The rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings’ NASCAR salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on the highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by the value of each driver.
The DraftKings Sparks 300 NASCAR slate locks at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
1. Justin Haley ($10,200) — He can’t win at a real race track, but he sure knows how to win at a plate track. Having a great plate racing car helps, but four plate track wins isn’t just luck. Haley is the best plate racer in the Xfinity Series.
2. John Hunter Nemechek ($10,000) — It will be strange to see Nemechek in the No. 54 JGR Toyota and it will be disappointing as well. Nemechek has proved himself to be a top tier driver in the Truck Series this season, and his reward is a ride in a plate race.
3. Noah Gragson ($9,800) — His plate track stats are great. Gragson won at Daytona last season, and has finished 11th or better in every one of his Talladega races with an average finish of seventh. That being said, he needs to lead the most laps in order to be optimal.
4. AJ Allmendinger ($10,400) — Kaulig Racing makes great plate track cars (Ross Chastain and Justin Haley have multiple plate track wins) and AJ Allmendinger has been very lucky this season. A good car and luck is all that is needed to win at Talladega.
5. Jeb Burton ($10,600) — It’s the car not the driver. Justin Haley has won four plate races in Kaulig Racing cars and Ross Chastain has won two. Burton won a rain shortened Talladega race in the spring and AJ Allmendinger almost won last fall at Talladega.
6. Justin Allgaier ($9,100) — It’s worth considering bouncing Allgaier from the rankings this week. It’s nothing against him as a driver, he just doesn’t make for a great DFS NASCAR play. Even if he were a good plate racer — he isn’t — it would be difficult for him to score enough points to be optimal.
7. Austin Cindric ($9,300) — Several top tier drivers should not be ranked this week based on DFS plate racing dynamics, but the article can’t be 20 blurbs about Carl Long and BJ McLeod cars. Cindric likely won’t be optimal, but he did win the season opening race at Daytona.
8. Harrison Burton ($9,600) — He’s just far enough back that he could squeeze into the optimal lineup with a win, but he has to win. Second place and 49 fantasy points won’t be enough unless he also leads laps during the race.
9. Josh Berry ($8,700) — The No. 1 car won at Daytona in 2019 and Josh Berry has proved in a limited sample size that he may be the best driver in the series. He’s won at a short track and an intermediate track, so all that’s left is a road course and a plate track.
10. Daniel Hemric ($9,400) — Apparently, Kaulig Racing is not familiar with the The Daniel Hemric Winless Counter, which now sits at 204 races. Talladega is not a skill or talent race, so even an 0-for-204 driver can win this race.
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11. JJ Yeley ($8,100) — This week, Yeley is driving for BJ McLeod and not Rick Ware. This is a downgrade in equipment, but that doesn’t matter too much. The important part is that Yeley is starting 38th and he has 12 top-20 finishes in his last 14 plate races.
12. Brandon Jones ($8,200) — His car is fast enough, but Jones is not lucky enough and he lacks talent, if that matters. Jones makes mistakes and catches bad breaks every week, and Talladega is the worst place for that combo. If his luck turns around, then he can be optimal — if he wins.
13. Jordan Anderson ($7,000) — It’s hard to trust the No. 31 car, but Anderson is starting in the back and he’s nearly won two plate track races in the Truck Series. He has finished second in the last two Daytona races in the much more dependable Jordan Anderson truck.
14. Santino Ferrucci ($7,700) — In his limited number of Xfinity Series starts, Ferrucci maintained his reputation for being an aggressive hot head. His style could very well result in a DNF, but it could also earn the Sam Hunt No. 26 car a top-5 finish.
15. Alex Labbe ($7,500) — Gosselin cars can earn top 10s at regular tracks, so a top 5 is not out of the question at Talladega. Labbe has a ninth and 11th place finish at this 2.66 mile track, and with his 32nd place starting position, he should be popular on Saturday.
16. Garrett Smithley ($7,300) — The 2020 iRacing phenom is back with Rick Ware, and this time it’s in a race where he can earn a top 10 finish. Smithley has plenty of NASCAR experience, but he rarely gets an opportunity to showcase his talent. He might not prove anything in this race, but he can still earn a top 10.
17. Joe Graf Jr. ($6,300) — Before last week, Graf was on a streak of a couple nice runs. It’s possible that he is finally developing, but that doesn’t really matter this week. He’s starting in the back, and if he avoids the wrecks, then his car is good enough to finish inside the top 15. Unfortunately, he never avoids the wrecks: one top 15 finish and seven wrecks in eight plate races.
18. Jason White ($7,200) — Carl Long cars can fail, they can wreck and they can earn top-10 finishes in plate races. White’s car failed at Talladega, but he earned a 10th and 15th place finish in the two Daytona races this season.
19. Caesar Bacarella ($6,400) — Every Xfinity plate race, Bacarella shows up and almost every time he wrecks. On the occasion that he did not wreck, he earned a 12th, 14th and 17th place finish. With his starting position of 37th, any of those finishes would be good enough for a spot in the winning lineup.
20. David Starr ($4,700) — Not that DFS players need the savings, but Starr will provide it. He’s not starting completely in the back, but he’s far enough back that it’s possible for Starr to be the best point per dollar play and score the most total points, but the latter seems unlikely.
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