NASCAR DFS DraftKings Lineup Advice: Talladega Spring Race Picks 5/7/2017

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Sergio Balatan

NASCAR DFS Writer.Find me on DraftKings("sbalatan") to play NASCAR or NFL head to heads.
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Last week at Richmond International Speedway, Team Penske secured another playoff spot celebrating a tough victory by Joey Logano, where he fought off teammate Brad Keselowski and rival Denny Hamlin even though Logano started dead last due to having to swap out transmissions (Initially started 5th, but moved to the back due to the major equipment change).   But, the victory was short-lived as Logano’s team failed post-race inspection, and NASCAR deemed his victory “encumbered”.  What does that mean?   Logano’s playoff spot and awarded playoff points were rescinded due to the violation, but he is still the winner of record for the Richmond Race.   So, the Team Penske #22 car will still be hungry to win a race.

This Sunday, the Monster Energy Cup series travels to “Earnhardt Country”,  a well-known track called Talladega Superspeedway.    Dale Earnhardt Jr leads all active racers with 6 total wins at Talladega, and his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, won a total of 10 Talladega races.    Talladega is a long oval track, that is 2.66 miles in length, slightly longer than the Daytona Superspeedway (2.5 miles), where vehicle speeds can ramp up to over 200 miles per hour.

My GPP/Cash Ratio For This Race

Like at Daytona Speedway, Talladega is a restrictor plate track race, where the plate keeps vehicle speeds down.   So, no one car can completely dominate the race and cars drive closer together in packs.   The lead changes frequently, and anyone that is savvy, aggressive, and lucky while driving in the back of the pack, can make their way towards the front if they catch the right draft or fall in the right line of fast-moving cars.  The final results can be random, and the best drivers/performers can get caught up in the “Big One”, a typical crash that can end multiple drivers day in a single incident.

So, what does that mean for DFS?    Looking at my cash results from the Daytona 500 in February, the lineups that I thought were safe and “chalky” performed poorly, and my “crazy” GPP lineups cashed for me.   The Daytona 500 was my best GPP performance of the year and my worst cash performance of the year.    Because of the high randomness of the DFS results for restrictor plate races, I will put most of my money in GPP’s for this weekend, with some token cash games in Head to Heads or Double Ups.

My Top 5 Drivers for the Geico 500 at Talladega

Joey Logano($10,600):   As mentioned earlier, his playoff spot and playoff points from his Richmond victory was rescinded.   Joey Logano has performed consistently all season long, always having a shot to win the race.   His cars have consistently been able to navigate to the front.   He has won this race twice in his last four races.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.($9,400):  I am mixed about using Dale Jr. in any of my lineups.  Even though he has performed extremely well on this track, his performance this year has been dreadful overall, except his 5th place finish at Texas.  Even with the weight of his retirement decision behind him, he had trouble last week in Richmond.   Personally, I will not completely fade Dale Jr., but will definitely be underweight.  He will be highly owned especially at his price of $9400, which would be a great reason to fade him or use him lightly.   He is on this list because of his history and legacy at this track.  This could be the best track that secures his playoff spot.

Brad Keselowski($10,500):  Keselowski is a top performer at Talladega going for his 5th win at this superspeedway.    Team Penske has provided this aggressive driver with high performing cars all season as he is 1st overall total Fastest Laps Run.   He is also consistent this year in his performance with two wins this year tying defending champion Jimmie Johnson, and 2nd overall in Driver’s Rating.     Last week, his great performance continued at Richmond as he won Stage 2, and finished 2nd at the checkered flag behind Penske teammate, Joey Logano.

Chase Elliott($9,200):   Elliott has not won yet this year, but has consistently place in the Top 10 this year.  His average running position for that last seven races is 6.32, third best behind Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr.     Here are more stats to prove his stellar consistency this year – Elliott is 2nd in running laps in the Top 15 and is 4th in Driver’s Rating.   He finished 5th in last year’s spring race.    I would expect a Top 10 finish but has had great performing cars all year to put him in the Top 5.

Kevin Harvick($9,300):  Harvick is big name driver(like Joey Logano and Kyle Busch) looking for a win to qualify for the playoffs.   At the beginning of the season, his performance has been choppy and disappointing.  However, in the past 3 races, his team has quietly strung together Top 5 finishes.    Harvick has done well at Talladega winning in 2011 and has six Top 5’s, and fourteen Top 10 finishes.  His average finish at Talladega is slightly better than Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sleeper Pick

Paul Menard($7,300):  Menard is a good sleeper pick for Talladega.   While not expected to win, he has finished 3rd and 6th at Talladega in 2015 for the spring and fall races respectively. Additionally, he finished 5th in this year’s Daytona 500.

Value Picks

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,200):   This Roush Fenway Racer has strung together three Top 10 finishes in his last four races which is spectacular considering Roush Fenway’s recent struggles the past couple of years.   Stenhouse Jr. has two Top 10 finishes at Talladega in the past 4 races, both of them were in the Fall race.

Jamie McMurray($7,600):   McMurray is a top restrictor plate racer with two wins at Daytona, and two wins at Talladega.   He has seven Top 5, and eight Top 10 finishes at Talladega.   McMurray finished 4th in the spring year, and has had a decent year with five Top 10 finishes in nice races this year.

Kurt Busch($8,000):  Kurt Busch is a savvy veteran who can take an average and struggling car into a Top 10 finish.  He proved that in his impressive Daytona 500 victory, as well as last week, where he took his under-performing car at Richmond to an 8th place finish.    Kurt Busch has seven Top 5’s, and seventeen Top 10 finishes at Talladega.

Final Notes – Place Differential

In DraftKings DFS, the Place Differential stat is the difference between your starting position and your finishing position.   If you start in the back and finish at the top, then your place differential will be positive points.  With restrictor plate races, a great DFS strategy is develop lineups with using drivers who “qualify in the back”.    The plates prevent dominant drivers, and with the fast speeds of the drafting lines, lead changes are swapped frequently.   Cars in the back can easily and consistently move to the front, in relatively few laps.   Cars in the back can also see the “Big One” crash in front of them, avoiding them accordingly.

In this year’s Daytona 500, the GPP lineups that won big money contained most if not all of these drivers:

  • Ryan Blaney:   Finished 2nd, Started 36th
  • AJ Allmindinger:  Finished 3rd, Started 38th
  • Paul Menard:  Finished 5th, Started 33rd
  • Kasey Kahne:  Finished 7th, Started 26th
  • Michael Waltrip:  Finished 8th, Started 30th
  • Brendan Gaughan:  Finished 11th, Started 39th

So, in your GPP contests, create a few lineups with good drivers who qualified poorly.    With the randomness of restrictor plate races, this could be your best and most profitable strategy.

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Sergio Balatan

NASCAR DFS Writer. Find me on DraftKings("sbalatan") to play NASCAR or NFL head to heads.

Sergio Balatan

NASCAR DFS Writer. Find me on DraftKings("sbalatan") to play NASCAR or NFL head to heads.

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