The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to Talladega, Alabama this week for the Geico 500.
Talladega is the hardest track to predict a winner. Any driver who is able to start the race has a realistic chance of going to Victory Lane. All it takes is one wreck to take out half of the field. Even the drivers who have had success at the track are in danger of finishing last.
When evaluating drivers for the race at Talladega, fantasy teams should look at who had success at Daytona. The tracks are very different, but the driving style is the same. Some drivers have a unique ability to avoid the wrecks and use the draft to make their way to the front. These are the drivers you want on your team this week.
Here are my picks for the Geico 500 at Talladega.
Yahoo Group A Picks
Fantasy teams should always be concerned about using their nine allocations in Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing. There is plenty of talent in Group A to get you through the season, so the only two drivers teams should consider saving are Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Both drivers are so good on intermediate tracks that the risk is not worth the reward to start them in this race.
Joey Logano will be a popular pick this week because he won the Daytona 500. Logano has finished the last seven races at Talladega outside the top 10. There are better tracks to use Logano on your team.
My sleeper pick in Group A is Jeff Gordon. He had a fast car at Daytona and led 83 laps before being involved in a wreck. Gordon has won six races at Talladega. He would be a good pick for Sunday’s race.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Each time the Sprint Cup Series races at a superspeedway fantasy teams need to pencil Earnhardt Jr. into their lineup. Some drivers just know how to find their way to the front at restrictor plate races and Earnhardt is one of the best. He has five wins and finished 14 of his 30 starts at Talladega in the top 10. Earnhardt is the best choice in Group A this week.
The second choice for this group came down to a decision between Matt Kenseth and Keselowski. Kenseth is the safer choice, but the way Keselowski drove in the last race at Talladega it is hard to leave him off your team.
Keselowski needed to win the race in October to advance to Eliminator Round of the Chase. With the laps coming to an end, Keselowski made his way through the field, the way Dale Earnhardt Sr. did in his prime. Keselowski outraced Kenseth to the checkered flag. It was one of the best performances of the season. That is the type of driver you need on your team this week.
Other good choices: Matt Kenseth,Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick
Yahoo Group B Picks
Drivers in this race will be trying to survive until the end. Since most of their fate does not lie in their hands Sunday, it will be better to be lucky than good. This is true with your fantasy team as well.
Making picks for Group B is more about picking the drivers you can afford to waste a start with than it is about who you think will win the race. Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Martin Truex Jr. are too good at the other tracks to be considered for your team this week.
My sleeper pick for Group B is Casey Mears. He finished in the top-10 in the last race at Talladega and sixth in the Daytona 500. Mears seems to have figured out how to compete on the superspeedways.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B.
Biffle has not been very good this season. The only race he finished in the top 10 was at Daytona. This will be the perfect race to use an allocation with the No. 16 team. As bad as they have been on the down force tracks, the team has been able to compete on the superspeedways. Biffle finished second in this race last season. He would be a good choice for your team Sunday.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse may be the best driver in this group on the restrictor plate tracks. He has finished all three of his races at Talladega in the top 13. There are not many tracks where fantasy teams will want to use Stenhouse for their team. If you plan to use him this season, Talladega is one of his best tracks.
McMurray has been a good pick at the superspeedways. Four of his seven career wins have come at this type of track. McMurray has been pretty good at avoiding wrecks at Talladega. He has finished 10 of the last 11 races at the track with his car still running. That is an accomplishment for any driver in a restrictor plate race.
Bowyer has not been a reliable pick this season, but he has had a lot of success at Talladega. Last season Bowyer finished third in both races at the track. He also ran well at Daytona this year. He started ninth and finished seventh in the Great American Race. This is the week to take a chance with the No. 15 team.
Other Good Choices: Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson
Yahoo Group C Picks
Talladega is the only track where a Group C driver has a realistic chance of winning the race. It happened in the spring race of 2013. David Ragan won the race while driving for Front Row Motorsports and his teammate, David Gilliland finished second.
Ragan is the best choice for Group C, but I would not recommend using him this week. The rumor is that Ragan will move from the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 to the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 car after the race at Talladega. If this is true, fantasy teams will want to save their allocations with Ragan throughout the season.
My sleeper pick for Group C is David Gilliland. He has eight finishes in the top 10 in his career. Six of them have come at the superspeedways. Gilliland is worth a try on your team this week.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Blaney will be driving the No. 21 car for the Wood Brothers this week. The team has an alliance with Team Penske, so Blaney will be working with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano throughout the weekend. Last year Blaney qualified fourth and finished 22nd at Talladega. He is the perfect pick for Group C this week.
Waltrip is a good insurance policy for your team this week. His average finishing position in the last four races at Talladega is 19.2. Waltrip has been good at avoiding the wrecks which is very important when selecting a driver for this race. His last wreck at Talladega came in 2012. This is a good week to take a chance with Waltrip on your team.
Other Good Choices: Justin Allgaier, Danica Patrick, Brian Scott and Bobby Labonte
Fantasy Live Picks
The strategy for winning your league this week in Fantasy Live will be to select drivers who qualify in the back who may have a good chance to move forward throughout the race. There are only 188 laps in the race, so teams will not score many points for leading laps. Bonus points for finishing differential is what will put your team at the top of the standings.
Keep in mind the prices of the drivers you have on your team. If you have Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch or Martin Truex Jr. at a discounted price, do not sell them for this race. My advice is to keep them on your team and the budget price, because you will want to use them next week at Kansas.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Talladega:
Driver 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. $27.50
Driver 2: Kurt Busch $24.00
Driver 3: Carl Edwards $21.25
Driver 4: Martin Truex Jr. $20.25
Driver 5: Michael McDowell $6.00
Pick to Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
* Driver prices based on prices at Richmond
Fox Fantasy Racing
The strategy for Fox Fantasy Racing is the same as the strategy for Fantasy Live. Starting drivers in the back of the pack will be the key to a high score.
There is no reason to select the high priced drivers this week for Fox Fantasy Racing. Try to select a balanced group of drivers between $10,500 and $7,500. These drivers will give you the best chance for a high score this week.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for Talladega:
Driver 1: Brad Keselowski $11,400
Driver 2: Matt Kenseth $10,900
Driver 3: Martin Truex Jr. $10,200
Driver 4: Kurt Busch $8,400
Driver 5: Carl Edwards $8,600
* Driver prices based on prices at Richmond