Daily Fantasy NASCAR: 1000Bulbs.com 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 noteworthy 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 this week's 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? Let's check it out. Here are drivers we should monitor for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega.
Brad Keselowski ($13,000): Whenever you talk about Talladega, it has to start with the Penske Racing drivers of Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney. We'll get to the other two in a second, but Keselowski's likely the favorite entering the weekend.
Keselowski has won 3 of the past 8 races at Talladega and 5 times total in 19 career races. As mentioned in the track preview, drivers don't lead many laps at this track due to the nature of restrictor-plate racing and the limited number of laps in the race, but Keselowski is an exception. He has led 20 or more laps in 4 of the past 5 here.
This is all in addition to top-notch current form. There's really nothing to dislike for Keselowski. He is removed from cash-game consideration if he qualifies toward the front, but he can be in play there for tournaments due to his consistent ability to snag a win.
Joey Logano ($12,500): Joey Logano got the win in the spring running, leading 70 of 188 laps in a truly dominant outing. He's in the exact same tier as Keselowski for this week.
With the win in the spring, Logano has now won three of the past six Talladega races and was fourth in another. Basically, when he has finished here the past three years, he has been at the front.
Logano -- like Keselowski -- also tends to snag some laps led here, which increases his appeal should he qualify up front. But to reiterate with Keselowski, nobody's a cash-game play if they qualify at the front. In the two races Logano didn't log a top-5 at Talladega recently, he was 25th and 32nd. So if he winds up in the top half of the field, he immediately becomes a tournament-only play regardless of how good he has been at this track.
Ryan Blaney ($11,000): The results for Ryan Blaney pale in comparison to those of his teammates at Talladega, which could push us off of him at this lofty price. But Blaney's up here for a reason.
Back in 2015 -- Blaney's first full-time season while he was still with Wood Brothers Racing -- Blaney finished fourth in the spring race. That was while in much lesser equipment than he's currently in, and he didn't have the high-profile teammates in Keselowski and Logano. He was running well in last year's fall race, too, leading 27 laps with a 9th-place average running position before a crash ended his day. He had a 7th-place average running position in the 2016 fall race before finishing 11th.
Blaney has been less consistent than Keselowski and Logano. But we're not paying for consistency. If we're using a driver starting toward the front of the pack, it's because we think they have a shot to win the race. Blaney led 118 laps in this year's Daytona 500 and finished second in the 2017 Daytona 500. He can run up at the front at these tracks, meaning Blaney could be a contrarian pivot off of the other Penske drivers in tournaments if all three qualify near each other.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($9,700): Keselowski and Logano have both won two of the past five races at this track. The other went to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who clearly has a knack for restrictor-plate racing.
After Stenhouse won the 2017 Talladega race, he followed that up with a win in the July Daytona race a few months later. He has now led 40 or more laps in 4 of the past 6 restrictor-plate races, so he has a nose for the front.
Stenhouse is able to get to the front via a hyper-aggressive racing style, but that same style can also work as a negative at times.
Stenhouse didn't get caught up in that wreck, but he initiated another later in the stage and was eventually caught up in a wreck not of his own doing. The dude has a nose for danger, and if you play with fire, you're going to get burned. But he's always a threat to snag a win at these types of tracks, so he's a tournament play no matter where he starts, and he's a cash-game option -- despite his imperfections -- if he qualifies in the back.
Ryan Newman ($8,600): Ryan Newman's win odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook are far from flattering as he enters the weekend at 50/1. Most of the guys in that odds range are priced closer to the mid-$7,000s than the mid-$8,000s. It's possible, though, that the oddsmakers are selling Newman's abilities at restrictor-plate tracks short.
Over the past seven restrictor-plate races (each since the start of the 2017 season), nobody has more top-10 finishes than Newman with five. These five have come over the past five consecutive restrictor-plate races, including a 2nd and a 9th at the past two Talladega races, respectively.
Even beyond just restrictor plates, Newman has been on a bit of a heater recently. He has had a top-20 finish in 11 straight races with 4 top-10s sprinkled into that time. Combine this with Newman's recent record in pack racing, and those 50/1 win odds seem a bit longer than they should be.
Aric Almirola ($9,900): Aric Almirola has been knocking on the door of a win for a couple of months now, and he almost got it done this past weekend. He led 64 laps at Dover before a late-race incident pushed him back to a 13th-place finish. It's the third time in the past 14 races that Almirola has led at least 40 laps, but he doesn't have a checkered flag to show for it. That could change this weekend.
Almirola was good on restrictor-plate tracks even before he teamed up with Stewart-Haas Racing. His lone win in the Cup Series came at Daytona in 2014, and 15.9% of his career top-10 finishes have been at either Daytona or Talladega. He knows how to get around these joints.
This race couldn't come at a better time for Almirola. He's 10 points behind the cutoff to make it into the next round of the playoffs with two races left. It helps that next week's race is in Kansas, another spot where Almirola has historically excelled. A win, though, would punch Almirola's ticket for the next round, so don't be shocked to see extra aggressiveness out of him on Sunday.
Alex Bowman ($9,200): Alex Bowman's playoff positioning is far worse than Almirola's as he enters Talladega 34 points behind the cutline. Unless things get crazy weird, Bowman's going to need a win to make the next round. His runs recently, though, are better than you'd think given that positioning.
The reason Bowman is so low on the totem pole is that he got caught up in the same incident as Almirola at the end of the Dover race. Before that, though, Bowman was running well, evidenced by his 14th-place average running position for the race. Bowman has had an average running position of 15th or better in all four playoff races.
He has had similar runs at Daytona and Talladega. He was 8th in Talladega and 10th in the July Daytona race, and he has had an average running position of 12th or better in all three restrictor-plate races. Bowman's level of desperation is likely highest in the field as far as the playoffs go, but his record at these tracks says they likely won't need to get crazy in order to be in contention at the end.
Chris Buescher ($7,500): Chris Buescher tends to perform better at Daytona than Talladega, which is why he's down in this section rather than the previous. But we can target him pretty much whenever the driver plays a bigger role than the equipment, which will be true this weekend.
On the season, Buescher's two lone top-10 finishes (both of which were top-5s) took place in Daytona. He has only 5 other top-15 finishes, one of which came in an 11th-place finish in the spring Talladega race. Another was at the Sonoma road course, which also emphasizes driver over equipment.
In Buescher's three races at Talladega with JTC-Daugherty Racing, he has finished 17th or better each time, and he finished 6th and 2nd in his two Talladega races in the Xfinity Series. Although Buescher got a price bump this week, it's for a good reason, and we can absolutely get excited about him if he qualifies toward the back.
Bubba Wallace ($7,000): Bubba Wallace winds up in the current form section, but it's not for good reason. Most of his first full-time season in the Cup Series has been a struggle with 12 straight finishes outside the top 20. Things are a bit different when he goes to restrictor-plate tracks, though.
Wallace kicked off the season with a strong showing in the Daytona 500, taking home a 2nd-place finish with an 11th-place average running position. He continued that success with 14th-place average running positions in the other two restrictor-plate races on the schedule, meaning three of Wallace's four best races by that metric have come at either Daytona or Talladega.
Given the team Wallace drives for, this shouldn't be a surprise. This seat was previously occupied by the aforementioned Almirola, who -- like Wallace -- struggled at non-restrictor-plate tracks. When the equipment matters less, Richard Petty Motorsports drivers can surge back into relevance. We can largely overlook Wallace's rough season and trust him for DFS if he qualifies toward the back.
Regan Smith ($6,000): Regan Smith will continue to sub for Kasey Kahne this weekend at Talladega with Kahne now set to miss the rest of the year due to health issues. The first five races for Smith have gone about as well as the team could have hoped, and they're going to a spot where Smith has done well in the past.
Smith started to fill the seat for Kahne back in Indianapolis, where he jumped in and finished 20th despite getting no practice time in the car prior to the race. Since then, he has finished 12th in Las Vegas and 15th at the Charlotte roval, the Las Vegas race representing the best finish for the team at a non-restrictor-plate race this year.
With Kahne driving, the team finished fourth in the July Daytona race, their lone top-10 finish this year. That bodes well for Smith this weekend. On top of that, he, himself, has finished in the top 10 in two of his past four Daytona races, and he logged 5th- and 6th-place finishes in Talladega back in 2012 and 2013. Smith isn't a driver to trust if he qualifies well, but he would be a tremendous value play if he winds up starting toward the back.