Race Weekend Central

Daily Fantasy NASCAR DraftKings Forecast: 2024 Geico 500

They say everything is bigger in Texas and last weekend that held true.

Not only did Chase Elliott collect a huge win that snapped a long winless streak, but I collected my biggest payday of the year by taking him as the top-finishing Chevrolet driver. I hope you won your groups and collected a payday too, dear reader.

This weekend though, is a whole different beast, one that is far bigger than Texas.

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Through the Gears: Talladega Best Bets

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to the fast, wide, and treacherous high banks of Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. This place is the largest oval in the sport, weighing in at 2.66 miles in length. Just like at her sister track of Daytona International Speedway, Talladega provides intense pack racing in which the draft rules the day. Unlike Daytona, however, the start/finish line is not in the tri-oval, but the frontstretch. This has provided some crazy finishes over the years.

Some of NASCAR’s most memorable moments have happened on the storied grounds of this track, such as Bill Elliott‘s record qualifying time, Dale Earnhardt‘s final win, and Carl Edwards’ insane pirouette into the catch fence off Brad Keselowski‘s front bumper.

The key to winning this race is much easier said than done: survive. The pack racing mentioned above can summon the fabled crash known as The Big One in which most of the field can find itself. If you can survive it, and make the right moves in the pack, you stand a good chance of competing for the win.

Varying strategies have proven to work here, such as staying up at the front of the pack or riding around toward the back. The one place you don’t want to find yourself is mid-pack, possibly going three, four or even five-wide around this place.

Coverage begins on Sunday (April 21) at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.

Trying to pick a team to win here is very tricky, and you can save some salary by picking dark horses to run well here. Before we get into that, though, here’s a quick rules rundown:

Points will be awarded on DraftKings for finishing position, position differential, fastest laps and laps led. The driver who wins the race scores 45 fantasy points, while second gets 42 points, third gets 41 points and so on, at least through the top 10. The 11th-place finisher scores 32 points, 21st gets 21 points and 31st gets 10 points.

However many spots they lose or gain on the track is added to or subtracted from the score. Then, if the driver leads a lap, they will earn 0.25 points for each lap led. They’ll also earn 0.45 points for each fastest lap.

DraftKings NASCAR Scoring Rules

Fantasy Forecast

1. Brad Keselowski ($10,200)

    Stats that matter: 6 career wins at Talladega, 14 top ten finishes in 30 starts at Talladega, finished 2nd last week at Texas

    Sunday’s race will be five days from the 15th anniversary of Keselowski’s infamous first win at Talladega, and he’s still searching for his first win with RFK Racing. Ford is also looking for its first win of the season as well.

    To me, it’s written in the numbers for him to bring it home this weekend. He has the most wins among active drivers here, and he is always in the mix at these drafting tracks unless he’s on the hook headed back to the garage.

    He also has good momentum with him, as his runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway could be a sign of things to come for this team. As long as he doesn’t cause or get swept up in any carnage, look for the No. 6 to be up front all day.

    See also
    4 Burning Questions: Will 2024 Be Hendrick's Winningest Season?

    2. Chase Elliott ($10,000)

    Stats that matter: 2 career wins at Talladega, career average finish of 13.6 at Talladega, won last week at Texas

    The 2020 champion finally got the monkey off his back last week, and many see it as a signal that he is finally back to his championship form.

    I agree with that, and I look for the nearby Dawsonville Pool Room to be celebrating again sometime soon, perhaps as soon as this week. Historically, Talladega is one of Elliott’s best tracks as he has two wins there and has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts there.

    Elliott also seems very adept at crash avoidance, as he exhibited in the Daytona 500 earlier this year. If anyone can survive this place, it’s the cerebral and methodical driver No. 9.

    3. Bubba Wallace ($9,200)

    Stats that matter: 1 career Talladega win, has led at Talladega 9 times in 12 career starts, 2 straight top ten finishes in his past two starts.

    First and foremost, I want to congratulate Wallace on getting word that he’s going to be a father soon. As a dad myself, I can say that no matter what happens on the racetrack, that’s one of the biggest wins you can get in life.

    Now, he does have a win here, his first career win back in 2021 in a rain-shortened effort. However, he is always a factor in this race. He is always up front at some point in time as well.

    Whether or not he can stay out of trouble is another question entirely. Wallace hasn’t finished better than 16th here since that win and finished an abysmal 28th in this race last season.

    4. Chris Buescher ($8,500)

    Stats that matter: 1 career win on a drafting track (Daytona 2023), finished 3rd last spring at Talladega, average finish of 13.3 in 2024

    Talladega has been a bit of a mixed bag for the pride of Prosper, Texas.

    He won last fall in Daytona and finished third here last spring, but that’s his only top-five finish here in 17 career starts. However, I picked his teammate and owner Keselowski as the first driver on this squad, so I have faith that Buescher will run well too.

    The two teammates draft extremely well together, as they exhibited when Buescher won last year’s playoff cutoff race at Daytona. Therefore, it stands to surmise that wherever Keselowski goes, Buescher goes as well, whether that be up front or not. Their success this week hinges on each other.

    5. Todd Gilliland ($6,100)

    Stats that matter: Impressive runs at Daytona and Atlanta earlier this season, career average finish of 14.0 at Talladega, 3 straight top 15 finishes at Talladega

    Goodness gracious a lot has changed for this team since February.

    After incredible showings at both Daytona and Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gilliland and Front Row Motorsports appeared to be on their way up. He led 74 laps between the first two races of the season and qualified fourth at Atlanta.

    Since then, however, he’s only managed to lead 19 laps in the seven races since and hasn’t finished better than 13th since during that span. This team needs a shot in the arm, and coming to another drafting track could be the spark it needs.

    Gilliland is a good, safe underdog to take this weekend.

    See also
    NASCAR Mailbox: When Will Ford Win on Sunday So it Sells on Monday?

    6. Shane van Gisbergen ($5,500)

    Stats that matter: Making his first superspeedway start in the Cup Series, finished 3rd at Atlanta in the NASCAR Xfinity Series earlier this season

    Told you we were going to be picking dark horses.

    There is none bigger, perhaps than SVG. He has never raced a Cup Series car on a drafting track. Heck, he’s never even started a Cup race on an oval before. Is he ready for the biggest, baddest superspeedway in the sport?

    I don’t have the answer to that particular question, but, let me take you back to the Xfinity race at Atlanta earlier this season. SVG gathered a podium finish in that event, and he had never run at a place quite like Atlanta before. I’m confident saying that the V8 SuperCars legend will do what he does best this week.

    Surprise people.

    Prop Bets and Locks

    1. Ryan Blaney (+1000) to win: Blaney has been in the picture for wins extremely often this season. With three career wins at Talladega, he knows how to get it done here. Ford desperately needs a win, and the defending champion running at his best track this weekend presents a great opportunity for both Blaney and your wallet.
    2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+1300) as top finishing Chevrolet driver: Stenhouse has had a pretty miserable year in 2024, but he’s rolling into his wheelhouse this weekend. The 2023 Daytona 500 winner hasn’t finished better than 15th here since 2020, but he has won here in the past. This is a gamble, to be sure, but that’s the name of the game.
    3. Alex Bowman (+600) to finish in the top three: Bowman was on a real roll before getting caught up early in a crash at Texas. Statistically, he’s not been wonderful here at Talladega, but he did finish runner-up at Daytona in February. The odds are primed for you to make money on this one if the No. 48 can survive Sunday.

    This weekend is highly based on luck. Anything can happen at Talladega, so don’t beat yourself up too much if you miss on any of your picks or your bet slips. It’s all for the love of the game.

    Alexa, play “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Good luck this week, and happy betting!!

    About the author

    Garrett joined Frontstretch as a news writer in 2023, and became a fantasy racing and betting writer in 2024. Hailing from the heart of coal country in southern West Virginia,  he's a married father of three and currently enrolled in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at New River Community Technical College in Beaver, WV. He has been a racing fan since 1998, primarily watching NASCAR, but branching out to F1 and IndyCar as his love for motorsports has grown.

    Follow on X @Cook_g9

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    Echo

    I started liking Brad when he held his line and didn’t back off when Carl thought he could intimidate him but Brad had the position and won the race. Oh that’s right, Nascar threw the rain flag when bubba got to the front.

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