Fantasy Update: Last-minute Talladega lineup advice

Kurt Busch will lead the field to green for Sunday’s 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). There was just one practice session this weekend, giving players a bit of a puzzle to solve when it comes to setting their lineups. We’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as you make roster decisions.

PLAY NOW: Set your lineup | How the playoff game works

Remember that the garage locks at the end of Stage 2. Also, your garage play can only be swapped for a driver of similar classification. (A playoff garage driver can only be swapped for a playoff driver in your lineup; a non-playoff garage driver can only be swapped for a non-playoff driver in your lineup.)

Cars to the rear: No. 42 — Unapproved adjustments

Pat DeCola’s Fantasy Live lineup for race-day at Talladega:
Playoff driver 1: Joey Logano
Playoff driver 2: Brad Keselowski
Non-playoff driver 1: Denny Hamlin
Non-playoff driver 2: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Garage: Chase Elliott

MORE: Fantasy analysis for Talladega | Driver stats | 10-lap averages | Lineup 

Analysis: The Fantasy Live Playoff Game is in Week 5! These five drivers made up my original lineup and I am sticking with them. The thing is — with Talladega, anything goes and you just try to play the odds. So, while Kevin Harvick was fastest in the weekend’s lone practice session, SHR dominated qualifying and it’ll be fast on Sunday, the group doesn’t have as much of a rapport drafting with each other as the Team Penske drivers. Fastest car or not, no driver or stable can be considered fantasy locks because one minor slip-up and everything changes in the blink of an eye.

I kept that in mind when setting my lineup, with the thinking that Logano and Keselowski have seen the most success most recently at the track and we know the Penske teammates work well together. Hopefully they’ll just keep it going, right?

Logano and Keselowski have won six of the past eight ‘Dega races and I feel as comfortable with them pacing my lineup as one can be when it comes to NASCAR’s biggest wild card.

Sure, stacking them might increase the risk of losing both in a tandem wreck, but it’s the playoffs and you have to take some risks. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t — right, Jimmie?

WATCH: Letarte: Don’t stack teammatesSetting your lineup at unpredictable track | Non-playoff picks

For the non-playoff plays, I expect both Hamlin and Stenhouse Jr. in many lineups (same with the playoff Penske duo above), but it’s for good reason. Both of them had their seasons end much earlier than they would have liked, both have something to prove in these final six races and both have arguably their best shots to make a statement at this particular track. Hamlin won at Talladega in 2014 after starting 34th and has led at least a lap in every single race there since that win. Needless to say, he always finds his way to the front, a trait that can reap benefits in NASCAR Fantasy Live.

Like Hamlin, Stenhouse also has a recent Talladega win on his resume (Spring 2017), and has managed to see the front of the field at the track since the very beginning of his career, something that can’t be said about most venues for him. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has led laps in all but two of his 10 starts at the Alabama track.

I threw Elliott in the garage, thinking he’s the only driver who doesn’t have to sweat on Sunday because he’s already locked into the Round of 8. It’ll allow him to be aggressive, and the Hendrick Motorsports driver has already shown an ability to lead laps at ‘Dega (and finished third in the spring.)

For the bonus picks, I’m taking the pole-winner Busch for Stage 1 and 2 with Logano for the win. The spring race’s winner has been humming along all season since his lone 2018 victory and now feels like the time he’ll strike.