The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Talladega, Alabama this week for the Alabama 500. The final race in the second round of the Chase will be intense for the drivers. Fans will be on the edge of their seats as the checkered-flag is waived Sunday to see who advances and which drivers' are eliminated. Be sure to test your knowledge of NASCAR by competing in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game.
Talladega is the hardest track to predict a winner because any driver who starts the race has a realistic chance of going to Victory Lane. One wreck can take out half of the field Sunday. Even the drivers who have great stats on restrictor plate tracks are in danger of finishing last this week.
The unpredictability of this race has many Chase drivers feeling uneasy this week. Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott will most likely need to win the race Sunday to advance in the Chase. I expect most of the drivers with a playoff spot on the line to play it safe and not mix it up with the drivers up front until the end of the race.
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The race at Talladega often comes down to being in the right spot at the right time. Some drivers are good are putting their cars in a position to win on the restrictor plate tracks better than others. Here are the drivers with the best average finishing position in the three races on the superspeedways this season...
|Average Finishing Position in 3 Superspeedway Races|
|Driver||Daytona||Talladega||Daytona 2||Laps Led||Avg. Finish|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||22||16||5||0||14.3|
|Martin Truex Jr.||2||13||29||3||14.6|
The best strategy this week is to select the best drivers who qualify outside the top 15. Track position is not important at Talladega and drivers in the back of the pack can make their way to the front in only one lap. The scoring system for Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game rewards drivers who improve their position in the race more than the drivers who lead the most laps. Fantasy teams must capitalize on the bonus points for position differential in order to finish at the top of their league standings.
Pick to Win
Brad Keselowski ($12,300) is quickly becoming the best driver on the restrictor plate tracks in the sport. He won the last two races (Talladega and Daytona) and has led the most laps (162) on these tracks this season. Keselowski has been to Victory Lane four times at Talladega. His strategy of getting to the front early and working hard to stay there the entire race has paid off for him. The blue Deuce most likely needs a win to advance in the Chase and I expect Keselowski to get the job done.
Kyle Busch ($10,700) only has two wins on the restrictor plate tracks (Daytona 2013 and Talladega 2008), but he is always knocking on the door at the end of the race. The Toyotas have had the most speed at the superspeedways in 2016 and Busch has been their most consistent driver. He has finished all of the races on these tracks in the top three this season. Busch will be aggressive enough to keep his car up front this week and should finish in the top five.
Joey Logano ($10,000) is one of the most reliable drivers for your fantasy NASCAR team this week. Last year Logano won half of the restrictor plate races (Daytona 500 and CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega). He finished both races at Daytona in the top six this season. Team Penske always brings the best handling cars to the superspeedways. Logano should be able to maneuver his way to the front Sunday and possibly add another win to his restrictor plate track resume.
Denny Hamlin ($10,000) has a series-best driver rating and a series-best average finishing position on the restrictor plate tracks in the last three seasons. Hamlin won the Daytona 500 but followed it up with a 31st place finish at Talladega. Hamlin cannot afford another poor finish at Talladega this week. He is six points under the cut line and needs to finish up front if he wants to advance in the next round.
Matt Kenseth ($9,900) has the perfect driving style for restrictor plate racing. He usually takes what the competition gives him and refuses to press the issue to gain spots when it is not necessary. Kenseth is one of the hardest drivers to pass once he makes his way to the front. I expect the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers to form a line at the front of the pack this week and make it difficult for the rest of the field to pass them. Kenseth is one of the safest picks for the Alabama 500.
Value Picks (Drivers under $7,500)
Tony Stewart ($7,000) is a great value pick this week. Stewart currently has 49 career wins and it is no secret he would love to get No. 50 before he retires. The race at Talladega is his best chance to get back to Victory Lane. He has one win (2008) and fiver runner-up finishes at Talladega. Stewart finished sixth in the spring race at the track and he should have a good chance to finish in the top 10 again this week.
Ryan Blaney ($6,400) is a driver who could pick up his first career win this week. He has run well on the superspeedways this season and the Wood Brothers are very good at setting up a car for this type of racing. Blaney finished ninth in the last race at Talladega and I expect another top-10 finish from him this week.
Paul Menard ($5,600) is the most underpriced driver in the Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing game this week. Menard has finished four of his last six races at the track in the top six. He is a team player and usually sticks with his teammates in the race. I expect Menard to be the driver pushing Austin Dillon to help him advance in the Chase.
Alex Bowman ($5,000) will once again be driving the No. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr. This team knows how to get it done on the superspeedways and Bowman should have a fast car that handles well Sunday. His career stats at Talladega are not very good, but he has never been in a car as good as the one he will have this week. Bowman is a good value pick for your fantasy team.
Here are my picks for the Alabama 500 for Fox Sports Fantasy Auto Racing:
Driver 1: Brad Keselowski $12,300
Driver 2: Kyle Busch $10,700
Driver 3: Joey Logano $10,000
Driver 4: Denny Hamlin $10,000
Driver 5: Tony Stewart $7,000
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And don't forget - prizes are on the line each race of the fantasy season! First, second and third place each win a prize. Plus, each race builds your point total for larger segment and season prizes.