Jeff Wolfe · Thursday October 17, 2013
When it comes to Sprint Cup racing at either Talladega or Daytona, the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know for sure what is going to happen. One of the best examples of that was the Spring race at Talladega where David Ragan, with help from Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland, won in a last-lap scramble, taking down Matt Kenseth in the process.
As we like to say from the department of redundancy department, that was an unexpected upset.
So, when trying to figure out just who to put on your fantasy team for Sunday afternoon at Talladega, we can’t say for certain we know who will be up front at the end. If somebody says that, well, they’re either incompetent, just not being completely honest, or maybe a little of both. The only thing we can go on is some of the trends at Talladega in recent races and years; that’s really all we can keep in mind when making this week’s picks.
LOOKING FOR SOME ACES
There are three drivers considered in the top echelon to begin the season that have had some recent success. They, amazingly have some things in common when it comes to their finishes in the last five races. Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth each have one win in the last five races at ‘Dega. Each of those victories also is among their three top-10 finishes in the last five races there. However, and not surprisingly at a plate track, they also have at least one finish of 20th or worse. That includes a 23rd for Bowyer, a 33rd for Keselowski and a 36th for Kenseth. So, yes, you have to keep that in mind with these picks.
Here’s a look at some other top drivers’ recent history at Talladega: Jimmie Johnson has a win and one other top-5 finish, in the last five races there but he’s got an average finish of 16.8, handicapped by a 35th-place result. Then you’ve got Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon, who has two top-5 performances in the last five races, but has an average finish of 15.2 and has recorded a wart-like, 33rd-place finish within those starts. And, over the years, I’ve always liked Kevin Harvick on the plate tracks. He does have one career win at Talladega, but his recent numbers, or luck, there has not been good. He has an average finish of 22.60 in the last five races with just one top 10 and a worst result of 40th.
So, yeah, you just never know here do you….
MIDDLE OF THE ROADSTERS
It looked like in the early stages of his career that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was going to be the king of the restrictor plate tracks. After all, he does have five career victories at Talladega and 13 career top-10 finishes. But his recent numbers there have been more common-like, as he has just one top five and another top-10 finish in his last five races at the track. But he does have an average finish of 15.0 in those events, which isn’t half bad and if you’re into the emotion of it all, just think about the reaction there if an Earnhardt visited Victory Lane again at Talladega.
Two other guys in this category to look at are Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle. They each have one top five and two other top-10 finishes in the last five races at Talladega, so they haven’t been terrible there. Burton has an average finish of 13.20 in those races and Biffle has an average finish of 13.60.
If you are looking for a bit of a sleeper here, in this range, don’t forget about Aric Almirola. He has one top 10 in his last three races there, but his worst finish is 19th. So he might just be a decent pick if you’re looking for a cheaper sort of mid-range sort of option. Hopefully, you sort of get my drift there…
All right, I know you may be saying there’s no way David Ragan can pull off a double-win year at Talladega. Well, when you look at Ragan’s record there you will see stranger things have happened. Ragan has three top-10 finishes in his last five races there, so he just might have an idea on what he’s doing at Talladega anyway. And as the great Bob Dylan writes in the song “Summer Days,” “she said the past can’t repeat itself, I said what you mean it can’t? Of course, it can.” Just saying anything is possible here…
Usually, we’re searching in vain for good options here, but there are actually plenty this week. First, you’ve got Austin Dillon in the No. 14 car this weekend, so you know the equipment will be good, and if you like upsets and karma (yep, there’s that word I don’t really believe in again this week) the next best thing to an Earnhardt winning would be the future driver in the No. 3 car for Richard Childress. Also, you’ve got former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne driving this week in the No. 21 car. Bayne’s luck has not been as good at Talladega, with just one top-10 finish in five races there and an average finish of 25.40. But he’s been to Victory Lane once at a plate track, so you know it’s possible for him, too.
Don’t forget about restrictor plate specialist and team owner Michael Waltrip being in the No. 55 this week. In his last five races at Talladega he has two top 10s, and also don’t forget he was going for the lead on the last lap of this race last year when Tony Stewart pulled down a second too late and caused the Big One — eliminating over 30 cars.
Next, we move on to a couple of regulars in this category in Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Danica Patrick. Stenhouse was plenty respectable in his only Cup race at Talladega, earning a 13th-place finish this spring. As for Patrick, while good finishes at any track, especially recently, have been non-existent, a plate track is one place where she can legitimately be considered if you need a low-budget option. She was a respectable eighth at Daytona to open the season, but was 33rd at Talladega in the Spring. Still, it wouldn’t be a shock to me to see her run near the front for at least part of Sunday’s race.
Another one-time option that I like in this spot, too, is Sam Hornish, Jr. He finished 24th in his last Sprint Cup race at Talladega, but if you need to fill a final spot, Hornish is a much better NASCAR driver now than when he first came into the series. I wouldn’t be afraid to pick him based on driving ability.
So, there you have it. Short of mentioning all 44 entries this week, the only real advice is this: Good Luck.
The race for the top spot in the two Frontstretch Fantasy Leagues on Yahoo! remains close. And just like it is in real life, Talladega will be “wild card” in the fantasy race, too. The leaderboard with five races to go has SiLo Sounds Racing clinging to the lead with 7,920 points, just ahead of Nobody Rides for Free at 7,914. Next are Bomb Squad at 7,854 and RWO Motoring at 7,847. No other team is within 100 points of the lead. However, if you’re not one of these top teams, remember, it just takes one race to make all the difference.
The top weekly score went to the appropriately named, at least for this week anyway, Dominating Force team with 352 points. The winning combination was Kasey Kahne in second, Kyle Busch in fifth, Ryan Newman in eighth and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in 13th.
Connect with Jeff!
Contact Jeff Wolfe
©2000 - 2008 Jeff Wolfe and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!