Talladega Superspeedway… you probably either love it or hate it. It’s our second superspeedway race of the season, and the NASCAR fans are up in arms again about the teams not being able to practice with the new package that NASCAR is using this week. It’s designed to limit how big of a run cars can get on each other, but like many drivers are saying, it’s probably not going to make a huge amount of difference. You should still expect the same Talladega.

If you need the starting lineup for Sunday’s GEICO 500, click here to see it. The Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin are on the front row for this race.

DraftKings Strategy for Talladega

Big One at Daytona 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Strategy, strategy, strategy.

Here’s the thing about Talladega: it’s completely unpredictable. There are some Fantasy NASCAR leagues that I’m in where I literally pick names out of a hat, and those drivers end up being my picks. That’s not the case with DraftKings though…well, mostly, since it is kind of fun to make a few lineups like that. But, at the end of the day, success in races at Talladega and Daytona comes down to one thing: lineup strategy.

The picture above is a great representation of how easily your DraftKings lineup can go from good to bad. These cars are going 200 mph within inches of each other, and one screw up can take out half the field within a couple of seconds. In other words, it’s not the best idea to pick the fastest cars. Yep, I said what I said. Now let me explain.

Dominator points do not matter much in DraftKings this week. Fastest laps are so spread out that there are only four drivers that average five or more fastest laps per race at Talladega over the last eight races: Ryan Newman (6.1), Clint Bowyer (6.0), Daniel Suarez (5.2), and Kurt Busch (5.0). There’s only 188 laps scheduled for Sunday, too, so laps led FPTS aren’t something to focus on a lot either. Especially since the fastest cars are all starting up front, and will probably lead the most laps. Even so, I won’t be picking them. Why?

Place differential. It means everything in DraftKings this weekend. You could give me the choice of the greatest superspeedway racer in history starting on the pole vs. the most over-rated, slightly talented driver starting 40th, and you know who I’d pick? To put it in actual racer examples, I’d choose Daniel Suarez over Dale Earnhardt ten out of ten times.

Look at it this way: let’s say you’re looking for at least 50 FPTS from a driver, and you’re deciding between one in each “tier” of starting position. The guy starting 35th needs to finish 14th to earn that many points. The guy starting 25th needs to finish 9th. The guy starting 15th needs to finish 4th. And anyone starting inside the top 5 needs to win and also get dominator points.

See why place differential is so important this week?

Here’s the general DraftKings rule of thumb I use for races at Talladega when building a lineup: sparingly use drivers starting inside the top 10. Pick one or two guys starting between 11th and 20th. Pick two, maybe three guys starting 21st through 30th. And fill in the rest of the lineup with guys starting 31st or worse.

Now, you may be wondering, if place differential is so important, why not just pick the six drivers starting at the rear of the field? Well, it’s because not all of those guys are going to get to the front. Remember, because the starting lineup was set by owner’s points, the fastest cars are technically starting up front. By using this strategy, you’re betting that they won’t finish up there. You’re literally deciding to go with the slower cars and hoping for some mayhem. A clean race will wipe this strategy’s effectiveness away completely. But how often do we have a clean race at Talladega? Exactly. That’s why this strategy works about twice as often as it doesn’t.

Also, don’t forget that it’s perfectly okay to have plenty of cap space leftover. It’s not very likely that the optimal lineup on Sunday will use all $50,000, or even close to that amount.

GPP / Tournament Plays I Love for the GEICO 500

Ryan Blaney Pocono Fantasy NASCAR 2018 DraftKings FanDuel
Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Before we get into my favorite tournament plays on Sunday, just know that nobody starting 26th or worse is going to make it on this list. To me, those drivers are self-explanatory and deserve high exposure with your lineups already. Instead, I’ll be focusing on some drivers that start further up and have a shot at winning / finishing inside the top 5, which would probably put them in the optimal lineup.

Joey Logano ($10,200) – If anyone starting inside the top 10 is going to make his way into my lineups on Sunday, it’ll be Joey Logano. Ford has won eight of the last nine races at Talladega, and three of those were by Logano. Additionally, Joey has four top 5 finishes in the last five races here, and he’s led 192 total laps over those five races as well–just under an average of 40 laps per race. Logano may seem like a no-brainer fantasy pick this weekend, but I feel like more people will gravitate to Chase Elliott ($10,400) and Ryan Blaney ($10,100) since they start a little further back, in 11th and 12th. For the record, though, I think both of those guys have a good chance at being in the optimal lineup on Sunday, and actually wouldn’t mind throwing two of these three into the same lineup (although not too often).

Matt DiBenedetto ($7,800) – What Matt DiBenedetto needs on the superspeedways is just a little bit of luck. Looking at the “Closers” statistic, DiBenedetto ranks as one of the worst at Talladega, with an average of six spots lost–which is 2nd-worst only to Daniel Suarez’s 6.3 spots lost. In other words, DiBenedetto is really strong for most of the race and then just falls apart at the end. No wonder his career-best finish at Talladega is 18th. That can easily change this weekend, though. Don’t forget: DiBenedetto is racing a quasi-Penske car now, and that organization has been the best at Talladega for the last 5 years. He starts 23rd, which is decent, and I really like DiBenedetto as a pivot off of Brendan Gaughan ($7,600), probably the biggest chalk play on Sunday. Or you can roster them both because Gaughan should be solid.

Tyler Reddick ($6,900) – Give me Tyler Reddick as a pivot off of Aric Almirola ($6,800) and Ryan Newman ($6,700). With no practice, a large percentage of DraftKings players are hyper-focusing on track history, and Almirola and Newman have been awesome at Talladega lately; Almirola is currently on a seven-race streak of single-digit finishers here (including a win in 2018) while Newman has four finishes of 9th or better in the last five races here. Tyler Reddick starts right behind those two (in 16th) on Sunday and even though he ended up finishing 28th in this year’s Daytona 500, he did have strong green flag speed in that race (he ranked 7th-fastest). For what it’s worth, Reddick won here at Talladega in the Xfinity Series last year.

Corey LaJoie ($6,500) – Of course I’m going to be high on Corey LaJoie this weekend–he’s been beefing with that coward Denny Hamlin for like two weeks now. Anybody who does that automatically gets on my good side. But, for real, Corey LaJoie is a solid superspeedway racer, and he actually scored the most DraftKings points at this track type in 2019, which made him the MVP (click here to see that). This Sunday, LaJoie starts in 25th, which is high enough that his ownership percentage shouldn’t be too high, but he can pull off another top 10 finish, he’s going to be a great play in DraftKings. He finished 8th in the Daytona 500 this year and wound up 7th and 11th in the two Talladega races in 2019.

Talladega DraftKings Projections

The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems. Also included are projected laps led for each driver. This doesn’t take into account fastest laps. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.

DriverStarting PositionDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedDollar Per FPT
Joey Logano9$10,20052.504.630$194
Chase Elliott11$10,40047.105.613$221
Ryan Blaney12$10,10046.308.222$218
William Byron19$8,00043.910.25$182
Christopher Bell35$9,70043.417.80$224
Brad Keselowski6$9,60041.906.618$229
Kurt Busch7$8,50041.306.09$206
Ty Dillon33$7,10040.218.40$177
Ricky Stenhouse Jr20$8,40039.414.215$213
Aric Almirola15$6,80037.611.24$181
Austin Dillon17$5,80037.312.01$156
Denny Hamlin2$9,20036.808.831$250
Daniel Suarez37$7,30034.623.20$211
John H. Nemechek22$5,50033.616.20$164
Corey Lajoie25$6,50033.018.00$197
Brendan Gaughan39$7,60032.225.40$236
Tyler Reddick16$6,90032.114.22$215
Ryan Preece31$6,20031.421.80$197
Cole Custer28$6,00031.220.40$192
Ryan Newman14$6,70030.413.80$220
Alex Bowman8$8,20030.211.87$272
Kyle Busch3$9,30029.409.88$316
Matt DiBenedetto23$7,80027.420.23$285
Jimmie Johnson4$8,80027.011.23$327
Clint Bowyer10$9,90026.014.43$382
JJ Yeley34$4,80025.226.40$190
Bubba Wallace24$7,40024.122.22$307
Erik Jones18$7,00023.619.20$297
Garrett Smithley40$5,10022.830.60$224
Gray Gaulding29$4,50021.425.80$210
Quin Houff32$4,70020.028.00$235
Joey Gase36$4,90019.630.20$250
Martin Truex Jr1$9,00019.014.411$475
Chris Buescher21$5,60018.223.40$308
Kevin Harvick5$9,40018.115.61$521
Michael McDowell26$6,30018.026.00$350
Matt Kenseth13$8,70016.220.40$537
Timmy Hill38$5,30015.233.40$349
Brennan Poole27$5,20015.028.00$347
BJ McLeod30$4,60014.829.60$311
As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.