The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, which means that for the first time since the season-opening Daytona 500, fantasy owners have to deal with a restrictor-plate track.
Yes, the pack racing caused by the restrictor plates has created plenty of close and exciting finishes, but it also tears up a bunch of cars and basically turns the race into a war of attrition. Personally, I’m not a fan of plate racing, but I know a lot of people who love it. Either way, there is no denying that the plate races can be a headache for fantasy owners.
The violent, multi-car wrecks that have become a staple of restrictor-plate racing can wipe out dozens of drivers at a time. An entire fantasy lineup could be wiped out in the matter of seconds this weekend. That’s just the nature of this beast, and while there is no perfect strategy for picking drivers who will survive to the finish, you can minimize the potential damage, at least in the long run.
In both the Driver Group Game and Fantasy Live, this is a track where you should save your starts from the better options and use drivers who you don’t plan on using often over the course of the season. You can still get great results using a lineup of sleepers, and even if your drivers do fall victim to the Big One(s), at least you didn’t waste a start from a driver who can give you a strong finish down the road.
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1. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
No driver seems to have as much raw speed at the plate tracks as Keselowski, and he has already amassed six restrictor-plate wins, including five at Talladega. Keselowski has led more than 30 laps in five of his last eight starts at the plate tracks, and he is the best bet to emerge from the chaos with the win. Don’t hesitate to dial him up as your Group A pick in the Driver Group Game.
2. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
He’s a three-time winner at plate tracks, and two of those wins came at Talladega. He’s also been the most dependable driver at the plate tracks the last few years, logging a series-best five Top 5s and seven Top 10s over the last 10 races.
3. Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing
Hamlin is another driver who always seems to have the speed to get to the front at the plate tracks. He is a former winner at both Daytona and Talladega, and he led 22 laps and finished third in the Daytona 500 to kick off 2018. Hamlin has also led laps in nine of the last 10 plate races, so you can pretty much count on him having a car capable of winning.
4. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., #17 Fastenal/Fifth Third Bank, Roush Fenway Racing
Stenhouse won at Talladega last spring, and he has become a Top 5 option at the plate tracks. He won two of the four plate races last year, and he has four Top 5s in his last seven starts. Stenhouse has also led multiple laps in each of the last four plate races. Use him in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game this weekend.
5. Ryan Blaney, #12 Menards/PPG, Team Penske
He had already shown some upside at the plate tracks, and it is no surprise that joining Team Penske has only boosted his stock. He led a race-high 118 laps and finished seventh in the Daytona 500, and he should have another strong car this weekend.