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Ty Dillon
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Fantasy Live: 1000Bulbs.com 500

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 9, 2019, 4:08 pm ET

Welcome to the wild side.

In terms of sheer unpredictability and chaos, nothing matches Talladega Superspeedway. Add in the facts that this is a playoff race with the chance to automatically advance to the next round, that three drivers had catastrophic outings at Dover International Speedway last week, and that two dozen non-playoff drivers are looking to make a point – and, well it’s time to get your lucky quarter and start flipping.

Non-playoff drivers have won this race more often than any other. One third of the 15 playoff races have been won by a driver who was not in contention for the Cup and that is going to give hope to the drivers outside the top 12 in points. The bad news is that all of those wins came in the first 10 years of this format with Jamie McMurray being the last ‘also-ran’ to win.

Since NASCAR implemented the knockout format five drivers have won a playoff race when they were not in contention; all of them were former challengers. The original 16 have the best chance at winning this week and they make up the list of favorites.


Playoff: Joey Logano
Logano has performed well in clutch situations at Talladega in the past. As a playoff contender, he won in 2015 and 2016. After failing to make the playoffs in 2017, he provided a valuable assist (a euphemism for blocking, according to his rivals) to his teammate Brad Keselowski who needed to win and advance. Logano finished fourth in that race, won the following spring at Talladega, and rattled off two more top-fives in his last two attempts. Streaks are hard to create and even more difficult to maintain, but Logano has shown a knack for staying out of trouble on this track in recent years.

Playoff: Brad Keselowski
This is a good week to bet the Team Penske ticket. Look for Logano, Ryan Blaney, and Brad Keselowski to try and protect one another in the draft and if they get an opportunity the go nose-to-tail with another few Fords, they will not hesitate. Last year was disastrous for Keselowski at Talladega, but he still has the distinction of being the winningest active driver on this track with five trophies gracing his mantel. Two of those came in the fall race (2014 and 2017) along with one spring victory (2016).

Non-Playoff: Aric Almirola
If Logano’s four-race, top-five streak is impressive, Almirola’s six-race, top-10 streak is staggering. In the current era of racing, it is just too difficult to keep all four fenders intact. In fact, two of those races ended with some damage to Almirola’s car, but he tucked into the draft and finished well. Last year Almirola got the win in the 1000Bulbs.com 500 and secured his spot in the next round. This year he’s on the outside looking in, but he would love to play the role of spoiler.

Non-Playoff: Ryan Newman
For all his reputation as a hard-nosed driver, Newman holds a steady wheel in the draft. He finished 25th in last year’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 and was 14th this February in the Daytona 500, but those are the only two times in his last nine attempts on the two races that he failed to score a top-10. Newman has not yet won at Talladega, but he came one position short behind Keselowski in 2017. Talladega is a good place to have a reputation as being hard to pass.

Garage Pick

Playoff: Chase Elliott
Seven points below the cutline, Elliott is not in a must-win situation but he cannot afford to have a bad run this week. That puts him in the same ballpark as Logano and it may just encourage him to find a nice, safe place to run – if such a thing actually exists at Talladega. Elliott has been crash prone on the former plate tracks, but he has been a little better at Talladega than Daytona. His victory this spring gives him confidence. So does a fifth-place finish in 2016 and a third last year. Unfortunately, he has not been as productive in the Fall with four results outside the top 10.

Non-Playoff: Ty Dillon
Dillon’s best race at Talladega didn’t even count. Taking over for an injured Tony Stewart, who started the 2016 Geico 500 in order to earn the points, Dillon raced the entire event, stayed out of trouble, and finished sixth. Since points he has been earning his own points, Ty has not broken back into the top 10, but he’s finished worse than 15th only once and has an average finish of 14.2 in five races. Consistency is exactly what one is looking for in a garage pick.

Red Flag

Kyle Busch
Busch finished sixth last week at Dover, but he made things hard on himself. The No. 18 was caught speeding on pit road, so Busch spent most of the final segment trying to overcome his mistake. It is the latest in a string of unforced errors. If he makes another in the 1000Bulbs.com 500, he could not only eliminate himself from the race, but take half the field with him.  

Stage Wins This Year
Kyle Busch (11), Joey Logano (9), Martin Truex Jr. (6), Kevin Harvick (5), Chase Elliott (5), Kyle Larson (5), Brad Keselowski (4), Denny Hamlin (4), Kurt Busch (3), Ryan Blaney (2), Austin Dillon (2), Ty Dillon (2), William Byron (1), Aric Almirola (1), and Jimmie Johnson (1).

 

Segment wins and points at Dover
(10 segments to date)

Driver

Segment
Points

Segments
earning
points

Segment
Wins

Kevin Harvick

70

9

4

Martin Truex Jr.

60

8

3

Kyle Busch

58

10

 

Brad Keselowski

51

8

1

Chase Elliott

46

9

 

Kyle Larson

42

6

1

Jimmie Johnson

31

5

 

Joey Logano

29

5

1

Clint Bowyer

29

6

 

Ryan Blaney

15

5

 

Matt Kenseth

15

2

 

Kurt Busch

14

3

 

Daniel Suarez

13

3

 

Alex Bowman

13

2

 

Denny Hamlin

9

3

 

Erik Jones

8

4

 

Aric Almirola

8

2

 

Paul Menard

7

2

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

7

1

 

Kasey Kahne

6

2

 

Danica Patrick

6

1

 

William Byron

5

1

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

4

1

 

David Ragan

2

1

 

Jamie McMurray

2

1

 

 

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.