NASCAR Cup Series drivers take on the final superspeedway race of the season this weekend, and it’s a doozy.
Let’s get your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings lineups ready for the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, airing Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
Talladega is much wider than Daytona International Speedway and slightly longer at 2.66 miles. Since it’s so wide, cars often will run in three and four lanes in the pack; one slight bobble or an errant push can cause the Big One.
But occasionally, cars get in a single-file train, keeping things relatively calm within the draft. It will be interesting to see how drivers approach this race, especially since two full-timers are out with concussion-like symptoms (Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch). Will they run conservatively, limiting their passing for most of the race due to concerns about safety? Or will chaos reign, aggression to the level of what happened in the regular season finale at Daytona?
The answer probably resides somewhere in the middle: calm at some points and heart-wrenching near both the end of stages and the race.
How do you handle the uncertainty in daily DraftKings fantasy? I choose drivers who consistently survive the wreckage and finish up front, especially those who start in the back half of the pack. These can rack up position differential points on DraftKings. Also, if someone from a strong pack racing contender, like Team Penske’s Joey Logano, can maintain a good pace up front, lead laps and record fastest laps, they could be another option if they finish inside the top 10.
Before I share my DraftKings picks for Talladega, here’s a look back at my Texas Motor Speedway results:
Christopher Bell (who was 35% rostered in the $3,000 Quarter Jukebox tournament) ended up crashing out with a couple of blown tires, so this lineup was sunk early. Bell’s fellow Toyota driver Bubba Wallace had to make a big save while running in the top 10 around lap 182. Though Wallace avoided the wall, he lost a lot of track position and was never able to make it back up. In some ways, Texas seemed more like a pack racing event with all the crashes that took place.
Due to Bell’s and Wallace’s rough outings, this lineup didn’t even come close to cashing in.
As far as DraftKings scoring, the rules are as follows: 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap led. Additionally, drivers can earn a point for each position they gain on the track (relative to where they start). They can also lose a point for each position lost, so keep this fact in mind if you decide to play the polesitter.
Here are the DraftKings rules for the road this season.
Now, onto my DraftKings picks.
Note: The following drivers are part of a sample NASCAR DraftKings lineup; you can use this info to make your own.
DraftKings Picks for 2022 YellaWood 500 at Talladega
Chase Elliott ($10,000)
Career at Talladega: 13 starts, 1 win, 4 top fives, 6 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 15.2
Chase Elliott knows what it takes to win at a superspeedway-type event, as he won at ‘Dega in spring 2019. Some of his other strong results were a third in spring 2018, an eighth in fall 2019, a fifth in fall 2020 and seventh earlier this season. He moved up 21 spots in the latter race, which really boosted his DraftKings score then. Additionally, Elliott’s led a few laps here and there, including in fall 2020, when he was out front for 41 circuits.
The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver also took home the checkered flag at Atlanta Motor Speedway in July. Elliott’s average finish across the five pack-racing tracks this season is a strong 10.6, earning four top 10s.
Though he’s had three results of 29th or worse in the last five races, that trend shouldn’t continue if he’s able to avoid trouble at ‘Dega. Expect the regular season champion to deliver and continue his potential march toward the Championship 4.
Martin Truex Jr. ($9,700)
Career at Talladega: 35 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 21.1
Why is Martin Truex Jr. among those I’m considering? Simple: His average finish this season at Daytona, Atlanta and Talladega this year is 9.0; no other driver has averaged a top-10 finish. At the spring Atlanta race, Truex advanced 18 positions to finish eighth. Then, at Talladega he placed fifth, while in the regular season finale at Daytona he brought home another eighth.
Of course, that fifth place at ‘Dega was his first top 10 there since 2015, when he finished fifth and seventh in both races that year. Truex just simply hasn’t had good luck to stay up front. However, he did finish 12th in the rain-shortened event last fall.
Truex has also started in the top 10 in each of the last five Talladega races, including a pole in 2020 and four top-three starting positions. Better check to see where he qualifies before you make your final decision.
Bubba Wallace ($8,900)
Career at Talladega: 9 starts, 1 win, 1 top five, 1 top 10
Average finish at Talladega: 19.2
Of course I’ll have the defending race winner in my initial driver lineup. Bubba Wallace was victorious after rain came out that Monday and cut the race to 117 laps. He may have only led five circuits that day, but he led the most important one, and that’s what matters.
Speaking of which, Wallace has led laps in each of the last four ‘Dega races. Unfortunately, his results don’t really reflect that, as his victory is the only top-10 finish he’s earned at the racetrack.
Don’t let that sway you. The No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota pilot does have some good finishes at the other superspeedway races this year (including Atlanta). He was runner-up to Austin Cindric in the Daytona 500 this February. Then, four races later, he gained six spots en route to 13th at Atlanta. Wallace earned another solid finish at the summer Atlanta event, a 14th after starting 32nd. Lastly, at Daytona in August, he advanced 19 positions to end in 11th.
Wallace should be up front again this weekend, if he can keep his nose clean.
Kevin Harvick ($8,100)
Career at Talladega: 43 starts, 1 win, 8 top fives, 19 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 15.4
Kevin Harvick is usually better at other courses, but he does have a victory at ‘Dega back in 2010. The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver has also earned three straight top 10s there. He was fourth and eighth last spring and fall, respectively, and gained 14 positions to place 10th earlier this year. Harvick doesn’t usually lead many laps, but he did stay out front for 28 total circuits in 2021. That’s a few extra bonus points you don’t expect at this price.
This year, Harvick has finished on average 18.6 at the superspeedway-type courses — not that great. Still, he came home 12th at Atlanta in July.
Now that he’s out of the playoffs, I’m sure he’s just looking to stay out of harm’s way and potentially go for the win at the end. Surviving means this Stewart-Haas Racing driver will be thriving by race’s end.
Dark Horse Performers
Aric Almirola ($6,900)
Career at Talladega: 25 starts, 1 win, 5 top fives, 9 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 16.0
Harvick’s SHR teammate Aric Almirola has a 13.8 average finish across the five pack races this season. He kicked off the year with a fifth place in the Daytona 500 after starting almost dead last. At Talladega, he drove from 23rd to 13th, while in the July Atlanta event, he came home eighth after starting 22nd. Not bad results considering how wild these races can be.
At one point at ‘Dega, Almirola recorded eight consecutive top 10s from fall 2016 through June 2020. Among those finishes is a victory in fall 2018 and a third in the 2020 race. Unfortunately, he’s had two results of 26th or worse since then, as well as two finishes in the teens. Can he get back to his top-10 form this Sunday? If you think he can, place him in your lineup.
Justin Haley ($6,200)
Career at Talladega: 5 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Talladega: 21.0
Justin Haley is well-known for winning at superspeedways, like Daytona and ‘Dega in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He has two wins each there, with the ones at Talladega coming in 2020. He also has a Cup victory at Daytona, but that was when weather caused the race to end early back in 2019. Hey, a win is a win, right?
In Cup at ‘Dega, Haley finished 11th in the fall 2020 race and 12th earlier this year. He also earned a sixth place last summer at Daytona.
Plus, at Atlanta this year, Haley took his No. 31 Kaulig Racing car to an 11th in the spring and a seventh in the summer. He should be able to gain some positions on the racetrack once again this weekend.
About the author
Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor while continuing to write daily fantasy and news articles. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.