U.S. Markets closed

Fantasy Live: Geico 500

Dan Beaver
There’s just one question you have to ask yourself this week: “Do I feel lucky?” Even if you don’t, you still have to get through the Geico 500.

There’s just one question you have to ask yourself this week: “Do I feel lucky?”

After this weekend, we can no longer use the description “restrictor-plate, superspeedway” to describe Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway. A new rules package goes into effect utilizing the new aero package and a smaller tapered spacer that will not work exactly the way the old plate did.

This will increase the horsepower on the engines and NASCAR hopes it improves maneuverability. We will have to wait until the race is over to know what progress has been made in that regard. But the new rules are unlikely to break of the drafting packs we’ve seen over the years – and therein lies the danger on this track.

One minor mistake in a pack of 30 or more cars often leads to carnage on a massive scale. That characteristic of this track isn’t going to go away anytime soon, because NASCAR believes it’s what the fans want to see. As a result, this continues to be a wild card race and fantasy players have a great opportunity to make up ground on the competition if they guess correctly about which marquee racer will crash and who among the dark horses will take his place at the front of the pack.

Aric Almirola
A lot is out of the control of drivers on the big tracks. Often, it comes down to someone else’s mistake, but when we look up and see that a driver has five consecutive top-10s on a track, we have to take notice. Almirola needed the victory last fall in order to advance in the playoffs and he earned it. He would also have won the Daytona 500 that same year if he had not been wrecked on the last lap. In 2017, he swept the top five at ‘Dega. We’re counting on him keeping his streak alive.

Joey Logano
Logano doesn’t have the same length of streak as Almirola, but he has visited Victory Lane more often. He won this race last year as part of a current three-race, top-five streak at Talladega. He also grabbed the trophy in fall 2015 and 2016. Since Fall 2014, his teammate Brad Keselowski also has three wins on at Talladega, which suggests Team Penske has hit on the right formula.

Ryan Blaney
This week, segment results may well be more predictable than the race finish. As the race gets closer to the checkered flag, drivers’ adrenalin starts to pump. This early in the season, the no penalty associated with finishing at the back of the pack does not offset the specter of a win – so the 'Big One' crash is more likely to occur in the final stage. Since NASCAR implemented stage points, Blaney has finished among the top 10 at the end of each segment – adding 12.5 points per race on average to his total. Considering how easy it is lose it all in the second half of the race for any marquee driver, this could mean the difference between winning and losing this week.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse has a knack for this style of racing. He’s won at both Daytona and Talladega and typically holds a steady wheel in the draft. One would not know that after his performance in last July’s Coke Zero 400 when he was involved in at least five accidents – most of which he triggered – but he’s been a bit calmer at ‘Dega. In the last five races there, he has one victory and four top-fives.

Erik Jones
Jones is a dicey “risk-versus-reward” pick this week. He has a reputation for being crash prone on the big tracks as the result of crashing out of five of his first six races at Talladega and Daytona. In the one race in which he got to the checkers undented, he finished seventh in the 2017 Coke Zero 400. The next year, he won that race and that seems to have restored his confidence. Jones came to Talladega in the Fall and finished eighth. This Spring he finished third in the Daytona 500. If he can keep his car intact, he could be one of the best values this week. If not… make certain you are happy with the driver in your garage.

Value Pick

Ty Dillon
Dillon entered this year’s Daytona 500 with an interesting record. He had finished 25th or worse in four previous editions of that race, but his worst attempt at Daytona and Talladega otherwise was a 16th under the Florida lights in 2017. He finished sixth in this year’s 500, which is his best ever at that track. Dillon also has a sixth-place finish at ‘Dega in a pre-rookie warm-up in 2016. Since then, he’s finished in a narrow band of results from 11th to 15th. That kind of consistency makes him a safe pick and could help differentiate your lineup from the competition if you guess right about which marquee racer to leave off the roster.

Garage Pick

David Ragan    
Front Row Motorsports has a great program on this type of track. Michael McDowell stayed out of trouble and earned a top-five in this year’s Daytona 500. Ragan has been among the head the class in three of the last four Talladega races. In 2013 during his first stint with this team, he won the Geico 500 as part of a four-race, top-10 streak at the track. Last fall, he dropped 20 laps off the pace and finished 39th, but there is no reason to think he won’t rebound.

Red Flag

Brad Keselowski
Yes, Keselowski has three wins since 2014 and five in total, but in those 10 races at Talladega, he has also finished outside the top 20 five times. Last year, he failed to crack the top 25 in either race – retiring with crash damage in the Spring and finishing at the tail end of the lead lap in 27th during the Fall. No one will be surprised if he beats our prediction, but as of the writing of this article he was on about one-third of the active rosters (sixth-most) and if he does experience trouble, he could be your greatest differentiator.

 

Segment wins and points
(8 segments to date)

Driver

Segment
Points

Segments
earning
points

Segment
Wins

Ryan Blaney

50

8

1

Brad Keselowski

40

5

4

Joey Logano

40

6

 

Kevin Harvick

39

6

1

Kurt Busch

34

6

1

Clint Bowyer

31

4

 

Denny Hamlin

25

5

1

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

25

4

1

Kyle Busch

22

5

 

Martin Truex Jr.

22

3

 

Jimmie Johnson

21

5

 

Paul Menard

20

3

1

Aric Almirola

14

2

 

Chase Elliott

11

2

 

Austin Dillon

8

2

 

Trevor Bayne

8

2

 

David Ragan

5

1

 

Kyle Larson

5

1

 

Kasey Kahne

4

2

 

Michael McDowell

4

1

 

Erik Jones

3

2

 

Danica Patrick

3

1

 

Alex Bowman

2

1

 

William Byron

2

1

 

Jamie McMurray

1

1

 

Ty Dillon

1

1