The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series descends on Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500. Back on a restrictor plate track this weekend’s race is a true “wild card” as there is the potential for at least 30 drivers to win. Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and spoke with NASCAR contacts to give his best guess how the field should finish on Sunday.
When: Sunday, May 3; 1:20 p.m./et.
Weather: Chance of thunderstorms with a high around 82; wind out of the SW at 10 mph. There is a 90 percent chance of precipitation.
The Track: Talladega SuperSpeedway
Talladega Superspeedway is a 2.66 tri-oval. It has steep 33 degree banking in the turns and 18 degree banking on the straight-aways. The banking allows the cars to run at intense speeds. As a result of these speeds NASCAR has made ‘Dega a restrictor plate track. This means all cars entered in the race must use the restrictor plates on their engines to limit air-intake and thus reduce horsepower. Winning in a restrictor plate race takes often as much or even more luck than skill giving around 35 of the 40 cars that start the race a chance to win. The driver that gets the right push at the right time can come from outside the top 10 into first place on the final lap of the race.
Key to Race: AVOID THE BIG “ONE”
As is the case with most restrictor plate races the field will become bunched up in two-wide groups. These packs cruise around the track at 200 mph just inches away from each other. It takes just one car to momentarily lose control to cause a massive accident. If a driver can get lucky and stay away from the inevitable big crash they have a great chance to finish inside the top 20. In fantasy leagues a race like this is very difficult to predict. As a result of this uncertainty drivers like David Ragan, Trevor Bayne and Jamie McMurray often can be just as strong of an option to win in a restrictor plate race as the usual superstars like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Matt Kenseth.
41 cars will attempt to qualify for 40 spots.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior regained his “King of Talladega” nickname when he won at ‘Dega last spring. He is bringing back his favorite restrictor plate car “Amelia” and will be the favorite to win this weekend.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Busch has averaged just a 21st place finish at Talladega during his career, but Joe Gibbs Racing has been awesome lately. It is tough to pick against him or anyone else on his team.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won the spring race at ‘Dega in 2014 and was great at Daytona this year. We love his chances.
No. 4 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been excellent in eight of the last 11 races at ‘Dega. He is a top pick this weekend.
No. 19 Carl Edwards: Edwards has led just 37 laps in 23 career starts at Talladega, but with the way he has been driving lately he is almost a must-use driver.
6 to 10
No. 22 Joey Logano: Logano won last year’s fall race at ‘Dega. He is a great option again.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won the 2010 spring race at ‘Dega and finished second last spring. He will be a good-shoe this weekend.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski has three career wins at ‘Dega including a victory in the fall 2014 show. He has the aggressive style to win again this weekend.
No. 20 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth won the fall 2012 race at ‘Dega. Look for him to be strong this weekend.
No. 41 Kurt Busch: Busch has cracked the top 10 in 11 his last 22 starts at Talladega. He is a great option on Sunday.
11 to 20
No. 78 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. had great cars in 13 of the past 19 races at Talladega. We like his chances.
No. 31 Ryan Newman: Newman has raced very well at ‘Dega the past five years. We expect another strong finish out of the Purdue Boilermaker.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray has become a bit of a restrictor plate dynamo. He snuck a win at Talladega in 2013 and won at Daytona four years ago. He is worth using in all leagues.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been awesome in eight of the past 11 races at ‘Dega. But this year has been nothing but frustration for him. This might actually be a decent weekend to sneak him onto your roster.
No. 24 Chase Elliott: The amazing rookie will make his first Cup start at ‘Dega this weekend. We suggest holding off using him until the circuit returns to “normal” speedways.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne drove great at ‘Dega in five of the past nine trips to the track. We like his chances to be a decent third driver this weekend.
No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Ricky has been fantastic at ‘Dega so far in his career. He is a great third driver.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle was the most impressive driver in the spring race at ‘Dega in 2014 and one of the least-impressive drivers at the track in both races last year. He is only worth using as a third driver.
No. 42 Kyle Larson: Larson ran well at Talladega in his rookie campaign, but struggled last year. He is only worth using as a third driver this weekend.
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard finished cracked the top six in both races at ‘Dega last year. He is a nice sleeper pick this weekend.
21 to 30
No. 14 Tony Stewart
No. 3 Austin Dillon
No. 43 Aric Almirola
No. 47 A.J. Allmendinger
No. 13 Casey Mears
No. 10 Danica Patrick
No. 6 Trevor Bayne
No. 23 David Ragan
No. 55 Michael Waltrip
No. 35 David Gilliland
No. 7 Regan Smith
No. 21 Ryan Blaney
No. 98 Cole Whitt
No. 32 Bobby Labonte
No. 34 Chris Buescher
No. 83 Matt DiBendetto
No. 30 Josh Wise
No. 38 Landon Cassill
No. 95 Michael McDowell
No. 44 Brian Scott
No. 46 Michael Annett
My NASCAR LIVE Team for this Week:
Race Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
My Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR Team for this Week:
C. David Ragan