The Setup – YellaWood 500
By Tyler Miller
@rickybobby_jr

This weekend, NASCAR heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the YellaWood 500. Talladega is a 2.66-mile-high banked race track which used to be classified as a restrictor plate race track before NASCAR began using different means for slowing the cars down. Talladega features pack racing, plenty of excitement, lead changes, and usually one or two large wrecks that take out multiple cars. Talladega and Daytona are my favorite tracks for DFS contests. I like to play larger than normal entry fees in single entry contests. I do not advise playing cash games for Talladega because the risk is so much higher than the reward. Let’s get started.

Race Distance: 188 laps, Stage 1 ends on lap 60, Stage 2 ends on lap 120.
Lineup Lock 2:00 pm eastern Sunday
Last year’s winner: Ryan Blaney (Started 9th)
Spring Winner: Ryan Blaney (Started 12th)
Last year’s pole sitter: Chase Elliott (Finished 8th)
Spring Pole sitter: Martin Truex Jr. (Finished 23rd)

Prior race winners:
2019 Spring: Chase Elliott (Started 11th)
2018 Fall: Aric Almirola (4th)
2018 Spring: Joey Logano (9th)
2017 Fall: Brad Keselowski (6th)
2017 Spring: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1st)

What Vegas thinks (Opening lines via BetMGM)
Due to Talladega’s unpredictability, the favorite is at 10-1 with a large group of drivers clumped between 10 and 15-1. If I would bet this, I would go for a longshot and a big payday. Someone like Stenhouse (14-1), Bowman (20-1), or Bowyer (25-1). DiBenedetto at 40-1 seems like a typo, but he is probably the best longshot if you want to lay a $20 down and potentially walk away with an $800 payday from someone who will likely run up front all race long.

Ryan Blaney 10-1
Brad Keselowski 11-1
Denny Hamlin 11-1
Chase Elliott 11-1
Joey Logano 11-1
Aric Almirola 14-1
Kevin Harvick 14-1
Kyle Busch 14-1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 14-1
Kurt Busch 16-1
Alex Bowman 20-1
Martin Truex Jr. 20-1

Driver Ratings at Talladega:
1. Ryan Blaney 91.7
2. Joey Logano 91.1
3. Kurt Busch 90.3
4. Chase Elliott 90.3
5. Brad Keselowski 89.5
6. Jimmie Johnson 86.5
7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 86.2
8. Matt Kenseth 85.3
9. John Hunter Nemechek 84.1
10. Denny Hamlin 83.8
11. Kyle Busch 82.0
12. William Byron 81.5
13. Kevin Harvick 80.8
14. Aric Almirola 80.1
15. Clint Bowyer 79.8

Average Running Position
1. Cole Custer 11.990
2. Chase Elliott 12.015
3. Ryan Blaney 12.465
4. Tyler Reddick 13.476
5. William Byron 13.509
6. Kurt Busch 13.511
7. Joey Logano 13.649
8. Brad Keselowski 14.951
9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 14.961
10. Christopher Bell 15.435
11. Matt Kenseth 15.477
12. Jimmie Johnson 15.608
13. Daniel Suarez 17.021
14. Kevin Harvick 17.120
15. Denny Hamlin 17.171

Laps Led
1. Matt Kenseth 463 (9.0% of laps run)
2. Joey Logano 352 (8.0)
3. Jimmie Johnson 325 (5.5)
4. Denny Hamlin 320 (5.8)
5. Brad Keselowski 293 (6.7)
6. Kyle Busch 250 (4.4)
7. Kurt Busch 228 (3.9)
8. Kevin Harvick 226 (3.8)
9. Ryan Blaney 153 (6.7)
10. Chase Elliott 128 (7.5)
11. Clint Bowyer 123 (2.2)
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 94 (3.5)

Spring Top 10:
1. Ryan Blaney
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
3. Aric Almirola
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Erik Jones
6. Chris Buescher
7. Alex Bowman
8. John Hunter Nemechek
9. Kurt Busch
10. Kevin Harvick

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

My strategy at Talladega has been to avoid Toyota drivers and I think I am going to stick with that. As a manufacturer, Toyota has the fewest cars in the field and we have seen recently where the Fords and Chevys team up and leave the Toyotas in the dust. Talladega is wide enough (wider than Daytona) to allow this to happen and it puts the Toyotas at a disadvantage. The goal at Talladega is to select top end drivers who will run up front, lead laps, stay out of trouble, and be on the lead lap at he end of the race. If all of your drivers (5 on Fan Duel, 6 on DK) are on the lead lap with 5 laps to go, you have a chance to take down a tournament. It should be no surprise that Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, and Chase Elliott are at the top of my list. These drivers have a history of leading laps and finishing well at Talladega.

Ryan Blaney ($12,000/9,100) I think Ryan Blaney is a lock, particularly on Draft Kings where he is priced down. Blaney has the highest driver rating and is 3rd in average running position. Blaney has won the last two races at Talladega, led laps in 5 of the last 6 races and finished on the lead lap in 5 straight at Talladega.

Joey Logano ($11,600/10,300) I think Logano, Blaney, and Keselowski run up towards the front all race long. This is going to be a race where you can play 2 of the 3 and just hope that you have the guy that leads most of the laps. Logano is second behind Blaney in driver rating and has double digit laps led in 8 of his last 10 races at Talladega.

Chase Elliott ($11,800/10,500) Talladega is all about avoiding a crash for Chase Elliott. We haven’t talked about the playoff picture, but there are a group of drivers, including Elliott, that need to stay out of trouble and finish well at Talladega on Sunday. I think Elliott has less pressure when compared to some of the other playoff drivers because he runs so well at the Charlotte ROVAL (which is next week). In nine career starts at Talladega, Elliott has one win, he has led double digit laps four times, but he has failed to finish on the lead lap four times. I like Elliott, but I certainly like Blaney and Logano more.

I like locking in 2 of the 3 drivers listed above and then get creative with the rest of your lineup. There are a lot of great options in the mid to lower tier. Look for guys who embrace and enjoy what was formerly known as “plate racing” (they don’t use restrictor plates anymore so I refer to this as superspeedway racing). I will list several options here with some thoughts but ultimately you could make an argument for using nearly every driver in the field.

Justin Haley ($5,500/5,400) Justin Haley is driving for Spire motorsports in the number 77 car on Sunday. Haley got a deal together to run this race with sponsorship from Parts Plus and I believe (not 100% sure) that they bought a car from Ganassi to run this race. Even with the sponsorship, I would expect Haley to run in a pack at the back of the field for 90% of the race in order to be there at the end after the final caution. Haley is a solid superspeedway driver with wins at Daytona and Talladega in the Xfinity Series (including yesterday) and a cup series win at Daytona in a rain shortened July race a year ago. Haley is not going to win this race, but a top 20 finish at minimum price from the 35th starting position makes him a good play.

Brendan Gaughan ($5,000/9,500) If you have read any of my stuff in the past at Daytona and Talladega, you know that I’m usually high on Brendan Gaughan. Gaughan is starting 39th, he has a solid track record of racing smart at these tracks and moving forward at the end of the race. Gaughan drivers for Beard Motorsports or some such organization that nobody’s heard of, but he has an ECR engine and an RCR chassis. Draft Kings recognizes the increase scoring potential of Gaughan and significantly priced him up compared to Fan Duel. Either way I really like him in this race on Sunday. Gaughan isn’t going to lead any laps or run up front in either stage, but if he stays out of trouble he can score a lot of points at the end of the race as he’s shown with finishes of 21, 27, 8, 12, 22, and 19 in his past 6 races at Talladega.

Tyler Reddick ($9,600/7,900) I really like Tyler Reddick in this spot at Talladega. Reddick was aggressive in the first Talladega race this year leading 19 laps and finishing 20th. I like him to improve on that Sunday as he is starting from the 30th position.

Matt Kenseth ($6,200,5,900) Matt Kenseth had a solid career at Talladega before retiring in 2018. Kenseth has the 8th best driver rating, 11th in average running position, and he has lead more laps at Talladega that anyone else in the field. Kenseth has the added motivation that comes along with his teammate winning at Las Vegas last week, so I’d look for Kenseth to push towards the front from his 20th place starting position. Kenseth is also way under-priced for this race.

Bubba Wallace ($6,600/7,700) Starting 27th, Bubba Wallace has some upside on Sunday. I would compare Wallace to Stenhouse to this race but with less risk. Wallace has had some solid finishes at superspeedways and to his credit, he has largely stayed out of crashes. I like using Bubba on Sunday.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($11,000/8,800) Starting 26th, Stenhouse is going to be a popular play on Sunday. Stenhouse has a history of being aggressive, leading laps, and running up front at Daytona and Talladega. Stenhouse finished 2nd at Talladega in the spring leading 5 laps. He also led laps in this year’s Daytona 500 before having issues late and he crashed at Daytona a month ago. I’m about 50/50 on Stenhouse. I think it’s a solid play and I think he will be popular, but I personally will not play him on Sunday.

William Byron ($8,800/8,900) William Byron has turned into a solid superspeedway racer as we saw when he won at Daytona a month ago. In five career starts at Talladega, Byron’s best finish of 11th came earlier this year but his other four finishes are lackluster at best (33, 21, 20, 29). I think there is some upside here as Byron starts the race 21st.

These are my thoughts on Talladega. Remember, anything can happen at Talladega and one crash could literally wipe out every driver I listed above. The beauty of this race is that most of the big DFS players that we compete against in the summer are focused on football. Last season we had a really good run during the NASCAR playoffs and I’m convinced that a big reason why was because the guys we play against are more focus on NFL than NASCAR during this time of the year. Good luck to all our subscribers on Sunday!

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