|12/03/15||The Champion By NHMS Numbers|
|11/20/15||The Championship Four Preview|
|11/13/15||Phoenix: Three To Watch|
|10/30/15||Martinsville: Three To Watch|
|10/18/15||Kansas: Three To Watch|
|10/05/15||Charlotte: Three To Watch|
FANTASY: The Torture of Talladega
Restrictor plate races at Talladega Superspeedway are great to watch if you're a fan. However, if you're a driver, a car owner, or even a fantasy owner, it's a whole different story.
These types of races are notorious for the "Big One," a wreck that can wipe out several cars at once and immediately end a good day. In fact, last year's race at Talladega saw a 25-car pileup on the final lap. "It cost a lot of people a bad day," said Tony Stewart after the race, when he confessed he made a mistake that caused the pileup.
When it comes to selecting a fantasy auto racing roster, there's no strategy. Jeff Burton's 91.4 driver rating, which would rank about 10th at a different track, is the best at Talladega. This proves just how little dominance any driver shows at the track.
You just need to throw your darts at the board and pray to the NASCAR gods for 188 laps that your selection is still moving forward at the race's end. For those looking for any sort of advantage, here's a look at the drivers most successful in avoiding Talladega's "Big One":
Talladega Superspeedway is the largest track in NASCAR at 2.66 miles around and has an oddly placed start-finish line away from the apex of the tri-oval and closer to turn 1. Its incredibly fast speeds require restrictor plates to ensure the cars don't go so fast as to be unsafe. (That sounds like a paradox in NASCAR, but there's only so many miles per hour over 200 that a car can drive before it just becomes a blatant health hazard.)
The "Big One" will play a role in this race. It does every year, and the racier Generation-Six car certainly has encouraged a trading of paint among the vehicles. There's no way to strategize for this, which is why it's the X-factor, so it will come down to good or bad luck for a driver.
Lay off using the series' best drivers this week. Best case scenario, a driver picks up an unpredictable top-10 finish that he can get at many other tracks. Worst case scenario, he wrecks on Lap 2 (like Jimmie Johnson in the 2012 Daytona 500) and scores you next to no points. You only get nine starts on a driver. Don't waste one here on someone for whom you already wish you had more.
- #2 Brad Keselowski - With two wins and six top-10s in eight Talladega races, the Blue Deuce is about the closest to top-10 assurance as you're going to get.
- #15 Clint Bowyer - He had some bad luck early in his 'Dega career, but he reeled off five consecutive top-fives before getting swept up in the last-lap, "Big One" last fall. He still stood a good chance at a top-10 in that race as well before getting wrecked.
- #29 Kevin Harvick - This is an A-list driver that won't get used up on starts, has the confidence of a win last week and holds the third-best average finish at Talladega (15.4). He provides upside without being a huge risk on allocations down the road. Perfect.
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - He's won at Talladega twice. He's also recorded eight DNFs in 22 starts. When you figure he's the best fantasy driver in NASCAR so far, someone would be out of their mind to start him this weekend.
- #1 Jamie McMurray - There's a certain belief that McMurray does well on the restrictor plate tracks because he won Talladega in the fall of 2009 and then won the 2010 Daytona 500. That might be a little far fetched, as his average finish at the Alabama track is 20.0. However, he's been racing well this season, so he's worth considering.
- #22 Joey Logano - With four top-10s in eight races at the superspeedway, Logano isn't a bad option considering he's put up some good finishes this year.
- #78 Kurt Busch - The No. 78 is a great option this week. Busch is a good driver and the deficiencies in his lesser-funded car will be washed out by the restrictor plate. He has 13 top-10s in 24 starts at 'Dega, so he can get it done.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He's the one exception to my rule of staying away from the best drivers on the list. Junior has won five times at the superspeedway, so I can't suggest parking him.
- #18 Kyle Busch - He's one of the B-list's best this season and sports a 22.1 average finish at Talladega. Don't start him; don't even think about it.
- #99 Carl Edwards - See "Kyle Busch" above and sub the 22.1 average finish for a 21.8. You get the picture.
- #10 Danica Patrick - She put together a great weekend at Daytona this past February. She hasn't raced well since, but with so many question marks, it's worth taking a risk and hoping she'll be good on this restrictor plate track as well.
- #55 Michael Waltrip - I'll never make a Hall of Fame case for this guy. He only won four times in 771 Sprint Cup starts, and all four were at restrictor plate tracks. That said, this weekend's race is at a restrictor plate track and the No. 55 has been a pretty good car the past couple years.
- #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - You're going to want to start him about 20 times this year. This weekend isn't one of them.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.