For the final time in 2019, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will head to a superspeedway. The longest track on the schedule, Talladega, is set to host Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500. Any superspeedway race has the potential to be a wreck-filled, chaotic mess, and with Round 12 of the playoffs in full swing, there is a strong possibility that the championship hopes of several drivers will be decided this weekend.
From a fantasy perspective, I can’t say it enough. You do not need a lineup of big names to post big scores at the superspeedways. In the spring race at Talladega, rookies Ryan Preece and Daniel Hemric delivered Top 5 finishes, Brendan Gaughan cracked the Top 10 and Corey LaJoie finished 11th. You also had Reed Sorenson sneaking into the Top 20.
The rain-shortened July race at Daytona was even crazier. Justin Haley ended up in victory lane for a No. 77 team that can’t stay on the lead lap for a full fuel run most weeks, and LaJoie and Matt Tifft finished in the Top 10. You also had Landon Cassill and J.J. Yeley coming from outside the Top 30 to finish 11th and 12th, respectively.
Yes, a familiar face is probably going to end up in victory lane, but things are wide open after that. Any driver who is able to survive the wrecks and is still running when the checkered flag waves has a chance to deliver a solid finish.
At the very least, make sure you take advantage of the unpredictability to try to steal some strong finishes out of unexpected options in the Driver Group Game while saving valuable starts from the top options in each tier. Sunday’s race is also you best opportunity to gain a lot of ground in Fantasy Live, so don’t be afraid to get creative with your lineups.
1. Joey Logano
Logano has been the safest bet for a strong finish at these chaotic superspeedways. His six Top 5s in the last 10 races are the most in the series, and he has finished in the Top 5 in four straight races at Talladega. Logano has led double-digit laps in all three superspeedway races this season, finishing in the Top 5 in two of them. He will be in my lineup for the Driver Group Game and Fantasy Live.
2. Brad Keselowski
He has endured his share of wrecks at the superspeedways lately, but Keselowski always seems to be at his best at Talladega. His five wins here are the most among active drivers, and he has led laps in his last seven starts here, leading double-digit laps six times and 20-plus laps five times.
3. Denny Hamlin
Since winning the Daytona 500 to open the year, Hamlin has crashed out of the last two superspeedway races. Still, he ranks in the Top 5 in points scored over the last 10 superspeedway races, and his ability to run up front is undeniable. Hamlin has led laps in seven of the 10 races in that span, leading double-digit laps five times.
4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
His aggressive style has led to some wrecks and some angry competitors, but it has also allowed him to score the most points in the series over the last 10 superspeedway races. Stenhouse is also the only driver with multiple wins in that span, and he has led laps in nine of the 10 races, leading double-digit laps six times. His ability to run up front and earn stage points allows him to be a useful fantasy option in most season-long leagues, even if he ends up wrecking before the finish.
5. Kyle Busch
Busch runs hot and cold at the superspeedways, but he’s been on a roll in 2019. He ranks third in points scored across the three races, and his 8.7 average finish is tied for the best in the series. Busch has led multiple laps in all three races, finishing second in the Daytona 500. I recommend saving him for another week in the DGG, but he’s definitely in play as a playoff driver for Fantasy Live.
6. Aric Almirola
Almirola has been one of the most consistent performers at the superspeedways for the last couple of years, and his 11.4 average finish over the last 10 races ranks second in the series. He has finished 11th or better in all but two of his starts in that stretch, and Almirola has two Top 10s in the three superspeedway races this season. Dial him up as a non-playoff option at Fantasy Live.
7. Ryan Newman
He has been on a roll at the superspeedways, cracking the Top 15 in eight of his last 10 starts and piling up a series-best seven Top 10s in that stretch. Newman has finished in the Top 15 in all three of his superspeedway starts since joining Roush Fenway Racing, and I won’t hesitate to use him at Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
8. Kurt Busch
He is an underrated superspeedway option, and over the last 10 races, he actually ranks fourth in points scored. Busch has cracked the Top 10 in two of the three superspeedway races in 2019, and he has a 7.3 average finish in his last three starts at Talladega. He is another driver who deserves plenty of consideration for your non-playoff spot at Fantasy Live.
9. Alex Bowman
Bowman was the runner-up at Talladega in the spring, and he has scored a series-high 113 driver points in the three superspeedway races in 2019. In seven superspeedway starts in the No. 88, Bowman has compiled a solid 14.6 average finish, logging four finishes of 11th or better.
10. Erik Jones
After a rocky start at the superspeedways, Jones has notched three Top 10s in his last five starts, including a win at Daytona last July. He’s too valuable overall to use as a Group B option in the Driver Group Game this weekend, but Jones is definitely in play as a non-playoff option for Fantasy Live.
11. Chase Elliott
He is going for a season sweep at Talladega, but Elliott has been a boom-or-bust option at the superspeedways. He has crashed out of six of the last 10 superspeedway races, but he has also led laps in six races in that stretch, finishing in the Top 3 in two of his last three starts at Talladega.
12. Jimmie Johnson
He has run hot and cold at the superspeedways throughout his career, but Johnson is in the middle of a solid stretch, and Hendrick Motorsports seems to have good speed as an organization at these tracks right now. For his part, Johnson has cracked the Top 10 in three of his last four superspeedway starts. I’d probably save him in the DGG, but he is once again a solid non-playoff option at Fantasy Live.
13. Paul Menard
He has always been an underrated superspeedway driver, and Menard actually ranks seventh in points scored over the last 10 races, posting a 15.8 average finish. He has also finished 16th or better in five of his last six starts at Talladega. Feel free to use him as a Group B option in the DGG this weekend to save a start from a bigger name.
14. Ty Dillon
The numbers don’t lie, and Dillon just seems to get the job done at the superspeedways. In the last 10 races, he has scored the sixth-most points, and his 14.2 average finish in that span ranks third in the series. Dillon has only finished worse than 17th once in those same 10 starts, finishing sixth or better in three of his last five. He’s my top Group C option for the Driver Group Game this weekend.
15. Ryan Blaney
Blaney has developed the unfortunate habit of failing to get his fast cars to the finish at these superspeedway races. His 178 laps led over the last 10 races are the second most in the series, but he has 25.9 average finish in that same stretch. Blaney has led laps in all three superspeedway races this year, but he has finished outside the Top 10 in all of them and outside the Top 30 twice. He is an all-or-nothing, GPP-only option for the DFS sites this weekend.
16. Austin Dillon
Dillon seems to stay out of trouble more than most at the superspeedways, and he has finished 17th or better in five of his last seven starts. Granted, he has been better at Daytona than Talladega historically, but he still has some sleeper appeal in season-long formats.
17. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has been in a horrible slump at the superspeedways, finishing 20th or worse in nine of his last 10 starts and outside the Top 25 in four straight. He has a 25.1 average finish in that span, and while he has led his share of laps, Harvick is a shot-in-the-dark DFS play this weekend.
18. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer was the runner-up at Talladega last fall, and he is also a former winner at the track. Unfortunately, he has finished 20th or worse in all three superspeedway races this season and in six of the last eight overall. Bowyer is a roll-of-the-dice option this weekend, better suited for DFS contests than season-long leagues.
19. Ryan Preece
Preece only has three superspeedway starts under his belt, but with an eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500 and a third-place run at Talladega in the spring, you have to be intrigued by his upside. I like him as a Group C option for the Driver Group Game, and he could also be a non-playoff sleeper for Fantasy Live.
20. Kyle Larson
He is the only playoff contender who doesn’t have to worry about Sunday’s race, but that doesn’t make his superspeedway numbers any more appealing to fantasy owners. Larson has made 25 starts between Daytona and Talladega, and he has never recorded a Top 5. Meanwhile, his average finish sits outside the Top 20 at both tracks. There’s just not enough upside to grab my attention.
21. Chris Buescher
Buescher has quietly been a useful fantasy option at the superspeedways, especially in DFS contests. He has finished 17th or better in seven of his last 10 starts, compiling a 16.8 average finish. In that same span, he has gained double-digit spots six times and at least five spots eight times.
22. William Byron
The good news is that Byron was the runner-up at Daytona in July. The bad news is that he has finished 20th or worse in his other six superspeedway starts. I expect the Hendrick Motorsports cars to try to work together this weekend, but Byron is still a high-risk, high-reward option that I’m only considering for DFS contests.
23. David Ragan
Ragan is a former winner at both Daytona and Talladega, and his upside alone makes him worth considering as a Group C option for the DGG. Yes, he has finished outside the Top 20 in his last four superspeedway starts, but he also has five Top 15s in his last 10 starts. This is a chance to steal a solid finish out of Ragan.
24. Matt DiBenedetto
He managed a couple of surprise runs at the superspeedways in his career, and the trend has continued for him with the No. 95 bunch this season. DiBenedetto led a race-high 49 laps in the Daytona 500, led again at Talladega in the spring and finished in the Top 10 in the July race at Daytona. I think he is too valuable to risk using in the Driver Group Game, but he could help you out in other formats.
25. Daniel Hemric
Richard Childress Racing has traditionally had one of the stronger superspeedway programs, so it isn’t a shock to see Hemric have some success. He delivered a Top 5 finish at Talladega in the spring, and he notched a Top 20 finish at Daytona in July. Hemric has some sleeper potential this weekend.
26. Martin Truex Jr.
Other than a near-win in the July race at Daytona last year, the superspeedways have been an Achilles’ heel for Truex. He has a 23.8 average finish in the last 10 races alone, finishing 18th or worse nine times in that stretch. In 58 career superspeedways starts, Truex has managed just four Top 5 finishes.
27. Bubba Wallace
He has done a solid job at avoiding major trouble more often than not at the superspeedways, and in eight starts, he has six Top 20s to go with a 19.8 average finish. Wallace could be a useful Group C sleeper for the DGG this weekend.
28. Corey LaJoie
In three superspeedway starts for the No. 32 team, LaJoie has posted an 11.7 average finish while gaining an average of 21.0 spots per race. LaJoie has gained at least 14 spots in all of those starts gaining 25 spots and finishing 11th at Talladega in the spring. Needless to say, LaJoie could have some serious DFS appeal this weekend.
29. Michael McDowell
McDowell has been surprisingly strong at Daytona recently, cracking the Top 15 in four of his last five starts and logging three Top 10s. However, the success has not translated to Talladega where he has finished 30th or worse in five straight starts and dead last in the two most recent races here. McDowell clearly has speed at the superspeedways, but you are taking a big risk if you trust him this weekend.
30. Daniel Suarez
Suarez has a 23.4 average finish in his last 10 superspeedway starts, and with just one Top 10 and two Top 15s at the superspeedways in general, the lack of upside is apparent. If I am taking a chance on a sleeper this weekend, it is probably going to be on a driver who has shown a higher ceiling.