This article is part of our DFS NASCAR series.
Talladega Superspeedway (2.66-mile tri-oval)
One 70-Lap Main Event
William Byron became the first eNASCAR Pro Invitational series multi-race winner with back-to-back short-track wins in the last two races at Bristol and Richmond. Byron has been one of the most consistent front-runners since the series began, and he could even have had three out of four race wins were it not for a bump-and-run move he was on the receiving end of while leading at Texas. He and Timmy Hill have made themselves the drivers to beat in the series and are expected to continue that domination as other competitors climb the learning curve in an effort to challenge them. This week could produce a surprise winner, though. Talladega Superspeedway has a history of producing first-time winners and the same could be in store for this week's GEICO 70.
Drivers will have to adapt to a new style of racing this week on the high banks of Talladega. The short confines of Bristol and Richmond may be behind us, but close-quarters racing is not. Drafting is the name of the game at this circuit, and drivers will have to adapt to working with their virtual spotters in the pack this week. Multiple drivers have struggled with getting accurate calls from their spotters in prior races and crashes have been the result. Such miscommunications this week could have disastrous consequences for many innocent bystanders, too. Sunday's field will be set by single-car two-lap qualifying immediately prior to the start of the race as opposed to the heat races we saw the last few weeks. The action at Talladega in real life is unpredictable and tense, and that could be amplified in the virtual world where consequences of aggressive drafting don't include the usual physical consequences.
William Byron ($11,100) - William Byron become the first repeat winner in the eNASCAR Pro Invitational series last week when he led 94 of 150 laps at Richmond. His first win in the series cam just one week earlier at Bristol, and these two races make him the hottest driver in the series at the moment. This week will be a different style of racing as the competitors move from short tracks to the high banks of Talladega, but Byron's extensive experience in iRacing will make him a favorite this week despite the differences. He credited his win last week with a call to stay out on track instead of pitting, but this week's victory could come down to making the right move in the draft.
Timmy Hill ($10,800) - Like Byron, Hill has been one of the most consistent drivers in the Pro Invitational series. He finished in the top three in every race of the series, and is making good use of his time during the pandemic to bring attention that may benefit him when the racing world finally returns to action. In the meantime, he continues to be one of the most reliable fantasy options for team owners. While Talladega will present new challenges for the drivers this week, there is no indication that Hill would suffer as a result. His iRacing experience should continue to put him at the front of the running order regardless of circuit as others remain in chase.
Ryan Preece ($9,600) - Preece was the only other driver than Byron to lead laps in last week's Richmond race. He started the race on pole and was out front for 59 of the 150 laps. He finished 19th, but proved that he is a contender most weeks in the virtual format. In the four races so far he finished in the top 10 three times, including a runner-up performance at Texas. Preece may not have found Victory Lane yet in the series, but should be considered one of the top fantasy contenders this week at Talladega. Avoiding wrecks and making the right calls in the pits should put him in position to battle for the win in the final laps.
Parker Kligerman ($9,200) - Kligerman is another driver who has gotten a chance to get back behind the wheel in the virtual format. He is usually found covering pit lane, but has spent the past four virtual races climbing the virtual series standings. He was a mid-pack competitor at both Miami and Texas but scored back-to-back top-10 finishes in the following two short-track races. Things could change with Talladega requiring a completely different approach due to the circuit, but Kligerman should adapt quickly and has proven he can navigate his way to the finish in contention. He has not yet led any laps in the series, but has been a relatively dependable driver regardless of the circuit.
Clint Bowyer ($8,200) - Two-time Talladega winner Bowyer has struggled in the Pro Invitational series and may make a risky play for fantasy owners this week. He has taken part in all four series races and has a best finish of 11th at both Texas and Bristol. He was the first driver out of the race last week at Bristol and hasn't proven that he can stay out of trouble running in the pack. That could be his biggest problem this week at Talladega. Drivers will have to navigate the virtual draft and avoid starting or being involved in the big wrecks that style of racing produces. In what is expected to be a crash-filled race, Bowyer is going to have it all to do to get up front and stay out of trouble the entire race distance.
Jimmie Johnson ($5,800) - As seriously as Johnson has taken his virtual racing since joining the fray, he still has significant distance to cover to work his way into the front runners. Johnson finished 26th after crashing out of last week's Bristol event, and his best iRacing finish was actually in IndyCar's visit to Alabama. In fact, his two IndyCar starts have both resulted in finishes better than he has achieved in eNASCAR. Texas was his best result in the Pro Invitational series at 19th. While Johnson may be missing the on-track time he would otherwise be getting in what was supposed to be his final full-time season in the Cup series he is supplementing it in the virtual world. Still, to become a viable fantasy option he will still need some work and seat time to climb the running order.
Kevin Harvick ($6,600) - Harvick is not usually a name you would expect to see on the risky side of a race assessment, but in the eNASCAR series he has yet to show his normal on-track brilliance. He retired from his first attempt at the series in Richmond with an engine issue. Early on in the race he spent an inordinate amount of time on pit road making virtual repairs to his machine. While he is normally a driver to look out for in the draft, the virtual format of this race at Talladega may not play in his favor. He is one of those veterans looking to discover the techniques that make the difference in iRacing and until he starts climbing the running order and spending time at the front of the field he should be one that is assessed with some skepticism by fantasy owners.
Jeff Gordon ($8,000) - Gordon will make his return to NASCAR racing in the virtual word this week in the Talladega round of the Pro Invitational series. While his participation will generate a lot of interest, fantasy players know he likely is going to need some time to come up to speed in the format. Many of the veteran drivers who have storied careers on track have failed to set the virtual world alight in iRacing. Gordon has been close with the series since he was a commentator for the first four rounds, but will have to shake off the cobwebs behind the wheel. While Gordon will be one driver we'll be watching intently, he won't be one we'd be willing to take a gamble on quite yet.