Daily Fantasy NASCAR: GEICO 500 Driver Preview
Two of the biggest pillars of driver selection in daily fantasy NASCAR are track history and current form. Knowing where drivers sit on both of those spectrums is going to make our lineups look a whole lot nicer at the end of the race.
By looking at which drivers have excelled at this week's track in the past and those who are currently racing well, we can know which drivers are in line to be good plays for the slate. That's what we're going to try to do today, dividing drivers into those two buckets with noteworthy track history or current form.
Clearly, this isn't to say that all of these drivers will be great plays in this race. A lot of that will be dictated by where they start and the scoring history at that track. To read more about what strategies we need to deploy based on starting position, check out our track preview.
Later in the week, once qualifying is in the books, we'll go through the top plays for the race based on all of these factors. But which drivers should we be keying on for the time being?
Here are drivers we should be keeping an eye on for the GEICO 500 at Talladega.
Brad Keselowski (FanDuel Price: $12,100): Because Talladega is a high-variance track, it's hard to be a truly dominant driver here. But Brad Keselowski won here in spectacular fashion in his very first crack, and he has been slaying ever since.
Keselowski has 5 career wins at Talladega in 18 total races. That includes two of the past four races and three of the past seven. The dude knows how to win here. The current form is on point, too, with a top-10 average running position at four of the past five races, so Keselowski's a driver you can potentially target in tournaments regardless of starting position.
Joey Logano ($12,000): When Keselowski hasn't won at Talladega recently, it has often been his teammate, Joey Logano, taking the checkered flag, instead. Logano's has been even more prevalent recently.
Logano has won two of the last five races here, and he was fourth at last fall's running. In the two other races, even though Logano finished 25th and 32nd, his average running positions were 10th and 10th, respectively. He runs near the front, and he could serve as a good pivot if ownership gravitates heavily toward Keselowski.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($10,800): Ricky Stenhouse Jr. entered the 2017 season without a single win in his Cup career. He flipped that script in a hurry, winning both here in Talladega and at Daytona in July, capturing half of the series' four restrictor-plate races for the season.
Stenhouse performed well here even before the victory, though. He has 5 top-10 finishes in 9 starts, including a 5th-place finish in the fall 2016 race. Despite crashing in the 2017 fall race, Stenhouse still had an average running position of 13th. His price is up due to his track history, but he's likely worth the bill, assuming he starts in a favorable position.
Chase Elliott ($10,600): In Chase Elliott's four Cup Series races at Talladega, he has finished 5th, 12th, 30th, and 16th. That's not exactly a sparkling record. So, why are we talking about him in this section?
It turns out that finishing positions aren't everything. Elliott crashed in both events here last year, but his average running positions were 14th and 8th, respectively. No driver had a better average running position than Elliott in last fall's race as he was in the top 15 for 87.8% of the laps. The wreck occurred while he was trying to take the lead with six laps left.
Elliott won't get as much buzz as the others for his track history, but he has run at the front here throughout his Cup career. Don't be surprised if he does so again on Sunday.
Aric Almirola ($8,800): Aric Almirola almost won the first restrictor-plate race this year, but a last-lap crash dashed his Daytona 500 dreams. With Almirola's record at these tracks, he could get another crack at a win this weekend.
Almirola has rattled off 3 straight top-10 finishes at Talladega, including a top-5 finish in both of the 2017 runnings. That's not to mention that his only career victory came at Daytona, and coupling that with his strong showing in February, it's clear this guy can wheel at superspeedways.
Additionally, Almirola's equipment is better than what he has had in the past now that he's driving for Stewart Haas Racing. His average finish this year is 13.6, up from 18.8 with Richard Petty Motorsports last year. In his first race at Talladega with his new team, Almirola's a major bargain at $8,800.
Trevor Bayne ($7,000): Trevor Bayne received some tough news this week that he'd be shifting to a part-time role starting next month, allowing Matt Kenseth to return to Roush Fenway Racing. But Bayne still deserves to be on our radar based on what he can do at superspeedways.
Bayne finshed third at this race last fall. He was 37th in the spring, but that was with a 13th-place average running position. He has finished 17th or better in 3 of the last 4 Talladega races, which we'll take at his price. Bayne's current form leaves plenty to be desired, but he was 13th at Daytona, meaning he's running well enough to be on our radar if he starts near the back.
Kyle Busch ($11,600): Kyle Busch easily could have been mentioned in the section above, thanks to six top-5 finishes at Talladega, including two in the past four races. But nobody can top his current form.
Busch has won three consecutive races, and he has been in the top three in seven straight. It doesn't get any better than that.
What makes this noteworthy for Busch is that it spans all types of tracks. His average running position at Fontana -- a two-mile track -- was second, and he was fourth in Texas, another high-speed venue, on his way to a victory. He has a blend of current form and track history that can't be matched, so he can be on your radar as a tournament play no matter where he starts.
Ryan Blaney ($10,200): We could say all of the same things about Ryan Blaney, just to a lesser degree. He has had a top-10 average running position in two of his past three races at Talladega, and the current form is even more impressive.
Blaney was dominant to start the year at Daytona, leading a race-high 118 laps on his way to a seventh-place finish. He had an average running position of third at Martinsville and second at Bristol, so he has brought that hot start into recent races, too. He and Elliott make the middle tier in pricing mighty appealing for those of you going for a more balanced roster.
Darrell Wallace Jr. ($6,300): Keeping with the trend of drivers who excelled in Daytona this year, we can turn to Blaney's best friend, Darrell Wallace Jr., for some serious salary relief.
This will be Wallace's Cup debut at Talladega, and he has just one top-10 finish here in 6 races between each of the top 3 levels. That top-10 was in a Camping World Truck Series race in 2014, so track history is not on his side. But he has shown that his talent exceeds this price point during the 2018 season.
In addition to finishing 2nd at Daytona, Wallace logged an 8th-place finish in Texas with an average running position of 15th. He followed that up the next week by leading some laps at Bristol and finishing with an average running position of 13th. Wallace's biggest successes have been at tracks where the driver is more important than the equipment, which can also be the case in Talladega.
Plenty of low-cost drivers -- like Wallace -- will have appeal this week. Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, William Byron, Daniel Suarez, and A.J. Allmendinger are other cheap drivers who should be on your list if they start near the back. Don't be afraid to leave some salary on the table if it allows you to target drivers in optimal starting positions.