NASCAR Picks for Talladega
Length: 2.660 miles
Location: Talladega, Alabama
Article: Aaron’s 499 Practice Recap: Drivers to Watch
Article: Fantasy NASCAR: Who's Hot
Fresh off an exciting finish at one of the shortest tracks, the Cup Series heads to the biggest track on the schedule this weekend for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Of course if the same amount of bumping and banging goes on this Sunday as at Richmond last Saturday night, there probably won't be but a handful of cars that make it to the checkered flag. After all, the big packs created by the power-sapping restrictor plates make multi-car wrecks more of an inevitability than a possibility at Talladega, and at around 200 mph, even the slightest contact can have disastrous consequences.
As seasoned fantasy players already know, Sunday's race is going to be one of the toughest of the year. Restrictor plates are the great equalizer, and when the "Big One" occurs, big names are just as likely to be caught up in the mayhem as the drivers that are used to running at the pack of the pack. As a result, I recommend saving big names for another week in leagues that limit how many times you can start a particular driver over the course of the year. You can throw together a lineup of unconventional names and have a great day at Talladega just as easily as a lineup of household names can turn out to be a total bust. Granted, there are some drivers that have been able to dodge the wrecks and deliver solid results better than most, but just remember that there is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to Talladega.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Penske Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Since joining the Cup Series in 2009, Keselowski's success at Talladega has been unmatched. He has six top-10s in eight starts at the track, and his 12.3 average finish is tops in the series. Keselowski also has a pair of wins at Talladega, and he happens to be the defending winner of this weekend's race.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Bowyer has been about as consistent as fantasy owners could hope for at a track like Talladega. His 10.5 average finish in the last 10 races at the track is the best in the series, and he has finished 12th or better eight times during the stretch. Heck, Bowyer has been even better at Talladega lately, notching two wins and a second-place finish in his last five starts.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
His career numbers at Talladega aren't spectacular, but Kenseth has been a stud at the plate tracks in recent years. Dating back to the start of last season, his two wins, four top-five finishes, 331 laps led and 189 points scored at the superspeedways are all tops in the series. Two of his starts during the stretch came at Talladega, where Kenseth finished third and first a year ago.
Kevin Harvick, #29 Budweiser/Rheem, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Coming off a late-race charge to win at Richmond last weekend, Harvick gets a chance to tackle a Talladega track where he always seems to get to the front in the closing laps. In his last six starts, he has finished 11th or better four times. More importantly, he has three top-five finishes during the stretch, including a victory in the spring of 2010.
Greg Biffle, #16 3M/Bondo, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Entering Sunday's race, no driver has a longer streak of consecutive top-20 finishes at Talladega than Biffle's eight. Not to mention the fact that he finished fifth and sixth at the track last year and leads all drivers with an 8.2 average finish at plate tracks dating back to last year. At an unpredictable track like Talladega, Biffle's consistency has even more value.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class B]
Junior is a five-time winner at Talladega. While he hasn't added to that total since 2004, he has remained strong at the track, especially in the spring event. In fact, he has finished 11th or better in the last six spring races at Talladega, compiling a 7.5 average finish. Of course a win would be nice, but there is nothing wrong with a top-10 at Talladega.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
No active driver has more wins at Talladega than Gordon, and the six-time winner has been close to widening the gap lately. He has finished in the top 10 in three of his last five starts and has a pair of top-three efforts during the stretch. Gordon may not be quite as consistent as some of the other the top options, but his upside is obvious.
Jeff Burton, #31 Caterpillar/Cheerios, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
There are plenty of bad things that can be said about Burton's performance the last couple of years, but fantasy owners can't complain about his production at plate tracks. He has three straight top-10 finishes at Talladega, and in the last five races at superspeedways, his four top-10s are tied for the most in the series. Burton also ranks fifth in total points scored during the stretch.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
His 22.1 average finish at Talladega isn't all that exciting, but it is tough not to love what Busch did at the track last year. He followed up a second-place run in the spring event with a third-place run in the fall. Busch is also a former winner at Talladega, and despite the inconsistent results, his potential to win makes him worth a spot in the top 10.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
After being wildly inconsistent at Talladega for most of his career, Kahne has appeared to figure things out a bit. He has finished sixth, fourth and 12th in his three starts at the track, logging the same amount of top-12 finishes in those three races as he had in his previous 15 Talladega starts. Kahne is a much better fantasy option than his 20.3 average finish at the track suggests.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Based on his 17.3 average finish and other numbers, Talladega is actually one of his worst tracks. Of course, the same can be said about Daytona, and all Johnson did to open 2013 was win the Daytona 500 for the second time. He is already a two-time winner at Talladega, winning as recently as the spring of 2011. Fantasy owners should probably save him for another day in leagues that limit the number of times each driver can be used, but Johnson is still a solid option in other formats.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Ready for an interesting stat? Since trying to hold on to the lead at Talladega last fall and causing a massive wreck in the process, Stewart has just three top-10s in his last 15 races and has finished outside the top 15 a disturbing 10 times during the stretch. Maybe a return to the scene of the crime will help him get his mojo back, but despite a respectable 15.8 average finish at Talladega for his career, it is tough to consider him a top-10 option at any track right now.