NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Talladega in last three seasons

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Streaks are hard to come by on restrictor-plate superspeedways.

Since the 2010 season, 29 of the drivers entered this week have scored 127 top 10s. In those eight seasons, 13 drivers have managed to string together three or more consecutive top 10s. Of those, only four have a streak longer than four straight.

Clint Bowyer has a five-race streak from 2010 through 2012 plus another streak of three consecutive races and a pair of top 10s. And yet his three-year average at Talladega is not enough to include him in the list below.

Brad Keselowski has a three-race streak and a couple of back-to-back top-10 finishes. Keselowski is only 12th best in terms of his three-year average finish.

David Ragan enters the weekend with three top 10s in the past three races and another streak of four in 2012/2013. He also fails to make the list.

That makes this one of the most unpredictable tracks on which NASCAR competes. Setting this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster is going to come down to intuition and luck.

1. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 9.00) Playoff
From fall 2010 through spring 2014, Busch’s best result at Talladega was 18th. He was seventh in the fall 2014 race and has finished worse than 12th only one time in his last eight attempts. Whether he’s been lucky or has found a way to stay out of trouble, he is a solid anchor to this week’s roster.

2. Aric Almirola (three-year average: 10.20) Playoff
One never wants to go to Talladega with their playoff hopes on the line but Almirola could certainly pick a worse place based on his recent performance. With four consecutive top 10s, he has the best active streak. In 2017, he swept the top five. He is 10 points behind the cutoff and needs only a good finish this week to give him a solid chance to advance on his Kansas performance.

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (three-year average: 10.60) Non-Playoff
Stenhouse took a lot of criticism for his performance at Daytona in July. He saw that race as his best opportunity to win and secure a spot in the playoffs and might have been a little too enthusiastic. That should not detract from his fantasy appeal on plate tracks, however; Stenhouse has one win and three top fives in his last four Talladega starts.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 12.60) Playoff
Logano won this spring’s Geico 500 at Talladega on the heels of a fourth-place finish there last fall. Before one gets overly excited about that, however, it should be noted that most of Logano’s results on this track have been feast or famine. Since the beginning of 2012, he has three wins, a fourth, and an 11th. Seven of his remaining eight races in that span ended 25th or worse.

5. Ty Dillon (three-year average: 13.00 in three starts) Non-Playoff
Talladega is filled with dark horse contenders. Dillon has made only three Cup starts on this 2.66-mile track and has swept the top 15. His best effort was one that does not impact his official record. Dillon finished sixth in relief of an injured Tony Stewart in 2016.

5. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 13.00) Non-Playoff
Hamlin has shown consistency during his last four attempts at Talladega. Since fall 2016, he’s swept the top 15 with a best of third and an average of 8.5. He would be much higher on this list if not for a pair of accidents in spring 2016 that cost him 18 laps and relegated him to 31st.

7. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 13.20) Playoff
Elliott enters the weekend as the only driver who knows he will advance to Round 3 of the playoffs. That is good news because plate tracks have not been uniformly kind in the past. He crashed out of the 2017 spring Talladega race and has been running at the end of only two of the five plate races since.

8. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 13.80) Playoff
If these stats belonged to anyone but Harvick, he would be considered a solid value: Since fall 2013, he has earned five top 10s, three more top 15s and had a worst finish of 23rd in 10 races. He has only one top-five finish in that span, however. One expects a lot more from a driver who has dominated much of the season.

9. Daniel Suarez (three-year average: 14.67 in three attempts) Non-Playoff
Young Cup drivers are not supposed to be strong on plate tracks. Conventional wisdom used to be that the veterans didn’t want to draft with them and would find a way to dump them. As young guns became more prevalent in the series, that changed. Suarez has gotten progressively better at Talladega. He finished 19th in the 2017 spring race, was 15th in the fall and 10th this spring.

10. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 15.00) Playoff
Like fellow Big 3 contender Harvick, Busch is less likely to challenge for a top five at Talladega than most tracks. He missed the spring 2015 to injury and since then has scored only two top 10s in six starts. For some reason, the fall races have been particularly unkind. Three of his last four attempts in this race ended outside of the top 25.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Poles can be almost as difficult to predict as race finishes on plate tracks. One driver who has been uniformly strong is Elliott, however. In 11 previous attempts at Talladega and Daytona, he has earned four poles (three at Daytona and one at Talladega) and qualified worse than eighth just one time.

Segment Winners: If picking a race winner is difficult, it’s even more difficult to predict who will be the segment winners. A little guesswork can be taken out of the equation by looking at the average running position, though. The three drivers with the best Talladega average running position as reported by NASCAR Statistical Services are three aggressive young guns. Elliott has an average place of 10.705, William Byron has a 12.460 and Bubba Wallace is third at 13.798.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

NASCAR America: Daytona 500 ‘Turning Point’ came on Stage 2 pit stop

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The moment that set up Denny Hamlin‘s Daytona 500 win on Sunday came on Lap 108, according to NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte.

That’s when Hamlin made a pit stop near the end of Stage 2.

“(Crew chief Chris) Gabehart calls his car to pit road,” Letarte said. “He doesn’t care about stage points. He cares about four fresh tires on a hot, slick Daytona track.”

Then on Lap 122, during the stage break pit stop, Gabehart decided to put only fuel in the No. 11 Toyota when he was 21st.

“On Lap 163 he got 6 seconds of gas, that’s it, no tires,” Letarte said. “That gave him track position (eighth) in front of all of those accidents. The turning points to this race was before Stage 2 even ended.”

Watch the above video for more.

Garrett Smithley in Spire Motorsports car at Atlanta as entry lists released

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Garrett Smithley is listed as the driver of Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Smithley, a native of Peachtree City, Georgia, competes in the Xfinity Series with JD Motorsports and made three Cup starts last year.

Spire purchased Furniture Row Racing’s charter after the team closed at the end of last season. It fielded Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500 in the No. 40 in a partnership of Chip Ganassi Racing.

Quin Houff also will compete for Spire this season.

Click here for the preliminary Cup entry list.

Click here for the preliminary Xfinity entry list.

Click here for the preliminary Truck Series entry list.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Daytona 500 recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps all the action from Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett will discuss all the major storylines from the race that saw Denny Hamlin claim his second 500 win.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

‘Bizarre’ Daytona 500 marks Jamie McMurray’s likely final Cup start

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If Sunday’s Daytona 500 turns out to be Jamie McMurray‘s 583rd and final Cup start, then the race threw all it could at him as a going away present.

McMurray finished 22nd in what the Chip Ganassi Racing driver called a “bizarre” Daytona 500.

The 43-year-old driver had to start his 17th “Great American Race” at the rear due to a rear gear change. By Lap 19 in he was in 19th.

His day was complicated on Lap 50 when he was caught up in a six-car wreck, which damaged his right front fender. With repairs made to his No. 40 Chevrolet, the 2010 Daytona 500 winner continued.

Even with the damage, McMurray managed to navigate his way up to 10th by Lap 84.

He then led the field from Laps 164-169, with just the last two laps under green.

Then chaos reigned.

The final 20 laps saw three multi-car wrecks, but McMurray managed to avoid the ones that caught 21 and seven cars.

“Certainly, a bizarre 500 to have so much green-flag racing and then so many wrecks at the end,” McMurray said. “It’s incredible to me how many times we were able to crash in the last 10 laps. It’s part of it. You were able to get big runs. It seemed like as the sun went down those runs happened more often. When the Daytona 500 is on the line, people are willing to take big risks. They just all waited to the end.”

But McMurray couldn’t avoid the last major wreck. While running eighth he was ensnared in a nine-car melee that resulted in the overtime finish. 

“I’m thrilled I made it as long as I did,” said McMurray. “I made it through two or three wrecks I should have been in and didn’t get torn up. It is just part of it. It is what it is and I’m just thankful I’m safe. This is just one of those places you come to that there are a lot of unknowns and certainly after flipping at Talladega (last April), speedway racing was a little different in my mind.”

McMurray will now transition to an analyst role for Fox Sports.

Should the native of Joplin, Missouri, never make another Cup start, he ends his career with seven wins, 63 top fives and 168 top 10s.

He exits the NASCAR stage after 581 consecutive Cup starts.

Next week’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be the first without McMurray since the Oct. 20, 2002 event at Martinsville Speedway. That was the race after McMurray scored a surprise first career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway driving Ganassi’s No. 40 Dodge in substitution of an injured Sterling Marlin.

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