1) Brad Keselowski (Starting – 2nd)
Talladega Bottom Line – Brad Keselowski is going to be tough to beat at Talladega. He’s an elite restrictor plate performer and on Sunday he’ll be going all out for the win. There will be a lot of drivers playing it safe, but he won’t be one of them. Look for him to run up front all race long and drive ultra aggressively. In the last two races at plate tracks he’s raced his way to victory lane, so winning again certainly isn’t out of question. One attribute I like about Keselowski is that I view him as a clutch performer. He was in a similar “do-or-die” points situation at Talladega in fall 2014 and he raced his way to victory lane.
Talladega Track History – Talladega is a great track for Brad Keselowski. He’s won here 4 times and has finished in the top ten 60% percent of the time. The fall Talladega race has been friendly to him. In two of the last three years he’s won this particular event. The one race he didn’t win over this stretch his teammate Joey Logano won. This spring Keselowski had a great car and raced his way to victory lane. Additionally in the race he led the most laps (46) and earned the best driver rating. Last fall he had a very strong showing earning the 3rd best driver rating and finishing 4th. In spring 2015 he was likely top ten good, but late in the race when it took on a single file complexion he decided to get racy and got out of line, which dropped him in the running order. In fall 2014 he had a clutch performance and raced his way to victory lane advancing to the next round of the Chase.
Momentum – At Kansas Brad Keselowski wrecked. In the 7 races prior to that he finished in the top ten.
Recent Plate Track Success – Brad Keselowski has won the last two races at plate tracks (Talladega and Daytona #2). Over those combined races he earned the best driver rating and led 161 laps.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $10,300
2) Austin Dillon (Starting – 9th)
Talladega Bottom Line – I really like Austin Dillon at Talladega. He’s a good plate racer and I can’t help but feel he has a “3 car” intangible on his side. This year at plate tracks him and Kyle Busch are the only drivers who have finished in the top ten every race. On Sunday look for Austin Dillon to run hard because that’s what his points situation requires. One aspect I like about Dillon is that he has a lot of teammates that can help him out, I think there’s no question RCR drivers have been given team orders to help him.
Talladega Track History – Talladega has been a good track for Austin Dillon. His primary strength here has been his consistency. This spring he had a great car and was able to run up front at will. When the race reached its conclusion he finished 3rd. Last fall he got an early pit penalty which was a setback nearly all race long but rallied to finish 14th. In spring 2015 while he was running in the mid-teens with 31 laps to go his engine blew up which led to his 35th place finish. In the two Talladega races prior to that he finished 13th and 15th. In his first Talladega start in 2013 he was wrecked in the closing laps while running in 2nd.
Momentum – Over the last 8 races Dillon has two top tens, and five results between 12th and 16th.
Recent Plate Track Success – This year at plate tracks Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch are the only drivers who are 3 for 3 in terms of finishing in the top ten. His average finish over these events is 6.3. Since 2014 on this track type he’s only once finished lower than 15th.
Yahoo B Driver / DraftKings $8,400
Further Recommended Reading – Talladega Qualifying Results, Practice Notes/ Practice Speeds Center, PROS Rankings, Asterisk Mark Report, Scouting Report, DraftKings Talladega Scoring Trends, Yahoo Start Page, DraftKings Start Page
3) Joey Logano (Starting – 16th)
Talladega Bottom Line – Joey Logano needs to have a good performance on Sunday and I think he’ll deliver. He’s a strong restrictor plate performer and the defending champion of this particular event. This year at plate tracks Logano has been one of the best performers between the combined events. Both him and Keselowski need to come up big on Sunday, look for them to work together and run up front all afternoon.
Talladega Track History – Joey Logano is a strong performer at Talladega. He’s had quite a few recent misleading results but performance wise he’s been one of the better drivers. This spring he had a strong car and had top five potential but finished 25th after being caught up in a late accident. With 16 laps to go he was running in 2nd. Last fall Logano had a great car and raced his way to victory lane. In addition to finishing first he earned the 2nd best driver rating, had a 6th place average running position and led 20 laps. When he was out front he blocked very aggressively. In spring 2015 he looked good but was taken out in a multi-car wreck. At the time of his problem he was running right around 10th. In fall 2014 he was Keselowski’s “wing man” and worked hard ensuring the #2 would win. Harvick called him a “Moving Chicane.” At the end he looked top five good but because of his blocking he ended up finishing 11th.
Momentum – In the Chase minus Charlotte where he had problems Logano has a 5.5 average finish.
Recent Plate Track Success – Joey Logano has run strong at plate tracks this year and has had top ten potential in all three races. In his two incident free races he has results of 5th and 6th.
Yahoo A Driver / DraftKings $9,500