Daily Fantasy NASCAR Track Preview: YellaWood 500

The NASCAR Cup Series' top drivers will all start near the front in Sunday's YellaWood 500 at Talladega. Does that alter our typical strategy for the track in NASCAR DFS?

At drafting tracks, we know how to play things in NASCAR DFS.

We want to stack the back, load up on place-differential candidates, and exploit the chaos that is bound to ensue after the green flag drops.

That's how we play things in general, and it has been a profitable strategy for the most part. It's just a wee bit trickier thanks to COVID-19 and the playoffs.

With qualifying sessions being cancelled through the end of the season due to the pandemic, the 12 drivers left in the playoffs will start in the top 12 spots. That means if you want an elite driver, you've got to use someone at the front.

In other words, if you want to truly stack the back, you've got to lop off the drivers who have carried us to cashing the entire year. It's certainly not a comforting thought.

Thankfully, we don't have to do guesswork here. We actually saw a race with almost the exact same format at Talladega back in the spring, and we can turn to that one to see how we should play things this weekend.

Keeping the Status Quo

In the first Talladega race, the top 12 drivers in points also started in the top 12 spots for the race. It was a slightly different method for setting the order, but the major concern was in place there, as well.

The perfect FanDuel lineup didn't completely fade those options. But it was pretty dang close.

Perfect LineupSalaryStartLaps Led
Ryan Blaney$12,000 12th63
Aric Almirola$11,000 15th0
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.$10,100 20th5
Erik Jones$8,800 18th0
Chris Buescher$7,900 21st4

Ryan Blaney drew the 12th starting spot for the race, last among those who were in the top 12 in owner points. He was the only guy in that group to make the perfect lineup, and he did so by winning the race. After that, it was all teams ranked between 13th and 24th in owner points.

It's not a huge surprise that Blaney wound up in the optimal here. He fit well with a strategy we typically call the "assumption game," and it's an approach we can utilize again this weekend.

In Talladega, a large percentage of the FanDuel points scored will come from finishing points. Because you get 43 finishing points for a win, the driver who wins the race will likely be in the perfect lineup no matter where they start.

This gives us wiggle room to target drivers starting closer to the front if we want. If you feel like Joey Logano is a lock to win the race, you can plug him into your FanDuel lineup. But that assumes that Logano gets the 43 points for the win; if he does that, it'll make it harder for other drivers starting at the front to pay off in DFS. As a result, it'd be wise to hunt for place-differential with the other four spots in your lineup.

It's also comforting to know that the gap between playoff and non-playoff drivers is reduced in Talladega. In last year's playoff race at the track, only three of the top 10 finishers were in the playoffs. It was also three in 2018 and just two in 2019. A larger pool of drivers can compete at this track, which means we don't need to target the drivers who have been the best all season long to get good finishes on Sunday.

As a result, we can keep things pretty in line with what we've done in the past. You can pick a driver starting near the front if you think they'll win the race. But outside of an assumed winner, it's best to skew toward drivers in position to get place-differential.

The other consistency between this and other pack-racing tracks is that we should stack teams and manufacturers. In the Daytona race a few weeks ago, Hendrick Motorsports swept the top two spots, and Chevrolets occupied four of the five spots in the perfect lineup. Teams tend to work together on the superspeedways, and if one team happens to play their cards right, you'll want to make sure you have lineups in position to take advantage.

Yes, it will feel weird to be lower on the drivers competing for a championship. They have big motivation to win, and at most tracks, that matters to us. But history has shown us that our strategy of emphasizing place-differential is still the best route on these tracks, and it's how we should play things again on Sunday.