Editor’s note: The Geico 500 was postponed until Monday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.
With Sunday’s race at Talladega pushed to Monday due to rain, DraftKings opened new DFS contests for the Geico 500. But just because the day of the race is different doesn’t mean your strategy should.
The racing at Talladega is much different from what we see at traditional tracks, which is a very important distinction when determining DraftKings picks and overall DFS strategy.
The top plays are usually at the back end of the starting lineup, but it’s not as simple as that.
NASCAR at Talladega DraftKings DFS Strategy
The main idea behind successfully playing DFS in a superspeedway race is zigging while others zag. This is because superspeedway racing is wildly unpredictable. Anyone who tells you that they can predict the outcome of the race is lying to you.
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My best statistical models can predict only about 10% of the variance in finishing position. That means this race is 90% unpredictable to some of the most sophisticated models.
However, one thing we can predict much better is human behavior. At Talladega, my model could account for about 83% of the variance in ownership. So if we can figure out which drivers will be highly utilized or under played, we can take advantage of that to win a big contest.
Predicting human behavior will come in handy with DraftKings’ $250,000 first-place prize up for grabs.
So instead of making picks saying I think certain drivers will do well or poorly, I will give a few picks on drivers that I think will be used too much or too little by the rest of the DFS field.
NASCAR at Talladega DraftKings Low-Owned DFS Picks
Cole Custer ($6000) – Custer is not known for being a good superspeedway driver, with poor-to-moderate finishes at best at the big tracks. He also has Ryan Preece, Ty Dillon, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez, and Brendan Gaughan starting behind him who will all draw more ownership.
But Custer is actually in the best equipment of the bunch and starts 28th. I’m not saying he’ll be good, but if he can avoid the carnage, he could end up in the winning lineup at a higher rate than he’ll be played.
Using Custer in around 30% of your lineups should put you overweight on him without risking too much exposure.
Corey LaJoie ($6500) – LaJoie has not finished outside of the top 11 in his last four superspeedway races, including top-eight finishes in each of the last three, and that’s despite starting 30th or worse.
Now he starts 25th, which will dampen his ownership levels. LaJoie should end up around 10%-15% owned, so going 15%-20% on him is fine. If he avoids the wrecks, he has a strong chance of another top-eight finish.
J.J. Yeley ($4800) – Yeley will probably go extremely low owned because he’s in the low tier of drivers who are often backmarkers. Drivers like Garrett Smithley, Timmy Hill and Joey Gase start behind him, but none of them have the record Yeley has at superspeedways.
That trio has combined for one top-20 finish at superspeedways in the Cup Series. Yeley, on the other hand, has six such finishes while running for backmarker teams. That includes a 12th-place finish for his current team, Rick Ware Racing, in 2019 under the same aerodynamic package.
He’ll likely be 10% owned or less. I’d have no problem if you play him in the 15%-20% range.
NASCAR at Talladega DraftKings Highly-Owned DFS Picks
Christopher Bell ($9700) – Despite the price hike, Bell will probably be in the top three for highest ownership. Driver salaries likely don’t come into play too much at superspeedways, so his salary boost should have only a minor impact on his ownership levels.
Bell hasn’t been particularly bad at superspeeway races in his XFINITY and Truck series career, but he is in lesser equipment relative to the rest of the field than when he was in those series.
That could keep him a bit more in the middle of the pack, which may enhance his probability of getting caught up in a big crash. Optimally, you should use bell around 35%-40%, but he’ll probably be played more than that. If you want some leverage, playing him on the lower side of that range is warranted.
Daniel Suarez ($9700) – Suarez has been a backmarker driver for most of the year, but is in equipment that can hang with the field on the lead lap. That will keep his ownership levels up.
The problem is, he’s never been particularly good at superspeedway racing, with only a single top-10 finish in 12 races at top-tier Joe Gibbs Racing. I’d play him around 25%, which should still keep you underweight on him.
The Front of the Field – Drivers starting in the front will absolutely be used too much. With DraftKings offering such a big prize pool, it will attract a few more casual players who may not know the strategy behind superspeedway racing as much.
You should almost never use a driver starting on the front row, and rarely inside the top five. Yet time and again these drivers still draw too much ownership, and that trend will continue again on Sunday.