FanDuel has officially announced that they have launched Fantasy NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series games. The first race to feature FanDuel DFS NASCAR Cup games is this week’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. There will be more information in my upcoming FanDuel Strategy Primer, including the impact of differences between FanDuel and DraftKings’s NASCAR games. For now, what you basically need to know is that Fanduel requires five drivers as opposed to six on DraftKings. Place Differential is a half point on FD as compared to a full point on DK. FD also awards 0.1 points for laps completed and does not use Fastest Laps as DK does. FD awards 0.1 points for Laps Led, DK awards 0.25. There are also differences in finishing position points from top to bottom on both sites. Here are links to the FD scoring and the DK scoring for further comparisons. The differences may not show up as much in the first week, as racing at Talladega is highly unpredictable compared to any other track, no matter the format.
RACE PREVIEW FOR GEICO 500
Post-Qualifying Saturday Update: Kevin Harvick will start first. He had the best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in final practice, was ninth in final practice and has two wins at Talladega. Harvick will lead a few laps based on his starting position, but will finish in the Top 10 with a chance to place in the Top 5.
Aric Almirola ($8,100 on DraftKings, $8,800 on FanDuel) blew a tire during qualifying and will start 40th. He was the only driver to finish in the Top 5 during both races at Talladega last season. Almirola was 20th in first practice, 10th in final practice, and is the safest pick for this race. Almirola is in better equipment since last season and he nearly won the Daytona 500 before getting wrecked on the final lap this year. He will be a part of the winning lineup this week without question for PD alone and his recent history.
Michael McDowell’s ($5,700 on DraftKings, $5,300 on FanDuel) will start 20th. He has two Top 20 finishes in 14 starts at Talladega. McDowell was 15th in first practice and 25th in final practice. McDowell scored a Top 10 at this year’s Daytona 500 and is in improved equipment since last season. Expect McDowell to finish in the Top 20 and make it to the end. All other driver outlooks remain much the same.
Brad Keselowski ($10,700 on DraftKings, $12,100 on FanDuel) is the top pick to win this week’s race. Ford drivers have won six of the last seven races at Talladega and Keselowski won three of them. Keselowski knows how to race at Talladega better than anybody else since 2015, as he has the best Average Running Position of 10.1 and the best Driver Rating of 101.4. Keselowski was 23rd in first practice and 16th in final practice. Despite the mediocre practice speeds compared to most, Keselowski will win by avoiding wrecks and making it to the end, which he has failed to accomplish only twice in 18 starts at Talladega.
Kevin Harvick ($9,800 on DraftKings, $12,300 on FanDuel) is one of the better choices to finish in the Top 10 at Talladega. Harvick is known for his consistency as he has finished in the Top 10 in four of his last eight starts at the site with only one finish outside of the Top 20 in that span. He has the sixth-best ARP of 12.9 at Talladega since 2015. Harvick is known for making it to the end of most Talladega races, with only three DNFs in 34 starts at the track. Drivers who consistently finish productively and avoid wrecks are the ideal choices for Talladega, and Harvick is one of those drivers that fulfills those conditions well.
Kyle Busch ($9,600 on DraftKings, $11,600 on FanDuel) is not known for his Restrictor Plate success, but he will be a strong pick this week. He has finished in the Top 3 in his last two Spring Talladega starts and is going for his fourth victory in a row and his ninth consecutive Top 10 finish this season. Kyle Busch has shown the ability to run well regardless of track type and has a high chance of being a solid PD option. That is because Kyle Busch is not a good qualifier at Talladega, only starting in the Top 10 once since 2010 at the site. The further back a driver starts at Talladega, the less risky they are as a pick, and Kyle Busch will be one of the safer options this week.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($9,100 on DraftKings, $10,800 on FanDuel) is a great option for Talladega. Statistically, TS is one of his best tracks with one win and five Top 10 finishes at the site in nine starts. He was 29th in first practice and 18th in final practice, which points to a qualifying position around the Top 20 based on practice speeds, making him a PD option with the possibility of a favorable finish. Stenhouse has only one DNF at Talladega, proving that he is a driver known for avoiding wrecks and finishing productively. Stenhouse loves racing at Talladega, and Roush Fenway Racing continues to make big improvements towards their superspeedway program since last season, when he won half of the plate races. With both the improvements in equipment and increased experience Stenhouse has acquired at Talladega, he is one to watch for a Top 10 finish.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Kurt Busch ($8,600 on DraftKings, $10,400 on FanDuel) has never won at Talladega, but came close numerous times. Kurt Busch is a pick I recommend to finish favorably as he is one of the safest and most consistent options at Talladega. He has finished in the Top 10 in six of his last seven races at the site and has the second most Quality Passes (Passes of cars in the Top 15 under green-flag conditions) at 1,891, the fourth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 802, and the seventh-best DR of 88.7 since 2015. Kurt Busch was 19th in first practice and 15th in final practice.
Erik Jones ($8,200 on DraftKings, $7,600 on FanDuel) will be a good, but overlooked choice for this week’s race at Talladega. I feel that Jones will be lowly owned due to his history at plate tracks, as he has only finished one race at Talladega or Daytona in his Cup career to date. The one time he did finish a restrictor plate race, he placed ninth. Jones was seventh in first practice and fourth in final practice. Jones was one of the fastest throughout practices and will compete for a Top 5 finish as long as he avoids wrecking.
Jamie McMurray ($7,800 on DraftKings, $10,100 on FanDuel) will be one of the best choices for Talladega. McMurray is a two-time winner at the site and has nine Top 10 finishes in 31 starts, which include Top 5 finishes in the last two Spring races. McMurray was 14th in first practice, first in final practice, and will start from the rear of the field after wrecking in final practice. Since McMurray will start from the rear, there will be little risk to using him, and even if his backup car is not as fast as his primary car, he still will have better speed than most.
Alex Bowman ($7,600 on DraftKings, $7,800 on FanDuel) has one Top 20 finish in five starts at Talladega, but I expect him to set a new personal best this week. He is riding with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s former team at Hendrick Motorsports, and he was one of the best drivers ever at Talladega. Bowman has steadily gaining more experience and success in his first full time season with Hendrick as evidenced by his four Top 15 finishes this season. Look for Bowman to score his fifth Top 15 finish of the season at Talladega.
Daniel Suarez’s ($7,000 on DraftKings, $7,200 on FanDuel) best finish in two starts at Talladega is 15th. I expect Suarez to be a strong pick especially for PD. This is because Suarez will start from the rear of the field after wrecking in final practice. He was second in first practice and third in final practice. Suarez’s practice speeds with his primary car are an indicator that he has a good chance of running in the Top 5, especially if his backup car has a similar setup to his primary car.
Ryan Newman’s ($6,900 on DraftKings, $9,500 on FanDuel) finish of second in the Talladega race last fall was his closest attempt to winning a race at the site. Newman also finished eighth earlier this year at the Daytona 500, so he has finished in the Top 10 in his last two Restrictor Plate races. He was fifth in first practice and sixth in final practice. Newman has shown momentum at superspeedways and good speeds throughout practices, which points to a Top 10 finish with a chance to place in the Top 5.
Ty Dillon’s ($6,700 on DraftKings, $5,800 on FanDuel) Average Finishing Position of 12.0 in two starts at Talladega is his best at any track in the Cup Series. He scored positive PD points in both of his starts at the track. Dillon was first in first practice, second in final practice, and will start from the rear after wrecking in final practice. Dillon’s starting position will make him an exceptional PD play with a chance of actually finishing in the Top 5.
XFINITY RACE PREVIEW FOR SPARKS ENERGY 300 (DraftKings only)
Post-Qualifying Saturday Update: Daniel Hemric ($10,400) won the pole for today’s Xfinity race. Hemric has finished in the Top 3 in three of the last four races this season. He was sixth in first practice and had the sixth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice. I don’t expect Hemric to win at Talladega, but I do expect him to lead a few laps and compete for a Top 5 finish based on recent momentum and his first practice speed.
Alex Labbe ($6,800) and Jeremy Clements ($6,400) are the bargains at Talladega. Labbe is making his first Xfinity start at Talladega and has five Top 20 finishes this season including the last two races. Labbe was 22nd in first practice, fifth in final practice, and starts 21st. Expect Labbe to finish in the Top 20 based on practice speeds. Clements has placed with positive PD six times and has two Top 10 finishes in seven starts at Talladega. Clements is coming off of his first Top 10 finish of 2018 last week at Richmond. He was 18th in first practice, seventh in final practice, and starts 24th. Clements will compete for a Top 15 finish and gain points from PD. All other driver outlooks remain much the same.
This season is the first for the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash event at Talladega. The four drivers who will contend for the prize for this event are Elliott Sadler ($11,300 on DraftKings), Christopher Bell ($11,000), Matt Tifft ($9,200), and Austin Cindric ($8,900). Sadler has three Top 2 finishes, which include two wins in his last three starts. He has finished in the Top 10 in every race this season and he was the runner-up at Daytona. Sadler was fifth in first practice and always is one of the favorites at Talladega. Bell and Cindric are both making their Xfinity debut at Talladega. Bell won the Dash 4 Cash event last week at Richmond, was 10th in first practice, and had the second-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice. Bell continues to be one of the strongest picks every week. Cindric was 12th in first practice and had the third-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice. He looks fast and will compete for a Top 10 finish. Tifft has finished in the Top 10 in both of his starts at Talladega. He was eighth in first practice and had the ninth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice. Tifft will score his third Top 10 finish at Talladega.
Chase Briscoe ($8,000), Noah Gragson ($7,600), and Shane Lee ($7,200) are all making their first Xfinity start at Talladega. Briscoe was ninth in first practice and had the fourth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average. His best finish this season is 11th, but Briscoe will finish in the Top 10 with a chance to place in the Top 5. Gragson was 14th in first practice and had the fifth-best 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice. He finished second in his only Xfinity start of the season and will finish in the Top 10 this week. Lee was one of only a few drivers to participate in both practices. Lee was 20th in first practice and first in final practice. Based on practice speeds, Lee will have a chance of placing in the Top 10.