NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Talladega

It was an emotional win last week for the driver of the No. 5 team Kyle Larson, his crew chief Cliff Daniels, and the Hendrick Motorsports organization. A two-tire pit strategy and some masterful driving earned Larson's first career win at Martinsville Speedway and his second win of the season which should make the field very nervous. This week will bring some exciting racing, but I don't think we'll get a first time winner. It's just a hunch. We'll see how it plays out.

This Week's Pick Strategy:
I'm banking on Fords and Chevys this week. I'm going to pack my roster with aggressive drivers who monopolize Talladega statistics and who tend to be good pushers. I'm not so keen on the Toyotas. There's just not enough of them in the field. If one or two of them get taken out by the "big one," they won't have enough dance partners for drafting.

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race 
Both with 4 - Alex Bowman and Kevin Harvick
Aric Almirola - 3

By Track
All with 6 - Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Erik Jones
Both with 5- Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick
All with 4 - Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael McDowell, and Alex Bowman

Last Year's Pole Winner: Christopher Bell
Last Year's Race Winner: Ross Chastain

The Likely Suspects: My Talladega elites include Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski.
My 2 Cents: This week's no-brainer pick is a tie between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. My next picks are Kevin Harvick, Michael McDowell, Austin Dillon, and Brad Keselowski. I will round out my roster with Ryan Preece and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
My Final Four: Denny Hamlin, Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Erik Jones. Erik has a decent record at Talladega. Erik has earned two Top 5s, six Top 10s with an average finish of 18.667, the 12th-best among active Cup Series drivers. He finished in sixth place in both races last year and led laps.
Points to Ponder:
  • Kevin Harvick (2005, 2018), Chase Elliott (2016, 2019) and Christopher Bell (2022 sweep) lead all active drivers in poles at Talladega with two each. 
  • The outside front row (second-place) starting position is the most prolific starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Talladega (18.69%).
  • Brad Keselowski leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in victories at Talladega Superspeedway with six (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2021). Other active Cup drivers with multiple wins at Talladega include Joey Logano with three (2018, 2016, 2015), Chase Elliott with two (2022, 2019), Ryan Blaney with two (2020, 2019) and Denny Hamlin with two (2020, 2014).
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active Cup drivers with three runners-up finishes at Talladega (2003, 2004, 2010) as well in Top 10s with 19.
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active series drivers in Top 5s at Talladega with 10.
  • Chase Elliott leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Talladega Superspeedway with a 14.2 in 14 career starts.
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in laps led at Talladega Superspeedway with 424 in 34 career starts.  
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your initial picks by 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 22nd, and your final picks by 3 p.m. ET on race day Sunday, April 23rd.
Enjoy the race!
Carol D'Agostino has been playing Fantasy NASCAR for 16 years. She launched  NASCAR Fantasy Fusion for Skirts & Scuffs in October 2011. Each week, Carol pores through statistics and combs through her personal notebooks to arm fans with analysis and picking strategies that will leave their friends wondering how they got so smart. Carol also does race coverage for Skirts & Scuffs at Richmond Raceway and occasionally at her home track, Dover International Speedway. She is also part of the distinguished NASCAR Expert Picks panel at formerly called Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet.

When she isn’t wielding her fantasy-racing superpowers, you’ll find Carol hammering out a news release or creating a marketing strategy at a small niche public relations firm she founded called Purple Cat or executing downtown revitalization projects for a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Talladega NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Talladega Reviewed by Carol D'Agostino on Saturday, April 22, 2023 Rating: 5