Very little is predictive of success on a restrictor-plate, superspeedway. Joey Logano has three wins in his last eight races, but he’s also crashed and fell into the 30s three times. Brad Keselowski also has three wins in that span – and has his share of disappointment.
Wild card dark horses pepper the front half of the finishing order nearly every time NASCAR visits a plate track, but they are almost impossible to predict. Ever since NASCAR reduced the horsepower to the Cup cars following Bobby Allison’s fateful 1987 crash, the best advice is to spread the wealth around in salary cap games and don’t take anyone in allocation management contests who might be more predictable elsewhere.
2. Kurt Busch
In his last eight attempts at Talladega, Busch has six top-10s and a 12th. It's difficult to know if he found something or is lucky - but fantasy owners should ride his momentum while they can.
3. Brad Keselowski
Team Penske has won six of the last eight Talladega races. Keselowski got it all started in 2014 when he was in a must-win situation in that year's playoffs.
4. Chase Elliott
Speed has never been Elliott's issue on plate tracks, but he's been involved in four accidents in the last six races. This spring, he avoided trouble at 'Dega and finished third.
5. Kevin Harvick
With a massive points' advantage over most of the field, Harvick has little to lose this week. Still, it's hard to make him a top-five pick since he's earned only one at Talladega since 2011.
6. Denny Hamlin
In his last four starts at Talladega, Hamlin has swept the top 15. He won the 2014 spring race on this track and finished fourth this spring.
7. Aric Almirola
With four top-10s to his credit in the last four Talladega races, Almirola has the longest active streak among drivers entered this week.
8. Kyle Busch
In the past five seasons, Busch has a second and a third at Talladega, but those are his only top-10s in eight starts.
9. Ryan Blaney
Talladega has not been overly kind to Blaney: In eight starts there, he has only two top-10s and his last three attempts ended outside the top 15.
10. Ryan Newman
At Talladega and Daytona combined, Newman enters the weekend with a five-race streak of top-10s. That makes him a driver to watch in the 1000Bulbs.com 500.
11. Paul Menard
Before the Geico 500 at Talladega this spring, Menard had a seven-race streak of top-12s to his credit on plate tracks. If he avoids trouble, he should finish in the top half of the field at least.
13. Alex Bowman
Hendrick Motorsports fields strong cars on plate tracks. Bowman enters Talladega with back-to-back top-10s in his last two attempts on this course type.
14. Chris Buescher
Buescher is liable to fly under the radar on plate tracks, but he shouldn't. He enters the weekend with six consecutive results of 17th or better on this track type.
15. Ty Dillon
With a perfect record of top-15s, Dillon has been much better at Talladega than Daytona. That could make him one of this week's top dark horse contenders.
16. Matt DiBenedetto
DiBenedetto will replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 95 next year. In the last two seasons, he has two top-10s on plate tracks. Those should combine to give him a ton of confidence this week.
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse took a lot of criticism for how he raced at Daytona this July. The pressure of making the playoffs is off his shoulders now, however, and he should settle down.
18. Jimmie Johnson
It was announced this week that Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus will split up at the end of the year - ending NASCAR's longest pairing in its history.
19. Martin Truex Jr.
This is a good week to sit Truex out. He's dominated on many tracks this year and may be exhausted in allocation management games. On plate tracks, he has one top 10 in his last 10 races.
20. Clint Bowyer
After qualifying on row four in his last two Talladega attempts, Bowyer crashed and failed to finish.
21. AJ Allmendinger
Plate tracks have been uniformly kind to Allmendinger with seven top-10s in his last 11 attempts. He's been a little stronger at Daytona than Talladega, however.
22. Bubba Wallace
In four plate races during his career, Wallace has not finished worse than 16th. The only doubt this week is that he has developed a tendency to crash recently.
23. Kyle Larson
In nine career starts at Talladega, Larson has never cracked the top five. His two top-10s have been unable to offset a pair of 40-something results and he should be roundly ignored.
24. Austin Dillon
Dillon won this year's Daytona 500 and finished ninth there in the summer. His last three Talladega attempts were all outside the top 25, however.
25. Brendan Gaughan
Gaughan has a knack for plate racing, but in the last couple of years he has been better at Daytona than Talladega.
26. Jamie McMurray
In the past two years, McMurray has a pair of top-15s and a 16th in seven plate races. One of these was a second at 'Dega in spring 2017, but it does not outweigh his bad luck.
27. Daniel Suarez
Trouble has found Suarez on the plate track of Daytona this year with a pair of accidents and 30-something results. He finished 10th at Talladega.
28. Landon Cassill
Cassill has not scored a top-15 in his last two seasons, but he's been fairly consistent with a sweep of the top 30 that could make him a decent value in the right situation.
29. Trevor Bayne
Because of his limited attempts, players might wish to use Bayne in allocation management games, but his average finish of 23.7 on plate tracks makes him a risky proposition.
30. William Byron
He has shown some promise on plate tracks when the green flag was unfurled, but ultimately Byron's best finish at the checkers was a 23rd in this year's Daytona 500.
31. DJ Kennington
Kennington has made the most of his opportunities this year. In three races on plate tracks, he's swept the top 25 with an average of 19th.
32. Joey Gase
Gase is not the first driver who comes to mind on plate tracks, but four of his five career attempts ended in 20-something results.
33. Regan Smith
This will be Smith's first attempt on a plate track in two years. In 2016, he scored one top-10 with the remainder of his efforts 25th or worse.
34. Jeffrey Earnhardt
If he feels like he's been pushed around so far this year, Earnhardt is in for an unpleasant surprise at Talladega. A little contact there has major consequences.
35. Erik Jones
If he stays out of trouble, Jones could contend for a top-15 at Talladega after winning Daytona this summer. On this 2.66-mile track, he's never finished a race in three starts, however.
36. Michael McDowell
McDowell has a reputation as a strong plate racer, but that was earned at Daytona. On the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, he's finished in the 30s in his last three tries.
37. Ross Chastain
Look for Chastain to play it safe at Talladega. If there is enough attrition, he will move up the order and score positive place-differential points.
38. JJ Yeley
Yeley has made only one plate start this year - finishing 18th in the Coke Zero 400. That race had a lot of attrition, however, and cannot be used to as a good gauge.
39. Corey LaJoie
The 2018 plate season has not gone well for LaJoie. He finished 40th in the Daytona 500, was 31st in the Coke Zero 400, and was not in the No. 72 at Talladega this spring.
40. Cody Ware
Without any previous plate starts to his credit, it will be impossible to accurately handicap Ware. There are so many dark horses this week, however, that he can simply be evaluated.