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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.
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.
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.