2019 GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway Fantasy Picks

Brian Polking

Is there anything scarier to a season-long Fantasy NASCAR owner than a trip to Daytona or Talladega? The two superspeedways are always the toughest tracks to predict, and with the first trip to Talladega Superspeedway on tap this weekend, it's time to break out the good luck charms for Sunday's GEICO 500.

As chaotic and random as some of the superspeedway races can seem at times, the truth is that there are ways to boost your odds of success or at least limit the long-term damage. Granted, no driver is a sure thing at a superspeedway, but there are drivers who are much better than others. There is also no denying the fact that the Ford teams seem to pack a little extra muscle at these tracks.

More importantly, you can exploit the specific rules of each season-long contest to your advantage. In Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game, I always like to use the superspeedway races as a chance to use some alternative options and save some starts from the elite guys.

For starters, you don't need to use guys like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to post big point totals at Talladega. You also don't want to burn a start from any of the fantasy studs and then have them collected in a wreck. Fantasy Live allows 10 starts per driver over 26 races, so I am a little more aggressive with who I will use. With the DGG spanning the entire season, I really get creative with my lineups.

In the Slingshot contest, I focus entirely on the place differential category. You will see comers and goers all afternoon at Talladega, and when all is said and done, I expect multiple drivers to gain 20-plus spots and a few to lose that many. Since points are awarded or subtracted based on each driver's place differential, it's an easy decision to load my lineup with drivers starting deep in the field.

Check out all my season-long Fantasy NASCAR picks for Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega, and good luck surviving the second superspeedway race of 2019.

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NASCAR.com Fantasy Live

Kurt Busch

He’s having a great season, but since he doesn’t pile up a ton of stage points on a weekly basis, I don’t mind trying to take advantage of his consistency at the superspeedways. Since NASCAR started handing out stage points, Busch has earned the fourth-most points in the nine races at Daytona and Talladega.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stenhouse is an easy choice this weekend for a few reasons. For one, he is not afraid to push his way to the front at the superspeedways, and since 2017, he has picked up a couple of wins and scored the second-most driver points. He also has little value outside of Daytona and Talladega, so there is no long-term risk.

Aric Almirola

His victory at Talladega last fall continued a great stretch for Almirola at the superspeedways. He has finished 11th or better in six of his last eight starts, and his four Top 5s in that stretch are tied for the second most in the series. Almirola has been solid all season, but since I still don’t see myself using him the full 10 times, I’m willing to use up a start this weekend.

Paul Menard

I thought about using Denny Hamlin this weekend, but he’s been so good this year that I think I want him available for as many other tracks as possible. Plus, Menard has been excellent at the superspeedways in his own right. His five Top 10s since 2017 are tied for the second most of any driver, and Menard has been able to score the fifth-most points overall in that same stretch. Long-term driver usage isn’t an issue with Menard either.

Alex Bowman

Maybe Dale Earnhardt Jr. left some of his superspeedway magic in the No. 88 because Bowman has already had his share of success. He has finished 11th or better in three of his five starts and owns a 15.8 average finish overall. More importantly, he has been able to run up front and earn stage points, and he has scored the fifth-most points of any driver in the five superspeedway races since the start of last season.

Garage Driver – Ryan Blaney

Blaney’s 23.3 average finish at superspeedways the last couple of years isn’t pretty, but he’s led the most laps of any driver and earned the sixth-most driver points over that same stretch. I’m hesitant to use him because I do feel he is valuable enough to warrant starting 10 times this year, but if he piles up a bunch of points in the first two stages, I may throw him into my starting lineup and hope he can finish strong. Blaney has the potential to be the top scorer Sunday.

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game

Joey Logano (A)

Group A has so much depth that I really don’t budget my starts much. I just go after the stud with the best record at whichever track we are heading to. At Talladega, that’s Logano. Over the last 10 superspeedway races, he leads all drivers with six Top 5s and seven Top 10s, and he has scored more points than any other driver in that stretch.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (B)

The superspeedways are really the only two tracks on the schedule where it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Stenhouse win. He is one of just two drivers with multiple wins in the last 10 superspeedway races, and his five Top 5s and 310 driver points scored both rank second. I get to roster one of the best drivers at Talladega and not have to worry about wasting a start from a Group B stud. This is an easy decision.

Ryan Newman (B)

Newman has been minding his own business and picking up great finishes at the superspeedways lately. He has five Top 10s and six Top 15s in the last seven races, including a 14th-place run in this year’s Daytona 500. Ford drivers have been great at the superspeedways for years, and I’ll take my chances with the Roush Fenway Racing teammates this weekend as my Group B guys.

David Ragan (C)

I considered Ty Dillon for this spot, but he’s actually been decent this year, and I may need him at some other tracks. On the flip side, Ragan is borderline useless most weeks but has shown plenty of upside at the superspeedways. He has four Top 15s and five Top 15s in the last eight races, and he owns Cup wins at both Daytona and Talladega in his career.

Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto

Denny Hamlin ($12,000)

Hamlin will probably the most popular pick, so there is an opportunity to fade him here if you want to try to gain some ground. Personally, I'm going to roster him. He won the Daytona 500 to open the year, and he has seven Top 15s and five finishes of sixth or better in the last 10 superspeedway races. Starting 23rd, he's positioned for a huge point total.

Kyle Busch ($11,500)

Yes, Busch has been a little boom or bust at the superspeedways his entire career, but his runner-up effort in this year's Daytona 500 was a nice reminder of his upside. I can't pass up the best driver in the series in 2019 after he qualified outside the Top 20.

Erik Jones ($10,300)

After crashing out of nearly every superspeedway race he entered to start his career, Jones is suddenly on a tear. He followed up a win in the July race at Daytona last season with a Top 10 at Talladega last fall and a third-place finish in this year's Daytona 500. Starting 27th, Jones has a lot of spots and points to potentially gain if his hot streak continues this weekend.

Chris Buescher ($7,800)

He's exploited the place differential category at the superspeedways as well as any driver the last couple of years. He has gained at least 11 spots in six of the last eight superspeedway races, and he has gained 19 or more spots three times in that stretch. After he qualified back in 31st, I just can't pass up Buescher.

Bubba Wallace ($7,500)

I pondered a lot of drivers for this spot, especially Ryan Preece and Matt DiBenedetto, but I ended up going with Wallace. He starts 28th, so he has the place differential category working in his favor. He also has five Top 20s and a 17.3 average finish in six superspeedway starts. I'm hoping he can avoid major trouble again this weekend.

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