RaceDayScore NASCAR: Geico 500

RaceDayScore NASCAR: Geico 500

This article is part of our RaceDayScore NASCAR series.


Location: Talladega, Ala.
Course: Talladega Superspeedway
Format: 2.66-mile trioval
Laps: 188

Race Preview

Carl Edwards firmly wrested control of the hottest driver in the paddock moniker with his second consecutive short-track win last weekend in Richmond. He and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch were battling each other for the win in the closing laps, and it was Edwards who was able to nudge his teammate out of the way for a last-lap pass to victory. This week the series will attack the high banks and high speeds of Talladega Superspeedway. Joe Gibbs Racing drivers may still have the advantage in this completely different circuit, however. Denny Hamlin won on the last superspeedway with his February Daytona 500 win. In fact, Gibbs cars won three of the four races on hand in Daytona including the Sprint Unlimited and qualifying races. Three of the four teammates also finished the 500 inside the top five. Joey Logano won the last time the series visited Talladega, but Penske Racing and Hendrick Motorsports appear to have some ground to cover in order to catch the streaking Gibbs cars this week.

Key Stats at Talladega Superspeedway

Number of previous races: 93
Winners from pole: 13
Winners from top-5 starters: 53
Winners from top-10 starters: 66
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 8
Fastest race: 188.354 mph

Last 10 Talladega Winners

2015 fall - Joey Logano
2015 spring - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2014 fall - Brad Keselowski
2014 spring - Denny Hamlin
2013 fall - Jamie McMurray
2013 spring - David Ragan
2012 fall - Matt Kenseth
2012 spring - Brad Keselowski
2011 fall - Clint Bowyer
2011 spring - Jimmie Johnson

Sprint Cup races at Talladega bring full-throttle pack racing. The track's high banking and wide turns can offer three lines of cars drafting one another in a battle for position. The restrictor-plate rules package bunches the cars together, and we've seen that the leader is generally difficult to pass with this configuration. While tires and grip might have been somewhat of a concern later in the runs at Daytona, the same may not be true at Talladega. The track is wider than its sister speedway in Florida and gives plenty of room to compensate for lower grip levels. The biggest concerns for drivers and teams this week will be the ability to move forward in the draft and missing the "big one" that often plagues superspeedway races. The big crash in this race last season came on lap 47 and involved 15 cars. Teams will want to be ahead of any danger this weekend, since the safest place to avoid trouble recently has been at the lead.

(Based on Standard $60K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $12,200
Jimmie Johnson - $11,600
Denny Hamlin - $11,600
Kevin Harvick - $11,500

Tier 2 Values

Austin Dillon - $10,800
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,500
Matt Kenseth - $10,300
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $10,100
Greg Biffle - $10,100

Tier 3 Values

Paul Menard - $9,900
Aric Almirola - $9,900
Kasey Kahne - $9,800
Kyle Larson - $9,600

Long-Shot Values

Danica Patrick - $9,000
David Ragan - $8,900
David Gilliland - $8,700
Chris Buescher - $7,500


Lower-Risk Cash Game Lineup ($60K Salary Cap)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $12,200
Jimmie Johnson - $11,600
Kevin Harvick - $11,500
Danica Patrick - $9,000
Cole Whitt - $8,200
Chris Buescher - $7,500

A low-risk lineup for Talladega really doesn't exist. Anything can happen in 500 miles at this unpredictable track, but most models will put Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the top choice. He has six Talladega wins and finished first and second in last season's two races at the track. His teammate Jimmie Johnson has won here twice and hasn't failed to lead a lap at the track since 2009. Kevin Harvick is another driver who tends to race well in the draft, and he hasn't finished outside of the top-15 her in the last five races. Danica Patrick has slowly been improving as 2016 has gone on. She has never scored a Talladega top-10 but has also only failed to finish once in six tries. Similarly, Cole Whitt has raced Talladega six times in the series with just one DNF. His average finish excluding that result is 20.4. Chris Buescher also took part in the race last season and finished 24th on the lead lap after starting 38th.

Higher-Risk Tournament Lineup
($60K Salary Cap)

Ryan Newman - $11,000
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,500
Greg Biffle - $10,100
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $10,100
Paul Menard - $9,900
Landon Cassill - $8,400

For those looking to take the contrarian route, Ryan Newman is a good choice from which to start. His 11th-place finish in the Daytona 500 shows he can be a top-10 contender at Talladega, too. He also has three top-10 finishes from the last five races here with no results worse than 18th. Truex is another great restrictor plate racer. He finished second in the Daytona 500 and should be a top contender again this weekend. Does everyone remember the speed Roush Fenway Racing initially showed against the field in Daytona? Well, that should be on display again this week, and Greg Biffle needs to make good use of it. He finished second in this race in 2014. His teammate Ricky Stenhouse has been a surprise so far in 2016, and there's no place better for him to have a chance at winning than Talladega where he has three top-10 finishes from five career starts. Paul Menard may be off to a slow start in 2016, but he finished 18th after starting 37th in the Daytona 500 and has four finishes of sixth or better in his last five races at the circuit. Lastly, Landon Cassill has the potential to grab a top-20 finish or better. He scored a fourth-place finish in the 2014 fall race at the track.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.
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C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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