Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
Building a winning NASCAR DFS lineup at DraftKings is never easy, but this weekend's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is going to be one of the most challenging.
As one of two restrictor-plate tracks on the schedule, races at Talladega are typically crash-filled and unpredictable. Picking six drivers who can survive to the finish is hard enough, let alone picking six drivers who survive and post solid point totals.
One thing we do know is that the scoring category to focus on this weekend is place differential. The pack racing at plate tracks like Talladega makes the fastest laps run category useless, and the value of the laps led category is also reduced thanks to the smaller number of laps and the frequent lead changes.
Pack racing also makes it easy for drivers at the back of the field to move from the front. In fact, half of the Top 10 finishers at Talladega started outside the Top 20, and three of the Top 5 finishers at Daytona in February started outside the Top 30.
Not only do drivers starting at the back of the pack have the most upside in the place differential category, but they are also the safest picks. Big wrecks are the norm at plate tracks, and there have been plenty of races at Talladega that less than half the field makes it to the finish.
If you pick a bunch of drivers starting up front, you are probably going to miss out on most of the top scorers. You are also likely to have a couple of drivers who wreck and end up finishing with negative scores.
With that in mind, all cash game lineups need to be built around drivers starting in the back half of the field, preferably drivers starting outside the Top 25. Feel free to mix in one driver starting up front or a couple of mid-pack qualifiers n GPPs, but all of your lineups should include sizeable upside in the place differential category.
To help you try to navigate of NASCAR's most chaotic tracks, here is a closer look at my top cash and GPP plays for the GEICO 500 at Talladega.
Top Cash Game Plays
Jimmie Johnson ($9,700)
Johnson should probably be owned in all cash games this weekend. Among the drivers who are serious threats to win, Johnson is starting the furthest back in the field. He qualified 30th, giving him massive upside through place differential and a great chance to be the top scorer this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,400)
To be clear, I will not be using Junior in any of my cash game lineups. However, I think his popularity and his second-place starting spot will result in a high ownership for the six-time Talladega winner. He is one of the few drivers who is capable of dominating plate races, and he has led more than 25 laps in five of his last six races at Talladega. If you are looking to go after some points in the laps led category, Junior is the only driver starting up front that I think you can use in cash games.
Kyle Larson ($9,000)
There weren't many big names that qualified outside the Top 20 this weekend, but Larson was one of them. He flirted with the win at Daytona, and he now has four finishes of 12th or better in his five plate races. Larson could easily contend for the win Sunday, and he has room to pad his point total with place differential.
Jamie McMurray ($7,600)
He has a boom-or-bust record at the plate tracks, but with four wins under his belt, he has plenty of upside, especially from his 23rd-place starting spot. Starting in the back half of the field, it makes it an easy decision to take a chance on one of the most accomplished plate racers in the series today.
A.J. Allmendinger ($6,800)
Allmendinger will always be known for his road racing prowess, but he has been getting the job done at plate tracks recently, as well. He has four straight Top 15s in restrictor-plate events, gaining 13-plus spots each time. Allmendinger rolls off 27th Sunday, so he will log another strong point total if his Top 15 streak continues.
Elliott Sadler ($6,700)
His Cup starts are limited to the plate tracks these days, but it would be a big mistake to ignore Sadler this weekend. He has a solid resume at the plate tracks in his career, and he gained 20 spots and finished in the Top 20 at Daytona back in February. He is in position for a repeat performance after qualifying 35th.
Ty Dillon ($6,600)
Starting position means everything for a driver's value this weekend, and with Dillon rolling off 28th, he has plenty to gain through the place differential category and a safe floor in case he does end up getting swept up in a wreck.
Chris Buescher ($6,500)
His resume at plate tracks is brief and unimpressive, but starting 34th, he has the upside through place differential that you look for at plate tracks. If he can simply avoid the wrecks, he is likely to gain 15-plus spots and deliver a solid score. His ceiling only goes up from there.
Cole Whitt ($5,200)
Whitt could be way more than a source of cap relief this weekend. He starts way back in 38th, but in his last five starts at Talladega, he has compiled a 17.8 average finish while gaining an average of 15.0 spots per race. He has a ton of upside in the place differential category, and he has shown he can take advantage of it at Talladega.
Top Tournament Plays
Brad Keselowski ($10,500)
Keselowski has been a force at the plate tracks recently, so he is worth taking a chance on despite his third-place starting spot. He is a four-time winner at Talladega, and he has led a combined 136 laps in his last two starts at the track. He is going to ruin your lineup if he wrecks, but his upside in the laps led category makes up for his lack of upside through place differential.
Kevin Harvick ($9,300)
It's not a bad idea to go after the laps led category with at least one driver if you are trying to win a large GPP, and Harvick is one of the best options. He led a race-high 50 laps at Daytona in February, and he has seven straight Top 15s at Talladega. Starting sixth, I could see Harvick dominating the early stages of Sunday's race, much like he did in the Daytona 500.
Ryan Blaney ($8,700)
I wish Blaney were starting deeper in the field, but on the plus side, qualifying in 16th should limit his ownership. Meanwhile, Blaney has three finishes off 11th or better in his last five starts at Talladega, and he has an absolute rocket at Daytona in February. I think he will have a car capable of winning Sunday, and I think he could be a GPP X-factor.
Clint Bowyer ($8,200)
Qualifying 17th should drive down his ownership numbers, but Bowyer is one of the better drivers at the plate tracks. He is a two-time winner at Talladega, and he has a series-leading 12.6 average finish over the last ten races here. He also has five Top 10s in his last seven races at the track.
Austin Dillon ($7,700)
Starting in the top half of the field should keep Dillon's ownership numbers in check, but he has scored the third-most driver points at plate tracks since 2015, and he has back-to-back Top 10s at Talladega. If he has another solid finish Sunday, he could push your lineup to the top of the pack.
Danica Patrick ($6,300)
It's been a rough year for Patrick, and although she has never had any success at Talladega, she has delivered a couple of solid finishes at Talladega. After qualifying in 31st, she only needs to stay out of trouble to end up posting a decent score. Meanwhile, her lack of production could keep her ownership reasonable despite the upside she has through place differential.
David Ragan ($6,000)
He's been mired in a slump at the plate tracks, but don't forget that Ragan is a former winner at both Daytona and Talladega at the Cup level. Starting back in 29th, he could end up posting a huge score if he can recapture the magic he once had and contend for another restrictor-plate win.
Drivers to Fade
Daniel Suarez ($7,800)
As I said in the introduction, I'm fading every driver starting in the Top 15 except the few I named as potential GPP picks. However, Suarez stands out as one of the worst mid-priced plays. He qualified seventh, so even if he survives the chaos and comes away with a decent finish, he isn't going to add anything to his score through the place differential category.
Paul Menard ($7,300)
Menard has an excellent record at Talladega, but after he had qualified ninth, he erased all of his fantasy upside. He starts ninth, but even if he finishes in the Top 10, there are going to be other drivers starting deeper in the field that move forward and post much bigger scores. The risk is too high when he has almost no chance of finishing among the top scorers.
My Favorite DraftKings Cash Game Lineup
- Jimmie Johnson ($9,700)
- A.J. Allmendinger ($6,800)
- Elliott Sadler (6,700)
- Ty Dillon ($6,600)
- Chris Buescher ($6,500)
- Cole Whitt ($5,200)
Checkers-or-Wreckers GPP Lineup
- Brad Keselowski ($10,500)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,400)
- Ryan Blaney ($8,700)
- Clint Bowyer ($8,200)
- David Ragan ($6,000)
- Brendan Gaughan ($5,600)