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ADAM ANSELL'S TOP 25 FOR TALLADEGA
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: In seven starts at the Talladega Superspeedway site, Earnhardt Jr. has one win (2003), three Top Fives and five Top 10s with an Average Finish of 11.6. He's led at least two laps in each of his last six starts. Junior led 60 laps in his 2003 victory at the site (pre-Loop Data). He has two starts inside the Top Four on the grid, with an Average Start of 11.3. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Earnhardt Jr. ranks seventh in Driver Rating (94.5) and fifth in Average Running Position (11.2). He ranks seventh in Laps Led (24) and 10th in Laps in the Top 15 (235). A win this Saturday would look nice with his two Top Fives collected in two Series starts in 2011. He's the top play in all formats this Saturday, especially in Elimination formats.
2. Tony Stewart: The last time Smoke competed at Talladega, all he did was start from the pole and win while posting a 145.9 DR (150.0 is perfect), 2.5 ARP and leading 81 of 117 laps. In six starts at the site, Stewart has one win (2008), two Top Fives and one pole with an Average Finish of 19.3. He's led at least three laps in his last four starts. He won his only other 2011 Series appearance (Daytona). Stewart ranks fourth in DR (106.8) and eighth in ARP (11.8). He leads all drivers with 120 Laps Led. He's an elite restrictor plate racer and should be considered 1B to Junior's 1A in all formats at Talladega.
3. Joey Logano: In most cases, two races would be too small a sample size to judge a driver's consistency. This isn't most cases. In two Talladega starts, Logano has two Top Fives (second and third-place finishes) with an Average Finish of 2.5. He qualified 15th and 16th, but in a race like this, starting position means very little. He's led at least one lap in each event. Logano ranks second in DR (113.5) and leads all drivers in ARP (8.2). Not only will he provide Fantasy owners with great results, he'll come at a quality value thanks to this Saturday's star-studded entry list. He's a must-start in all Tiered/Grouping formats.
4. Brad Keselowski: Keselowski finally flashed some of that championship form a week ago at Texas, posting season-highs in starting position (second), finish (second), DR (124.9), ARP (4.6) and Fastest Laps Run (30). If that's any indication, Keselowski will pick up right where he left off a season ago. In three starts at the site, Keselowski has one win (2010) and two Top 10s with an Average Finish of 11th. The defending champion of the event has led at least nine laps in all three of his starts. Keselowski ranks sixth in DR (100.7) and in ARP (11.7). He's gotten progressively better at Talladega (23rd, ninth, first) in three starts, and is a lock for a Top Five finish.
5. Kyle Busch: The normally excellent Busch is reduced to a feast or famine risk in the clutches of Talladega. He has three DNFs. In seven starts at Talladega, Busch has two Top Fives and three Top 10s with an Average Finish of 20.9. He's led at least 16 laps in his last two starts and at least two laps in four starts, but laps led are relatively easy to come by at this site. Busch ranks 12th in DR (83.1) and 19th in ARP (19.8). Unless you're absolutely compelled to start Busch on Saturday, Fantasy owners would be wise to stash him away for future Tiered/Grouping and/or Elimination format starts.
6. Carl Edwards: In six Talladega starts, Edwards has two Top 10s with an Average Finish of 22nd. Those two Top 10s are both of the 10th-place variety. He has led in four of his six starts, but the inconsistency of Edwards at the site makes him a risk not worth taking. Edwards ranks ninth in DR (87.5) and 12th in ARP (17.5). He leads all drivers with 405 Laps in the Top 15. Fantasy owners are better suited to save his Tiered/Grouping and/or Elimination format starts for safer venues.
7. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer kicked off the season right, starting from the pole and finishing second at Daytona. In seven starts at the site, Bowyer has one Top Five, two Top 10s and one pole with an Average Finish of 17.3. He's led at least two laps in three starts but never more than seven. Bowyer ranks 15th in DR (80.1) and 13th in ARP (17.9). He's strong at superspeedways and will come at a nice value in Elimination formats thanks to the presence of Junior and Smoke.
8. Jamie McMurray: In six starts at the site, McMurray has one Top 10 (sixth in 2003) with an Average Finish of 24.7. The other five starts resulted in five DNFs. He led 21 laps in his 14th-place DNF last season. McMurray ranks 21st in DR (73.5) and 17th in ARP (19.4). He had incredible Cup Series success at restrictor plate events in 2010, and represents the biggest risk-reward play of the weekend. He'll come at a nice value because of the DNFs and shouldn't be underestimated.
9. Brian Scott: In his lone start at Talladega, Scott finished 10th and led one lap. He did finish 34th at Daytona in February, but don't discount his restrictor plate skills just yet. He's been very solid, yet unspectacular this season, recording five straight Top 15s but just two Top 10s. He led his first laps of the season a week ago at Texas. Scott ranks eighth in DR (92.0) and seventh in ARP (11.7). He's an excellent Tiered/Grouping format start with decent upside.
10. Aric Almirola: In his lone start at Talladega, Almirola finished 20th and led two laps. He finished a respectable 19th at Daytona back in February. He has back-to-back Truck Series second-place finishes at Talladega, leading at least five laps in each event. Almirola ranks 11th in DR (83.1) and ninth in ARP (12.8). He ranks second with 226.0 Average Quality Passes. He's tied for fourth in the Series standings, and will be a solid start in Tiered/Grouping formats.
11. Jason Leffler: Two Top Fives and three Top 10s in seven starts at the site. 83.0 DR.
12. Justin Allgaier: Finished 15th in the 2010 event at Talladega. 81.9 DR.
13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Started third and finished 29th in his lone start at Talladega. 59.1 DR.
14. Trevor Bayne: Finished 13th in the 2010 event at Talladega. 84.4 DR.
15. Elliott Sadler: Will compete at Talladega for the first time since 1998; has an Average Finish of 28.5. DR N/A.
16. Reed Sorenson: 63.9 DR.
17. Sam Hornish Jr.: DR N/A.
18. Michael Waltrip: 65.0.
19. Joe Nemechek: 78.3.
20. Kenny Wallace: 57.0.
21. Scott Wimmer
22. Steve Wallace
23. Mike Bliss
24. Michael Annett
25. Josh Wise
Adam was a 2010 Fantasy Sports Writers Awards Association nominee for Racing Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him @RotoExpertsAA.
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