Geico 500 at Talladega

200+ mph racing while three wide…

Nascar returns this week following a one week layoff. The series visits Talladega Superspeedway, a 2.66 mile tri-oval with 33 degrees of banking in the turns. Talladega is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary and hosting it’s 100th Cup race this week. Talladega has a tendency for big wrecks and high attrition. Expect more of the same this year, despite the new rules package which includes a tapered spacer rather than a restrictor plate. Nascar also added wicker bills to the spoilers right before practice began on Friday to further slow down the cars and they still clocked laps at 204+ mph.

Ford drivers have won the last seven Talladega races, with Logano and Keselowski combining to win five of those, and six of the last nine. A Team Penske driver has also led the most laps in four of the last six races here. However, last year’s race was dominated from start to finish almost exclusively by Stewart Haas Racing…in Fords. I don’t expect to see SHR accomplish that same feat this year, but expect the frontrunners to be littered with Fords regardless of team affiliation. To date in 2019, Team Penske (Ford), and Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota) have been dominant. Five drivers have won in the first nine races, which is on pace with last year, when Kyle Busch and Harvick each had 3 race winning streaks to open the season. Those numbers aside, the racing this year has been tight and finishes have been close despite only two teams collecting all of the checkered flags.

Former Talladega winners entered this week are Keselowski (5), Logano (3), Bowyer (2), and Johnson (2) with multiple wins. Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Harvick, Ragan, Stenhouse, and Almirola with one win each. Before we get to the drivers, I’ll point out that qualifying did us few favors this week among the favorites. Many start up front, and that’s bad for positional points. As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss cash plays and FD options. Let’s get to it.

Brad Keselowski (10700) – Keselowski will be one of the drivers to beat this week. He’s a 5-time winner at Talladega, who has finished in the top five in more than a third of his starts here, and the top ten more than 50% of the time. He last won here in the fall of 2017, winning the 1st stage, and finishing 2nd in the other. He’s priced at a discount and we need to take advantage, despite him starting up front. Dominator points are what we’ll be looking for on race day.

Joey Logano (11200) – Logano is a 3-time winner at Talledega who’s finished in the top five in 5 of the last 7 races. In the only two results outside of the top five, he was wrecked. He finished 5th in the most recent race here last fall. Last spring, Logano had a great car and raced his way to victory lane. In the race he led 70 laps, and finished 2nd in Stage #1 and 2nd in Stage #2. In the fall 2016 race, Logano won after leading the final 45 laps. Much like his Penske teammate above, Logano qualified up front and will need to rely on dominator points on race day, but they’re both heavy favorites to win and need to be considered.

Kevin Harvick (11600) – Harvick has struggled to stay up front at times this season, but has looked better the last few races. He’s one of the best superspeedway racers in all of Nascar, and is firmly on our radar this week. At Talladega, he’s a former winner who’s finished in the top ten 42% percent of the time. He’s always a threat to win here. He rolls off from 19th and is a great play this week.

Denny Hamlin (9200) – Hamlin won Daytona this year, and is one of the better superspeedway racers in Nascar. Hamlin has won here at Talladega, and has the 2nd best average finish (7.6) here over the course of the last five races. Hamlin finished 4th in the most recent race here last fall. Toyota drivers have struggled this week to find speed, but he’s definitely in play this week, starting 23rd.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (7400) – Stenhouse, from a DFS value standpoint, is one of the better superspeedway racers in Nascar. He’s a recent winner who’s also finished in the top five 45% percent of the time, which is staggering at his salary. He’s finished in the top ten 64% percent of the time on top of that. His overall average finish here is 10.6, and in 4 of the last 5 Talladega races he’s finished in the top five. Last fall he finished 3rd and in spring of 2018, he finished 5th. In the spring 2017 race he drove his way to victory lane. Stenhouse qualified up front, but he’s been one of the fastest cars all week. He’s in play.

Kurt Busch (9000) – The older Busch has never won at Talladega, but he ranks as one of the better drivers here. Over the last 8 races here, he has 5 top tens. He nearly won last fall, leading 108 laps before running out of fuel on the final lap. He finished 2nd in the spring 2018 race. I will note he was in a SHR Ford for those recent races. In the six Talladega races prior to fall of 2017, he had the best average finish (7.8) of any driver in the series. His salary is hovering in that difficult 9k range and that makes it difficult to find room for him, but he’s been stellar in practice all week, once again leading the charge amongst Chevy drivers.

Ryan Newman (7800) – We had Newman pegged as a solid play at Richmond. That changed a bit with all of the inspection failures, but our analysis proved accurate when he came home with a 9th place finish. Talladega is another track in Newman’s long history that he’s had reasonable success at. Over the last 9 races he has four top tens, which is solid. Last spring at Talladega, he had a 9th place finish, and in the fall of 2017 he had a strong showing and raced his way to a 2nd. DK has seen fit to up his salary this week, which doesn’t help, but he’s been fast in practice and slipped in qualifying.

David Ragan (5400) – Ragan underwhelmed again last race at Richmond. That said, Talladega is Ragan’s best track, so he was on my radar throughout the week. As expected, he’s been fast, and yes, he drives a Ford. He’s a former winner here who’s finished in the top ten 42% percent of the time at a salary of 5400. In the most recent race last fall, he struggled and finished 39th due to mechanical issues ending his day early. In the 2018 spring race he finished 6th. In both 2017 events, Ragan finished 10th. He’s priced at a very affordable 5400 this week, and was near the top of the speed charts in the early practice, so he’s in play, but be careful overusing him due to his starting spot.

William Byron (6800) – Byron has a short career history, but Talladega hasn’t been good for him in that time. Last year his average finish for the season between the combined events was 24.5, though his average running position in the fall race was 16th. He looked good earlier this year at Daytona, starting on the pole and leading 44 laps before a wreck took him out of the race late. Byron has shown flashes of speed off and on this year, mostly in qualifying, but it’s not producing results on race day yet. He’s priced so low and in such good equipment that it’s hard to pass him up for that last roster spot.

Chris Buescher (6900) – Buescher continues to surprise. He ran up front for much of the Richmond race before having handling problems late. The difficulty for us, from a DFS standpoint, is he qualifies too good to provide positional value most weeks. Over the last four races at Talladega he has a 16.0 average finish which is great at his salary. If he ever slips in qualifying, he’ll be high on our radar. This week he slipped and rolls off 31st, making him one of the best values on the slate.

For those that believe in manufacturer dominance at specific tracks, the following drivers are all piloting Fords…Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, Harvick, Almirola, Bowyer, Suarez, Stenhouse, Newman, Menard, Ragan, Lajoie, McDowell, and Tifft.

For those of you that place wagers on winning, the following drivers all pilot Chevrolets who have yet to win a race this season, with a top finish of 6th at Daytona…Kurt Busch, Larson, Elliott, JJ, Byron, Bowman, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Hemric, Preece, Buescher, Wallace, Chastain, and Cassill.

If you’re looking for a little extra cap space, the following drivers may help. Ty Dillon (13.5-four starts), Menard (14.6), Suarez (15.0), and Newman (15.0) each rank in the top 10 in average finish at Talladega in the last five races. Viable punts are Cassill, Lajoie, and Ragan.

Other drivers I like are Blaney, Kyle Busch, Menard, Almirola, Bowyer, Rose,and Ty Dillon.

Dominator potentials this week are Keselowski, Logano, and Blaney.

Movers this week are Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Buescher, Harvick, and Newman

Fades for me this week are Austin Dillon, and Bowman.

My pick to win the race this week is Brad Keselowski. He’s masterful at superspeedways, and at Talladega in particular. It’s a track where last lap passes are the norm, and Keselowski is among the best in all of Nascar.