The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship heads to the 2.75-mile tri-oval at Talladega Superspeedway where wrecks can be frequent, especially ‘The Big One’. That’s bad news for those who have yet to punch their ticket to the third-round of the playoffs. Four of the 12 drivers in the Chase will be sent packing this weekend, and Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have already clinched their spot. That leaves six spots up for grabs, so it will be interesting to say the least.
So is that a good thing for DFS and Seasonal Fantasy? Chase contenders desperate at the end of the race could turn out well, or it could mean they’re collected in a wreck instead of getting to play it safe. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are currently above the cut line going to ‘Dega, while teammate Denny Hamlin is on the outside looking in. Penske Racing’s Joey Logano is currently in, while teammate Brad Keselowski, winner of the spring race at Talladega, is out. Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch are in, while youngsters Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott need Herculean efforts this weekend to pull ahead of the cut line and advance. It is going to be fun.
(DraftKings.com salaries in parentheses)
Keselowski ($10,300) always seems to race well when his back is against the wall, and when he is at Restrictor-Plate tracks. He has won two of the past four stops at Talladega, three times in the past nine starts and four times overall in 15 career tries with six Top 5s, nine Top 10s and just one DNF with a 13.9 Average-Finish Position (AFP), best among all drivers with at least seven career starts. As mentioned, he is currently below the cut line to advance to the third round, but he is a strong Fantasy selection in all formats since this is one of his best tracks.
Logano’s success hasn’t been as great as his teammate, but he checks in ninth in Driver Rating over the past five outings, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data. He has run just 59.2 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, but he has led 51 laps during the span while he has one win, three Top 5s and five Top 10s in 15 career starts. His 19.9 AFP isn’t as good as some of the other drivers, but lately he has been better at the track after a slow start in his career.
As mentioned, JGR’s Kyle Busch ($10,100) is currently above the line for advancement, but he cannot be happy with his spot heading into Talladega. It’s a track he has struggled over the years, winning just once with five Top 5s and six Top 10s in 22 career starts with an underwhelming 20.9 AFP and five DNFs. He isn’t among the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five starts, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data, and he’s a good driver to fade this weekend, especially if you have a limited amount of starts left in Yahoo! This isn’t the track to use him.
Hendrick Motorsports rookie Chase Elliott ($8,800) is also on the outside looking in as far as the Chase line is concerned, but if he can replicate his spring Talladega finish he might be right there in the mix. He was fifth in his first-career Cup race at the Alabama superspeedway, leading 27 laps while running 71.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. The rookie is coming off two terribly disappointing results, posting a 33rd at Charlotte after a wreck despite leading 103 laps, and 31st at Kansas where trouble followed him all day long. He needs a good day, and this is a track where he can certainly get it done. We’ll learn a lot about the rookie this weekend, and you can expect a Top 10 finish, which is great news as a No. 3 DFS option at a mid-tier price.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch ($8,700) remains in the mix for a Chase spot, and he arrives at a track he has been good in the past. Surprisingly, he has never won in 31 career tries at Talladega, although he has six Top 5s, 16 Top 10s and a tremendous 16.3 AFP. Over the past five starts he ranks sixth in Driver Rating, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data, running 70.8 percent of his laps in the Top 15. He has led just two laps during the five-race span, but you can expect him to be out front frequently as he challenges for a spot in the third round of the Chase.
His teammate and boss Tony Stewart ($7,600) makes his final appearance at the track. While his Chase hopes have gone out the window, he still has a chance to finish up strong. He has a win in 34 career tries at the track, and always seems to be in the mix at plate tracks. He has nine Top 5s, 14 Top 10s and 328 laps led with a 17.5 AFP. He has seven DNFs, which is a result of his aggressive driving style and going for broke, but sometimes you need to take chances at plate tracks, especially late. Expect Smoke to leave it all on the track in his final Talladega start.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon ($8,400) remains in the hunt for a spot in the third round, but he has been rather erratic lately. He has a pair of Top 10 finishes over his past three starts, but that’s sandwiched around a disappointing 32nd at Charlotte. Remember, he was third at Talladega in the spring, and likely needs another strong result to keep his championship aspirations alive.
Among the lower-priced drivers, HScott Motorsports driver Clint Bowyer ($7,400) has fared well over the years at Talladega, and is definitely one to watch. He is just two races removed from a respectable 17th-place finish, and he brought it home seventh in the spring race at Talladega. In 21 career starts he has two wins, six Top 5s and 12 Top 10s with a 14.5 AFP, second only to Keselowski among drivers with at least seven starts. As a No. 5 or 6 driver at DraftKings, he is an absolute steal with this soft pricing.
Front Row Motorsports turns to David Gilliland ($6,200) to drive the No. 35 car, and he has been good as a plate run specialist over the years. He posted a 17th-place run at Talladega earlier this season and managed a 19th at the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona. He is a low-priced driver with plenty of experience on restrictor-plate tracks, worth using at a low price of $6.50 in NASCAR Fantasy Live, and certainly as your C-list selection at Yahoo! sports, especially if you have exhausted all of your starts for Elliott.
Danica Patrick ($6,600) might have just two Top 10s on the season, but she has shown vast improvement in recent races. She has four Top 20 finishes over the past six outings, including an 11th at Charlotte, and plate runs have always been good for her. She was collected in a wreck in the spring, finishing 24th at ‘Dega, but it wasn’t her fault for once. She takes a lot of unfair bashing, but take advantage of that. It isn’t a good idea to go 100 percent exposure on her, but using her in half of your lineups isn’t a bad idea.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,300) has rattled off three straight Top 20 finishes, which is nice in and of itself. He was also 16th at Talladega in the spring race, which is actually below-average by his standards. In six career starts he has one Top 5 and three Top 10s with a stellar 12.8 AFP to lead all drivers with at least six tries at the track. He has never been one to get out in front and stay out in front, leading just 11 laps during the span, but he is a great low-priced option in NASCAR’s Fantasy Live and DraftKings because he’ll challenge for a Top 10 at a low price.
Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray ($8,100) is not in the Chase, but he could be a wild card at Talladega. He was fourth in the spring race, and he has a pair of victories in 28 career starts with half of his finishes resulting in a Top 20 or better. With a 20.1 AFP he will be a popular choice as a No. 4 or 5 driver. BK Racing’s David Ragan ($6,300) is always a low-priced DFS option to remember at plate tracks. He has one win, four Top 5s and seven Top 10s in 19 career starts, and his 19.3 AFP is better than Truex Jr. (19.6), Logano (19.9), Hamlin (20.0) and Kyle Busch (20.9), among others. His Fantasy points per dollar spent will be through the roof this week. He’ll be very popular in GPPs this week based on his past success at ‘Dega and low salary.
RFR’s Trevor Bayne ($6,800) is another low-priced driver who specializes on plate tracks. He turned in a Top 10 in the spring race. Rookie Ryan Blaney ($7,700) was just ahead of him in ninth place in the spring Talladega race, and he is coming off a solid 14th-place finish at Kansas last week. His 19.5 AFP in four-career ‘Dega starts is impressive.
NASCAR FANTASY LINEUPS FOR TALLADEGA
|No.||Driver||DraftKings Salary||No.||Driver||Fantasy Live Salary||No.||Yahoo! Sports Driver|
|1||Brad Keselowski||$10,300||1||Brad Keselowski||$27.25||1||Brad Keselowski|
|2||Chase Elliott||$8,800||2||Chase Elliott||$24.75||2||Clint Bowyer|
|3||Kurt Busch||$8,700||3||Kasey Kahne||$24.00||3||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|4||Kasey Kahne||$8,300||4||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||$15.25||4||David Gilliland|
|5||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||$7,300||5||David Gilliland||$6.50|