The Setup – GEICO 500 Race Preview
By Tyler Miller

The best drivers in NASCAR will race 500 miles at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday afternoon. Talladega is my favorite track and I love playing DFS twice a year at Talladega. The racing is unpredictable, anybody can win, and anybody can crash. While virtually any lineup could end up being a good lineup in a tournament, there are a few things I look for when I build a lineup, particularly for single entry contests. I like going after larger prizes with higher entry fee single entry contests compared to my typical weekend of playing cash games. Picking the winner is often not enough, as I saw in the Xfinity race on Sunday where I had Justin Haley at 10% owned and narrowly missed cashing. Luck has to be on your side at Talladega. Let’s get started.

Race Distance: 188 laps (500 miles). Stage 1 ends on lap 60, Stage 2 ends on lap 120.
Lineup Lock 3:00 pm eastern Sunday

2019 Fall Winner: Ryan Blaney (Started 9th)
2019 Fall Pole Sitter: Chase Elliott (Finished 8th)
2019 Spring Winner: Chase Elliott (Started 11th)
2019 Spring Pole Sitter: Austin Dillon (Finished 14th)

Prior race winners: Spring, Fall
2018: Joey Logano (started 9th), Aric Almirola (started 4th)
2017: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1st), Brad Keselowski (6th)
2016: Brad Keselowski (7th), Joey Logano (16th)
2015: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4th), Joey Logano (10th)
2014: Denny Hamlin (34th) , Brad Keselowski (5th)

Homestead Recap
What went right?

Homestead was a nightmare. My top two guys ran into each other on pit road (Harvick and Logano) and finished 26th and 27th. Tyler Reddick was my best play with +20 differential, 3 laps led and a 4th place finish. Christopher Bell performed even better than expectation with an 8th place finish and +28 differential. Reddick and Bell were 3rd and 4th in Fan Duel scoring. Michael McDowell also ran well with +15 and a 15th place finish. Cole Custer was solid finishing 22nd with +13 differential. My mid-tier and value guys were solid, but it couldn’t make up for Harvick and Logano.

What went wrong?
Harvick and Logano destroyed my lineup but I’m really not that upset about it. Logano led 27 laps and Harvick was running in the top 10 before their issue on pit road. This was a solid lineup that didn’t work out. Playing instead of either Harvick or Logano would have made a big difference, but that’s not what I did.

My Fan Duel lineup was Harvick, Logano, Custer, Bell, and Reddick which scored 262.6 and was shut out.

My Draft Kings lineup was Harvick, Logano, Kenseth, Reddick, Custer, and McDowell which scored 188.5 and was also shut out.

What Vegas thinks (Saturday PM lines via Draft Kings Sportsbook):
Chase Elliott is the favorite at +700. Keselowski and Logano are also better than 10-1 for Talladega. I’m not betting this race, but if I wanted to take a shot at a long-shot I would look at Matt DiBenedetto at +4000

Chase Elliott +700
Brad Keselowski +800
Joey Logano +900
Denny Hamlin +1000
Ryan Blaney +1100
Kyle Busch +1200
Kevin Harvick +1400
Kurt Busch +1800
Aric Almirola +2000

Driver Ratings at Talladega:
1. Chase Elliott 94.1
2. Joey Logano 90.6
3. Kurt Busch 90.4
4. Brad Keselowski 89.3
5. Ryan Blaney 89.0
6. Matt Kenseth 86.9
7. Jimmie Johnson 86.4
8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 84.4
9. Denny Hamlin 82.8
10. Kyle Busch 82.2
11. Kevin Harvick 80.9
12. Aric Almirola 80.4
13. William Byron 78.6
14. Martin Truex Jr. 76.9
15. Clint Bowyer 76.4

Average Running Position at Talladega:
1. Chase Elliott 10.791
2. Ryan Blaney 13.097
3. Kurt Busch 13.566
4. William Byron 13.835
5. Joey Logano 14.079
6. Matt Kenseth 14.957
7. Brad Keselowski 15.276
8. Daniel Suarez 15.297
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 15.327
10. Jimmie Johnson 15.799
11. Kevin Harvick 17.182
12. Denny Hamlin 17.371
13. Kyle Busch 17.708
14. Aric Almirola 17.866
15. Ty Dillon 18.398

Laps Led
1. Matt Kenseth 463 (9.4% of laps run)
2. Jimmie Johnson 324 (5.7)
3. Joey Logano 319 (7.6)
4. Denny Hamlin 302 (5.7)
5. Brad Keselowski 293 (7.0)
6. Kyle Busch 245 (4.4)
7. Kevin Harvick 224 (3.9)
8. Kurt Busch 228 (4.0)
9. Chase Elliott 125 (8.2)
10. Clint Bowyer 123 (2.3)

2019 Fall Top 10:
1. Ryan Blaney
2. Ryan Newman
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Aric Almirola
5. Michael McDowell
6. Austin Dillon
7. Corey LaJoie
8. Chase Elliott
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
10. Ty Dillon

2019 Spring Top 10:
1. Chase Elliott
2. Alex Bowman
3. Ryan Preece
4. Joey Logano
5. Daniel Hemric
6. Kurt Busch
7. Ryan Newman
8. Brendan Gaughan
9. Aric Almirola
10. Kyle Busch

2018 Spring top 10:
1. Joey Logano
2. Kurt Busch
3. Chase Elliott
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
6. David Ragan
7. Aric Almirola
8. Alex Bowman
9. Ryan Newman
10. Daniel Suarez

2018 Fall top 10
1. Aric Almirola
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Joey Logano
6. A.J. Allmendinger
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Erik Jones
9. Paul Menard
10. Regan Smith

Last week I said that Homestead was the most difficult race to predict since we came back from break. That was true last week and it is true again this week because Talladega is completely unpredictable. In multi-entry tournaments you will see lineups with starting positions 36-40 and all kinds of crazy combinations which is basically just someone throwing a dart. I like using 2 or 3 drivers who have the potential to lead laps and finish in the top 3 and pairing them with 2 or 3 drivers who are starting at the back of the pack and have a history of being on the lead lap at the end of the race. If you have all of your drivers (5 on Fan Duel, 6 on Draft Kings) on the lead lap with 10 laps to go, you have a chance at taking down a tournament. That’s the goal.

Since this race is so different, I will write up more drivers in each category (top-end, mid-tier, value) with less written about each. Here are the guys I like.

Top End
Chase Elliott ($13,300/10,400)
Chase Elliott has to be the top play for Sunday. He is the favorite to win the race, he has the highest driver rating, average running position, and average finish. Elliott also won this race last year and has led laps in 5 of 8 career races at Talladega. Starting 11th, Elliott will likely be chalk on Sunday.

Joey Logano ($13,000/10,200) and Brad Keselowski ($12,400/9,600) I grouped these two together because I like them for the same reason and I like pairing them together in lineups. Logano and Keselowski run up front at Talladega, lead laps, and are usually a factor at the end of the race. Logano had led laps in 8 of the last 9 races at Talladega. Those 9 races include 3 wins and 6 top 5 finishes. Brad Keselowski has led laps at 8 straight races at Talladega. In those 8 races, Keselowski has won twice and finshed 7th. The other 5 finishes were outside the top 10 including 4 races with finishes of 25th or worse.

Mid-Tier
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.($10,100/8,400)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has led laps in 10 of his 13 career starts at Talladega. He has 1 win, 5 top 5s, 8 Top 10s, and has completed over 99% of the laps run. I have a good feeling about Stenhouse on Sunday. I am usually quite hesitant to play Stenhouse because I don’t trust him, but his career numbers at Talladega speak for themselves. Stenhouse is starting 20th so the risk is mitigated. If he can lead laps and finish in the top 10 he is a great play on Sunday.

Matt DiBenedetto ($8,100/7,200) I think Matt DiBenedetto deserves some consideration for lineups on Sunday. Playing DiBenedetto with Logano and Keselowski makes sense if you think the Fords are going to be up front at the end of the day. This is going to be the best car DiBenedetto has ever had at Talladega and I would expect to see him improve on his 23rd place starting position.

Christopher Bell ($8,900/9,700) I have not mentioned any of the Toyotas to this point and overall I am avoiding them like the plague, however, starting 35th, Christopher Bell deserves some consideration. There are only 7 Toyota’s in the field on Sunday (4 from JGR, Bell, Suarez, and Timmy Hill). For the sake of comparison, there are 15 Fords and 18 Chevys. I think the manufacturers will all work together which will put the Toyotas at a large disadvantage. I would consider Christopher Bell, but I’ll let 20-30% of my opponents play him, and I will go a different direction in single entry contests.

Value
Brendan Gaughan ($5,000/7,600)
I love Brendan Gaughan at this price point, starting 39th. My only hesitation is the fact that there is no practice or qualifying and this team hasn’t been at a race track since Daytona in February. If something is wrong with the car there is no way to catch it before the race starts. I think I’ll take that gamble and roll with Gaughan. He’s going to run towards the back of the pack for most of the day but I’m looking for him to make a push into the top 20 in the closing laps.

Ryan Preece ($7,200/6,200) Preece is starting 31st and I think it makes sense to pair Preece with Stenhouse, particularly on Draft Kings where you need an extra driver. Preece has had a couple memorable finishes on restrictor plate tracks including a top 10 in the 2019 Daytona 500 and a 3rd place finish in this race one year ago. Preece has also stayed out of trouble, finishing on the lead lap in both of his career races at Talladega.

I like using Chase Elliott with either Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski. I was not able to use all three and build a lineup that I liked. I like Brendan Gaughan as a value play on Fan Duel and on Draft Kings I like Ty Dillon and Ryan Preece as my low end plays. Stenhouse is my favorite mid-tier play on both sites and it’s really not close. Good luck, Happy Father’s Day, and enjoy Talladega!

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