The NASCAR Cup Series is gearing up for the high banks of the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Let’s get your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings rosters ready for the GEICO 500, airing Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.
Talladega, the largest track on the schedule, is known for its often chaotic nature. It’s wide enough to where cars race across three or even four lanes, and one wrong bump can set off the Big One.
And while the final 44 laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this season stayed under green flag conditions, I feel that it’s more of an anomaly rather than the norm. I don’t expect this upcoming race at ‘Dega to be as “tame.”
But even if it is, there are certain drivers who can either get up front at the finish or who just seem to have a knack at staying in the top 10 throughout the race. An example of the former is Erik Jones at Atlanta; I don’t know how he did it, but somehow the seas gradually parted for him, and he drove through the middle on the last lap.
Be sure to see where everyone qualifies for this Sunday’s race, as there could be some value further back in the pack.
Before I reveal the drivers I’m considering for Talladega, let’s see how Martinsville Speedway’s picks did on DraftKings:
|DraftKings Salary||Driver||DraftKings Score|
I don’t know what happened between that Saturday’s practice and Sunday’s race, but William Byron went from having the fastest car to the not-so-fastest car. Definitely hurt his score on DraftKings.
Meanwhile, Stewart-Haas Racing looked to be the team to beat until two of them beat themselves with some issues, including Kevin Harvick. Harvick’s wheel got cut all the way around the rim and somehow stayed on for him to return to the pits and get a new wheel. Unfortunately, he was unable to get back up front.
Here’s a closer look at the DraftKings scoring rules …
The winner on the racetrack tallies 45 points, while second place gets 42, third 41 and so on. Tenth place scores 34, while 11th gets 32 and decreases by one from there through 20th. This pattern repeats for 21st through 30th and again from 31st through 40th.
Additionally, drivers can earn or lose a point depending on where they began the race. For example, if Joey Logano started third and won, he would gain two points in addition to his finishing position points, totaling 47 fantasy points.
Drivers also can earn .45 points for each fastest lap and .25 for each lap they lead.
Also, I will be hosting a free NASCAR DraftKings league that will run each week for the Cup Series only. It’s free to join, but as of now it’s just for bragging rights. You’ll get to compete against me and some of my colleagues here at Frontstretch.
Here is the link to the league:
Now, here are my picks for Talladega!
DraftKings Picks: Top Tier ($8,900-$10,400)
Ryan Blaney ($10,300)
Career at Talladega: 17 starts, 2 wins, 4 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 16.0
Blaney is generally one of the first drivers anyone considers in fantasy for superspeedways, and for good reason. He and his Team Penske teammates often link together at the front of the pack, and if they can stay together by the end of the race, one could win. This happened in last year’s Daytona 500 when Blaney helped to push Austin Cindric for much of the event. This year, he finished eighth after leading one lap.
Blaney’s No. 12 also finished second last fall at Talladega to his friend Elliott, just missing out on his third career win at the 2.66-mile track. His two victories there came back-to-back in fall 2019 and June 2020, leading 35 and 63 circuits in each race, respectively.
If Blaney can avoid the chaos on the track and not speed on pit road like he did at Atlanta, he should be able to earn another good finish and lead some laps on Sunday.
Denny Hamlin ($9,900)
Career at Talladega: 34 starts, 2 wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 16.6
Hamlin is another skilled pack racer, with three Daytona 500 wins and two victories at ‘Dega, most recently in fall 2020. And the last two fall races at Talladega, he earned top 10s, leading 20 laps last year.
However, since the switch to the Next Gen car, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing pilot hasn’t seemed to figure out the new package, as he only has two top 10s at the last eight pack-racing tracks. One of these was a sixth at Atlanta last month after leading 14 laps.
If Hamlin can hang around to the end, I see no reason why he can’t take what he learned at Atlanta and last year’s ‘Dega races to hopefully get another top 10 and lead some laps.
Ross Chastain ($9,400)
Career at Talladega: 8 starts, 1 win, 2 top fives, 2 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 17.6
Since joining Trackhouse Racing Team in 2022, Chastain has performed well at the superspeedways and the new Atlanta. He has four top-five finishes and five top 10s in the eight races the last two years, one of which was a win in the 2022 GEICO 500. He led 36 laps en route to a fourth place last fall at Talladega; he followed that up with a ninth in this year’s Daytona 500 after starting 23rd.
And in Atlanta’s reconfiguration debut last season, the Watermelon Man scored second-place results in both the spring and summer events.
It’s actually quite remarkable how well Chastain does, considering he doesn’t usually have hardly any help from behind. He may be a little bit pricey, but he should be one to lock in on DraftKings.
Middle Tier ($7,200-$8,700)
Bubba Wallace ($8,700)
Career at Talladega: 10 starts, 1 win, 1 top five, 1 top 10
Average finish at Talladega: 18.9
Bubba Wallace has had some interesting results at Daytona and Talladega. He hasn’t finished in the top 10 there since the 2022 Daytona 500 when he was edged out by Cindric. However, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been around at the end of these races. In February, he was in the top 10 on the last lap, pushing Kyle Busch when he and many others crashed, bringing out the final caution. Wallace ended up 20th.
And of course, he earned his first victory in the rain-shortened playoff race at Talladega in 2021.
Last year at Atlanta, the 23XI Racing driver earned a pair of top 15s after starting 19th and 32nd in the spring and summer, respectively. So even if Wallace doesn’t earn another top 10, a top 15 would do fine if he doesn’t qualify in the front.
Austin Dillon ($7,200)
Career at Talladega: 19 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 5 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 17.7
Before the caution came out for Daniel Suarez in this year’s Great American Race, Austin Dillon was behind his Richard Childress Racing teammate Kyle Busch at the front. He then was caught up in a wreck that knocked him out of the race, leaving him in 33rd. So Dillon has proven he can hang around near the lead, as long as there isn’t chaos near him.
Though Dillon doesn’t have any victories at ‘Dega, he has a pair of trophies from Daytona; one of these is his Harley J. Earl trophy from the 2018 Daytona 500, while the other came in last year’s regular season finale.
The No. 3 has a few good results at the Alabama superspeedway, including a runner-up in the 2022 GEICO 500. In 2021, Dillon placed eighth in the spring and 11th in the fall, gaining positions in both.
As long as neither Dillon nor Busch gets knocked out early, both should try to keep the same gameplan as in the season opener to ensure a good finish, which would likely be a higher score on DraftKings.
Low Tier ($4,500-$7,000)
Michael McDowell ($6,800)
Career at Talladega: 24 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 4 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 25.8
From 2008 through spring 2019 at Talladega, Michael McDowell didn’t finish up front much, if at all. However, he turned a corner in recent races, as all three of his top fives came within the last seven events there. One of these, in spring 2021, earned him a podium after starting 23rd.
The Next Gen car seemed to especially help him; McDowell drove from 21st to eighth in this race last spring, while in the fall he advanced from 29th to third.
And don’t forget about his 2021 Daytona 500 title; the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports machine was in the right place at the right time when the caution came out for a fiery crash.
Look for McDowell to continue his top-10 streak at Talladega.
AJ Allmendinger ($6,200)
Career at Talladega: 18 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 22.4
Since joining Kaulig Racing, AJ Allmendinger seems to do really well at plate tracks. For example, he gained 23 positions in this year’s season opener at Daytona to finish in sixth. Coincidentally, that was the same result of his last Talladega race with JTG Daugherty Racing back in 2018.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021 and 2022, Allmendinger scored four consecutive top fives at Daytona, including two second-place finishes in summer 2021 and February 2022. Meanwhile, at Talladega, he has three top fives and four top 10s in Xfinity, one of which is a victory last fall.
Allmendinger and Justin Haley worked well together while in NXS on the superspeedways, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t try to link up once again this week.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.
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