The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will take a week off before traveling to Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500. It is a new era for NASCAR at Talladega. The restrictor-plates are gone. The cars will run the 550 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and aero ducts. NASCAR hopes this provides better racing for the fans. We will see how it all plays out. The race can be seen Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on Fox.
It will be a unique schedule for the MENCS this week. There will be two practices Friday. The first practice will be Friday at 1:35 p.m. ET (No TV). Final practice is Friday at 4:35 p.m. ET (FS1). Qualifying will be Saturday at 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox). There will be no Garage Talk Notes this week since practice speeds do not mean much at Talladega and the information from the garage is limited.
Driver Group Game picks need to be selected by 8 a.m. ET Saturday. That means we will get to see two practices before we must select our team. I highly doubt practice will change my picks but if anything strange happens in practice and I do need to make changes, I will post them Friday evening.
Kurt Busch won the pole for last race at Talladega and he had a very fast car. Busch led 108 of the 193 laps, won Stage 1, finished third in Stage 2 but he ran out of gas while leading the race on the last lap. Five other drivers where able to score Stage points in both Stages. They include Aric Almirola (14 points), Kevin Harvick (18 points), Clint Bowyer (18 points), Denny Hamlin (9 points), Joey Logano (8 points) and Ryan Blaney (10 Stage points). The Stewart-Haas Racing cars dominated this race. Aric Almirola was the driver who was able to conserve fuel the best and win the race.
Race Rewind at Talladega: 1000Bulbs.com 500
Here are my picks for Talladega…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Joey Logano (5): Racing on the Superspeedways is unpredictable, but the one constant is Logano finishing up front. The No. 22 car has finished 5 of the last 6 plate races in the top 5. That is awesome at a track where a driver can easily be taken out even if he did nothing wrong. Logano has 3 wins at Talladega, including a trip to Victory Lane in this race last year. I am down to 5 allocations with him, but I am not worried about it. Logano is by far the best choice in the field this week.
Kevin Harvick (6): Harvick had a brilliant race in October at Talladega. He started 3rd, finished both Stages in the top 3 and led 46 laps. Harvick guided his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates in a tight pack around the track and they quickly broke away from the field. I expect that to happen again this week. I doubt I will use Harvick in my starting lineup, so I need a driver for qualifying points. Harvick won the pole for this race last year, qualified 3rd in the October race and he leads the series with 2 poles in 2019.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Joey Logano 2) Kevin Harvick 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Kyle Busch 5) Martin Truex Jr. 6) Chase Elliott 7) Kyle Larson
Driver Group Game B Picks
I would love to use Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch this week. They rank in the top 5 in almost all the stats at the Superspeedways. Their allocations are too important to be used at a t track where anything can happen. Last year Busch dominated the race but only finished 14th because he ran out of fuel. I will save these two drivers for more predictable tracks.
Aric Almirola (5): Almirola is one of the best picks in the field this week. He has a series-best 4.25 average finishing position since 2016 at Talladega. Almirola has finished 5 consecutive races at this track in the top 8. That includes a trip to Victory Lane last October. He is also good at running up front so that means a lot of Stage points. I will pair Almirola with his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates this week.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (7): Wrecky Stenhouse will be doing his thing this weekend. Driving aggressively to stay up front. Sometimes he wrecks half of the field but who cares as long as you have him in your lineup, and he is not involved (The No. 17 car usually causes the wrecks, so he is not involved in the wrecks). Stenhouse has the 2nd-best average finishing position (8.75) and a win at Talladega over the last two seasons. He finished 3rd and 5th in the two races at the Biggest and Fastest Track on the circuit last year. This is a great week to use an allocation with Stenhouse.
Daniel Suarez (8): This pick is a gut feeling more than anything else. The stats suggest we stay away from Suarez this week, but when you look at the video of last year’s races at Talladega; he needs to be in your lineup. Stewart-Haas Racing used strategy better than any other organization last year at Talladega. Their four cars qualified up front, raced in a tight pack together and dominated the race. I expect the same strategy Sunday and that means Suarez will be up front with his teammates.
Paul Menard (8): I am going to try and squeeze out a start with Menard this week. I expect the No. 21 car to spend a lot of time with the Team Penske cars up front. That means Stage points and a possible top 10 finish. He finished 5th in Stage 1 and won Stage 2 in this race last year. Menard has finished 6 of the last 8 races at Talladega in the top 13. This is one of the best tracks for Menard so we need to take a chance with him.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Denny Hamlin 2) Kurt Busch 3) Aric Almirola 4) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 5) Paul Menard 6) Clint Bowyer 7) Daniel Suarez 8) Ryan Blaney 9) Jimmie Johnson 10) Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game C Picks
Ty Dillon (7): Dillon is the best choice in Group C. He has never finished a MENCS at Talladega outside the top 15. I want drivers who are good at avoiding the wrecks and Dillon is one of those drivers. The No. 13 Geico Chevy is having a good season. It would not surprise me to see Dillon finish in the top 5 at the Geico 500.
David Ragan (8): Ragan is no stranger to Victory Lane at Talladega. He won at Talladega in 2013 while driving for Front Row Motorsports. Ragan has been one of the most consistent drivers at this track. He has finished 3 of his last 4 races at Talladega in the top 10. If you want to save allocations with Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon or Matt DiBenedetto; Ragan is your driver this week.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Ty Dillon 2) David Ragan 3) Matt DiBenedetto 4) Darrell Wallace Jr. 5) Chris Buescher
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Joey Logano (5), Kevin Harvick (6)
Group B: Aric Almirola (5), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (7), Daniel Suarez (8), Paul Menard (8)
Group C: Ty Dillon (7), David Ragan (8)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game Saturday morning.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
If you like Fantasy NASCAR, LIKE my Fantasy NASCAR Tips Page on Facebook