Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
The Sprint Cup Series visits Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the final restrictor-plate event of the 2016 season. Restrictor-plate racing is the ultimate wild card, so get ready to throw out everything you know about building a DFS NASCAR lineup.
Most weeks, maximizing points in the laps led and fastest laps run categories is the key to building a winning lineup. At a restrictor-plate track like Talladega, it is all about place differential.
Thanks to the pack racing caused by the restrictor plates, drivers can gain and lose a dozen or more spots in a single lap. In the spring race at Talladega, six drivers who started 28th or worse finished in the top 15, and three drivers who started 30th or worse finished in the top 10.
Meanwhile, it is common for 30 or more drivers to score points in the fastest laps run category, making it obsolete. Most importantly, big wrecks are the norm at Talladega, and every driver has about a 50-50 chance of ending up as part of the carnage before the race is over.
With the probability of wrecking so high at Talladega, it makes the most sense to load up your lineup with drivers starting deeper in the field. Not only do drivers starting at the back have the most upside through place differential, but they also have the fewest points to lose if they are caught up in a wreck.
Needless to say, you need to wait until after qualifying before making any roster decisions. In the meantime, here is a closer look at some drivers to keep an eye on heading into the weekend. Qualifying is set for Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, and the Hellman's 500 is set for Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Kevin Harvick ($10,500)
Harvick is usually a stud because of his ability to lead laps, but at Talladega, his consistency, and positive place differential are his biggest selling points. He has six straight top 15 finishes at Talladega, and he has a +12.3 average place differential during that span. If he starts in the middle of the pack or deeper, he is worth the price.
Brad Keselowski ($10,300)
Keselowski has been the class of the field at the plate tracks this season, winning the spring race at Talladega and the July race at Daytona. He is a four-time winner at Talladega overall, and he has finished fourth or better in three of his last four starts at the track. Keselowski is the one driver you may want to take a chance on regardless of where he starts.
Denny Hamlin ($9,200)
He opened the year with a win in the Daytona 500, and over the last ten races, no driver has scored more points at the restrictor-plate tracks. He has a +11.2 average place differential during the same stretch, ranking fourth in laps led. If he starts deeper in the field, Hamlin has a great chance to be the top scorer.
Kurt Busch ($8,700)
Busch has never won a restrictor-plate race, but he has finished 12th or better in seven of his last eight starts. He has a 9.8 average finish during that span to go along with a +9.6 average place differential. Depending on how qualifying plays out, Busch could be one of the best mid-priced plays.
Austin Dillon ($8,400)
Since joining the Cup Series, Dillon has wasted no time establishing himself as a reliable fantasy option at the restrictor-plate tracks. He has four top 15s in six starts at Talladega, including a third-place run in May. He has nine top 15s in the last ten plate races overall. As long as he doesn't qualify up front, he is one of the safer bets.
Jamie McMurray ($8,100)
McMurray is an all-or-nothing play this weekend, but if he qualifies toward the back, his upside is tremendous. He has four career wins at restrictor-plate tracks, including two at Talladega. Granted, he usually wrecks when he doesn't win, but the reward could be worth the risk if he has a chance to gain 25-plus positions from where he starts.
Clint Bowyer ($7,400)
No matter what car Bowyer is driving, he seems to have a way of getting to the front at the restrictor-plate tracks. He has a series-leading seven top 10s in the last ten races at Talladega, including a seventh-place run in May. He also has a series-best eight top 10s in the last ten plate races overall, logging a +12.2 average place differential in that span. If he starts deep in the field, he is a must-own driver.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,300)
The sample size isn't huge, but Stenhouse has proven himself a reliable option at Talladega. His 12.8 average finish ranks third in the series, and he has finished 16th or better in five of his six starts. Qualifying will ultimately determine his value, but Stenhouse should be a solid mid-priced play if he starts somewhere outside the top 20.
Paul Menard ($6,500)
His place differential numbers haven't always been great, but Menard has logged his share of top 10s at Talladega. In fact, he has finished sixth or better in four of his last six starts at the track. If he qualifies outside the top 20, he should be a solid low-priced play.
David Gilliland ($6,200)
Gilliland first has to qualify for Sunday's race, but if he makes the field, he could have some real value as a source of cap relief. He has cracked the top 20 and gained at least 19 spots in two of his last three starts at Talladega, gaining 22 spots and finishing 17th in the May race this season. Keep a close eye on Gilliland during qualifying.
Cole Whitt ($5,200)
He is a field-filler most weeks, but Whitt has been getting it done at Talladega. He has finished 22nd or better in five straight starts at the track, posting a 17.8 average finish during the stretch. More importantly, he has a +15.0 average place differential during the same stretch, gaining at least seven spots in all five races. As long as he qualifies deep in the field, Whitt should be a steal.