In case you missed the announcement this week, Fanduel has decided to throw its hat in the NASCAR DFS game, starting with this weekend's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Compared to DraftKings, Fanduel's scoring system is a little simpler and has some critical differences. The dominator points are significantly less valuable. The fastest lap category is not included, and there will be just 0.1 point being awarded per lap led. On the flip side, drivers will receive 0.1 point per lap completed, so picking drivers that are still running at the finish will be important. Place differential is also included, and drivers will receive +/- 0.5 point per position gained/lost.
Overall, I think the scoring system will require you to assemble a more balanced lineup in order to be successful since finishing position and running at the finish will be more valuable. A driver can lead 100 laps but will only score the same amount of bonus points as a driver who gains 20 spots. There isn't the same urgency to roster multiple dominators, and risky punt plays have become even riskier because of the points being awarded for laps completed.
I like the differences in the scoring system, and I think it will be interesting to see the variations in lineup construction. My only grip is Fanduel's decision not to include stage points in the scoring. I think back to last weekend's race at Richmond where a rash of cautions and restarts in the closing laps jumbled up the running order and allowed mediocre cars to make up multiple laps and steal decent finishes.
I always like being rewarded for identifying the drivers with the best cars, rather than being rewarded for being lucky. The lack of dominator points and the lack of stage points is going to cause a lot of contests to be decided by how many cautions fly in the final laps.
Of course, the nuances of the scoring system won't really be seen this weekend at Talladega anyway. The stack the back strategy that is successful at DraftKings will also be the best strategy at Fanduel. When you build your lineups, make sure you have as much upside in the differential category as possible. The winning lineups are going to have five drivers who start in the back that end up running all of the laps and finishing near the front.
Check out all of my top DFS plays at Fanduel for Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega.
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Ryan Blaney ($10,200)
Team Penske seems to have the best plate program right now, but while Blaney's teammates are both starting in the Top 10, he starts back in 23rd. Blaney led a race-high 118 laps in the Daytona 500 and should have a strong car again Sunday. More importantly, he has favorable situation with place differential.
Aric Almirola ($8,800)
Almirola has been rolling at the plate tracks, ripping of six straight Top 15s and finishing in the Top 5 in three of the last four. He also owns a series-best 11.3 average finish over the last 10 plate races. Starting dead last after an issue in qualifying, he is positioned to be the one of the top scorers this weekend.
A.J. Allmendinger ($6,600)
Allmendinger has developed into one of the most dependable options at the plate tracks, notching six Top 15s his last eight starts. He also starts back in 28th, so in addition to having a decent history of finishing all the laps, he also has the place differential category working in his favor.
Kyle Busch ($11,600)
Busch is one of the few big names starting toward the middle of the pack, so he is sure to attract plenty of attention. He is also a safe bet to lead a few laps and have a car capable of winning. The bottom line is that Busch is one of the safest ways to have some exposure to an elite driver this weekend.
Jamie McMurray ($10,100)
Although he never seems to get the credit, McMurray is actually one of the most accomplished plate drivers in the series today. His four plate wins rank third among active drivers, and he has back-to-back Top 5s at Talladega. Starting 27th, he has the place differential category to boost his score.
Austin Dillon ($9,300)
Even before his Daytona 500 win this year, Dillon had a solid resume at the plate tracks. In 19 career starts, he has amassed nine Top 10s and 12 Top 15s. He will start 24th, so he is positioned well with the differential category. Meanwhile, his history of success at plate tracks bodes well for his chances of earning points for laps completed.
Ty Dillon ($6,700)
He's been up and down in his six Cup starts at the plate tracks, but he has back-to-back Top 15s at Talladega and three finishes of 16th or better in his last four. Most importantly, he starts back in 29th, giving him a safe floor if he wrecks and plenty of upside if he has another solid run.
Ryan Newman ($9,500)
Newman will start 18th, and while that is not as deep in the field as I would like, it still gives him some differential upside. He also has three straight Top 10s at the plate tracks, so he looks like a decent bet to pile up some laps completed points. He's worth the gamble in GPPs.
Paul Menard ($9,100)
His 13th-place qualifying effort puts him in the danger zone in terms of differential, but no driver has been more reliable at the plate tracks over the last six races. He has an 8.0 average finish in that span, and his ability to be running at the finish is going to pays dividends in this scoring system. His starting spot should limit his ownership, making Menard a potential difference maker for GPPs.
Chris Buescher ($5,600)
Buescher hasn't been in the Cup Series that long, but he's on a nice roll at the plate tracks. He has four straight finishes of 17th or better at the plate tracks, gaining at least 11 spots in all four races in that span. He will roll off 25th today, and he could be an overlooked, low-priced gem.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,000)
Drivers from smaller teams are going to be riskier in this format because of the increased chance of equipment issues, but everyone is at risk at a plate track. DiBenedetto starts outside the Top 30, and he's been able to pick up some Top 20s at the plate tracks the last couple of years.
Gray Gaulding ($5,000)
Gaulding is an afterthought most weeks, but plate tracks are game changers and he three Top 20s in three career starts. He also starts 37th, so he has nothing but upside in the differential category.