The Cup Series will travel to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. It is hard to imagine that the racing at a Superspeedway may be more predictable than what we had last week at Martinsville, but that is where we are with the Gen-7 car. I doubt there will be a lot of action this week, since most of the drivers simply stays in line for 80% of the race. At least the final 20 laps should be pretty exciting. The GEICO 500 can be seen Sunday at 3 pm ET on FOX.
STRATEGY FOR TALLADEGA
Each manufacture entered the 2023 season with a new front end to their cars. It is obvious that the Fords have the advantage in the draft, because the blue ovals can push harder and take a push better in the draft. This allows the Ford drivers to make more aggressive moves on the track and a better opportunity to finish up front. Four of the five drivers with the top Driver Rating in the first two Superspeedway races are all Fords (Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Austin Cindric and Chris Buescher). The only non-Ford in the top-five is Denny Hamlin. Stacking Fords in your Fantasy NASCAR lineups this week is not a bad idea.
Here are the picks for the GEICO 500 …
DRIVER GROUP GAME LINEUP
GROUP A DRIVERS
JOEY LOGANO (8): I plan to use Logano in my starting lineup Sunday. He has three wins at Talladega and he just completely destroyed the field in the last Superspeedway race at Atlanta. Logano won the pole, scored 19 Stage Points, led 140 laps and went to Victory Lane. He also finished second in the Daytona 500. The No. 22 car is going to be tough to beat Sunday.
DENNY HAMLIN (9): I want a driver who is good at qualifying at Talladega to pair with Joey Logano. That way I can use Logano in the race and my second driver for qualifying points. Christopher Bell won the last two poles at Talladega, but Hamlin has been pretty good too. Hamlin started 3rd, 7th, 1st, 1st, 1st and 2nd in his last six races at Talladega. Hamlin should also be a good pick if we need to use him in the race. Hamlin’s average finishing position in his last seven races at Talladega is 10th. Hamlin and Logano make a good combo in Group A this week.
(CONTRARIAN PICK) ROSS CHASTAIN (8): I doubt anyone will use Chastain Sunday. He is not the first driver that comes to mind when people think of Superspeedway racing, but he did win this race last year. Chastain proved his trip to Victory Lane was not a fluke. The No. 1 team returned to Talladega in October and Chastain led a race-high 36 laps and finished 4th. I would not be surprised if there is a watermelon smashed in Victory Lane again Sunday.
GROUP A DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Joey Logano 2) Denny Hamlin 3) Ryan Blaney 4) Chase Elliott 5) Christopher Bell 6) William Byron 7) Ross Chastain 8) Kyle Larson
GROUP B DRIVERS
BRAD KESELOWSKI (8): Keselowski has been a beast on the Superspeedways this year. He had the second-best Driver Rating and Keselowski led 42 laps at Daytona. He also had the second-best Driver Rating and led 47 laps at Atlanta. Keselowski has a series-high six wins at Talladega. I would not be surprised to see him in Victory Lane again Sunday.
ERIK JONES (9): Jones has been one of the best drivers at Talladega. He finished 6th, 6th, 9th, 27th, 2nd and 5th in his last six races at Talladega. That is the best average finishing position in the field over the last six races at Talladega. Jones also finished 8th at Atlanta last month. It does not matter where Jones qualifies for the race. He has a history of finishing up front and that is why I will play the No. 43 car Sunday.
ALEX BOWMAN (8): I am pretty sure that I will use Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones (The Michigan Men) in my starting lineup, so I need a driver who can qualify well and run up front if I have to use him in my lineup. That driver is Bowman. The No. 48 car has scored bonus points for qualifying in 7 of the last 12 Superspeedway races. Bowman also finished 5th in the Daytona 500 this year and 14th at Atlanta. Bowman finished 9th in the last race at Talladega, so he should be a good pick for our lineups Sunday.
CHRIS BUESCHER (9): Buescher knows that the race Sunday is one of his best chances to win and score a trip to the playoffs. He typically works well with Brad Keselowski in the race. Buescher finished 4th in the Daytona 500 and 35th at Atlanta. Buescher finished both Stages at Atlanta in the top-10 and he led 5 laps, so his finish is a bit misleading. Buescher qualified 9th for the Daytona 500 (it was in a Dual Race though) and 7th at Atlanta. He has a good chance to qualified up front and score some bonus points for qualifying too.
(CONTRARIAN PICK) MICHAEL MCDOWELL (9): I really thought about using McDowell over Chris Buescher this week, but Buescher offers more upside for qualifying points. McDowell has not been very good at qualifying, but he does know how to go to the front once the green flag is waived. McDowell has finished 3rd, 8th, 17th and 3rd in his last four races at Talladega. I doubt many people in your league will use McDowell Sunday, so you could climb in your standings if you use him, and he finishes in the top-five.
GROUP B DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Brad Keselowski 2) Erik Jones 3) Alex Bowman 4) Chris Buescher 5) Kevin Harvick 6) Austin Cindric 7) Martin Truex Jr. 8) Aric Almirola 9) Michael McDowell 10) Kyle Busch
GROUP C DRIVERS
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. (9): I should have used Stenhouse in the Daytona 500, but hindsight is 20/20. The problem with Stenhouse at the Superspeedways is that he wrecks too much. There is no doubt that he is one of the best drivers on these types of tracks, but he often finds trouble. Stenhouse said after the Daytona 500 that he has learned to be more patient in these races. No longer will he make aggressive moves to improve his position on lap 30. He will wait until the end of the races to be aggressive. His new driving style paid off at Daytona and I expect Stenhouse to be good again Sunday.
COREY LAJOIE (7): The race Sunday is the Super Bowl for the No. 7 team. LaJoie knows that he likely has to win one of the races on the Superspeedways in order to make the playoffs. He finished 4th last month at Atlanta and 16th in the Daytona 500. LaJoie is having a career season. I know I will be cheering for LaJoie Sunday so I will have him in my lineup.
(OTHER CHOICE) RYAN PREECE (7): The Fords have been good on the Superspeedways, so why not take a chance with Preece? It almost paid off last week and I expect the No. 41 car to be good again Sunday. Preece finished 10th and 15th at Talladega in 2020. He also finished 3rd at the track in 2019. Those races were in a JTG Daugherty Racing Chevy. He should be even better in his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
GROUP C DRIVER RANKINGS: 1) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2) Corey LaJoie 3) Ryan Preece 4) Ty Gibbs 5) AJ Allmendinger
* Be sure to check back Sunday morning for my starting lineup.
XFINITY SERIES PICKS
Good Luck This Weekend!
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