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NASCAR Fantasy Cheat Sheet

Geico 500 Cheat Sheet

by Dan Beaver

Talladega Superspeedway has always been a wild card. And despite NASCAR’s new rules package that is supposed to encourage maneuverability and throttle response, that is unlikely to change. Fans seem to love the multi-car draft and the impending threat of a 'Big One' crash. NASCAR has heard them and is continually looking to add excitement to the races.

Unfortunately for fantasy players, excitement is often synonymous with chaos. There is really no way to accurately predict the finishing order of drivers for the Geico 500. 'Big One' accidents are only part of the issue because even the most experienced driver can get shuffled out of the draft at the wrong time and drop from the top five to outside the top 20.

The closest comparative to Talladega has always been Daytona International Speedway. Even though NASCAR is not using the same type of restrictor-plate they have utilized in the past, we will continue to think of these as plate tracks because the tapered spacer is going to act in much the same fashion. Until proven different, these two tracks will provide insight into who is going to run well and who will struggle.


1. Joey Logano
Logano has been incredibly lucky and good on the big tracks in recent years. He won this race last year and has five top-fives in the last six races on this track type.

2. Denny Hamlin
In his last six starts on the sister tracks of Talladega and Daytona, Hamlin has bookended two poor results with four top-six efforts including his Daytona 500 win earlier this year.

3. Aric Almirola
Almirola has been incredible at Talladega in the three seasons. He enters this week's Geico 500 with a five-race streak of top-10s there to his credit.

4. Ryan Newman
Once crash prone on the plate tracks, Newman amassed a five-race, top-10 streak in 2017/2018. He was 14th this Spring in the Daytona 500.

5. Alex Bowman
Bowman has been impressive in the last two years on the big tracks with three results of eighth through 11th and a 17th in the last five races.

6. Erik Jones
Once Jones learned how to stay out of trouble on the plate tracks, he surged to the front. His Coke Zero 400 win last year kicked off a three-race top-10 streak on this track type.

7. Jimmie Johnson
Johnson shocked the field when he crossed under the checkers seventh in the 1000Bulbs.com 500 with a rare top-10 last year. He backed that up with another top-10 this Spring in the Daytona 500.

8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse was one of only three drivers to sweep the top 10 at Talladega last year. In fact, he has four top-fives in the last five races there.

9. Austin Dillon
Dillon's victory last Spring in the Daytona 500 is one of two top-10s on plate tracks. Both came in Florida, but he was a respectable 17th at Talladega last Fall.

10. Chris Buescher
Buescher has been consistent and pretty darned stout at Talladega in the last three seasons. His last five attempts have netted an average finish of 17.2 with a best of 11th.

11. Ty Dillon
If one disregards his last two Daytona 500 starts, Dillon has a worst finish of 16th on the plate tracks. He could sneak up on a lot of your competitors this week.

12. Bubba Wallace
Before he crashed and failed to finish the Daytona 500, Wallace had never finished outside the top 20 on this track type.

13. Clint Bowyer
With a little luck, Bowyer will replicate his Fall Talladega efforts from the last two years. He finished second in both of those races, but he has been far less consistent in the remainder of the plate events.

14. Kyle Busch
Busch finished second in the Daytona 500 earlier this year, but that was his first top-five on the plate tracks in the past seven races.

15. Ross Chastain
Chastian's 10th-place finish in this year's Daytona 500 was a marvelous surprise to fans of the dark horse. Last year, he was consistent with three results in the mid- to low-20s on the plate tracks.

16. Paul Menard
Menard was one of the top values on plate tracks in 2017 with a worst result of 12th and three top-10s. Last year, he earned two top-10s, but finished outside the top 25 in the other two races. He was 29th this year in the Daytona 500.

17. Kurt Busch
Busch has a reputation for running well on this type of track and he came up one spot short of Logano in last year's Geico 500. Three of his last five efforts on the track type ended outside the top 25, however.

18. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex earned his first short track victory at Richmond. Now he's gunning for his first win on this track type. He has only four top-fives in 56 races at Talladega and Daytona, though, so that is probably not going to happen this week.

19. Kyle Larson
Since finishing seventh at Daytona to kick off the season, Larson has faded badly. This is not a track on which a driver wants to come in desperate need of a strong run.

20. Kevin Harvick
Yes, Harvick finished fourth in this race last year, but that is his only top-15 on the plate tracks in the last three seasons. Save him for a more predictable circuit.

21. Matt DiBenedetto
The big tracks are often very kind to dark horses.  DiBenedetto finished seventh under the lights at Daytona last Summer.

22. Michael McDowell
McDowell's last two Daytona 500 attempts ended in top-10s. He knows how to race on this track type, but finished outside the top 25 in five of the last eight races.

23. Brendan Gaughan
After finishing 28th last Spring in the Daytona 500, Gaughan improved into the low- to mid-20s for the remainder of the races on the big tracks.

24. Landon Cassill
Cassill has been very consistent in his last three starts on this track type with results of 22nd and 24th. If you need a dependable dark horse, he should be on your radar.

25. Chase Elliott
Elliott has managed to score a top-10 only twice on this track type in 13 previous starts. He has also lost place-differential points in 11 of those 13 races.

26. David Ragan
Ragan had a three-race, top-10 streak going at Talladega before he sustained crash damage in last Fall's 1000Bulbs.com 500.

27. Ryan Blaney
In 2017 and 2018, Blaney got off to a strong start with top-10s in the season-opening race at Daytona, but he failed crack the top 15 on a plate track later in both years. In 2019, he was only 31st in the 500.

28. William Byron
Byron's last two attempts on this type of track have shown a lot of promise with a 20th last Fall at Talladega and a 21st this Spring in Daytona.

29. Parker Kligerman
If Kligerman can stay out of trouble, he could be one of the most pleasant surprises in the Geico 500 - just like he was with a 15th in the Daytona 500.

30. Daniel Suarez
In the last two seasons, Suarez has been better at Talladega than Daytona. He's finished 10th and 16th in Alabama, but failed to crack the top 30 in Florida.

31. Ryan Preece
Fantasy players need to wonder if Preece used up all of his luck at Daytona this year when he finished eighth in the Great American Race.

32. Brad Keselowski
After winning the 2017 Fall Talladega race, Keselowski struggled on the plate tracks through all of 2018. He failed to crack the top 25 a single time. He rebounded slightly this Spring with a 12th in the Daytona 500.

33. Corey LaJoie
LaJoie was a pleasant surprise at Daytona this Spring with an 18th-place finish. Last year, he was not as fortunate with a best of 31st on the big tracks.

34. Daniel Hemric
Rookies don't tend to fare well in big drafting packs because the veterans have too many tricks to shuffle them out of line. Hemric was 34th in this year's Daytona 500.

35. Matt Tifft
Tifft got a lot of experience this Spring in the Daytona 500, but an accident 10 laps short of the scheduled distance kept him from seeing the checkered flag.

36. Reed Sorenson
Sorenson made one start on this track type last year. He finished 37th in the Geico 500 after retiring with suspension damage on Lap 79.

37. Jeffrey Earnhardt
In the Gaunt Bros.' car last year, Earnhardt finished 37th in the Fall 'Dega duel. That's about what is expected of him again this year.

38. Stanton Barrett
After a 10-year hiatus, Barrett was behind the wheel of Rick Ware's No. 51 last Fall on the Charlotte Roval. He crashed 11 laps into that race and will have to watch for spinning cars again at Talladega.

39. Justin Haley
It's anyone's guess as to how Haley will perform in his Cup debut, but if he stays out of trouble he will move up via attrition and probably get another ride in this car later in the year.

40. Cody Ware
Ware is listed as the driver of the No. 51 this week, but this team has swapped out pilots at the last minute a few times this year. No matter who is behind the wheel, look for them to ride conservatively and simply try to finish.

 

Drivers Most Accurately
Predicted This Year

Driver

Avg.
Difference

Times
Within 3

 

Denny Hamlin

2.7

7

Matt Tifft

3.1

7

David Ragan

3.2

5

Landon Cassill

3.4

6

Kyle Busch

3.8

5

Austin Dillon

4.1

3

Martin Truex Jr.

4.7

3

Ross Chastain

5.1

5

Corey LaJoie

5.1

3

Kevin Harvick

5.2

5

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 15 years with a little help from his >600,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.