Congratulations to Kyle Larson on winning his first race of the season and in so doing he cemented his spot in the third round of the playoffs. That leaves seven spots open to the other eleven qualified drivers to go after. Chase Elliott and Joey Logano both had poor results in the first race of the second round and will have to make some noise in the next two weeks if they want to advance.
This week the drivers will head to the Talladega Superspeedway for the wild card race of the whole playoffs. This restrictor plate track can be redemption for some and could very well be the end of the road for some of the other drivers because of the potential for a big wreck to happen as all of the cars are going to be running in one big pack. One mistake by a single driver can take out a third of the field or more. Trying to stay out of trouble early in this race will be on the minds of most of the playoff drivers for sure.
Aric Almirola: Even though he has been eliminated from the playoffs I am picking Aric to win the race at Talladega. He has seven top ten finishes in his last ten restrictor plate races including a win in this race last year. He might just try to help one of his teammates with drafting and get them to victory lane, but if they aren’t around him he will go with whoever can get him to the finish line first. He has nothing to lose here this week.
Joey Logano: Joey won the race here last spring and is another driver with seven top ten finishes in his last eleven restrictor plate races. The difference with him and Aric is that Joey needs to be a little more cautious in this race because he can still point his way into the third round. What he can’t afford is another poor finish in this race which could mean that he would have to win at Kansas to advance in the last race of the second round.
Ryan Newman: Ryan is another driver that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and now has nothing to lose. He has also finished in the top ten in seven of his last eleven restrictor plate points races. He doesn’t have a teammate that is in the playoffs, but he could try to help out the Penske or Stewart-Haas drivers seeing they are running for the same manufacturer. I just see him finding someone he drafts well with and working with them no matter who they are.
Chase Elliott: Chase won the race here in April and really needs a great finish or maybe even a win this week to continue his quest for his first championship in this series. He has better finishes in the spring than he does in the fall here, but that all goes out the window and he will focus on nothing less than going to victory lane this week and sweep the season races at Talladega.
Paul Menard: Paul is someone who usually runs well at this type of track and you don’t really want to use your starts on the top drivers at a restrictor plate track because of that big wreck potential we talked about earlier. Paul is a good driver to have on your roster and save those other drivers starts. Remember, Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 with the Wood Brothers not too long ago and Paul could get them another win this week.
Kurt Busch: Another driver with nothing to lose by going for the win this week. Kurt has finished in the top ten in seven of his last ten starts at this track. He has run better at Talladega than he has at Daytona throughout his career but is still looking for his first win here. I probably don’t want to take the chance on him here though because of that big wreck potential again.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: I think Ricky is the wild card in the wild card race. He takes a lot of chances in these races and is out of a job next season. A win here might help him get signed somewhere, but he won’t have a lot of friends on the track if he starts jeopardizing drivers early on. I know there is no love lost between him and Kyle Busch on these types of tracks and other drivers aren’t far behind those feelings either.
Brad Keselowski: With five wins at this track Brad will be considered one of the top contenders heading into the weekend. All of the Penske drivers really work well with each other on this type of track and I don’t see that changing. All three of these drivers are still in contention for the championship yet, but his other two teammates need a little more help right now. The question is, how willing will Brad be to get into the mix early on in this race?
Ryan Blaney: Another of the Penske drivers who needs to have a really good race this weekend if he wants to move to the third round of the playoffs. Ryan always seems to have a fast, good handling car in these races, but always finds some type of trouble late in the races that ruins his finishing position. I think he needs to be patient at the beginning of this race and then start taking his chances later depending on is he can gain any stage points.
David Ragan: David is the dark horse this week. He won here with Front Row Motorsports back in the 2013 season and has finished in the top ten in three of his last five starts at this track. This is one of those races where anyone who starts can win and starting position has no bearing on how you are going to run. Stay out of trouble early and only later in the race make your moves to the front of the field. David has proven he knows how to do this in the past.
DRIVER GROUP GAME FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
Driver Group Game Group A
- Joey Logano
- Brad Keselowski
Driver Group Game Group B
- Aric Almirola
- Ryan Newman
- Paul Menard
- Austin Dillon
Driver Group Game Group C
- David Ragan
- Michael McDowell
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
- Joey Logano
- Brad Keselowski
- Aric Almirola
- Denny Hamlin
- Chase Elliott
Dark Horse: David Ragan
Stay Away From: William Byron
Big 18: Austin Dillon