Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR

One Last Wildcard

I’d hate to say that qualifying and practice mean nothing this weekend, but I’d hate to lie to you, too. The races at Talladega and Daytona are called wildcards for a reason: anyone can win. And I mean anyone. Things that I value more than practice speeds and qualifying efforts this week include: momentum, how confident the driver sounds, and the color of the car. That last one was a joke…kind of. If you’re still interested in checking out the practice speeds (I use them as a tiebreaker between drivers sometimes), click here to view my average practice speeds post from Friday. Kasey Kahne won the pole for Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, and the full starting lineup can be found by clicking here.

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My Probable Yahoo! Roster: Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Jeff Burton, Michael Waltrip
My Probable Yahoo! Bench: Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Trevor Bayne

Final Top Ten Ranking For The Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500:

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Sleepers For The Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500:
*NOTE: The following drivers have never won at Talladega*

Paul Menard – I’m starting to think that Paul is somewhat of an overlooked driver on the plate tracks. This is just judging by the amount of people I have talked to that didn’t have him on their radar this weekend. Richard Childress Racing is always strong on the plate tracks it seems, and Paul has finished 14th or better in six of the last nine Talladega races. What I like even more is the fact that this team has been strong lately (for them anyway). In ten of the last thirteen Sprint Cup races, Menard has ended up 15th or better. That’s consistency if you ask me. Paul was 6th in the season-opening Daytona 500 and hasn’t finished worse than 17th on the plate tracks in 2012. He’ll start 16th on Sunday.

Jeff Burton – And that brings us to Jeff Burton, the even less talked about Childress driver. Burton was pushed by Menard in this year’s Daytona 500 to a 5th-place finish, and that is one of just two top 5s for this #31 team this season. Where did the other happen, you may ask? Daytona, once again, in July when Jeff ended up 2nd to race-winner Tony Stewart. Furthermore, this team has only five top 10s thus far in 2012. The good news, however, is that three of those five have came on restrictor plate tracks–which, in case you haven’t gotten my point yet, means Burton is “perfect” on the plate tracks this year, one of just two drivers with top 10s in every plate race this season. He’s never won here, but Jeff does have five top 10s in the last eight Talladega races. Also, only one driver has a better average driver rating than Jeff Burton in the last five Talladega races, and that is his old teammate, Clint Bowyer.

Joey Logano – There are a few things that I really like about Joey Logano this weekend. First, he’s really not that bad of a plate racer; four of his first five starts at Talladega ended with top 10 finishes. Logano kicked off this season with a 9th-place finish in the Daytona 500 and followed that up with a 4th-place effort at Daytona in July. Second, this team has some momentum, which isn’t a bad thing coming into a place like Talladega. With Logano’s 10th-place finish at Dover last Sunday, he now has three straight top 10s in Sprint Cup action. He’ll roll off the grid in 14th on Sunday, and that’s right next to his teammate, Kyle Busch. If these two hookup early, they could get up front quite quickly (Busch likes to ride up front as opposed to laying back). Logano was 2nd on the average speed chart this week.

Trevor Bayne – This weekend will be Trevor’s twelfth Cup start of the 2012 season, and his best finish thus far has been 8th, which came in the last Talladega event back in May. We all know that Bayne is a pretty good plate racer (we’ve all been beat over the head enough with the fact that he won the Daytona 500) and that #21 Ford will have some power. As long as he doesn’t get caught up in a wreck, Trevor should be a solid pick on Sunday. As you know, however, anything can happen. Bayne finished 15th in this race last season and will start the Good Sam Roadside Assistance from the 4th row.

Martin Truex, Jr. – Now that Clint Bowyer is at Michael Waltrip Racing, I figured that that would improve the stable’s plate races. Well, that hasn’t been the case thus far. Truex has had an average finish of 19th in the three plate races this season, and that includes a 28th-place effort here at Talladega back in May. The good news, however, is that Martin ended up 13th or better in all four of the races at this track during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. What I’m most worried about the three MWR drivers this weekend, however, is who’s going to be the odd man out if it comes down to a pushing contest in the end. My gut says that it will be Bowyer and Truex working together because they’re both in the Chase, but I’ve been wrong before. The MWR cars finished 10th-11th-12th in this year’s Daytona 500, and Truex qualified 9th for Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, which is directly ahead of his teammate/owner Michael Waltrip, who starts 11th.

Greg Biffle – This team has been struggling lately (one top 10 in the last six Sprint Cup races–seriously?) and that’s a red flag for me. That being said, the Roush-Fenway Fords–specifically the #17 and the #16–have been very strong on the plate tracks this season. Biffle finished 3rd in this year’s Daytona 500 and followed that up with a solid 5th-place effort here at Talladega in May. Additionally, the Biff has ended up 14th or better in five of the last seven Talladega races, and four of those were also top 10s. The #16 was 8th on the average speed chart, and although I don’t think he’s worth a pick in allocation leagues, I’d have no problem taking a shot with The Biff in other fantasy formats.