The fifth race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is also the last restrictor plate event of the year, the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. This will be Dale Earnhardt Jr’s final start at the site in the Cup Series before retiring from full-time competition at the end of this season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr is attempting to become the first driver to win three consecutive restrictor plate races in a row since Dale Earnhardt Sr. accomplished the feat.
TOP PRICED PICKS
Kyle Busch ($10,400 on DraftKings) has three finishes of 11th or better in his last four Talladega starts. In 24 starts at the site, Kyle Busch has one win and seven Top 10 finishes. He has five Top 10 finishes in the last seven races this season, including three wins. He was ranked 11th in the 10 Consecutive Lap Average in first practice, ranked 21st in final practice and he starts 16th. Kyle Busch’s overall history is not great at Talladega, but he has recent momentum and his starting position outside of the Top 10 allows him to score a few points from Place Differential.
Joey Logano ($10,200) is the winner of the last two fall Talladega races. In 17 starts at the site, Logano has two wins and six Top 10 finishes. At Talladega, Logano has the sixth-best Average Running Position of 15.9, the seventh-highest percentage of Laps in the Top 15 at 57.6%, and the seventh-highest Driver Rating of 87.6. He was ninth in first practice, 11th in final practice, and starts third. Logano’s salary and high starting position makes him a risky play with a high amount of potential to lose PD points, but his practice speeds indicate a finish in the Top 10.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,100) captured his career-high sixth win of the season last week at Charlotte. In 25 starts at Talladega, Truex has no wins and eight Top 10 finishes. He has finished in the Top 5 in the last four races in 2017. Truex has three Top 15 finishes in his last five Talladega starts. Truex was 16th in first practice, 24th in final practice, and starts 21st. Restrictor plate tracks are Truex’s worst track type statistically, but his starting position is favorable and his recent performances cannot be ignored. Expect a Top 15 finish from him.
Brad Keselowski ($9,800) has four Top 10 finishes in his last six starts at Talladega. In 17 starts at the site, Keselowski has four wins and 10 Top 10 finishes. He has the ninth-best ARP of 16.5, the seventh-most Laps Led at 212, and the third-best DR of 88.7. He was first in first practice, seventh in final practice, and starts sixth. He’s been fast throughout practices and has great history at Talladega. Watch for Keselowski to compete for a Top 5 finish.
Kevin Harvick ($9,700) is a very respectable pick this week. In 33 starts at Talladega, Harvick has one win and 14 Top 10 finishes. He has only one finish outside of the Top 20 since 2014 at Talladega. Since 2005 at the site, Harvick has the sixth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 2,364, the fourth-most Fastest Laps at 99, and the 10th-best DR of 81.5. He was fifth in first practice, ninth in second practice, and starts 22nd. Harvick has looked good throughout practices and will finish in the Top 10.
Denny Hamlin ($9,500) finished third and 11th in his last two Talladega starts. In 23 starts at the site, Hamlin has one win and eight Top 10 finishes. At Talladega since 2005, Hamlin has the fourth-most Laps Led at 287, the ninth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 2,179, and the sixth-most Fastest Laps at 91. Hamlin was 12th in first practice, did not participate in second practice, and starts 15th. Based on his first practice speed, Hamlin will finish in the Top 15, ahead of his starting position.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($9,200) is the current active wins leader at Talladega with six. In 34 starts at the site, Earnhardt has 16 Top 10 finishes and 960 Laps Led, which is the most of active drivers. Since 2005 at Talladega, Earnhardt has the third-best ARP of 14.4, the eighth-most Fastest Laps at 87, and the second-highest DR of 91.0. Earnhardt was second in final practice and will start first. Earnhardt is at his best at restrictor plate tracks and looked great in final practice, so watch for him to lead laps and to compete for the win.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Matt Kenseth’s ($8,800) best finish in the last Talladega races is 23rd, but expect him to improve on that type of result this week. In 35 starts at the site, Kenseth has one win and 10 Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at Talladega, Kenseth has the fifth-best ARP of 15.0, the ninth-most Fastest Laps at 85, and the sixth-best DR of 87.1. Kenseth was 17th in first practice, 15th in second practice, and starts 19th. Kenseth has improved on his starting position in both practices and will finish in the Top 15.
Kurt Busch ($8,300) is one of the most consistent drivers in recent years at Talladega. In his last six starts at the site, he has finished 12th or better. In 33 starts at Talladega, Kurt Busch has 18 Top 10 finishes. Since 2005 at the site, Kurt Busch has the most Quality Passes (Passes of cars in the Top 15 under green flag conditions) at 6,957, the most Laps in the Top 15 at 3,112, and the fourth-best DR of 88.4. He was second in first practice, third in final practice, and starts third. Kurt Busch has been very good throughout practices and will compete for a Top 5 finish.
Austin Dillon ($7,400) is a nice pick to consider as a driver that can finish decently. In eight starts at Talladega, Austin Dillon has five Top 15 finishes. He was 14th in first practice, 17th in final practice and starts 18th. Based on his practice speeds, Austin Dillon will finish in the Top 15, ahead of his starting position.
Ryan Newman ($7,100) is one of the best and safest options for Talladega this week. He has four Top 15 finishes in his last six starts at the site. In 31 starts at the site, Newman has 11 Top 10 finishes. He was 28th in first practice, did not participate in final practice, and starts 27th. Newman did not look like a favorite in first practice, but his starting position offers the potential to earn a high amount of points from PD, and that is likely because it is easy for others to wreck out on a track like Talladega.
Chris Buescher ($6,600) is a solid bargain pick. He scored his best career finish of 15th at Talladega earlier this season after starting 34th. He has three Top 25 finishes in four starts at the site. He was 29th in first practice, 10th in final practice, and starts 28th. Buescher’s starting position makes it possible for him to capture points from PD and his final practice speed means that he will accomplish that easily.
Ty Dillon ($6,500) has made only one start at Talladega. Earlier this season, he started 28th and finished 13th. He was 11th in first practice, 13th in final practice, and starts 25th. Ty Dillon’s practice speeds have looked favorable and point to a finish in the Top 15.
David Ragan ($5,800) is the best overall bargain value based on the combination of price and performance. In 21 starts, Ragan has one win and eight Top 10 finishes. He finished 10th after starting 29th earlier this season at the site. He was 22nd in first practice, 18th in second practice, and starts 33rd. Because of his starting position, there is little risk to using him and his practice speeds mark a finish in the Top 20.
Matt DiBenedetto ($5,400) has five starts at Talladega. He has two Top 20 showings at the site, which includes a finish of 18th after starting 26th. He was 23rd in first practice, did not participate in second practice, and starts 32nd. He starts deep in the field, meaning there is not much risk of losing PD points, and he also can obtain a solid number of them. Based on his first practice speed, expect DiBenedetto to finish in the Top 25.