NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: GEICO 500
If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America. NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!
numberFire is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide. For driver picks and a full preview of the event, he also discussed this weekend's race on the latest NASCAR episode of The Heat Check Daily Fantasy Podcast.
With all of this in mind, let's preview the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on FanDuel.
|Practice||None This Weekend|
|Qualifying||Saturday, April 23rd
11:00 a.m. EST
The COVID-19 pandemic did one positive thing. It ended drafting oval practice.
Jimmie Johnson used to run laps by himself to avoid a crash in practice that sent multiple cars to backups. Now, there's likely going to be no practice at superspeedways outside of the Daytona 500 for the foreseeable future.
On Saturday, they'll set the field with single-lap qualifying, so the field's order should be fairly inefficient. Single-lap runs at these large tracks take basically no skill from the driver and usually are just a statement on manufacture speed.
It's nice if a car is fast by itself, but it's so much more valuable for daily fantasy to have a car starting in the back for when the chaos inevitably ensues.
General Lineup Strategy
There isn't a more defined strategy in daily fantasy anywhere than this one -- "stack the back" at Daytona or Talladega.
With multi-car incidents almost a certainty, cars starting in the back will have a higher floor should they crash out. There's also less of a penalty for missing out on laps led at the front, and laps led are harder to predict -- and less consolidated in general.
Perfect and optimal lineups this weekend will likely leave thousands of dollars of salary on the table just to access competitive cars at the rear of the field. There won't be as many quality options as we saw in February at Daytona because of this weekend's qualifying format.
Therefore, my lineup building process will be very simple. Unlike most weeks where I'm malleable on my rankings throughout the weekend, I will simply just target the highest-ranked drivers I can find starting 20th or lower. The higher the driver is ranked, the better their track record is on these types of tracks.
If you play cash games, start the five lowest-starting drivers that are included in my rankings. You might be shocked to find how well that lineup fares in tournaments, as well.
Below are my pre-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, track history, recent form, and overall talent level in that order. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in Jim Sannes' win simulations were included.
As a great indicator of overall speed, MLT Rank is the driver's average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend's. The prior races in the sample this week are:
2022 Atlanta (Spring)
2022 Daytona (Spring)
For dominator viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to potentially lead laps and win the race if they start upfront. A "10" is among the favorites to win the race, and a "0" has no realistic chance to lead the race at any point.
For flex play viability, the driver is ranked 0-10 on a scale to finish in terms of potential to finish inside the top-15 spots. These drivers will be better daily fantasy plays the further back in the field they start for optimal place-differential points.
There are five drivers I'll be including in my player pool no matter where they start -- Ryan Blaney ($14,000), Joey Logano ($13,500), Denny Hamlin ($13,000), Brad Keselowski ($12,000), and Bubba Wallace ($11,500).
These are statistic outliers with a combined eight wins in the last four years at these types of track, and they're worthy of separation from the pack based on their win equity. Logano is the only one who hasn't won in this sample, but he's a three-time Talladega winner and his teammates Austin Cindric ($8,500) won the Daytona 500. He'll be fast.
Other than that, I'll fill around those guys with the best place-differential options that arise from qualifying.
Notably, I wouldn't include Chase Elliott ($12,500) in that group, but many may disagree. Elliott has three top-10s at Talladega in his last six starts (including a 2019 win), but his average finish of 15.7 in his last three efforts isn't worth chasing if he ends up starting towards the front.
Ford was the dominant manufacturer in Daytona. Keselowski led a race-high 67 laps, and Cindric won the race. With that the case, I'm higher on Kevin Harvick ($9,500) than most. He stacks well with Blaney, Logano, and Keselowski, and he finished top-eight in both Talladega races in 2021.
Kurt Busch ($7,800) is an interesting value play based on his connection to Wallace (his teammate) and Hamlin (his car owner). If things go according to plan, stacking the three together could prove to be beneficial. Toyotas haven't had great single-lap speed historically, so he could start deep in the field.
No, the salary of Martin Truex Jr. ($6,500) is not a typo or a mistake. Truex is one of NASCAR's best at normal events, but drafting ovals have been his career bugaboo. Truex has just one top-10 finish in his last 14 points-paying races at Daytona and Talladega. Because I like so many other Toyotas, I'll be open to him with a deep starting spot, but I'm not expecting a contender for the win.
When it comes to a dark horse, I love Justin Haley ($5,000) and just pray he starts deeper than 20th. Haley is a three-time Xfinity Series winner at Talladega, and this will be his first shot in Kaulig equipment at the Cup Series level. He's one of the best drafters in the sport, and he has the potential to join that group of five in terms of plate-racing prowess in his career.
Other value options that have been strong on drafting ovals -- only to be considered if they start deeper in the field -- are Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($7,500), Aric Almirola ($7,300), Austin Dillon ($6,300), and Michael McDowell ($6,000).