Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 best at Texas in last three seasons

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The road to Miami runs through Texas.

The top six drivers this week in regard to three-year averages are all playoff eligible. Four of them have a better-than 10th-place average that is going to make it difficult to maximize this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster. Someone will stumble. The question is who.

The answer to that question is often found in practice and qualification on 1.5-milers. It is possible to find speed at the track, but most often it rides along with the car from the shop. Cars that roll off the hauler fast typically remain that way at Texas.

When a player is confused about who to place on their roster, they will want to look at the other 1.5-milers for confirmation. Five drivers (Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson) have earned at least seven top 10s in nine races on this track type in 2018.

Larson is the only driver not represented among the this week’s 10 best at Texas because of back-to-back accidents there last fall and this spring.

1. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.20) Playoff
Drivers want to peak at the right time. Logano brings momentum from last week’s Martinsville win with him to Texas and that is great news for fantasy players who do not want to automatically rely on the Big 3. Logano is one of only two drivers (along with Harvick) who have swept the top 10 in the past three seasons. His worst result in that span of races was seventh last fall.

2. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 4.60) Playoff
Harvick enters the weekend with three consecutive top fives at Texas including a victory last fall. He has an active streak of eight straight top 10s; six of these were top fives. With Logano’s win last week and the possibility that another driver below him in points could win, Harvick actually needs this week’s victory as much as anyone. This spring, he won Stage 1 before finishing second in the race. 

3. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 7.40) Playoff
Elliott had not been good on 1.5-milers this year until his Kansas victory. He started the season with a 10th at Atlanta and had several results in the low teens, but that would not be good enough to make him an acceptable value among playoff eligible drivers this week in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game. It probably is not enough to advance him to the finale either. Elliott needs to win and if he does, he puts remarkable pressure on the Big 3 next week at Phoenix.

4. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 8.20) Playoff
Since 2012, Busch has been an all or nothing driver at Texas. He has finished in the top five eight times and worse than 10th on four occasions. Three of his strong runs ended in victory lane including this spring. He earned the most points that week with a second-place finish in Stage 1 and the Stage 2 win. Like Harvick, he needs to reestablish his dominance if he wants to concentrate on the championship run at Miami. 

5. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 11.00) Playoff
Nearly every week Busch shows up on this list, it is remarked how consistency is what earned the spot. Texas is no exception. He has not scored a top five since 2010, but six of his last eight attempts ended in top 10s. His other two results were a 14th in 2015 and a worst finish of 20th in fall 2016.

6. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 11.20) Playoff
Truex came into the spring Texas race with a six-race, top-10 streak. He was almost certain to add another until he fell victim to a blown tire. He crashed and finished 37th, but that is the only time in the last two seasons that he failed to crack the top 10 on a 1.5-mile track. After getting bumped out of the lead in Turn 4 of the last lap at Martinsville, he is highly motivated to win and advance to Miami in championship form. 

7. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 12.00) Non-Playoff
Can McMurray be the best non-playoff driver this week? It seems unlikely given the season he has had and the struggles faced in his last full year with Chip Ganassi Racing, but he put the No. 1 car on fantasy owners’ radars with top 10s in two of his last three Texas starts and five of the last eight. If he performs well in practice, he deserves a spot in the garage so he can be evaluated in the first two stages.

7. Erik Jones (three-year average: 12.00 in three starts) Non-Playoff
Jones might be this week’s best value in most fantasy games. His first start at Texas came in a pre-rookie warmup in fall 2015; he finished 12th. He was 10th last fall and fourth this spring, showing a steady improvement that could end with him challenging for a win. Jones’ last attempt on a 1.5-mile track also ended in a fourth-place finish at Kansas this fall.

9. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 12.80) Non-Playoff
One could easily vote a straight Team Penske ticket this week with Logano among the playoff eligible plus Brad Keselowski and Blaney among the non-playoff drivers. Blaney finished fifth this spring in his first Texas attempt with the organization. That comes on the heels of a sixth last fall and back-to-back 12th-place finishes in the two preceding races.

10. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 15.20) Non-Playoff
If not for an accident this spring, Keselowski would probably have an average finish that placed him in or on the cusp of the top five. His previous four efforts netted an average of 10.75. The three races before that were all top fives. Keselowski has never won at Texas, but he’s come close with second-place finishes in 2012 and 2015 as well as a third in 2014.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: This is a good week to remember that the pole pick does not need to be a driver that is selected as a race pick. Kurt Busch has sat on the pole in the last two Texas races before slipping outside the top five at the checkers. He also won the pole in spring 2015 the second year he drove for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Segment Winners: It is difficult to discount the Big 3 this week. Select your segment winners from among Harvick, Busch, and Truex with an emphasis on the two who start closest to the front.

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

Rain postpones Cup race at Talladega until Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The Cup Series playoff race at Talladega has been postponed due to rain. The race will resume Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The race was put under a rain delay after the completion of Stage 1.

57 of 188 laps have been completed. The race is not official until the end of Stage 2 (Lap 110).

William Byron won the first stage.

The top 10 is Byron, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”

 

Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega: Start time, lineup and more

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One of the first things Kyle Larson said after winning last weekend at Dover was that “everybody in this playoff field is going to be stressing at Talladega … except me.”

Talladega is here and it’s time for many drivers to stress. Except Larson, of course.

The playoff standings could be jumbled by the time the 500-mile journey at Talladega Superspeedway ends. Who will be collected in a crash? Who will get through the carnage and contend for the win?

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Edward Graham, assistant VP of Operation Christmas Child for Samaritan’s Purse, will give the command to start engines at 1:48 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:03 p.m.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 10 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at noon. Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. The invocation will be given at 1:41 p.m. by Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. The National Anthem will be performed at 1:42 p.m. by the 313th United States Army Band out of Birmingham, Alabama.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500.08 miles) around the 2.66-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 55. Stage 2 ends on Lap 110.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race at 2 p.m. Coverage begins with NASCAR America at 1 p.m. on NBC. Countdown to Green follows at 1:30 p.m. on NBC, leading into race coverage. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING ONLINE: Click here for NBC’s live stream of the race.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts mostly cloudy conditions with a temperature of 68 degrees and a 0% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Chase Elliott led a 1-2-3 Chevrolet sweep in late April, finishing ahead of Alex Bowman and Ryan Preece. Aric Almirola won this playoff race a year ago, giving Ford a 1-2-3 sweep with Clint Bowyer second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third. 

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Jagger Jones, grandson of Parnelli Jones, scores first NASCAR win

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Jagger Jones, the 17-year-old grandson of famed racer Parnelli Jones, scored his first NASCAR victory, taking the checkered flag in Saturday night’s K&N Pro Series West race at All American Speedway in Roseville, California.

In a statement to NBC Sports, the 86-year-old Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500, said of his grandson’s achievement: “I just knew it was a matter of time until Jagger rose to the top and won at this level. I’m very proud of him. Jagger has worked hard on his racing skills this year and continues to improve and learn.

“Not only is Jagger a good driver but he’s a very good student. I’ve been impressed by both Jagger and Jace (his younger brother) – they continue to work hard and balance their driving with their work in the classroom. They’re outstanding young men on and off the track and I’m truly a very proud grandfather. Jagger and his team earned this win after a successful season and hopefully it’s a building block for the future.”

Hailie Deegan, who started on the pole, overcame an early spin and finished second.

This is Jones’ first season in the series. He had finished runner-up twice, scoring those finishes in his first career series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track in March and at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, in June.

Trevor Huddleston placed third Saturday night, points leader Derek Kraus was fourth and Todd Souza was fifth.

Race results