The Setup – GEICO 500 Race Preview
By Tyler Miller

This week, NASCAR visits Talladega for the 1000 500. This is NASCAR’s second visit to the 2.66 mile superspeedway in Alabama. This is the second race in the round of 12 for the Monster Energy NASCAR playoffs, and the final superspeedway race of the 2019 season. We have had three solid weeks of NASCAR DFS at Richmond, Charlotte, and Dover. Now it’s time to push the chips to the center of the table and make some money playing GPPs at Talladega. I’m excited for this weekend, let’s get started!

Race Distance: 188 laps. Stage 1 ends on lap 55, Stage 2 ends on lap 110.
Lineup Lock 2:00 pm eastern Sunday
Spring winner – Chase Elliott (started 11th),
Spring pole sitter: Austin Dillon,

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)

Dover Recap:
What went right?

Dover was a shining example of why contest selection is so important in NASCAR. Despite Joey Logano breaking an axel before the race even started, I cashed in about half of the single entry cash game contests I entered. Having a solid selection of drivers in Victory Lane made cashing a possibility when all seemed lost before the race even started. Kevin Harvick worked out, Martin Truex Jr was a solid play, Kyle Larson won the race, Jimmie Johnson did exactly what I thought he would do. Daniel Suarez was an ok play. He didn’t meet expectations, but he also didn’t kill anyone’s lineup. Matt DiBenedetto exceeded expectations with a 7th place finish (6th in Fan Duel Scoring).

My cash lineup ended up being Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, and Matt DiBenedetto. This lineup scored 334 points on Fan Duel and cashed in about half the contests I entered. I ended up making $0.60 over my entry fees. Considering how the race started, I’m calling that a win!

What went wrong?
Obviously Joey Logano did not work out. I thought my lineups were killed when I saw him go to the garage to change an axel before he turned a single lap under green. The fact that Chase Elliott was roughly equally owned and had a much worse day (Logano scored 34.5, Elliott scored -12.7 on Fan Duel) kept my lineup competitive. The only other big miss was William Byron. Byron was the last driver written up in Victory Lane for a reason. I expressed caution and said that I didn’t’ like his starting position, but he still disappointed my lowered expectations.
I didn’t write up Denny Hamlin which was a mistake. I knew I was taking a risk by not recommending Hamlin when I knew it could be hard to pass the leader. Hamlin finished the race 5th but his 219 laps led were enough to make him the second highest scoring driver on Fan Duel. I also missed out on Alex Bowman. The history was there for Bowman; coming off a second place finish and coming to a track where he finished 2nd in the spring. I didn’t see speed in Bowman’s practice sessions which led me in a different direction.

What to watch for in practice/qualifying:

GPP only this week The style of racing at Talladega lends itself to large wrecks, surprise winners, and overall unpredictability. I will look over the practice speeds, but the best play will be drivers who historically do well at Talladega, but qualify in the middle of the pack. As I’ve explained previously, Daytona and Talladega are GPP only tracks. In my opinion, playing cash games at these two tracks is too high a risk for minimal reward. If you are going to take the risk of a driver being in “the big one”, you need the reward of a larger payout.

Alliances within manufacturers One of the reasons why we were so successful at Talladega in April was a complete omission of the top Toyota drivers. If the Chevy’s and Ford’s stick together, they have strength in numbers that make you believe this will be a race between Joey Logano and Chase Elliott because both those are the two drivers who need a win the most after issues at Dover. Toyota only has 5 full-time teams in the four JGR cars (Busch, Hamlin, Truex, Jones) and the LFR car (DiBenedetto). This weekend they will also have Parker Kligerman in a Toyota, but Kligerman will likely run his own race absent of any instructions from Toyota.

If the manufacturer alliances are in place, be thinking about which mid-tier to low end drivers that could benefit. For example, if all the Fords ran together you would assume Logano, Keselowski, or Harvick would win the race, but David Ragan or Michael McDowell might benefit from an above average finish if they are glued to the back bumper of the SHR and Penske cars. We saw this in the spring when Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric benefitted from following the Hendrick cars to the front of the field and Ryan Preece won DFS players a lot of money back in April.

What Vegas thinks (via Westgate):
Joey Logano is the favorite at 8-1. Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski are close behind at 11-1, I think Logano and Elliott are good bets for Sunday as the Fords will likely push Logano, and the Chevy’s will push Elliott with the Toyotas left far behind.

Joey Logano 8-1
Chase Elliott 10-1
Brad Keselowski 10-1
Denny Hamlin 11-1
Kyle Busch 12-1
Kevin Harvick 14-1
Alex Bowman 16-1
Clint Bowyer 16-1
Kurt Busch 16-1
Jimmie Johnson 16-1
Martin Truex Jr. 16-1
Ryan Blaney 18-1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 18-1
Aric Almirola 20-1
William Byron 20-1

Driver Ratings at Talladega:
1. Chase Elliott 93.4
2. Kurt Busch 90.5
3. Joey Logano 89.8
4. Brad Keselowski 89.0
5. Jimmie Johnson 87.1
6. Ryan Blaney 86.7
7. Daniel Hemric 85.5
8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 83.5
9. Denny Hamlin 83.2
10. Kyle Busch 81.8
11. Kevin Harvick 81.0
12. William Byron 80.4
13. Aric Almirola 80.2
14. Kyle Larson 79.0
15. Martin Truex Jr. 78.3

Average Running Position at Talladega:
1. Chase Elliott 10.745
2. William Byron 13.371
3. Ryan Blaney 13.521
4. Kurt Busch 13.652
5. Joey Logano 14.345
6. Daniel Hemric 15.372
7. Daniel Suarez 15.495
8. Jimmie Johnson 15.501
9. Brad Keselowski 15.543
10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 15.705
11. Denny Hamlin 17.301
12. Kevin Harvick 17.365
13. Kyle Busch 18.044
14. Kyle Larson 18.071
15. Aric Almirola 18.095

Laps Led
1. Jimmie Johnson 322 (5.8% of laps run)
2. Joey Logano 303 (7.6)
3. Denny Hamlin 302 (5.9)
4. Brad Keselowski 271 (6.8)
5. Kyle Busch 238 (4.5)
6. Kevin Harvick 224 (4.1)
7. Kurt Busch 212 (3.8)
8. Clint Bowyer 110 (2.1)
9. Chase Elliott 106 (8.0)

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

Stay tuned for updated content following qualifying on Saturday.

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