Martin Truex Jr. won his sixth race of the season at Charlotte and booked his ticket to the next round, which is key because the NASCAR Cup series is now heading to Talladega. This is called the wild-card race because the 2.66-mile track is a roll of the dice for every driver. “The Big One” (a multi-car accident) is always right around the corner, especially late in the race when there becomes less giving and more taking than earlier in the race.
Truex Jr. is atop the standings with 3106 points. That’s helped by the six wins and 14 Top five’s that he’s accomplished this year. Kyle Larson is in second place with 3072 points. He has four wins and also has registered 14 Top five’s. There’s only one other driver in the Top five who has multiple wins and that’s Denny Hamlin (two), who is currently in fifth place with 3056 points. While Truex Jr. is in the lead, there are 11 other drivers who are within 100 points of him. Here’s a look at this week’s power rankings.
1. Martin Truex Jr.
Last Week: 1
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: -110
Truex led 91 laps en route to the win at Charlotte and is now the runaway favorite to win the title. He can now go into this race without any worries and that is a good thing because Truex has been awful at Talladega in the past. In 25 career starts here, he has an average finish of 21.0 and he has 11 DNFs. Truex finished 35th here in the spring race, which was won by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He also finished dead last in the fall race here in 2016.
2. Kyle Busch
Last Week: 2
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +240
Busch started fourth last week at Charlotte and finished 29th as he battled issues with heat stroke, and even though he finished third here in the spring, Talladega hasn’t been kind to him. He has an average finish of 20.5 in 24 starts here, although he won the 2008 spring race. Busch is now sixth in the standings after a bad day at Charlotte, and he is going to be reckless this weekend. He surely would rather not go to Kansas next week needing a victory.
3. Kyle Larson
Last Week: 3
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +450
Larson is second in the standings after he finished 10th at Charlotte, and he has done decently at Talladega in his short history. Larson has seven starts here with a finishing average of 19.9, although he did finish sixth here last fall, and then 12th in the spring. Larson’s biggest mission here might simply be to finish the race as he is in a good position right now.
4. Kevin Harvick
Last Week: 5
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +600
Harvick led a race-high 149 laps at Charlotte, but he finished third. He is very good at Talladega with a 15.3 finishing average in 33 starts, although he has just one win here, which came in the spring of 2010. He finished 23rd here in the spring, and that should tell you just how unpredictable Talladega can be.
5. Chase Elliott
Last Week: 8
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +1400
Elliott finished second at Charlotte, his second runner-up finish in a row, and he is now one spot behind Harvick in the standings in fourth place. He doesn’t have much experience at Talladega with just three starts, but he has won a pole here and has an average finish of 15.7.He finished 12th here last fall, but Elliott fell to 30th in the spring.
6. Denny Hamlin
Last Week: 6
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +1400
Hamlin won the pole at Charlotte and led 45 laps, but he finished fourth and sits fifth in the standings. In 23 career starts at Talladega, Hamlin has an average finish of 18.8, which includes a 2014 win in the spring race. He finished third here last fall, then finished 11th here in the spring and led 43 laps along the way.
7. Jimmie Johnson
Last Week: 7
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +1800
Johnson finished seventh at Charlotte and is hanging around at seventh in the standings, and even though he isn’t dominant, Johnson is giving himself a chance and that’s all you can ask for. He has an average finish of 17.0 in 31 starts at Talladega, and both of his wins here have come in the spring in 2006 and 2011. He was 23rd in here in the fall of 2016, and then eighth in the spring.
8. Brad Keselowski
Last Week: 4
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +2000
Keselowski is this week’s big drop as he finished 15th at Charlotte, and he is now 10th in the standings. However, the flip is that he is very good at Talladega with an average finish of 14.9 in 17 starts, which includes four wins. He has won three times in the spring in 2009, 2012 and 2016, and he won the 2014 fall race. Keselowski finished 38th here last fall, and then seventh in the spring. Also, his teammate, Joey Logano, is out of the Cup playoffs, but he has won the last two races here. Look for Keselowski to get a little bit of data from his teammate going into this crucial race.
9. Matt Kenseth
Last Week: 9
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +5000
Kenseth started second at Charlotte, but could only finish 11th to sit ninth in the standings. He heads to Talladega with a decent track record, posting a finishing average of 18.9 in 35 starts, which includes a win in the 2012 fall race. He finished 28th here last fall and then 24th in the spring, and Kenseth might very well need a victory to get to the next round of the playoffs.
10. Ryan Blaney
Last Week: 10
NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Title Odds: +15000
Blaney finished eighth at Charlotte and is 11th in the standings, which still gives him a chance to get to the next round, but he’ll need a big performance at Talladega, where he has an average finish of 21.2 in six starts. He finished 11th in this race last year, and then 39th in the spring because you just don’t know how restrictor-plate races will go, due to drafting and accidents. However, Blaney is playing with house money, so he can just go for it, especially late in the race.
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