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DraftKings NASCAR: Alabama 500

C.J. Radune

Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the 2015 Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Alabama 500

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

Race Preview

A win at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week sent Martin Truex Jr. through to the next round of playoffs, while his main rival Kyle Busch fell into a hole. All of the playoff drivers would have wanted to safely get through Charlotte because this week’s race can be a wild card. The high banking of Talladega Superspeedway often produces unexpected outcomes, and requiring a top finish from one of the most unpredictable circuits heaps pressure on already taxed teams. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is one of those championship-eligible drivers fighting for a lifeline. He has been superb on the two superspeedways this season, scoring his first two series wins on the tracks. He likely will need a similar outcome on Sunday to keep his championship life alive in the round of eight. Kyle Busch’s struggles at Charlotte likely will come to pass as the playoff points he has accumulated throughout the season so far are keeping him above the cut line this week. Another fumble will carry greater repercussions, though. That is the fate all playoff contenders will want to avoid this week as the series gears up for the final superspeedway race of the season.

Key Stats at Talladega Super Speedway

Number of previous races: 96
Winners from pole: 13
Winners from top-5 starters: 54
Winners from top-10 starters: 68
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 8
Fastest race: 188.354 mph

Last 10 Talladega Winners

2017 spring - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2016 fall - Joey Logano
2016 spring - Brad Keselowski
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

Stenhouse picked up his first Monster Energy Cup series victory earlier this year at Talladega. He started that race from pole and forced his way to the front to lead 14 laps and collect a spot in the playoffs. The prior three races at the track highlighted Penske Racing Fords, however. That team appears to be behind in the fight this week and needs to diagnose and cure the ailments they face as time rapidly slips away. This track can be fickle, though. In the past, it has produced first-time winners, spoilers and even upsets. The restrictor-plate rules package at the circuit bunches the field together for the entire race distance, and one mistake often collects large swaths of the field. Fuel and tire strategies at Talladega take a back seat to the ability to move through the draft and make passes. A driver at the head of the field can compensate for having a slower machine by blocking, but to move through the pack drivers will need plenty of horsepower and drafting partners. Making passes while simultaneously avoiding incidents likely will determine the winner on Sunday.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

DraftKings Tier 1 Values

Kyle Busch - $10,400
Martin Truex Jr. - $10,100
Jimmie Johnson - $10,000

DraftKings Tier 2 Values

Brad Keselowski - $9,800
Kevin Harvick - $9,700
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $9,200
Chase Elliott - $9,000

DraftKings Tier 3 Values

Matt Kenseth - $8,800
Ryan Blaney - $8,700
Erik Jones - $8,500
Kurt Busch - $8,300

DraftKings Long-Shot Values

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $8,000
Jamie McMurray - $7,800
Trevor Bayne - $6,800
Aric Almirola - $6,300

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Martin Truex Jr. - $10,100
Kevin Harvick - $9,700
Clint Bowyer - $8,100
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $8,000
Jamie McMurray - $7,800
Aric Almirola - $6,300

At this point in the year, it’s wise to have either Truex or Kyle Busch leading your lineup, and that is the case with both roster options for Talladega. Truex has never won at the track and he recorded DNFs in his last two visits. That doesn’t mean it is unwise to choose the hottest driver in the garage at the moment. He’ll likely lead laps and should be present at the front for the finish. Harvick has always been an astute racer in the draft, too. He has one Talladega victory and led 15 laps at the track earlier this year. Some good luck falling on Bowyer would be a welcome change, and it could happen this weekend. Stewart Haas Racing has excellent machinery for Talladega, and Bowyer should put it to good use. He led 10 laps here earlier this season and has two circuit wins. No one has been better at Daytona and Talladega this season than Stenhouse, and that is why he claims a firm spot in the lower-risk lineup this week. McMurray finished second to Stenhouse here in the spring and has been aggressive enough to contend for the win on these tracks this season. Finally, Talladega could give Almirola his high-point farewell with Richard Petty Motorsports. He finished fourth at the track earlier this season for back-to-back top-10 Talladega finishes, which he will attempt to extend to three this week.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($50K Salary Cap)

Kyle Busch - $10,400
Brad Keselowski - $9,800
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - $9,200
Kurt Busch - $8,300
Ty Dillon - $6,500
David Ragan - $5,800

Kyle Busch heads the higher risk lineup at Talladega. He may be apt to be more aggressive than Truex this week after a rough start to the round of 12 in Charlotte last week. Keselowski is racing for bonus points, and the unpredictability of Talladega could throw him into the mix for the win as well. His gap to the front should be masked a bit this week if he can get ahead, and with four past wins at the track, he certainly knows how to do that. This week’s race will be pole sitter Earnhardt’s last at Talladega, and it would be fitting that one of the best racers in the draft the sport has ever seen comes out on top in his final effort. He has won six times here before, and a seventh would be one of the biggest stories of the season. The only other driver besides Stenhouse to score a win on a superspeedway this season is Kurt Busch, and he returned to his top-10 form immediately after being eliminated from the playoffs. His average finish at the track is 15.6 from 33 starts. Dillon doesn’t have that much experience here, but his 13th-place run from the 28th starting position in the spring carries a lot of weight. Fantasy players should definitely consider his potential for a top finish and also Ragan’s. Ragan finished 10th at the track earlier this season and won the spring race in 2013. Both he and Dillon make reliable options for Sunday’s festivities.

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.