The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Talladega Superspeedway this week in the GEICO 500. After three races on the short tracks it will be back to restrictor-plate racing for the Cup Series. The race can be seen Sunday at 2pm ET on Fox.
NASCAR will have two practices on Friday followed by qualifying Saturday. This is a unique week because we will get to see two practice before out lineups need to be set at 3am ET Saturday morning. I doubt I will make any changes to my lineup since practice at this track does not mean much. But if I do, I will post it on my Twitter (@MrFantasyNASCAR), Face Book Page (Fantasy NASCAR Tips by Chad) and on this page.
* There will not be any Garage Talk Notes this week since practice does not mean much at this track
The race at Talladega was pretty good last April. Brad Keselowski dominated the early portion of the race and won Stage 1. Denny Hamlin was pushed by his Joe Gibbs Racing to dominate the middle portion of the race to win Stage 2. The race at Talladega was quiet until 20-laps to go. There were 34 drivers on the lead lap until AJ Allmendinger spun Chase Elliott and took out 10 cars. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the pole and held off Kyle Busch to win at the Track Too Tough To Tame.
Race Rewind at Talladega: GEICO 500 (2017)
The most important to thing to know about the race at Talladega is that it is a total crapshoot. Any driver can win and any driver can be caught up in a wreck and finish dead last. This means we must save allocations this week. This race is too risky to use our top drivers in Group A, Group B or Group C. Take some risks because they just may pay off.
Here are my picks for Talladega…
Driver Group Game A Picks
Brad Keselowski (8) is the best pick in Group A this week. He has a series-high 5 wins at Talladega, including the race last October. Keselowski is almost a lock to score 5 bonus points for leading a lap. Keselowski has led at least one lap in the last 4 races at Talladega. The No. 2 team is still looking for their first win this season and they will have a great chance to get to Victory Lane Sunday.
Denny Hamlin (9) is better at Daytona than he is at Talladea but that does not mean he is a bad pick this week. Hamlin has the second-highest driver ranking in Group A (Behind Brad Keselowski) at Talladega. He is also almost garuanteed 5 bonus points for leading a lap Sunday. Hamlin has led at least one lap in his last 8 races at the track. Joe Gibbs Racing needs to get another car into the playoffs. I expect Hamlin to have a great car in this race.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Brad Keselowski 2) Denny Hamlin 3) Joey Logano 4) Kyle Busch 5) Kevin Harvick 6) Martin Truex Jr. 7) Kyle Larson 8) Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game B Picks
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (8) is the best pick in Group B this week and he should be on all teams. He has won 2 of the last 4 races on the Superspeedways. Stenhouse is also a good pick to score bonus points for your team. The No. 17 car won the pole for this race last year and the Roush-Yates engine will have the horsepower to qualify up front Friday. Stenhouse has also led at least one lap in 5 of the last 6 races at Talladega. A driver must be crazy to put his car on the edge at Talladage to get it to the front. No one in the field has the guts to make the moves Stenhouse does at this track.
Aric Almirola (9) is my pick to win this week. Stewart-Haas Racing desperately wants to get the No. 10 and No. 41 cars to Victory Lane so they can lock up their playoff spots and join Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer in the playoffs. With a good car this week, Almirola can win this race. He has a series-best 6.4 average finishing position in the last 6 races on the Superspeedways. Here are his last 6 finishes: 8th, 4th, 4th, 5th and 11th. That is outstanding. Almirola may be the best pick in the field for this race.
Paul Menard (8) is a great pick this week. He has the second-best average finishing position (8th) in the last 6 Superspeedway races. Menard is almost a lock for a 12th-place finish this week. Most fantasy players would take a 12th-place finish from their Group B driver at Talladega if it was offered to them now. Since 2014 his worst finish at a Superspeedway is 13th. That makes him a safe option this week.
Chase Elliott (7) will be on my team for qualifying points only this week. There is no way I will use him in the race, but he does have a great chance to earn my team 10 bonus points for winning the pole. No driver has been as good as Elliott at qualifying at the Superspeedways. He leads the series with a 3.5 average starting position and has started half of the races he started at these tracks on the front row. I will roll the dice and try to get some bonus points out of Elliott Friday.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2) Aric Almirola 3) Kurt Busch 4) Paul Menard 5) Clint Bowyer 6) Chase Elliott 7) Jamie McMurray 8) Austin Dillon 9) Ryan Newman 10) Daniel Suarez
Driver Group Game C Picks
David Ragan (9) will be the driver I start in Group C this week. He is one of the best restrictor-plate drivers and the addition of Roush-Fenway cars and Roush-Yates engines to the Front Row Motorsports team makes Ragan essentially a Roush-Fenway Racing driver. Ragan won at Talladega in a Front Row Motorsports car in 2013. He will have a better car this week than he had in that race. Ragan finished both races at Talladega in the top 10 last year and he could make it 3 in a row Sunday.
Alex Bowman (4) will be on my team for qualifying points only. I know I can trust David Ragan in this race so why not use the other Group C position to try and earn the 10 bonus points for winning the pole? Bowman won the pole for the Daytona 500 this year and the No. 88 car has a history of qualifying well at Talladega. I expect Bowman to start in the top 4 and earn some bonus points for my team.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) David Ragan 2) Alex Bowman 3) Darrell Wallace Jr. 4) William Byron 5) Michael McDowell
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Brad Keselowski (8), Denny Hamlin (9)
Group B: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (8), Aric Almirola (9), Paul Menard (8), Chase Elliott (7)
Group C: David Ragan (9), Alex Bowman (4)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game after qualifying Saturday.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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