William Byron made it back to back wins last Sunday at Richmond. After Ryan Preece led the first 59 laps, Byron would eventually forge ahead of the No. 37 car and lead the rest of the way. He would, however, need to beat off one late challenge from Timmy Hill, before coming home with the victory. Byron would have a huge points performance, having led by far the most laps with 94.
An on-track tussle with Matt Dibenedetto and Preece cost both drivers strong points days. Preece would finish with a 19th place result but did manage to salvage his day to an extent, having picked up 14.75 bonus points on Draft Kings. Dibenedetto however, would come out of the race in a much worse predicament, finishing in 29th place overall.
Parker Kligerman and Kyle Busch would prove to be great value plays for us last Sunday. Kligerman ran up in the top three for the most part and would need to make a timely save, after performing a block on Hill in the waning laps to finish in third. As for Busch, he was a very pleasant surprise far exceeding the top-15 prediction. After starting out in the 27th place position, Busch would hover around the top 12 much of the afternoon until eventually carving out a fifth-place finish.
Well, have a surprise entrant this weekend, as Fox NASCAR color commentator Jeff Gordon has announced he will throw his hat into the iRacing ring. Gordon had covered the first four Pro Invitational races, and it looks as though the curiosity may have gotten the better of him. Gordon will be piloting the Axalta/Pepsi throwback scheme that he went to victory lane with at Talladega in 2004.
So without further ado, let’s delve into the driver options for this upcoming virtual Talladega. The race will be at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox, FS1, and the Fox Sports App.
High Salary Drivers
Dale_Earnhardt Jr. ($9,800 DK and $11,500 FD) – Dale
Tied with Gordon for second-most wins all-time at Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. has handled the Super Speedways like very few others have. I would draft him with confidence, as his time invested into iRacing has certainly paid huge dividends in this Pro Invitational. In his first four events so far, Earnhardt Jr. has posted three top ten’s along with a runner up finish. He certainly isn’t a bad price this week, if you’re looking to save some extra cash to spend on a hot ticket item like say Byron or Hill.
Garrett Smithley ($10,100 DK and $10,500 FD) – Brandon
This will be the third week in a row I’ve picked Smithley. I love his iRacing experience and he has some good finishes to show for it. He has yet to score less than 20 fantasy points and his worst finish is 17th. He had a very solid run in the Replacement series at Talladega on Tuesday night finishing third. Talladega is also Smithley’s best track in the Xfinity series. His average finish is 13.75 even though his average starting position is 32.8. Look for Smithley to use his Xfinity series and iRacing experience this week to put together a good finish.
Michael Mcdowell ($7,700 DK and $8,500 DK) – Dale
Mcdowell has proven to be rather effective recently when it comes to restrictor plate racing. At both Talladega and Daytona last year, Mcdowell finished fifth and 14th respectively. Granted we’re not talking the real thing when it comes to the virtual Talladega, however the No. 34 driver has flown a bit under the radar in this Pro Invitational. He was absent last week at virtual Richmond Raceway, but at the two previous races would manage to crack the top 15 in each of them.
Bobby Labonte ($7,500 DK and $7,300 FD) – Brandon
Labonte has been very consistent in the Pro Invitational series races. He has not finished worse than 18th place in every race. Last week at Richmond he had to race his way in. He did just that after winning the qualifying race and leading all 25 laps. He then went on and ran well in the race finishing 14th. They expanded the field back to 40 cars this week so he will not have to worry about racing his way in again. Look for Labonte to finish in the top ten this week and be a dark horse to win the race.
Matt Dibenedetto ($8,500 DK $7,600 FD) – Dale
I was very let down by Dibenedetto last week, as he was having a strong run until the intentional wreck with Preece. However, he is just too tempting to overlook as your value driver this weekend. The consistency has shined through for Dibenedetto, having piled up 124 points in the three races, leading up to last Sunday’s event. Consider him a fine bookend selection, as he should be able to keep the No. 21 car upfront in the draft.
Brad Keselowski ($6,300 DK and $6,600 FD) – Brandon
I was surprised to see Keselowski priced so low this week. He is way too cheap and I love his value. He finally got his own iRacing setup after borrowing one in past races. Keselowski practiced a lot throughout the week and it paid off at Richmond. He finished tenth and scored 34 fantasy points. Keselowski is a very good plate racer, especially at Talladega. He has five career wins at Talladega in the Cup series and has an average finish of 16. Look for Keselowski to use his plate racing experience and run well this week at Talladega.
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