NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: GEICO 500

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
NASCAR Daily Fantasy Helper: GEICO 500

If you are looking for an action-packed way to consume sports on the weekend, NASCAR may be a great avenue to explore. Far from just driving in circles, some of the world's best compete nearly every weekend from February to November on tracks across America.

NASCAR drivers are scored ultimately based on how they finish in the race, how many spots they advance from their starting position, and how many laps they finish and lead. Avoiding drivers who crash out of the race is a must, though!

FanDuel Research is always your home for fantasy NASCAR advice. In addition to this helper, Jim Sannes takes a look at the best bets of the weekend in his betting guide.

With all of this in mind, let's preview this weekend's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway from the perspective of playing daily fantasy NASCAR on FanDuel.


Track Primer and General Lineup Strategy

Daytona and Talladega weekends just feel different.

Any time we hit the high banks of a superspeedway, 30-plus drivers can win -- or wreck in any corner. That adds a ton of volatility to DFS contests and sets up a tried and true strategy of stacking the back in DFS contests.

That works from two perspectives. First, laps led are randomized and not often concentrated. No driver led more than 55 laps in either 2024 race here. That really hurts the usual upside of a driver starting toward the front.

Plus, a high rate of accidents also only boosts those starting at the back for floor purposes. At least eight cars in each race last year fell victim to mechanical issues or crash damage -- and it was a light year for those. We've seen as few as 10 cars finish this event in the past decade.

With that clear strategy in mind, it'll be important to try and be different while choosing from the best process plays. Normally, leaving a ton of salaries for starters toward the back is an easy way to differentiate, but plenty of this weekend's favorites happened to qualify toward the back on Saturday.

Driver Rankings

Below are my post-qualifying rankings for each driver based on equipment, starting order, recent form, track history, and overall talent level -- in that order.

Starting Spot is where the drivers will roll off the grid. For potential lap leaders (i.e. high-salaried drivers), closer access to the front is better. For value plays, a lower starting spot gives a higher floor and access to 0.5 points on FanDuel for each position advanced in the order.

Jim's Sims are the win simulations run by FanDuel Research's Jim Sannes. This week's sims were updated after practice and qualifying. Only drivers with a win probability above 0% in the sims or a top-15 finish this season were included in the rankings.

MLT Rank, the driver's weighted average median lap time ranking at the relevant sample of similar racetracks to this weekend, is a great indicator of overall speed. The prior races in the sample (with weight percentage) this week are:

  • Daytona (Spring 2024) - 70%
  • Atlanta (Spring 2024) - 30%

Swaim's Rank
Starting Spot
Jim's Sims
MLT Rank
1Denny Hamlin $13,500 236.46%10
2Ryan Blaney $13,000 2110.54%16
3Brad Keselowski $12,500 224.86%9
4Ross Chastain $9,500 323.18%14
5Kyle Larson $10,000 384.86%4
6Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. $6,200 331.46%13
7Noah Gragson $5,000 361.44%23
View Full Table

Potential Lap-Leaders

Denny Hamlin ($13,500)

NASCAR's drafting ace, Denny Hamlin, is starting toward the back and has to be a focal point in any DFS format.

The "randomness" element of this style of racing doesn't seem to impact Hamlin. The three-time Daytona 500 winner has also posted a top-seven finish in six of the last nine races at Talladega.

Median laps aren't as crucial of a consideration on this style of track, but two top-15 median times between Daytona and the miniature superspeedway at Atlanta this year will certainly work.

Denny will start 23rd, but I'm not expecting him to stay out of the top 10 for very long.

Brad Keselowski ($12,500)

Seeking his first win since this race in 2021, Brad Keselowski will be a daily fantasy threat, too.

Keselowski has always agreed with this track dating back to a win in his first Talladega start back in 2019. He's added five since, becoming a significant horse for this course in addition to a pair of Daytona triumphs.

It's not like Keselowski hasn't been knocking on the door, either. He finished second in last fall's Daytona race behind teammate Chris Buescher.

Starting one spot better than Hamlin (22nd), expect him to be fairly popular. It'll be fascinating how most choose between Hamlin, Keselowski, and Ryan Blaney in cash-game or single-entry formats.

Others to Consider

  • Ryan Blaney ($13,000)

Mid-Range Threats

Kyle Larson ($10,000)

I find Kyle Larson to be the most fascinating driver in the pool.

You look at a Hendrick Motorsports Chevy starting 38th, and it doesn't get much better than that from a process perspective. The problem? Larson's record on superspeedways is outlierishly bad.

"Yung Money" has just one career top-five finish between Daytona and Talladega. Luckily, he won't need one to pay off this salary in DFS. A top-15 finish would be tremendous between those finishing points and the gobs of place-differential ones.

However, there is a decision to be made about whether Larson's poor history at this track type -- littered with DNFs -- will sink a majority of the field or if he will be a must-start option. Only the outcome will decide that.

Ross Chastain ($9,500)

In a true feast-or-famine dilemma, Ross Chastain has scored two top-five finishes -- including a win -- in his first four Talladega starts with Trackhouse Racing. The other two? Finishes outside the top 20.

A former winner starting 32nd alone would inspire hope for him, but he's also flexed his muscle on this style of track already in 2024. Chastain led 14 laps -- including coming to overtime -- in February before a late incident with Austin Cindric.

Chastain's upside is absolutely to win the race, but his floor is higher than Larson's given his own prowess. He's my favorite play in this tier.

Others to Consider

  • Tyler Reddick ($8,000)

Value Plays

Erik Jones ($6,800)

Erik Jones' slow start with Toyota is seemingly ending at the right time. He's recorded three straight top-20 finishes, and this couldn't be a better spot to potentially break into the top 10.

In the last six Talladega races, Jones' 13.3 average finish is fourth-best among drivers that have started all events. The three above him all carry at least a $12,000 salary.

Jones was leading with 1.5 laps to go in last April's Talladega event but dropped to sixth in the late going. Now a team car to Hamlin and other key Toyota contenders, Jones' Legacy Motor Club machine will likely have more dancing partners in his second superspeedway race with them.

Starting 28th, he fits a perfect description of what we're looking for from a process perspective.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($6,200)

If you're eyeing a Toyota contender, Jones makes plenty of sense. If a Chevrolet-heavy build with Larson and Chastain is in a lineup, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. could make more sense.

The 2023 Daytona 500 winner also won at Talladega in 2017 and has four other top-five finishes at the venue. One could argue Stenhouse's entire career stems from his three wins on drafting ovals while winning at no other track type.

If that's the case, we know the #47 team is circling the calendar for this weekend, and I wouldn't assume from a 33rd-place starting spot that they aren't quick. Single-lap speeds mean basically nothing, and all six of these drivers we discussed should be much faster on Sunday than their time trial implies.

Others to Consider

  • Daniel Suarez ($7,200)
  • Chase Briscoe ($5,800)
  • Noah Gragson ($5,000)
  • Corey Lajoie ($4,800)
  • Justin Haley ($3,800)

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.