EDITOR’S NOTE: The YellaWood 500 at Talladega was postposed due to rain and will begin Monday at 1 PM ET.
Set your DraftKings fantasy NASCAR lineups here: NAS $50K Rain Check Special [$10K to 1st] (Cup New Start)
The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for Sunday. The order is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
The DraftKings YellaWood 500 slate locks at 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.
1. Ryan Newman ($7,500) — When he’s not flipping, he’s finishing inside the top 5. Newman has three top-5 finishes, a seventh and a ninth place finish in his last eight Talladega races. His Daytona stats are similar. Newman never wins, but he consistently scores a lot of fantasy points at plate tracks.
2. Corey LaJoie ($6,900) — No, the rankings are not broken. After seven years of writing the weekly rankings and 25 plate racing Cup Series articles, it’s become clear how this works. The underdogs that avoid the wrecks, can be optimal. LaJoie has been optimal five times since 2015 (fifth-most).
3. Chris Buescher ($7,400) — Also with five optimal lineup appearances, is Chris Buescher. He is starting in a similar spot to LaJoie, but his ownership will be higher because of his consistency. It’s worth noting, that in the last 24 plate races, one of the best performers has only been optimal five times.
4. Denny Hamlin ($10,500) — Trust your eyes. On the TV screen, Hamlin seems to know what he’s doing during a plate race — sometimes it looks like he’s the only one. Your eyes do not deceive you; the stats back it up — six optimal lineups and four wins in the last 24 plate races.
5. Joey Logano ($7,900) — Hamlin is the best and Logano is the second-best plate racer. His spotter, TJ Majors, has won plenty of races with Dale Earnhardt Jr and Logano, and his equipment is the best. Team Penske has won the last two plate races and should have won the Daytona 500.
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6. Brad Keselowski ($8,600) — Let’s just knockout these Penske drivers now. Keselowski had a stretch of plate races in his career where he was unbeatable, then he couldn’t stop wrecking, culminating with a last lap wreck while leading in this season’s Daytona 500. Finally, his luck turned around and he won at Talladega in the spring.
7. Ryan Blaney ($10,700) — For all intents and purposes, Michigan was a plate race and Blaney won. The next week, he won at Daytona. Team Penske has the cars, and their stable of drivers know how to get the job done at a plate track.
8. Aric Almirola ($9,200) — Here’s a lesson in plate racing. From 2016 to 2020, Almirola had a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes at Talladega, but it was snapped last fall. In the spring, he was in second place on lap 159 of 191, but finished 15th. There was supposed to be a lesson here.
9. Erik Jones ($6,500) — The driver had success with JGR at plate tracks (2018 Daytona winner) and the No. 43 RPM car has been competitive in plate races. Maybe Richard will put that illegal 200th-win engine in this hotrod this weekend.
10. Justin Haley ($9,400) — That’s four time Xfinity Series plate track winner and Daytona Cup Series winner to you! It’s unlikely that Haley wins, but he’s driving a Kaulig Racing car, and they’ve won a lot of plate races in the Xfinity Series.
11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($6,000) — There’s a general feeling that Wrecky Spinhouse doesn’t have it anymore, but his plate track stats — especially at Talladega — have not changed. He can’t win every time and he’s still earning top 10s. Yes, he has wrecks, but he also has four top 5s and five top 10s in the last 10 at Talladega.
12. Ross Chastain ($9,600) — Some lay up, some drive the green and some end up in the pond. The former is not Ross Chastain. The No. 42 car will likely end up in the drink, but on the occasion that the ball sticks, he becomes optimal.
13. Ryan Preece ($6,700) — Give credit to Preece, he avoids the wrecks at plate tracks, but that’s where the praise ends. These are the only races a below-average driver like Preece can win, and he doesn’t even try to win — he settles for 15th place. Over the last five races at Talladega, his average finish is 12th. Preece seems like a safe play, if such a thing exists at Talladega, but can he score enough points laying up?
14. Landon Cassill ($7,200) — In his first chance in the Gaunt Bros. No. 96 Toyota, Cassill wrecked at Daytona on lap 146. This car can get the job done — it has three top-20 finishes in seven Talladega races.
15. Cole Custer ($6,800) — He’s starting in 28th place, and he has a 10th place and an 11th place finish in his last three plate races. His equipment is better than most of the cars starting in the back, but his luck is the same.
16. Anthony Alfredo ($5,700) — A Front Row Motorsports car won the Daytona 500 this season. In 2013, a Front Row Motorsports car won at Talladega. This team can build a winning Ford, but they need Alfredo to make the right moves during the race.
17. Justin Allgaier ($9,000) — In the past, Spire Motorsports has been given upgraded equipment for the Cup Series plate races. It is not likely that Allgaier would accept this ride if it were a jalopy. He’s not a particularly adept plate racer, but he has experience and is starting in the back.
18. Bubba Wallace ($5,900) — His Talladega finishes (one top-15 finish) have not been the same as his Daytona finishes (three top-5 finishes), but that could be more about luck than track differences. Bubba has a car that is capable of winning and he knows how to survive a plate race until the end.
19. Michael McDowell ($6,100) — Some DFS players might pass on McDowell because he is starting too close to the front. There is not a clear answer to where the line should be drawn for the “play drivers in the back” strategy, but if the line is 20th and back, then the Daytona 500 winner is a great play.
20. Kyle Larson ($8,400) — It just wouldn’t feel right to leave him out of the rankings. Larson is not a great plate racer, in fact in his first ever plate race in the Xfinity Series his car was destroyed and his engine flew into the grandstands. His ownership will be miniscule despite being a great driver with a great car.
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