Fantasy NASCAR at Talladega 2014: Picks, Top Drivers for Geico 500
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Talladega, Alabama, this week for the Geico 500. The series last raced at Talladega Superspeedway in May.
The race at Talladega is a wild-card race for not only the Chase drivers, but for fantasy NASCAR teams as well. Any driver entered in the race has a realistic chance of winning. The key is for the driver to avoid the wrecks and be in a position to win at the end. Drivers do not have as much control over their success at Talladega as they do at other race tracks.
The most important thing for fantasy teams to know this week is that track position is not important, so do not use your top drivers in games that restrict the amount of times you can use a driver throughout the season. Since Talladega is such a crapshoot, you will want to use your top drivers at more predictable race tracks.
Here are my picks for the Geico 500 at Talladega.
Yahoo Group A Picks
Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon would be great selections for Group A of Yahoo Fantasy Auto Racing, but I would suggest saving these drivers for other race tracks. Each driver in this group has just as good of odds of finishing up front as Harvick and Gordon do.
The Chase format really makes selecting a driver in Group A interesting. Some of the drivers from this group do not have a position in the next round of the Chase and need to finish up front this week to advance to the Eliminator Round. Look for teams to work together to ensure their drivers finish up front Sunday.
Three drivers who should be working together are Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Hendrick Motorsports drivers either need a win or need to finish up front to advance in the Chase. Do not be surprised to see Johnson, Kahne and Earnhardt running up front with a little help from their teammate in Gordon.
Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are two more drivers who should be working together. The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers are not as desperate as Earnhardt and Johnson are, but they need to finish in the top 10 to advance in the Chase.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group A, with the number of allocations I have left with each driver in parentheses.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (6)
Whenever the series races at the superspeedways, Earnhardt Jr. needs to be on your team. Earnhardt is in last place in the Chase standings, and he most likely needs a win to advance to the Eliminator Round. If any driver could win a race at Talladega under this kind of pressure, it is Earnhardt. He is the best driver in the field at this race track. Earnhardt is my pick to win Sunday.
Matt Kenseth (5)
I thought about using Clint Bowyer for my second selection in Group A because he has great statistics at Talladega. I decided to select Kenseth instead because he has a series-best driver rating in the last five races at Talladega, and he has more to race for than Bowyer does. The Joe Gibbs Racing cars have been fast at the superspeedways this season. Kenseth will have a good run this week.
Other good choices: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson
Yahoo Group B Picks
Group B is where you really need to save allocations this week. If you have any starts left with Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano, you need to save them for another race. Keselowski and Logano may finish in the top five, but this race is too unpredictable to use these drivers on your team.
The best selection in the field this week is Denny Hamlin. He won the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duel preseason race at Daytona. Hamlin also finished second in the Daytona 500, sixth at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona and won the last race at Talladega. As good as he is, though, my advice is to save him for a more predictable race track, unless you have three or more starts left with him.
The second-best driver on the superspeedways this season is Casey Mears. He finished 10th in the Daytona 500 and fourth in the Coke Zero 400. Mears qualified fourth and finished 14th in the last race at Talladega. He is a risky pick but could pay off for your team this week.
Almirola won the last race on the superspeedways at Daytona. He started No. 15 and led 14 laps on his way to Victory Lane. I doubt he will win the race this week, but he could easily finish in the top 10. Almirola is worth a selection on your team to save an allocation with one of the top drivers in this group.
Here are the four drivers I selected for Group B.
Greg Biffle (5)
Biffle has not been great at many race tracks this season, but he has run well on the superspeedways. He finished eighth in the Daytona 500 and second in the last race at Talladega. He also has the third-best driver rating in the last five races at Talladega. Biffle is a good pick for your team this week.
Brian Vickers (5)
Vickers is a sleeper pick this week, but he should not be. He had a great race in May at Talladega in which he started No. 18, led six laps and finished fourth. Vickers backed that race up with a second-place finish in the Coke Zero 400. He should be working with Bowyer at the front of the pack Sunday.
Jamie McMurray (6)
McMurray has been running well since the Chase began. He has finished four of the last six races in the top 10. My strategy is to keep using McMurray while he is on a hot streak. He knows how to get to Victory Lane on the superspeedways, as four of his seven career wins came on these types of race tracks, including two wins at Talladega.
Paul Menard (9)
Menard usually runs well at the superspeedways, but he is much better at Talladega than he is at Daytona. He started on the front row and finished sixth in the May race at Talladega. He finished fourth in this race last season and should run up front this week.
Other good choices: Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Casey Mears
Yahoo Group C Picks
This is the race where the drivers in Group C could score as many points as your Group A drivers. Do not be scared to take a chance with a driver from this group this week.
Kyle Larson is usually the best pick in Group C, but that is not the case this week. Larson finished ninth in the last race at Talladega, but he finished outside the top 30 in the other two races at the superspeedways. It is too risky to use Larson on a race track that is so unpredictable.
Here are the two drivers I selected for Group C.
Danica Patrick (7)
Patrick has been hit or miss on the superspeedways in her career. She has had some good runs at Daytona (finished eighth in 2013 Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400 in July) but has been average at Talladega. In May, she qualified seventh and finished No. 22. Patrick has some of the best drivers as teammates, so she could qualify up front. Expect her to finish in the top 25 Sunday.
Landon Cassill (9)
If you feel like selecting a sleeper pick this week, Cassill is your driver. He has run well this season on the superspeedways. He finished No. 12 in the Daytona 500 and No. 11 in the last race at Talladega. Cassill has also led laps in the last two races on the superspeedways. If you are feeling lucky this week, take a chance with Cassill.
Other Good Choices: Kyle Larson, Michael Waltrip, Ryan Blaney and Justin Allgaier
Fantasy Live Picks
In order to score well this week in Fantasy Live, you must look at the qualifying positions of each driver before selecting your team.
There are only 188 laps in the race and 94 bonus points available in Fantasy Live for leading laps. In the last race at Talladega, 23 drivers led a lap. It will be more important to select drivers who will start in the back this week than it will be to try to select drivers who start up front with a chance to lead laps.
The other advice I have this week for Fantasy Live is to roll the dice with the team you had selected for the race at Charlotte last week. If you have Gordon, Harvick, Logano or Keselowski at a cheap price, you do not want to sell them for one race. Since anything can happen at Talladega, just keep the team you have and hope for the best.
Here are the five drivers I selected for Fantasy Live for the race at Talladega.
Fantasy Live Picks: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Casey Mears, Landon Cassill
Fox Fantasy Racing
This is the week to gamble in Fox Fantasy Racing. Since Fox Fantasy Racing restricts the number of times you can use a driver in the Chase, you will want to select drivers you don't plan on using much through the final five races. You can still field a quality team this week by using this strategy.
Here are my selections for Fox Fantasy Racing for the race at Talladega.
Captain: Denny Hamlin
Driver 2: Greg Biffle
Driver 3: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Driver 4: Brian Vickers
Driver 5: Clint Bowyer