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FANTASY: Wrecking the Season

Friday, October 5, 2012
Talladega can look more like a junkyard than a speedway. Photo: Getty Images

Good Sam Road Side Assistance 500 Fantasy Preview

There's really only one goal for the Chase drivers this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway: don't wreck.  This restrictor plate race is notorious for multiple "Big Ones," and if this past May's race is any indication, fans complaining about follow-the-leader action will be mute this weekend.

In May's Aaron's 499, only 24 of the 43 entered cars finished the race, the 24th of which was Tony Stewart.  Stewart finished four laps down after being involved in multiple wrecks and he famously went on a sarcastic rant about how not enough of the field wrecked out and NASCAR should try to do a figure-8 race to make sure fans got more excited.

At the end of the race, the status of 10 cars was listed as "Accident" and that didn't include Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman, whose engines blew up early in the race.  After 2011's love bug issue at restrictor plate tracks, the cars were redesigned with a smaller air intake into the engines.  This meant that they got hotter faster because the air couldn't get in when cars drafted one another.  Johnson and Newman found themselves victims of the new design.

There are four restrictor plate races a year, so one of every nine races is on this kind of a track.  Hence, it makes sense that one of the 10 Chase races is on a restrictor plate track.  It definitely could throw a wrench in the championship quest for some drivers, but I'll still go on record as supporting having one restrictor plate race in the Chase.

The beauty of playing Fantasy NASCAR is that it gives you an opportunity to relate to different drivers and teams.  It feels great to be on a hot streak.  It hurts when the engine blows and you finish 36th.  And, it's always a crap shoot when the team heads to a restrictor plate race.

Strategy: Statically, there are always some drivers better than others at any track, but there's no such thing as a restrictor plate ace; the race is too unreliable.  Play the allocation game.  If you know you're going to run out of starts on a driver, take him out of consideration and go with the next best option.  The main strategy is to just cross your fingers and hope for the best.

A-List

Start

#2 Brad Keselowski - The points leader seems to buck the trend at 'Dega.  He has two wins and five top-10s in the seven starts.  He won here in May and with the way he's racing right now, he's the closest thing to a sure bet you'll find in this roulette week.

#24 Jeff Gordon - If the No. 24 is going to get back into the Chase, it needs a strong finish this week.  Gordon has six careers wins at Talladega and he'll be pushing to get number seven this weekend.

#29 Kevin Harvick - "Earth to Kevin Harvick ... Paging Kevin Harvick."  It's often hard to remember that he's even in the Chase as he really hasn't contended for a win all season.  He seems like a safe bet as he's only recorded one DNF in 23 Talladega starts (Jimmie Johnson by comparison has eight in 21). Of course, that DNF came this past May, so that theory really gets shot in the foot!

Park

#17 Matt Kenseth - It's odd to think a guy that has won two of the last four Daytona 500s isn't strong on a restrictor plate track.  However, he has just seven top-10s in 25 Talladega races, one in the last 11, and he's been really cold in recent weeks.

B-List

Start

#15 Clint Bowyer - He's won each of the last two fall races at Talladega, so he certainly knows how to find his way to the front at this track.

#20 Joey Logano - It's tough to risk starts on Chase drivers from the B-List, as they're probably in short supply.  Consider this: Logano has four top-10s in seven Talladega starts.

#31 Jeff Burton - Quick!  Who has the highest driver rating at Talladega? ... Okay, if you didn't guess Burton than we need to work on your intuition, but it's still surprising to see him topping that list.  He was 10th in May, so it's not like all his stats were accumulated in his heyday either.

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - It's tough to roll out one of the B-List's top drivers at such a wild card track, but Junior has five wins in 25 Talladega starts.  At such an unpredictable track, winning 20% of starts there is very impressive and considered a significant trend.

Park

#1 Jamie McMurray - There's always someone that tries to get cute and roll him out there for a restrictor plate race because he's won some in recent memory.  Um, hello?  He has three top-10s in 29 starts this year.  Do you really see him finding victory lane this weekend!?

#56 Martin Truex Jr. - This is Bad News Bears for a guy trailing the Chase leader by 42 points.  Truex Jr. has started 15 races at Talladega, he's finished just six.  (For those of you hoping that math wouldn't be involved, that's nine DNFs.)

C-List

Start

#34 David Ragan - This year, I've beat readers over the head with the reminder that Ragan's not in a Roush Fenway Racing car anymore.  But, restrictor plates neutralize advantages in speed, so Ragan's stats can still be factored into a decision.  He has four top-10s in 11 Talladega starts and his single top-10 in 2012 came at this track in May.

#55 Michael Waltrip - I'm a little late to the party on old "Mikey."  I poo-poo'd the notion that he'd be competitive in May, and he wound up a solid ninth.  It's been hard to bet against whichever driver has piloted the No. 55 this year, so I'd be confident that he'll put up a respectable finish.

Park

#22 Sam Hornish Jr. - While he's been a shot of life for the C-List, he's not a good choice this week.  He's only finished better than 24th in one of five career Talladega races, and I'm sure he'll be a clearer option on a thinner C-List in several of the remaining races, so it's worth saving his starts.

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The picks in this blog are based around Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game and its standard scoring rules.  The preview is designed to provide suggestions, while still encouraging managers to make their own decisions.  Once sorted into Yahoo's A, B and C-Lists, they are organized based on car number and not directly associated with a rank value.

You can sign up and play for free, by visiting http://racing.fantasysports.yahoo.com.  If signed up, the "Fans of NHMS" group may be joined by clicking here.