have a strong car at the plate tracks, and he has led multiple laps in eight of the last 10. He also has four finishes of third or better in that span. Yes, he also wrecks a lot, but there is plenty of upside here. More importantly, he should attract enough ownership to be safe to use in cash contests.
Kyle Larson ($9,300)
There aren't a lot of big names starting in the back half of the field, but Larson is one of them. He will roll off 22nd, and while he doesn't have an elite resume at the plate tracks, he does have five Top 15s in his last seven starts, including three straight at Talladega. As a marquee name starting outside the Top 20, I expect Larson to be a popular play.
Austin Dillon ($8,000)
He won the Daytona 500 this year, and in 19 career restrictor-plate starts, Dillon has nine Top 10s and 12 Top 15s. He will start 24th, giving one of the more dependable plate racers plenty of cushion for bonus points in the differential category.
Jamie McMurray ($7,800)
The weekend got off to a wild start for McMurray as he went flipping during a practice wreck. He followed that with a 27th-place qualifying effort, but all that really means is that a driver with four career plate wins has a bunch of bonus points to gain in the differential category. In addition to his two wins at Daytona and two wins at Talladega, McMurray has back-to-back Top 5 finishes at Talladega. He's got a huge ceiling this weekend.
Ty Dillon ($6,700)
It has been feast or famine for Dillon in his six starts at the restrictor-plate tracks, but he has three Top 20s in his last four starts, including back-to-back Top 15s at Talladega. After qualifying 29th, he has plenty to gain and not much to lose in the differential category.
A.J. Allmendinger ($5,900)
Allmendinger has been one of the best in the business at exploiting the differential category at the plate tracks recently, and he will have a chance to do it again Sunday after qualifying 28th. He has six Top 15s his last eight starts, gaining an average of 13.9 spots per race in that stretch.
Brad Keselowski ($10,700)
Keselowski is the current king of the plate tracks. His six career wins lead all active drivers, and five of those wins have come at Talladega. He's also been one of the few drivers who has been able to lead laps on a regular basis. Keselowski had led 30-plus laps five times in the last eight places, including three times in his last four starts at Talladega. Starting 10th isn't ideal for his differential, but he is one of the few drivers I'll make an exception for.
Joey Logano ($10,300)
There is no safe option at Talladega, but Logano has been the closest thing in recent years. He has finished sixth or better in seven of the last 10 restrictor-plate races, picking up two wins at Talladega. Logano's seven Top 10s and five Top 5s in that stretch are the most of any driver. A Top 10 qualifying effort limits his appeal to GPPs, but the risk could be worth the reward.
Chris Buescher ($6,100)
His teammate, A.J. Allmendinger, will likely be one of the top picks, but Buescher could be a nice pivot. He starts 25th, so the differential upside is there. He also has four straight finishes of 17th or better at the plate tracks, gaining at least 11 spots in all four races in that span.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,200)
He has been a little boom or bust at the plate tracks, but DiBenedetto has three Top 20s in his last five starts and will roll off outside the Top 30. He's got enough potential in the differential category to take a chance on this weekend.
Gray Gaulding ($5,100)
The sample size is small, but Gaulding has been a DFS gem at the plate tracks. In three starts, he has three Top 20s finishes, and he has gained an average of 20.4 spots per race in that span. He rolls of 37th, so Gaulding has nothing but upside in the differential category.
Brendan Gaughan ($4,900)
Gaughan only runs the plate tracks these days, but he makes an impact when he does show up. He has finished in the Top 20 in three of his last five plate events since 2017, gaining an average of 14.4 spots per race. Starting 30th, he is once again positioned to exploit the place differential category.
Cole Whitt ($4,800)
You add the risk of an equipment issue when you take someone from a small team like Whitt, but he starts back in 36th and has four Top 20s in seven career plate starts. Whitt also has an average place differential of +10.7 in those seven starts, so he is more than capable of taking advantage of his differential upside.