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Fantasy NASCAR Rankings: GEICO 500

Fantasy NASCAR Expert Brian Polking ranks the top drivers racing in this weekend's GEICO 500!

GEICO 500

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If you thought the recent stretch of short track races was challenging, then Sunday's trip to Talladega Superspeedway is going to be an all-out nightmare. NASCAR's largest track is also one of its most unpredictable, and just like the other restrictor-plate track on the schedule, Daytona, Talladega has become known for big, multi-car wrecks.

For the Yahoo fantasy racing game, a track like Talladega can be a land mine. Almost all of the points a driver earns comes from their finishing position, and finishing position is the toughest thing to predict at Talladega. Big names are more likely to wreck at a plate track than any other type of track on the schedule, and on the flip side, drivers from smaller teams have a real chance to earn a solid finish.

With that in mind, it makes the most sense to avoid the most reliable drivers in all three tiers. There is simply no reason to potentially waste a start from drivers like Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Chase Elliott when they have close to a 50-50 shot at ending up crashed out.

Instead, I recommend loading up your lineup with drivers that you will never end up using nine times over the course of the year. By using this strategy, you at least protect your team's long-term potential. Remember, just about any driver can score a decent finish at Talladega, but the same cannot be said for the rest of the tracks on the schedule.

On the plus side, there are several sleepers available in the C-List this weekend. Michael Waltrip and David Gilliland are both on the entry list, and while I didn't include them in the rankings because they aren't guaranteed a starting spot, both could warrant a look if they do secure a spot. Waltrip is a four-time winner at plate tracks, and he has two finishes of 16th or better at Talladega since 2014. Meanwhile, Gilliland has finished as high as second at the track, and he has four top 15s in his last eight starts here.

1. DALE EARNHARDT, JR., #88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS [YAHOO CLASS A]

He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and Junior followed up the win with a second-place finish in the fall event. He is a six-time winner at Talladega overall, and over the past two seasons, Junior has five finishes of third or better at the restrictor-plate tracks, including a series-leading three wins.

2. DENNY HAMLIN, #11 FEDEX, JOE GIBBS RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]

Fresh off his Daytona 500 win in February, Hamlin has officially arrived as one of the top drivers at the plate tracks. Since the start of the 2014 season, his 9.0 average finish and seven top 10s in restrictor-plate events are both the best in the series, and Hamlin has wins at both Daytona and Talladega during the stretch.

3. KEVIN HARVICK, #4 BUSCH BEER/JIMMY JOHNS, STEWART-HAAS RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]

Harvick always seems to show up at the front at the right time in restrictor-plate races. He has five straight top 15s at Talladega, including three top 10s in his last four starts. His 11.2 average finish at plate tracks the last two years ranks second in the series, and he has six top 10s in nine starts during the stretch.

4. BRAD KESELOWSKI, #2 MILLER LITE, TEAM PENSKE [YAHOO CLASS A]

There is no denying that Keselowski knows how to get the job done at Talladega. He is a three-time winner at NASCAR's largest track, and he has five finishes of seventh or better in his last nine starts here. I'd have no problem using him as an A-List play this weekend.

5. MATT KENSETH, #20 DOLLLAR GENERAL/DEWALT, JOE GIBBS RACING [YAHOO CLASS A]

He came within a lap of winning his third Daytona 500 earlier this year, and is no stranger to running up front at plate tracks, especially Talladega. He has three finishes of third or better in his last eight starts here, including a win, and he ranks in the top three in driver rating, laps led and laps in the top 15.


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