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NASCAR DFS: 500 Cash and GPP Picks for DraftKings and FanDuel




Following Kyle Larson’s first victory in over seventy Cup races at Dover, NASCAR heads South. The second leg of the round of twelve commences for 500 miles around Talladega with the 500.

Playoff Update

By virtue of his win, Kyle Larson has locked himself into the round of eight. Somehow, Larson has become the first Chip Ganassi driver to do so under this format. A feat that will become a drinking game for every time its mentioned on NBC this weekend.

Meanwhile, a bad day for Ryan Blaney all but sank his hopes for the third round. Outside of a win this weekend or next in Kansas, the number-12 team is about to view the 2019 campaign as a disappointment, all because of one bad race. Joey Logano suffered a similar fate putting himself several laps down but remained in the race, much to the chagrin of Denny Hamlin later on. However, Logano’s cushion from accrued playoff points helped soften that blow.

As things stand on the heels of Talladega, Logano is “tied” with William Byron for the final transfer spot. However, Byron owns the tiebreaker, meaning last year’s champion is outside looking in. Clint Boyer sits four points below the cut off. Chase Elliott sits 9 points back of Alex Bowman thanks to his 39th-place finish at Dover. Finally, the aforementioned Ryan Blaney sits in 12th with 22 points between himself and the round of eight.

At a track like Talladega where literally anyone can win, all bets are off. Come Sunday evening, this playoff picture could remain static or look completely different. Perhaps we could see another driver like Aric Almirola steal a late victory and shake up this championship picture once more.

The Same Old Song and Dance

Start guys in the back.

Now you can return to your regularly scheduled NFL DFS research.

Let’s be honest, you can take that approach to lineup construction this weekend and probably be fine. However, the issue is everyone else knows about this method too. As I bemoan at every Super Speedway race, what was once the most heavily guarded edge in fantasy NASCAR has become the sport’s worst-kept secret. Perhaps, with most of the MME grinders gone to the NFL lobby, a slight edge will have returned. However, don’t bet on it.

Don’t expect first time or new NASCAR DFS players to suddenly fill the lobby. Thus, let’s dive into the research to glean whatever edge still exists in the weeds.

So Play Nice!

I refrain from using Spring and Fall Talladega races combined in my research because the circumstances are night and day. In the Spring, Talladega is a race most drivers are just trying to get through. A win is nice, but surviving to see the next week is more important. Furthermore, the playoff dynamic of the fall races seems to impact the way racers drive. A driver can go balls out and escape with a win. However, chances are they don’t win so surviving with all four tires on the pavement makes a lot of sense too.

A wreck here can go a long way in hamstringing a driver’s chances at the round of eight. No one wants to leave Alabama down 30-plus points, all but needing a win in Kansas to advance. Thus, the October Talladega race tends to produce subdued races. Drivers mind their manners, playoff and non-playoff alike. Only once in the last four October Talladega races have we seen three or more cars fail to finish due to wrecks. In fact, in 2018 and 2016, just one car did not finish due to a wreck or crash.

The outlier, of course, was the 2017 race when more than half of the field wrecked out. Playoff drivers don’t want to put themselves in a hole. Non-playoff drivers don’t want to be the reason a playoff driver misses the round of eight. Adjust accordingly.

Talladega in October

Thus, if Talladega racing doesn’t look like what we’ve seen at Daytona, it should have an impact on fantasy lineups. Below is the average starting position of the top-10, 15, and 20 fantasy scores for those Talladega races. Next to those average starting positions is the average place differential gained by those drivers. Thus, in October 2015 the average starting position of the top-10 fantasy scores was 19.7. Those top-10 fantasy scores averaged 11.5 place differential.

Race Top 10 Avg Start Pos <– Place Diff Top 15 Avg Start Pos <– Place Diff Top 20 Avg Start Pos <- Place Diff Cautions DNF-Crash
Oct 15 19.7 11.5 19.7 7.1 22.3 4.7 3 3
Oct 16 19.9 11.7 21.8 10.53 20.8 7.65 6 1
Oct 17 22.9 15 20.93 10.1 21.95 7.3 11 23
Oct 18 18.3 10.1 19.13 9.26 20.95 7.95 8 1

As previously mentioned, 2017 was our blip with wrecks and DNFs. Even with half of the field failing to finish the race, a top-10 fantasy driver’s starting position only moved back three spots. In our three similar races (15, 16, 17), a top-10 fantasy day started around 20th with about 12 positions gained.

Superspeedways in the 550 HP Package

Now, for kicks and grins, let’s compare that to what we’ve seen this year. While the differences are minute, this year’s Superspeedway package is different than past years. Notably, we’ve transitioned from a restrictor plate to a tapered spacer. We could easily get lost in the minutia, but just know there is a difference.

Race Top 10 Avg Start Pos <– Place Diff Top 15 Avg Start Pos <– Place Diff Top 20 Avg Start Pos <- Place Diff Cautions DNF-Crash
Apr 19 22 15 19.13 10.4 20.5 8.5 6 12
July 19 25.7 19.6 24.8 16.46 25.65 14.1 6 9

Just a blind reading across the box score would make you rub your chin. Everything seems to be on the rise this year from where the top-10 fantasy scores are coming from, the place differential they gained, and the number of cars failing to finish. However, we already know that these numbers are already higher in the spring. Plus, we should expect more wrecks when drivers are using a new package for the first time at a superspeedway. Furthermore, the July Daytona race was not only rain-delayed but rain-shortened. If you’ll remember, lots of upfront contenders pitted under the auspice that the race would restart after the rain delay only to see the race called. Several drivers with nothing to lose stayed out and Justin Haley won.

See, even I’m getting lost in the minutia. The point being, we only have two races to compare to years of races at Talladega. Let’s just assume that Sunday’s race mirrors past October Talladega events.

Past October Talladega Optimals


  • Picking a number on the starting grid and never going above it is the preferred way to build cash teams. In tournaments, you can trickle above that line with just one driver generally. You can get crazy and pick two drivers above 20th (or whatever you choose) but the more drivers you have above that line the more you opening yourself up to bad variance should a wreck occur.
  • Just pretend the salary cap doesn’t exist. Lineups are dictated by where drivers start and not point per dollar considerations. All of the above optimals left at least $2000 or more on the table.

Talladega Model

Color coding will be a little different than past weeks. Since we’re not concerned with Dominators and punts are just as viable as the top tier teams, we only have two colors. Green is more cash game-oriented plays. Orange is less safe, tournament type of plays. If you do play cash I would side with the green-shaded picks. Just remember, no one driver is safe, however some wreck less.

You know what to do. Good luck because luck is all we have left for tomorrow.

Phill Bennetzen is a father, husband, and Catholic as well as a self-professed annoying fitness guy. Phill heads up NASCAR content at and even though he doesn't have any live finals trips to his name, he provides some of the top NASCAR DFS analysis around. You can contact Phill by emailing

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