Martin Truex Jr. starts the second round the same way he started the first round, by winning his fifth race of the season on a mile-and-a-half track. With the win, Martin propels himself into the third round and picks up another five playoff points. It is going to be very difficult to deny him a spot in the championship race at Homestead-Miami. On the other side of the coin, Kyle Busch had multiple incidents on the track and lost a lot of his cushion in the point standings.
This week the series heads to the Talladega Superspeedway and the wildcard race of the playoffs. The restrictor plate races are known for their potential to have a wreck at anytime that could take out fifteen to twenty cars at one time. If one of the playoff contenders gets caught up in one of those wrecks it is going to be very difficult for them to continue on to the next round. It will be interesting to see if any of the playoff contenders run towards the back of the pack to stay out of trouble or if they think the stage points are too valuable and they need to try to finish in the top ten in the stages to maximize their points.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky has won the last two restrictor plate races, so I am going to take him and start him on my team this weekend. The Ford drivers have all looked stronger on these tracks than the other makes this season with Kurt Busch winning the Daytona 500 in a Ford too. Ricky should be able to qualify well and run well in the draft once again this week. Don’t use up any of your good drivers this week because of the potential for that big wreck.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin has looked a lot better in the playoffs and is also driving a Ford. He has run well at the restrictor plate tracks this season and usually seems to be able to make it through accidents with close calls or minimal damage. If he qualifies well he will be able to stay up front and not have to worry about the big wreck.
Kurt Busch: Although Kurt has been knocked out of the playoffs and has yet to win a race at Talladega in his career, he usually runs very well at this track. He is also the only driver to finish in the top ten here in each of the last four races. Once again this is another Ford driver. I believe these drivers have a little bit of an advantage over the drivers who are running other makes.
Brad Keselowski: Brad has four wins at this track in his seventeen career starts. He hasn’t been running as well as he would like lately and this might be the race where he can breakout once again. Brad really knows how to choose his drafting partners by finding someone who can push him to the front from anywhere in the field. I think this is going to be a good points week for Brad.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Dale leads all active drivers with six wins at Talladega in his career. He would like nothing better than to get win number seven in his final full season of racing. This is probably his last best shot at winning a race before the end of the season and he is going to do everything in his power to visit victory lane this weekend. The question is, will he take too many chances to move to the front and end up in an accident again.
Clint Bowyer: Clint has two career wins at Talladega. He also has finished in the top ten in twelve of his twenty-three starts. Even though he didn’t run as well as he would have liked to in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, but this is a race where anyone can win. You can even have a slow pit stop here that won’t really cost you anything on the track. I think Clint will be in a position to win this race at the end.
Paul Menard: This is a race where we can use drivers who haven’t really shown a lot this year. We have seen David Ragan and Trevor Bayne win restrictor plate races on teams that really don’t compete on other tracks. Paul has finished in the top ten in three of his last five starts here and seems to be able to find and work with someone in the draft to get himself in a position to have a shot at winning these races.
Aric Almirola: Aric is another one of those drivers who hasn’t had a very good season. Yet, he is one of those who seems to find some way to get to the front of the pack at Talladega. I think some of these drivers who seem to under perform on a team with good equipment have a little more patience in these races and they let the race come to them. They aren’t making questionable moves that can get them into trouble, so they have a good shot at the end of these races.
Jimmie Johnson: Jimmie has been quietly running a bit better lately. He still isn’t to the point where he is in contention every week, but he doesn’t have to be there yet. I think he is another driver who will take his time at this track as he knows he can go from the back to the front in just a few laps if necessary. I also think that Chad Knaus is a crew chief who really knows which strategy is going to play out in these races.
Denny Hamlin: Denny always seems to run well at the restrictor plate tracks. He might not run up front all day He might just hang out towards the back of the pack, but when it comes down to go time, he can find someone to work with to get back towards the front of the pack. The big thing is to not get wrecked early in the race and lose a bunch of points in the standings that can cost you the third round.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Brad Keselowski
- Kevin Harvick
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Paul Menard
- Aric Almirola
- Trevor Bayne
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Michael McDowell
- David Ragan
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Brad Keselowski
- Kevin Harvick
- Kurt Busch
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dark Horse: Jamie McMurray
Stay Away From: Kyle Larson
Big 18: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.