NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: YellaWood 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 discusses 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 YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on FanDuel.
|Qualifying||Saturday, October 1st
10:30 a.m. EST
If you follow NASCAR religiously enough to care during football season, you know Talladega. This 2.66-mile superspeedway is a beast, and cars will roam around here five lanes wide at nearly 200 miles per hour. It's everything you imagine when you close your eyes and visualize pack racing in NASCAR.
As is (now) tradition on drafting ovals, NASCAR has opted against a practice session that most teams wouldn't participate in.
So, on Saturday, we'll see the starting grid with single-lap qualifying. However, that isn't always the best indicator of speed or ability to maneuver the draft at Daytona or Talladega. It's just the important framework on which this daily fantasy slate will be built around.
There really isn't a need to tune into practice or qualifying, so the DVR can take a week to rest up.
General Lineup Strategy
This section is so much more important than driver rankings this week. The consensus, undefeated strategy on this style of track is to "stack the back".
The reason for this is that both finishing order and laps led are correlated less to starting spot here than at any other track. Cars will shuffle -- seemingly at random -- through the pack all day.
We've literally never seen a more perfect example of this than in August at Daytona. An on-track rainstorm wiped out essentially the entire field. Therefore, the perfect lineup on FanDuel used just $18,000 in salary and included the winner and four other cars that started 30th or worse.
Is that the default, one-and-done strategy this weekend at Talladega? No. That was an extreme example. However, if we can get fast cars and drivers starting towards the back, we should absolutely prioritize them.
That means I typically write off cars starting inside the top-10 spots. I'll make special examples for a handful of excellent drafters, but you want to be looking around 15th or lower in the starting grid for all five drivers. It helps their floor if they were to crash, and it provides access to a ceiling through place-differential points.
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 weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar race tracks to this weekend. The prior races in the sample this week are:
2022 Talladega (Spring) - 40%
2022 Daytona (Spring) - 30%
2022 Daytona (Fall) - 30%
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 of leading 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.
Really, I've lined these drivers up as if they were in a vacuum and all starting 20th. I have no idea who my core plays will be yet.
There are still a few stellar drafters that should grab your attention regardless of where they start. Obviously, that's led by Denny Hamlin ($14,000). The three-time Daytona 500 winner also won 2020's fall race here at Talladega, and he's been a premier drafter in the sport for his entire career.
Since the start of 2019, only one driver has matched Hamlin's three wins at drafting ovals: Ryan Blaney ($13,500). The two-time Talladega winner also won at Daytona last fall. He was damaged early in the Daytona race back in August, but he's on the short list of contenders every time we come here.
Bubba Wallace ($10,500) has also forced his way onto that list. Wallace won here last fall and posted a runner-up in this year's Daytona 500. His salary is far too low for his ability on these tracks.
Leading a substantial amount of laps is an indicator of skill on these tracks to "manage" the draft. In addition to Hamlin and Blaney, Joey Logano ($13,000) and Chase Elliott ($12,000) have also led over 200 laps at this style of track since the start of 2019.
Notice I haven't mentioned our usual median lap time data yet. It's pretty random at Daytona and Talladega, but given his notorious struggles at this track type, it's interesting Kyle Larson ($9,500) has the fastest median lap average ranking at the three races this year.
As we dip into the value section, I can't help but love Brad Keselowski ($7,800) considering the form RFK Racing has been in lately. Keselowski is a six-time Talladega winner, including last year when he was still driving for Team Penske with Blaney and Logano.
Austin Dillon ($6,800) was incredibly fortunate to be the lone competitive car escaping from August's carnage in Daytona, but he also won a Daytona 500. He's a good plate racer for the salary.
The same can be said for Erik Jones ($6,500). Jim Sannes' win simulations typically love Jones every week, but his sixth-best odds in this week's sims can't be ignored. He's been that good at drafting tracks this year and led on the last lap in the May race here.
I'd also throw Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,000), Michael McDowell ($5,800), and Justin Haley ($5,000) in that group. They're all former drafting oval winners, and Haley has even won four Xfinity Series races at Daytona and Talladega as well.
Finally, Noah Gragson ($3,000) is in the player pool salaried for his ride with Beard Motorsports, but he got a massive upgrade to Hendrick Motorsports equipment this week. Salary doesn't matter at these tracks, but he's a value for certain.
These drivers are all the strongest options if they're closer to the back, but don't get me wrong -- if they're all starting towards the front, I'll seek alternatives. Stacking the back is the true key priority.