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NASCAR DFS: GEICO 500 Post-Qualifying

Following the qualifying round at the Talladega Superspeedway, Fantasy NASCAR Expert Brian Polking points out who to target on DraftKings for the GEICO 500!

GEICO 500

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It was a bit of different schedule for the Monster Energy Cup Series this weekend, but qualifying is finally finished, and the starting lineup is set for Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

With a lap of 191.547 mph in the final round of qualifying Ricky Stenhouse Jr. claimed the pole for the race. He will be joined on the front row by Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, and Trevor Bayne rounded out the Top 5.

Normally, many of the drivers starting up front are the most appealing DFS options, but Talladega isn't a normal track. It's all about the place differential category at Talladega, and thanks to the restrictor plates keeping the field bunched together and often created big, multi-car wrecks, the drivers starting in the back are the most effective plays while the drivers starting up front are incredibly risky options.

The running order will constantly be changing Sunday, and almost every position on the track will change multiple times per lap. It is common for drivers to gain 20-plus spots from where they start and to lose 20-plus spots. The last time the series visited Talladega, five drivers who finished in the Top 10 started outside the Top 20. On the flip side, the two drivers who started on the front row ended up finishing 40th and 38th.

Building DFS lineups that are focused on the place differential category is the most effective and safest approach at Talladega, and any driver starting deep in the field this weekend is worth considering.

Now that the starting lineup is set, check out a closer look at my favorite DFS NASCAR plays for the GEICO 500 at Talladega.

High-Priced Drivers

Brad Keselowski ($10,500)

He has a strong case for being considered the best plate racer in the series right now, and four of his five restrictor-plate wins have come at Talladega. Keselowski led 46 laps and won here last spring, and he led 90 more laps last fall before blowing an engine while leading. Starting third, he is a high-risk, high-reward play best suited for GPPs, but he has shown the ability to dominate plate races.

Jimmie Johnson ($9,700)

Johnson is the only big name starting deep in the field after qualifying 30th, and he will probably be the most popular play this weekend. Yes, he can be boom or bust at the plate tracks, but he is also a proven winner. Johnson could easily be the biggest mover and the top scorer at DraftKings.

© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,400)

There is a serious risk of picking a driver starting on the front row, but throughout his career, Junior has been one of the few drivers who can dominate a plate race from start to finish. He is a six-time Talladega winner, and he has led 25-plus in five of his last six starts at the track, leading 60-plus in two of his last three. In case he delivers a vintage performance this weekend, you will want him in a few GPP lineups.

Kevin Harvick ($9,300)

You have to be careful about picking drivers starting near the front of the field, but Harvick is one driver you may want to make an exception for, particularly in GPPs. He starts sixth, and he had one of the best cars at Daytona in February, leading a race-high 50 laps. He also has seven straight Top 15s at Talladega, so he has been one of the most reliable drivers at the track.

Kyle Larson ($9,000)

After qualifying 21st, Larson is one of the few big names starting in the back half of the field this weekend. He flirted with a win at Daytona to open the year, and he has four finishes of 12th or better in his last five plate races. Larson has plenty of upside through place differential and one of the safest floors among the high-priced plays.

Value Plays

Jamie McMurray (7,600)

He has always been an all-or-nothing option at the restrictor-plate tracks, but with four plate wins under his belt, McMurray's upside speaks for itself. More importantly, he starts 23rd, so he will pad his point total through the place differential category if he has one of his strong runs this weekend.

A.J. Allmendinger ($6,800)

Allmendinger has quietly become quite the restrictor-plate racer. He has four straight Top 15 finishes, gaining at least 13 spots in each race. He's gained 14 and 22 spots, respectively, in his last two starts at Talladega, and after qualifying 27th, he is in a position to continue his recent string of solid scores at the plate tracks.

Elliott Sadler ($6,700)

He was a surprise fantasy force in the Daytona 500, starting dead last but finishing in the Top 20. Sadler will roll off 35th this weekend, so another charge through the field and solid point total is a definite possibility. Take advantage of him as he makes his second Cup start of the year.

Ty Dillon ($6,600)

He has found trouble in both of his restrictor-plate starts at the Cup level, but he has too much upside to ignore after qualifying 28th. His team has an alliance with Richard Childress Racing, and RCR produces some of the best plate cars in the business. His starting spot has him in a position to exploit the all-important place differential category.

Chris Buescher ($6,500)

Buescher hasn't had much success at the plate tracks yet, but starting 34th, he has the safe floor and high upside in the place differential category that you look for when building a DFS lineup for a plate race. You will want a decent amount of exposure to him this weekend.

© Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Sleeper Specials

Brendan Gaughan ($5,600)

He is making just his second Cup start of the season, but Gaughan showed at Daytona just how valuable he can be to fantasy owners. He started 39th and finished 11th in the season opener, and after qualifying 32nd for Sunday's race, he has similar upside through the place differential category this weekend.

Cole Whitt ($5,200)

Whitt has been able to take advantage of the place differential category at Talladega in recent years, and after qualifying 38th, he is in perfect position to do it again Sunday. In his last five starts at the track, he has a 17.8 average finish and an average place differential of +15. I'll have Whitt in a majority of my lineups this weekend, and I consider him a must-own option in cash games.

2017 GEICO 500 Starting Lineup

Pos.

No.

Driver

Sponsor

Make

1

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Fifth Third Bank

Ford

2

88

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Nationwide

Chevrolet

3

2

Brad Keselowski

Fitzgerald Glider Kits

Ford

4

20

Matt Kenseth

Circle K

Toyota

5

6

Trevor Bayne

AdvoCare

Ford

6

4

Kevin Harvick

Jimmy John's

Ford

7

19

Daniel Suarez

ARRIS

Toyota

8

24

Chase Elliott

Hooters

Chevrolet

9

27

Paul Menard

Valvoline/Menards

Chevrolet

10

18

Kyle Busch

Skittles Red, White, & Blue

Toyota

11

11

Denny Hamlin

FedEx Express

Toyota

12

22

Joey Logano

Shell-Pennzoil

Ford

13

78

Martin Truex Jr.

Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats

Toyota

14

77

Erik Jones

ToyotaCare

Toyota

15

41

Kurt Busch

Haas Automation/Monster Energy

Ford

16

21

Ryan Blaney

Motorcraft/Quick Lane

Ford

17

14

Clint Bowyer

Haas Automation Demo Days

Ford

18

3

Austin Dillon

Dow Intellifresh

Chevrolet

19

5

Kasey Kahne

UniFirst

Chevrolet

20

31

Ryan Newman

Caterpillar

Chevrolet

21

42

Kyle Larson

Share an Ice Cold Coke

Chevrolet

22

43

Aric Almirola

Fresh from Florida

Ford

23

1

Jamie McMurray

McDonald's $1 Any Size Soft Drink

Chevrolet

24

95

Michael McDowell

Winn-Dixie

Chevrolet

25

34

Landon Cassill

Love's Travel Stops

Ford

26

32

Matt DiBenedetto

EJ Wade Construction

Ford

27

47

AJ Allmendinger

Kroger Click List

Chevrolet

28

13

Ty Dillon

GEICO

Chevrolet

29

38

David Ragan

Camping World/Good Sam

Ford

30

48

Jimmie Johnson

Lowe's

Chevrolet

31

10

Danica Patrick

Aspen Dental

Ford

32

75

Brendan Gaughan

Beard Oil Distributing

Chevrolet

33

55

Reed Sorenson

Xchange of America

Toyota

34

37

Chris Buescher

Velvetta

Chevrolet

35

7

Elliott Sadler

Golden Corral

Chevrolet

36

83

Corey LaJoie

Dustless Blasting

Toyota

37

23

Gray Gaulding

SunFrog.com

Toyota

38

72

Cole Whitt

RTIC Coolers

Chevrolet

39

15

Joey Gase

Sparks Energy

Chevrolet

40

33

Jeffrey Earnhardt

Circle Sport/The Motorsports Group

Chevrolet

FTQ

96

D.J. Kennington

Triad CNC

Toyota


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