Yahoo: Top 30 Drivers
Yahoo / Fox / NASCAR: Quick Picks
No matter what fantasy NASCAR format you're playing, building a successful lineup at a restrictor-plate track is one of the biggest challenges. Unfortunately, that is the challenge facing fantasy owners this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Building a lineup for the Yahoo game can be particularly frustrating. Almost all of the points come from a driver's finishing position, and at Talladega, every driver has around a 50-50 chance of surviving to the finish because of the big wrecks that go hand in hand with restrictor-plate racing.
There is no strategy for picking drivers who avoid wrecks, but while you can't guarantee yourself success this weekend, you can help ensure your long-term success by leaning on sleeper drivers in each of the three tiers.
My goal is to build a lineup of drivers who have had some success at Talladega but don't run well enough at typical ovals for me to use frequently. In fact, I won't use any driver this weekend that I think I may use the maximum nine times over the course of the season. Even if all my drivers wreck, it won't have any implications beyond Sunday's race.
For the NASCAR.com game, I ignore the dominator categories and focus on the place differential category. It is common for drivers to gain a bunch of spots in plate races and to lose a bunch of spots, so drivers starting deeper in the field are the safest picks and have the most upside. Every driver in my lineup will start in the back half of the field, and I'll target multiple drivers starting outside the Top 30.
In the FOX game, I like swinging for the fences at Talladega. My thought is that any driver a pick has a good chance of crashing out, so I might as well pick a bunch of drivers starting deeper in the field who have the most upside through the place differential category.
Check out a complete look at all my season-long fantasy NASCAR lineups for the GEICO 500, and good luck at Talladega, one of NASCAR's most unpredictable tracks.
Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Auto Racing
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (A)
Junior has arguably been the worst A-List option this year, but the plate tracks have always brought out his best. He leads all active drivers with 10 restrictor-plate wins, and six of those have come at Talladega. After grabbing a spot on the front row, Junior looks to have a car capable of adding to his impressive win total.
Paul Menard (B)
There aren't a lot of tracks where I am willing to roll the dice on Menard, but Talladega is one of them. He has five Top 15s in his last seven starts here, and he has four finishes of sixth or better in that span. Menard has legit Top 10 upside this weekend, and you can't say that about him very often.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (B)
Even before winning the pole, I had Stenhouse tabbed as a potential B-List starter this weekend. After all, his 11.7 average finish at Talladega is the best among active drivers, and he has finished 16th or better in six of his seven starts here.
Michael McDowell (C)
There is no way I'm taking a chance on wasting a start from Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez or Ty Dillon this weekend, but McDowell should be a solid alternative. He has finished 21st or better in his last five starts at restrictor-plate tracks, notching three Top 15s in that span.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kyle Larson ($27.75)
He isn't starting way in the back, but after qualifying 21st does have more upside through place differential than most of the bigger names. Keep in mind that he nearly won the Daytona 500, and he has three finishes of seventh or better in his last five plate races. I expect him to grab a few stage points in addition to gaining 10-plus spots.
Jimmie Johnson ($26.75)
Johnson is a no-brainer play in this format. Starting back in 30th, he easily has the most upside in the place differential category among the top drivers. He has five plate wins under his belt, including two at Talladega, so he could be charging forward and padding his score with some stage points, and maybe some laps led.
Jamie McMurray ($22.00)
Place differential is the most important category this week, but since NASCAR.com also includes stage points, I like McMurray's potential. He starts 23rd, so he still has plenty of spots to gain. He also has four career plate wins, so he knows how to run up front at Daytona and Talladega.
Elliott Sadler ($5.00)
At a track where the place differential category is the safest and most effective way to earn points in this scoring format, Sadler's 35th-place starting spot is a good thing. He has been a solid plate racer throughout his career, and he gained 20 spots in this year's Daytona 500. His starting spot gives him a safe floor and a high ceiling. It's the best of both worlds.
Cole Whitt ($5.00)
Whitt is normally my go-to source of cap relief, but this weekend, it's his upside that I can't pass up. He starts way back in 38th, but he owns a 17.8 average finish in his last five starts at Talladega, and he has gained an average of 15.0 spots per race in that span. Whitt has nothing to lose and a ton to gain through the place differential category, and he has a real chance to finish as one of the top scorers this weekend.
FOX Fantasy Auto Racing
Jimmie Johnson ($10,900)
Any driver starting in the back is in play this weekend, but Johnson is the closest thing to a must-own option. He is easily the most accomplished and decorated driver starting deep in the field. In fact, he will roll off 30th. If he wins, we are talking about 70-plus fantasy points.
Ty Dillon ($6,600)
Dillon doesn't have a lot of experience on his side, but he should have excellent equipment since he is driving for what is essentially a satellite team of Richard Childress Racing. RCR always has a solid restrictor-plate program, and Dillon has the upside I want in the place differential category after qualifying 28th.
Chris Buescher ($6,100)
His record at plate tracks is brief and unimpressive, but starting way back in 34th, Buescher has one of the highest ceilings in the place differential category. Every driver is a gamble at Talladega, so I might as well gamble on a driver with a bunch of upside.
David Ragan ($5,200)
Ragan's recent runs at Talladega have ended well, but he has a history of success at plate tracks, winning Cup races at both Daytona and Talladega. Starting 29th, he has huge upside if he finishes anywhere near the front.
Elliott Sadler ($5,000)
I don't care that Sadler only drives a few races for a smaller team. He is starting 35th, so he has the upside I'm looking for in the place differential category. At Daytona in February, he gained 20 spots and finished in the Top 20.