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Not much is predictive in regard to plate racing and if qualification is going to be rained out on any track, Talladega Superspeedway is a good place for that to occur—for everyone except Sam Hornish Jr. at least. The No. 12 team does not have enough points or attempts this season to make the race, but everyone else will simply line up and start racing on Sunday.
Where one starts on a plate track is not an indication of how they will finish, but with NASCAR setting the lineup by the first practice speeds and the fastest times coming while running in the draft, players get a little sense of who will be fast in the opening circuits. Once a green flag cycle is complete, however, all bets are off once again.
$25 or greater
Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson will start side-by-side on row six, which is appropriate in light of how the Chase is developing. They also ran in relatively sedate packs during the first practice session with Kenseth posting the 20th quickest 10-lap average and Johnson posting the 22nd quickest. Players should not be overly surprised if they run in the same pack throughout most of the Camping World RV Sales 500, but "Big One" crashes are unpredictable and even if they are running nose to tail, it is possible that one of them could sustain damage while the other survives. It is a coin toss as to which of them will be luckier than the other.
Kevin Harvick did not run very long in the first session. The team brought a brand new car and did not want to tear it up in practice. The result is that the No. 29 rolls off the grid deep in the pack in 33rd. That could be a blessing in disguise if the race goes green for more than a handful of laps at the beginning. Harvick does not tend to ride in the back of the pack, so he should earn positive place differential and quality passing points on Sunday.
$20 to $24.99
Martin Truex Jr. has great credentials when it comes to plate racing. He has spent the majority of his early career with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Michael Waltrip Racing, which are two organizations that have fared well on this track type in the past. The No. 56 caught the right draft in the first practice session and will take the green flag fourth. If trouble erupts early in the Camping World RV Sales 500, Truex is well positioned to avoid it. He also had the best 10-lap average in Friday’s first session, which indicates he was running in the fastest draft.
Jamie McMurray posted the second quickest 10-lap session on Friday morning and about halfway through that session he posted the ninth fastest lap. He will start on row five. Even more important than the likelihood of staying out of trouble for the first few laps, McMurray and Truex will have good pit stalls locations and that could make a difference during yellow flag stops. Little things make a big difference on plate tracks.
Less than $20
Aric Almirola found the right draft in Friday’s first session and will lead the field to green from the pole. With NASCAR setting the lineup by practice speeds and the top times coming in the draft that means slightly more than it would on an unrestricted oval and the No. 43 will accept the accolades that go with starting first. Almirola’s salary cap of $17.75 is affordable, but he will not be a great value unless the race begins as a single-file affair with him in the lead. He will most likely drop into the high single digits or low teens if there is a lot of passing in the opening laps and that will cost fantasy players points in the place differential column that will not be equaled in fastest laps run.
Austin Dillon looked respectable in practice with the 16th fastest lap and the eighth quickest 10-lap average. He lacks experience at the Cup level that would allow fantasy owners to predict how he will run on Sunday, but he is affordable in the cap game and is liable to be less popular than Michael Waltrip. Fantasy players can use that to their benefit and differentiate their roster from the competition.