Restrictor-plate superspeedwaySunday, February 12, 2017
Restrictor-plate, superspeedway races are among the most popular with NASCAR’s fans.
Among fantasy players, they have a much different reputation.
Any event in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series can be unpredictable. Engines and parts fail, drivers and teams make mistakes, and weather occasionally tosses a monkey wrench into the gears, but the plate tracks add two more uncertain variables to the equation: The "Big One" crash and the capriciousness of the draft.
Multi-car accidents encompassing more than two or three vehicles happen on other tracks, but they are not the norm. On plate tracks, the tight drafting pack makes this much more likely. Miscalculating the draft can be just as serious to a driver’s finish. If he pulls out at the wrong time and does not have help, he can fall from challenging for the lead to 25th or greater in the span of a half-lap.
For that reason, the best strategy on this course type is often to spread the wealth around. Do not take any driver who is more predictable on other courses and do not overspend on marquee teams. Dark horses are just as likely to score top-10s such as Michael McDowell did in the summer Daytona race or AJ Allmendinger’s three top-15s last year.
Still, there are a few drivers who seem to do particularly well on plate tracks. Austin Dillon swept the top 10 in four races held at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega SuperSpeedway with a best of third in the spring event in Alabama. And that record is confirmed by his career record on the two tracks: He swept the top 15 as a rookie and scored three of four results in that range as a sophomore.
Kyle Busch might have joined him at the top of the charts last year if he and most of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates had not decided to ride around in the back of the pack to stay out of trouble. The No. 18 team entered the fall ‘Dega duel with three consecutive results of third or better that included runner-up finishes in two events.
Busch’s second-place results were scored behind Brad Keselowski. He won the Geico 500 at Talladega and Coke Zero 400 in the middle of the season and was the only driver to earn trophies in multiple races on this course type. He was joined in Victory Lane by his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano, to give the organization three plate wins. Logano also finished sixth in the Daytona 500 and fourth in the Coke Zero 400.
Denny Hamlin rounded out the winners last year. His Daytona 500 victory over Martin Truex Jr. provided the closest finish in NASCAR history and secured his spot in the playoffs. Hamlin did not need to run well in the next two plate races—and he didn’t—but when the pressure was back in the fall, he finished third and advanced to the next round of the playoffs.
Clutch finishes such as Hamlin’s suggest there is a lot more strategy than most admit to. There are drivers who seem to have a knack for stepping up when needed, but a fantasy player could go broke trying to determine who they will be.
Brad Keselowski: Talladega (spring), Daytona (summer)
Denny Hamlin: Daytona (spring)
Joey Logano: Talladega (fall)
Previous Track Type Profiles
Short, Flat Tracks
2016 restrictor-plate, superspeedways