We’re back, ladies and gentlemen! After a weekend off for Easter, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to action this weekend with one of the more unpredictable races of the season: the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The races here at Talladega and Daytona are typically referred to as the “restrictor plate races,” but starting this weekend, NASCAR is doing away with the restrictor plates, instead going with tapered spacers. As far as what to expect with the racing on track, though, I’m personally not expecting much to change. Anyone and everyone can finish up front at these superspeedways, and if you look at this year’s Daytona 500, we had Michael McDowell (5th), Ty Dillon (6th), Ryan Preece (8th), and Ross Chastain (10th) all finishing inside the top 10 when the checkered flag flew.

Here are some helpful links to the qualifying results and practice speeds from this weekend:

DraftKings Strategy Tactics for Talladega

Bristol 2018 Wreck Fantasy NASCAR
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Just like at Daytona, there’s one major thing to focus on at Talladega: place differential. Yes, the racing here this weekend might have the possibility of being a little different, but the scoring with DraftKings is the same. And it’s not like one driver is going to pile up a ton of fastest laps on Sunday like other race weekends.

Now, as far as laps led, those have a little weight at these superspeedways, but at the same time, we’re only set to run 188 laps here on Sunday. Chances are the driver with the most laps led is going to start near the front this weekend, but unless he also wins the race, he’s probably not going to end up in the winning lineup.

As far as ideal lineups go, I personally like to build my lineups with the following breakdown in mind. And don’t forget: you don’t have to use all of the salary cap space available.

  • Top 5 starting spot: almost never
  • Top 10 starting spot: maybe one driver, absolute max of two
  • 11th-24th starting spot: two or three drivers
  • 25th-40th starting spot: two or three drivers

It’s worth noting that each of the last four Talladega winners have started 9th or better, and with how many favorites qualified that high this weekend, it wouldn’t be surprising if that streak extended to five in a row on Sunday.

GPP Drivers I Love for the GEICO 500

Kurt Busch putting on helmet
Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Joey Logano ($11,200) – I have a little concern with Joey Logano being too high-owned on Sunday–if so, I don’t mind pivoting to Ryan Blaney ($9,800)–because of his track record here, but if I’m going to roll the dice with a high qualifier on Sunday, it’s going to be the driver of the #22 Ford. Logano has finished inside the top 5 in each of the last three races here at Talladega, and has also won three of the last seven at this track. Additionally, Joey has led 45+ laps in three of the last five ‘Dega events. As far as this weekend goes, the #22 Ford starts in 8th but Logano should definitely be a contender. Again, I don’t mind pivoting to Ryan Blaney here, and he starts alongside Logano in 7th. Blaney has finished inside the top 10 in both of the first two Stages in each of the last four Talladega races.

Kurt Busch ($9,000) – Looking at the Fantasy Racing Online algorithm projected finishes for Talladega, there’s only two drivers that it likes better than Kurt Busch heading into Sunday: Denny Hamlin ($9,200) and Joey Logano. So even though Kurt qualified 14th for this weekend’s GEICO 500, thus limiting his place differential point potential, I don’t mind being overweight on him in DraftKings this weekend. One, this #1 team is having a great season thus far, and two, Kurt is really good here at Talladega, with finishes of 8th or better in four of the last six races here.

As far as low-dollar drivers, I like Jeffrey Earnhardt ($4,900) a lot, as his #81 team has an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, and he’s looked pretty good at Daytona and Talladega in the Xfinity Series races this season. Also don’t forget that Matt DiBenedetto ($7,000) led the most laps in this year’s Daytona 500 in his #95 Toyota.

SUNDAY MORNING ADDITION:

Add Paul Menard ($6,700) as a GPP driver I love. This #21 team dealt with their fair share of bad luck in 2018, but this season, they’ve been probably more consistent than ever in Menard’s second full season with the team. Now as far as Talladega goes, this has always been one of Menard’s best tracks on the circuit, and he’s finished 13th or better in eight of the last eleven races here. He’ll start 17th here on Sunday which is that sweet range where drivers go under-owned. I’ll have plenty of Menard exposure today.

GPP Fade Options for Talladega

Martin Truex Jr Fantasy NASCAR 2018
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

As far as I’m concerned, the top 5 qualifiers for Sunday are fades for me. I won’t have any lineups with Austin Dillon ($7,600), Aric Almirola ($8,100), Clint Bowyer ($8,900), Brad Keselowski ($10,700), and Daniel Hemric ($6,200) in them. But other than the obvious choices to stay away from, I will also be staying away from one big name driver this weekend…

Martin Truex, Jr. ($10,100) – Yes, Truex finished 2nd in the fall Daytona race last year, and he has that historic 2nd-place finish in the 2016 Daytona 500, but other than that, he’s been horrible on the big superspeedways over the last few years. Looking specifically here at Talladega, Truex hasn’t finished better than 23rd in the last five races here, which, in my opinion, is more than just a little bad luck. Looking at the Fantasy Racing Online algorithm finish predictions for Sunday, Truex is projected at 18th. He’s going to start from back in 20th this weekend, but even then he’s going to need a much better finish than usual in order to make it into the DraftKings winning lineup.

Talladega GEICO 500 DraftKings Projections

You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.

DriverStarting PositionDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedDollar Per FPT
Denny Hamlin23$9,200 57.907.418$159
Joey Logano8$11,200 51.204.228$219
Kyle Busch22$12,000 48.510.814$247
Ryan Newman24$7,800 45.811.40$170
Kurt Busch14$9,000 43.309.013$208
Ricky Stenhouse Jr6$7,400 42.206.216$175
Aric Almirola2$8,100 38.006.215$213
Paul Menard17$6,700 35.812.60$187
Bubba Wallace28$6,000 35.618.20$169
Kevin Harvick19$11,600 35.214.44$330
Ryan Preece30$6,400 35.219.40$182
Jimmie Johnson21$8,300 34.615.20$240
Ross Chastain34$5,800 33.222.40$175
Ty Dillon13$6,500 32.712.42$199
Clint Bowyer3$8,900 32.308.89$276
Austin Dillon1$7,600 30.510.022$249
Brad Keselowski4$10,700 30.311.821$354
Erik Jones27$8,700 30.220.40$288
Chris Buescher31$6,900 29.422.80$235
Ryan Blaney7$9,800 29.012.411$339
Kyle Larson10$8,500 28.812.60$295
Alex Bowman9$7,200 27.013.43$267
Martin Truex Jr20$10,100 26.918.82$375
Chase Elliott11$9,500 26.814.64$354
Daniel Suarez16$7,900 26.816.60$295
Parker Kligerman35$5,200 25.426.80$205
Matt DiBenedetto26$7,000 24.422.80$287
Landon Cassill32$4,800 24.425.80$197
William Byron25$6,800 23.023.00$296
Justin Haley38$5,100 22.429.80$228
Brendan Gaughan29$5,600 21.825.60$257
Corey Lajoie36$5,000 21.629.20$231
Michael McDowell12$5,300 21.617.63$246
David Ragan15$5,400 21.019.00$257
Jeffrey Earnhardt33$4,900 19.029.00$258
Matt Tifft18$6,100 18.421.80$332
Daniel Hemric5$6,200 15.417.23$404
Cody Ware40$4,700 14.834.60$318
Reed Sorenson37$4,600 13.833.60$333
Stanton Barrett39$4,500 13.834.60$326
As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.