Best Bets – Talladega
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS moves to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 on Sunday. The race is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET on FOX.
It's time for the second stop of the season on a restrictor-plate track, and for betting and fantasy purposes it can be a bit f a crapshoot. Things will look great one minute, and then the 'big one' happens in the link of an eye to ruin a good day. However, just like most other track types, certain drivers excel at super speedways for a number of reasons. We'll analyze recent results, NASCAR Loop Data and other factors to give you the best chances to cash big this weekend.
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (5/1) is the favorite for Sunday's race, and it likely has to do with the fact he has come away with checkered flags in three of the past seven starts at the track. That includes the Alabama 500 last fall when he won a crash-marred race while averaging 131.677 mph, the slowest average speed in a Talladega race since April 2004. For whatever reason, Keselowski seems to be able to avoid trouble where others are collected in the mess. While he had a 38th-place finish in the fall race in 2016, he has been in the Top 10 in five of the past seven starts at the track. He's about as good a bet as there is this weekend. Loop Data shows him with a 104.4 Driver Rating over the past five starts, leading a circuit-best 174 laps while posting an Average-Finish Position (AFP) of 10.2.
Keselowski's teammate Joey Logano (8/1) has also had some success at the track, and he'll be one to watch. However, he has been a bit more erratic over the past five starts, posting two wins and three Top 5 finishes, but also runs of 25th and 32nd during the stretch. And while it simply might be coincidence, he is averaging a 31.4 AFP over his past five spring races and a 6.6 AFP across his past five fall runs. He has wins in Oct. 2015 and Oct. 2016 at the track, learning very quickly from his missteps in the spring races. Ford has rolled to Victory Lane in each of the past five starts at the track, and eight of the past 11 races at the superspeedway.
Penske's Ryan Blaney (12/1) is new to the Penske stable, but he fits right in with what the team is trying to do at Talladega. Over the past five starts at the track he ranks 10th with an 85.4 Driver Rating. While he has been a bit erratic with a 24.0 AFP, he has led 30 laps while posting 13 fastest laps. He has four finishes inside the Top 20 over his past six starts, and that's running inferior machinery. In a Penske Ford he is a serious threat to roll to Victory Lane if he can negotiate his way through the field and avoid trouble.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott (12/1) doesn't have a lengthy MENCS history at the track, but he has been very successful. In four Cup starts at the track he has posted a Driver Rating of 93.5, third-best among all drivers across the past three seasons. He has run 78.4 percent of his laps inside the Top 15, leading 62 laps while turning in eight fastest laps. Teammate Jimmie Johnson (20/1) has struggled this season, but he is always a strong play at the track. He has turned in an 86.4 Driver Rating over the past five starts, seventh-best among all drivers. He has turned in 10 fastest laps over the five-race span while running 72.5 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has won twice at the track, but he hasn't been to Victory Lane since winning the Aaron's 499 in April 2011.
Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (14/1) was the winner in last spring's Talladega run, posting an average speed of 145.669 mph. He has turned in an 86.2 Driver Rating over the past five starts at the Alabama run, leading 28 laps in the process. The RFR driver tends to wait in the back on the pack waiting to strike late, trying to keep himself out of trouble until it's time to go. As such he has run just 53.2 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Three of his past five starts at the track have resulted in Top 10 runs, and he has been 16th or better in seven of his past nine starts at 'Dega.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (12/1) has posted three consecutive victories, and he has a more-than-good chance of making it four in a row at Talladega. NASCAR's Loop Data shows him fourth among all drivers across the past five starts, posting a 90.3 Driver Rating with 77 laps led, including 16 fastest laps. He has posted a 14.6 AFP over the stretch, too. Teammate Denny Hamlin (15/2) hasn't been to Victory Lane since the spring 2014 race at Talladega, but he has managed a 87.2 Driver Rating over the past five starts to check in sixth among all drivers. He has turned in a 17.6 AFP during the five-race span.
Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray (40/1) avoided serious injury in a practice wreck on Friday, but he did tumble more than seven times in his car and he'll obviously need a backup car on Sunday. He has been a nice sleeper on plate runs, and Jamie Mac has posted a fourth-place finish in the spring of 2016 and a runner-up finish in the 2017 run. He also picked up checkers in the Fall 2013 race. Teammate Kyle Larson (20/1) hasn't been to Victory Lane at Talladega yet, but he is a serious threat to do so. After some uneven results in his first few attempts at the track, he has been sixth, 12th and 13th over his past three starts.
Other sleeper this weekend include Paul Menard (40/1), as he has posted an AFP of 11.3 over his past three starts at the track. Gray Gaulding (Field - 20/1) impressed in his first two Cup starts at 'Dega last season, running 20th in the spring race while turning in a career-best ninth-place finish in the fall run. Ty Dillon (Field - 20/1) is also a driver to watch, posting 13th- and 11th-place finishes last season in his first Cup tries at Talladega. And of course his brother Austin Dillon (50/1) won at the first plate track when he rolled to a victory at the Daytona 500. He struggled at 'Dega last season with a 32.5 AFP, but he posted a 6.0 AFP in two runs during the 2016 season. Aric Almirola (25/1) is a sleeper to watch, posting three consecutive Top 10 finishes. He has averaged a 5.7 AFP during the impressive three-race span.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (20/1) might look rather tempting at this low price, but he has struggled at the track in recent seasons. His past three 'Dega starts have resulted in a 32.7 AFP, so he is a high-priced option you should avoid.
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