Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Best Bets - Talladega

Be sure to follow on Twitter @TwitVI for the latest NASCAR updates and trends. Daniel E. Dobish, two-time FSWA Racing Writer of the Year, can be followed on Twitter at danieledobish.

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 is back after a week off due to the Easter holiday, heading to the second restrictor-plate stop of the season at Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 from Alabama.

Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon (30/1) claimed the pole after turning a best lap speed of 192.544 mph in qualifying. However, he had the rear deck lid of his car confiscated by NASCAR and penalties could be announced as soon as Sunday. He has never had success on the track at Talladega, posting a 21.1 Average-Finish Position (AFP) in 11 career starts, posting just one Top 5, two Top 10s and only one lap led while posting five DNFs at the superspeedway. He is a very risky pick despite his status as the pole sitter.

Dillon will be joined on Row 1 by Stewart-Haas Racing's Aric Almirola (12/1), who is the last driver on the circuit to take checkers at Talladega. He raced to a victory last fall on the superspeedway just ahead of his teammate Clint Bowyer (10/1). Almirola has had plenty of success at the track before, posting three top-5 finishes and six top-10 showings with 16 laps led over 18 career starts for a respectable 16.3 AFP and just two DNFs. Almirola checks in 10th in Driver Rating over the past five outings at Talladega despite leading all active drivers with a 5.0 AFP during the five-race stretch. That's because he tends to hold in the back of the pack and avoid the frontrunners and potential danger of 'The Big One'. He has managed to run just 52.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 over the past five runs, with just one lap led. That one lap led came last fall, which was the last lap.

 Bowyer doesn't register in the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five runs, and that's mainly because most of that stretch was spent handling inferior equipment. He struggled in his first SHR start at Talladega last spring with a 31st-place showing, he was second last fall, just missing his third-career checkered flag at Talladega by a whisker. He has the two wins, seven top-5 finishes and 13 top-10 showings with 110 laps led over 26 career starts, posting 15.6 AFP. That's the fourth-best AFP among active drivers with at least five Cup starts under their belt.

Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (20/1) is always a threat at Talladega, and he leads all active drivers with a 10.6 AFP in 11 career starts, posting a win, five Top 5s, seven Top 10s and 41 laps led, with only two of his finishes coming 20th or lower. The RFR driver has never been lower than 26th at Talladega, and could be quite the valuable selection. Stenhouse has been Top 5 in four of his past five outings at the track.

Watch the stable of Penske Racing Fords this weekend, too, as they had a giant showing in qualifying. Brad Keselowski (8/1)Ryan Blaney (12/1) and Joey Logano (8/1) will all start Row 4 or higher. In fact, Kes and Logano are the co-favorites in this race, according to Vegas. Keselowski was collected in the carnage last season, finishing 33rd and 27th in 2018. However, he has three race wins at Talladega since the fall of 2015, and he is expected to challenge at the front of the pack once the dust clears on Sunday afternoon. Blaney has been rather subpar in nine career Cup starts at 'Dega, managed just two top-10 finishes and an AFP of 21.4. Logano, like Keselowski, has three wins to his credit at the superspeedway. Despite last season's showing, Keselowski still has a 15.7 AFP in 20 career starts at Talladega, while Logano has a 17.1 AFP in 20 starts with 266 laps led. Blaney hasn't had the success of his Penske brethren, rolling to a mediocre 21.4 AFP in nine career starts with two top-10 finishes, five top-20s, 51 laps led and three DNFs. Kes goes off fourth, while Blaney is seventh and right next to Logano on Row 4.

RCR's Daniel Hemric (80/1) was bringing the speed in qualifying, posting a 191.436 mph speed to qualifying fifth. He is the top rookie in the field, but he should be paid close attention due to his long odds, favorable starting spot and good practice and qualifying effort. In his first showing on the superspeedway at Daytona, he went off 29th and ended up 34th, leading just one lap. So despite a solid pre-race showing, his odds are long for a reason.

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman (30/1) and Chase Elliott (15/1) will look to get their race team back to Victory Lane for the first time in 2019. Bowman has never had a lot of success at the track, posting a poor 28.1 AFP in seven career starts with just one finish in the Top 10. That finish was an eighth-place showing last spring, but he also has three DNFs and is a very risky play despite his solid eighth-place starting spot in Sunday's grid. Elliott is the better play, as he has a strong 16.2 AFP in six career starts with two top-5 finishes, four top-20 showings and 62 laps led. He has posted an 89.4 Driver Rating over the past five races.

Other notables including the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing. Kyle Busch (12/1)Denny Hamlin (15/1)Martin Truex Jr. (18/1) and Erik Jones (30/1) didn't have a great time during qualification. Busch limped home with a best speed of just 189.275 mph, and he will go off 22nd on Sunday. MTJ managed a 189.691 mph best speed to lead their JGR pack at 20th. Jones, who has had his struggles in his first few Cup races, didn't look comfortable in qualifying. He was at 188.426 mph for his best speed, ending up in the 27th spot in Sunday's grid. In his four Cup races he has a dismal 29.0 AFP, crashing out three times. When he did make it through escaping 'The Big One', he ended up eighth in last season's fall race.

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