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DraftKings NASCAR: GEICO 500

C.J. Radune

Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the 2015 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

GEICO 500

Location: Talladega, Ala.
Course: Talladega Superspeedway
Format: 2.6-mile trioval
Laps: 188

Race Preview

Sunday afternoon at Richmond International Raceway produced another race where the first stages were dramatically different than the finish. Matt Kenseth started the day on pole and led every lap of the first segment in what looked to be the day Joe Gibbs Racing finally opened their wins account for 2017. That promise turned out not to be as he succumbed to the Fords of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. The teammates picked up the baton and dominated the second half of the event. Joey Logano came out on top, but his win will not earn him a spot in the playoffs due to post-race inspection finding an illegal suspension. His crew chief will also be suspended for the infraction. However, the evolution we saw at in Richmond is now a regular trend under NASCAR's new stage format. The difference between being fast early versus at the finish has largely been down to strategy and continuous chassis work on stops. This week will be the second race under the new stage format on a superspeedway. Kurt Busch won the first version, the Daytona 500, in what proved to be a good advertisement for what we can expect from the new stage-racing format.

Key Stats at Talladega Superspeedway

Number of previous races: 95
Winners from pole: 13
Winners from top-5 starters: 53
Winners from top-10 starters: 67
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 8
Fastest race: 188.354 mph

Last 10 Talladega Winners

2016 fall - Joey Logano
2016 spring - Brad Keselowski
2015 fall - Joey Logano
2015 spring - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2014 fall - Brad Keselowski
2014 spring - Denny Hamlin
2013 fall - Jamie McMurray
2013 spring - David Ragan
2012 fall - Matt Kenseth
2012 spring - Brad Keselowski

Qualifying and track position are not the major determinants of success at Talladega, which gives fantasy players in this format a lot of opportunity to grab drivers qualified at the back of the field without worry of them not working their way forward. Raw power and sleekness in the draft make the difference at this track. Key to fighting for the victory will be avoiding the mistakes of others throughout the long afternoon. Talladega’s high speeds and close racing means little margin for error and can easily catch innocent bystanders in nearby accidents. Kurt Busch leveraged the draft perfectly in February to claim his first superspeedway win, and others will look to emulate that this week. Ford machines took three of the top five finishing positions in that race, which kicked off the brand’s strong start to the season. The highest-placed Toyota came home 13th. Those teams now know what challenges they need to overcome and have been working hard to make sure there is no repeat of what we experienced at Daytona this weekend.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Joey Logano - $10,700
Brad Keselowski - $10,500
Denny Hamlin - $10,200

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Jimmie Johnson - $9,700
Kyle Busch - $9,600
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $9,400
Chase Elliott - $9,200

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Ryan Blaney - $8,700
Erik Jones - $8,500
Kurt Busch - $8,000
Austin Dillon - $7,700

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $7,200
Aric Almirola - $7,000
Elliott Sadler - $6,700
Chris Buescher - $6,500
David Ragan - $6,000

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $9,400
Kevin Harvick - $9,300
Chase Elliott - $9,200
Clint Bowyer - $8,200
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $7,200
Elliott Sadler - $6,700

It might be an odd decision to have Earnhardt lead the lower-risk lineup for Talladega. He’s normally a favorite at the track but has struggled to obtain results so far this season. With Ford as strong as they were at Daytona, having him as your lead driver is a bit of a risk, but is one well worth taking. Harvick has one Talladega win, and has been moving up the point standings with three consecutive top-five finishes. Third is Elliott. He has been excellent in two Talladega Cup starts, finishing fifth and 12th. This could be the week he gets that maiden victory. Having been in inferior equipment at this track last season Bowyer still managed to finish seventh and 18th, which makes him a contender for a top run with a much better team and car than 2016. We all know how Stenhouse has been outperforming expectations, but he has also been very good at this track. With Roush Fenway Racing’s improvement in the offseason he should be capable of grabbing a top finish this week. Finally, part-time driver Sadler is the most experienced and successful bargain on the board. He led five laps at Daytona after starting last, and is an excellent roster choice at this track as well.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Brad Keselowski - $10,500
Ryan Blaney - $8,700
Kurt Busch - $8,000
Austin Dillon - $7,700
Ryan Newman - $7,400
Trevor Bayne - $7,100

Ford is expected to be a favorite at Talladega based on their power advantage, and the higher-risk lineup puts many eggs into one basket. Keselowski should be difficult to beat this week, as he usually is at this track, and his past Talladega success should see him holding station at the sharp end of the field Sunday. Backing him up is Blaney. Blaney finished second in the Daytona 500 and has two top-10 finishes in two visits to Talladega. The driver Blaney finished second to in February is this roster’s third selection. Busch may have struggled a bit since that win, but a return to the superspeedway should give him the opportunity to race at the front again. Over time Dillon has proven himself to be entirely competent racing in the draft. He just needs to finish without encountering trouble more frequently. He finished third and ninth here last season. Newman has been a bit inconsistent on restrictor-plate tracks, but Richard Childress has a better package this season and despite a poor showing at Daytona the speed was there and should be again this week. Bayne makes a serious case to be included in this week’s lineup with four consecutive finishes in the top 15 heading into Talladega alongside an impressive 10th-place run in Daytona. Roush is clawing back and Bayne could add a season-high finish this week at a track he finished 10th at last season with 22 laps led.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.