The field is set for Sunday’s race at Talladega with Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. on the front row. Let’s delve into this week’s top Fantasy NASCAR picks and value plays for DraftKings and FanDuel NASCAR DFS lineups for the GEICO 500.
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Playing Cash Games in Superspeedway Races
There are a few basic tenets that have to be addressed before any race at Daytona, Talladega and now Atlanta happens. However, these criteria for building cash lineups at these tracks need to be rehashed because straying from these is a surefire way to not cash on DraftKings or FanDuel.
- Whatever salary is leftover, don’t sweat it. The less one worries about salaries, and leftover cap, the better for the overall NASCAR DFS mindset this weekend.
- Drivers need to have access to place differential and finishing position points. This is where the adage “stack the back” comes in. More often than not, the drivers starting in the latter half of the field end up with the higher average DFS scores because they have access to place differential and finishing position points.
- On the flip side, even though there are 188 laps, don’t worry about dominators. First, the fastest laps will get randomly dispersed throughout the field dependent on where drivers are located in the draft from lap to lap. Second, trying to predict just who is going to lead is a fool’s errand and even if a DFS player nails lap leaders, those drivers can easily lose multiple positions via the draft, or wreck out altogether, and make those laps led bonus points null via lost place differential.
With these three factors in mind, a standard cash lineup for Sunday should have all six drivers starting 19th, 20th, 21st, or beyond who all have legitimate upside to race their way forward and gain double-digit place differential in the process. While the following drivers are not a comprehensive list (via the RaceSheets, 14 drivers are listed as cash options), a few favorites are blurbed below with their merits.
Ryan Blaney, 22nd ($10,500 DraftKings, $14,000 FanDuel)
Perhaps his worst starting position at Talladega in years, Blaney’s slow qualifying speed places him firmly in the pool for cash games. Not only does he have access to place differential, but he’s also currently the odds-on favorite to win Sunday’s race on BetMGM (+1000). Blaney comes into Talladega as a two-time, back-to-back winner in 2019 and 2020 as well as the summer 2021 Daytona winner.
While plenty of other drivers offers more place differential, playing Blaney in cash may be more of a block play than anything. Expect him to be the highest-owned driver in multi-entry double-ups and one of the best Fantasy NASCAR picks on the board this week.
Chase Elliott, 28th ($9,900 DraftKings, $12,500 FanDuel)
One of the biggest names to run a slow lap in qualifying, Elliott fits the bill of what DFS players should be looking for in a driver. While Elliott may not offer the place differential of other drivers listed below, he does have top-five potential and those finishing position points will be valuable should he end his day there.
Over his past three seasons at Talladega, Elliott has a win (Spring 2019) as well as two other top 10 finishes. Most recently, he has three top 10 finishes in his past three Daytona starts.
Cole Custer, 29th ($5,600 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel)
Finishes of 10th and 13th last season at Talladega, appears to have a better knack for getting around Talladega as opposed to Daytona.
David Ragan, 36th ($5,900 DraftKings, $4,200 FanDuel)
He finished eighth in the Daytona 500, ran well at the new Atlanta (35th to 18th), tons of place differential to capitalize on for DFS … don’t complicate this one for a two-time superspeedway winner.
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Landon Cassill, 39th ($4,900 DraftKings, $4,000 FanDuel)
After failing technical inspection three times on Friday, the No. 77 team was penalized with no qualifying attempt on Saturday and a pass-through penalty on Sunday. If this sounds familiar, this is a similar scenario that Daniel Hemric had to go through in the Daytona 500. Ultimately, Hemric ended up being fine and raced his way into the 12th position by the end of the race. The precedent seems to be there that this penalty may not be the death knell it appears to be.
Yes, Cassill will be a sitting duck out driving by himself as a 38-car field closes in on him lap by lap. However, all Cassill has to do is catch the draft once the field catches up on him and then ride around until the first wreck or, more likely, stage break when he’ll get his lap back. Not to mention, with the heat that NASCAR has been experiencing in Alabama, there is the hope that NASCAR officials will have an early caution to inspect tires and see how they’re holding up in the heat. In that case, Cassill should be back on the lead lap in no time.
Outside of these scenarios, Cassill finished 15th in this year’s Daytona 500 and he’ll have a fantastic drafting partner in Corey LaJoie (another fantastic option at his salary on both sites). Spire has shown a willingness for their teammates, in superspeedway races, to work together as they did earlier this season. Two more than competent superspeedway drivers teaming up towards the end could mean a day in which Cassill ends with 20-plus place differential.
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