After the calm tranquility of the desert, this weekend's race is all about speed, nerves of steel, door to door racing and luck. Talladega Superspeedway is the biggest, fastest track on the schedule, and rarely it disappoints when it comes to putting on a good show. And after some of less-than-exciting races this year, a 500-mile dose of restrictor plate racing could just be what the doctor ordered. Plate racing is unpredictable, but one thing that you won't see this week is the leader stinking up the show like last weekend (no offense to Mr. Martin).
Another thing you're likely to see is what is infamously known as "The Big One." The multi-car wreck, usually triggered by the slightest bit of contact, that can quickly erase a team's chance for victory and a fantasy owner's chance for a high score. But even with the threat of the Big One looming, there is still plenty of opportunity to score big this Sunday. Check out our picks for this week's favorites, sleepers and longshots that will help you stay headed in the right direction among the chaos.
In the first eight races of the season, Stewart has shown that his decision to leave the comfort of
Another driver to keep an eye on this weekend is Stewart's former JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin. Like with Stewart, it seems like only a matter of time before Hamlin finds his way into victory lane given his recent string of top finishes. In the last four races, Hamlin has finished second twice and no worse than 12th, putting him fifth in the standings. While he's still looking for his first Talladega victory, he has had his share of success there. In the three races run at 'Dega in the new car configuration, Hamlin has led laps in each event and scored a pair of top-fives before being caught up in a wreck last Fall. He should have help up front from current teammate
With a pair of recent subpar finishes, look for Bowyer to put another notch in the top-10 column this weekend. After getting off to a bumpy start at Talladega early in his career, Bowyer seems to have figured out a few things about plate racing and has scored finishes of 11th, ninth and fifth in the last three races. And he hasn't done it the easy way either. In those three races, his best starting position was 23rd. With a fourth-place run at the Daytona 500 to help pad his credibility, Bowyer is a solid option for a near-top-level driver whom can score you big points with this weekend, and one many might not be thinking of using.
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Another driver that should be a bargain for you to pick up is David Ragan. After a successful sophomore campaign, his third season isn't going as smoothly. He kicked off the year with a sixth place finish at Daytona, his only top 10 of the year, and it's been all downhill since then. But in his brief career, if there is one place where Ragan has shown he can right the ship it's at plate tracks. In 2008, he finished fourth in this race and improved one spot to third in the fall event, leading 11 laps in the process. Whether it's Daytona or Talladega, there is something about this type of racing that suits his style. And you should use that to your advantage this weekend.
To many of his fans, Edwards seems like a modern-day Superman, racing at high speeds, soaring through the standings and flipping his way into victory lane. But just like Superman had kryptonite that brought him to his knees, Edwards has Talladega. In nine starts, he has three DNFs and has finished in the top 15 just once in the last two years, while finishing 40th or worse on two occasions. It's not just Talladega though; Edwards struggles at Daytona as well, where he's sporting a meager 21.4 average finish in nine races. While the No. 99 team obviously will turn things up a notch and likely make multiple trips to victory lane, this isn't the weekend to bet the farm on that happening. There are too many other drivers who are good here and too many other tracks that Edwards is better at to waste playing him this Sunday.
No Earnhardt at Talladega? I must be crazy, right? Possibly, but I promise there is a reason behind my madness. Yes, Junior is a five-time Talladega winner, but his hot streak was in 2001-2003 when he won four in a row. He hasn't won here since 2004. In fact, in the eight races since that last win here, he has finished in the top 10 just twice. Add to that the pressure you know this team has to be under to perform well, especially here, where so many are expecting it. So far this year, this team hasn't dealt well with pressure, whether it be on the driver's side or the crew's side. Something is just off and it doesn't show any signs of fixing itself just yet. Plus, many players will likely see Talladega and the name Earnhardt and automatically put them together; meaning you won't gain much ground by picking him if the majority has. I'm not giving up on Junior rallying to have a decent year, but from a fantasy perspective, he's just not worth the gamble right now.