RaceDayScore NASCAR: Alabama 500

RaceDayScore NASCAR: Alabama 500

This article is part of our RaceDayScore NASCAR series.

Alabama 500

Location: Talladega, Ala.
Course: Talladega Superspeedway
Format: 2.6-mile oval
Laps: 188

Race Preview

Despite Toyota's dominance of the season, it's two Chevrolets that have guaranteed spots in the final eight in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kevin Harvick joined Jimmie Johnson by taking the win last week in Kansas. Matt Kenseth looked set to dominate the race, but it was Harvick and Carl Edwards who battled in the second half of the distance for the win. However, the difference between the pair was Harvick's restarts. The Stewart Haas Racing driver timed his getaways to perfection and inched out commanding leads as Edwards was forced to battle with others. The race didn't turn out as well for other Chase drivers, though. Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott are all left staring elimination in the eye this week. The high banks and high speeds of Talladega pack racing are a nervy combination none wish to face in the final race of the elimination round.

Key Stats at Talladega Superspeedway

Number of previous races: 94
Winners from pole: 13
Winners from top-5 starters: 53
Winners from top-10 starters: 67
Winners from 21st or lower starters: 8
Fastest race: 188.354 mph

Last 10 Talladega Winners

2016 spring - Brad Keselowski
2015 fall - Joey Logano
2015 spring - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2014 fall - Brad Keselowski
2014 spring - Denny Hamlin
2013 fall - Jamie McMurray
2013 spring - David Ragan
2012 fall - Matt Kenseth
2012 spring - Brad Keselowski
2011 fall - Clint Bowyer

Gone this week is the team focus on handling. Instead, Talladega requires horsepower and aerodynamics. Drivers will battle the draft and pack-style racing throughout Sunday afternoon, and passing for the lead likely will be difficult. The current rules package at Daytona and Talladega has produced passing in the field, but drivers still find it difficult to make passes stick at the front. Keselowski was able to lead the most laps and score the win at the track earlier this year, and just one Toyota finished in the top 10. The draft can be an equalizer of machinery, but in order to win, drivers must still have the power to pass. However, that can't be accomplished without drafting partners, and friends will be difficult to find as the miles wind down this week and the elimination line looms for Chase contenders.

RACE DAY SCORE VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $60K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Brad Keselowski - $11,500
Kevin Harvick - $11,300
Kurt Busch - $10,800

Tier 2 Values

Denny Hamlin - $10,500
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - $10,300
Chase Elliott - $10,300
Austin Dillon - $10,200
Ryan Blaney - $10,000

Tier 3 Values

Alex Bowman - $9,900
Jamie McMurray - $9,900
Kyle Larson - $9,800
A.J. Allmendinger - $9,700

Long-Shot Values

Clint Bowyer - $9,100
David Ragan - $8,900
Chris Buescher - $8,000

MY PICKS THIS WEEK

Lower-Risk Lineup ($60K Salary Cap)

Kevin Harvick - $11,300
Matt Kenseth - $10,800
Chase Elliott - $10,300
Jamie McMurray - $9,900
Clint Bowyer - $9,100
Landon Cassill - $8,400

The clutch Chase winner is the top choice in this week's lower-risk lineup for Talladega. He hasn't finished lower than 15th in any of the last six Talladega races, which is considerably consistent and dependable at this venue. While his results don't necessarily show it, Kenseth has been one of the better restrictor-plate drivers in recent seasons. He started inside the top 10 the last three Talladega races and led 39 laps at the track earlier this year before crashing. With limited Talladega experience, Elliott is making it count. He started on pole there earlier this season and went on to lead 27 laps before finishing fifth in his only Sprint Cup start at the circuit. McMurray is no stranger to Talladega's Victory Lane. He has two wins at the track and finished fourth there in the spring. Bowyer is a driver we've avoided for much of the season, but Talladega could be a spot where he outperforms. He has two track wins and a rare 2016 top-10 there. Cassill is another driver who can punch above his weight at the Alabama track. He finished fourth there in 2014 and 11th in the spring.

Higher-Risk Lineup
($60K Salary Cap)

Jimmie Johnson - $10,600
Ryan Blaney - $10,000
Alex Bowman - $9,900
Kasey Kahne - $9,800
Greg Biffle - $9,800
A.J. Allmendinger - $9,700

The higher-risk lineup for Talladega eschews the favorites for potential. Johnson is riding a wave of resurgence by Hendrick Motorsports, and the Chevrolet-powered team could be even stronger this weekend than they were in the spring race. He has two track wins. Blaney has similar machinery to that with which Keselowski won at the track earlier this year. In that race Blaney finished ninth after qualifying 19th. The race favorite would have been Earnhardt, but Bowman has that car this weekend. He won't carry the same expectations Earnhardt would, but we'll see what he can do with the maestro's car. Kahne is right along with Johnson in taking advantage of Hendrick's step forward. He has four top-10 finishes in the last five races. Roush Fenway Racing saw a lot of potential after early sessions before the Daytona 500 but lost the mark during that race. Biffle finished 20th at Talladega earlier this year and should be a confident top-20 play this weekend with some upside potential if the team can replicate February's early speed. Lastly, Allmendinger seems to impress in pack racing nearly every chance he gets. He finished 14th at the track earlier this season and has a top-five there from 2014 as well.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. C.J. Radune plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: cjradune, RaceDayScore: cjradune.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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