NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: GEICO 500 at Talladega

Active Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 3 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Paul Menard
All with 2 - Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and David Ragan

By Track
Both with 6 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kurt Busch
All with 5 -  Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard  
Ryan Newman - 4

Recent Pole Winners:  
2018 Kevin Harvick
2017 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Last Year's Race Winner: Joey Logano

The Likely Suspects: Racing at Talladega is definitely super fast and entertaining, but fantasy picking here can be a painful process. Yes, it's time to pick and pray! My Talladega elites include Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, David Ragan and Joey Logano.

My 2 Cents: Sunday's race will mark the first time since 1987 that the Cup cars will be sporting a tapered spacer, not a restrictor plate. Will it eliminate pack racing? I don't think so, but my bet is that the drivers who mastered plate racing will still be the ones to watch. My perennial no-brainer pick for Talladega is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. My next choices are Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin. I'll complete my team with David Ragan and Matt DiBenedetto.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Ryan Blaney. In his nine Cup races at Talladega Superspeedway, Blaney has one top five and two top 10s and has led 51 laps. Team Penske has gotten off to an amazing start this season with both of Blaney's teammates -- Joey Logano (one win) and Brad Keselowski (two wins) scoring early season wins. Could this be Blaney's week?

The most recent second-look driver from the Richmond Cup race, Aric Almirola, was mired in a few issues at Richmond. Although he qualified 15th, the No. 10 car was one of eight cars sent to the back of the field due to failing tech inspection. Almirola started 31st and raced to the 16th spot by Stage 2 when he also made slight contact with the No. 42 car of Kyle Larson on Lap 115. During the final stage he was hit with two penalties, one for speeding off pit road and one for not having enough lug nuts, and he finished 23rd.

My Final Four: Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and David Ragan

Points to Ponder:
  • Five active drivers are tied for the second-most poles at Talladega with one each – Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  • Kevin Harvick (2005, 2018) leads all active drivers in Busch Pole Awards at Talladega with two poles. He is the only active driver with multiple poles at Talladega.
  • Brad Keselowski leads all active Monster Energy Series drivers with five wins (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017).
  • Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick lead all active drivers with three runner-up finishes each at Talladega.
  • Kurt Busch leads all active series drivers in both top-5 and top-10 finishes at Talladega with eight top fives and 19 top 10s.
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (11 starts) leads all active drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Talladega with a 11.400.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. ET on Sat. April 27, and pick your starters by 2 p.m. ET on race day, Sun. April 28.

Enjoy the race!

Carol D’Agostino wields fantasy-racing superpowers. Each week, Carol researches statistics and combs through her personal racing notes to provide fans with fantasy racing advice at NASCAR Fantasy Fusion, a column she has written for Skirts & Scuffs since October 2011. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway, and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. This year she joins the NASCAR Expert Picks panel at
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet. When she isn’t crunching numbers, you’ll find Carol in business meetings or hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat. 

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: GEICO 500 at Talladega NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: GEICO 500 at Talladega Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Thursday, April 25, 2019 Rating: 5