NASCAR Barometer: Chastain Wins at Talladega

NASCAR Barometer: Chastain Wins at Talladega

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Talladega Superspeedway lived up to its reputation in Sunday's GEICO 500. The race was tense throughout and left many drivers on the sidelines through multicar accidents. The finish came down to the final lap with a number of drivers in striking distance of the lead, but Ross Chastain outlasted all of them, making the right call to hug the inside lane and sneak through to win by a 10th of a second over runner-up Austin Dillon. The win was the second of the season for Chastain, who joins William Byron as the only drivers to have earned multiple wins so far this season. With eight different winners, Chastain's victory leaves eight playoff spots open in the standings for non-victors. Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick straddle the cutoff line, separated by just one point as the race for the playoffs continues to take shape.

This week the drivers head to Dover Motor Speedway for the 104th NASCAR Cup Series race at the track. The 1.0-mile concrete oval is one of the toughest tracks on the calendar and often features multicar wrecks just like Talladega. Alex Bowman took the checkered flag there last season and would become just the third driver to win multiple races this season if he repeated that performance this week.

UPGRADE

Ross Chastain – Chastain stuck to the inside line on the final lap Sunday at Talladega to become just the second driver this season to win multiple races. The victory puts Chastain equal on wins with

Talladega Superspeedway lived up to its reputation in Sunday's GEICO 500. The race was tense throughout and left many drivers on the sidelines through multicar accidents. The finish came down to the final lap with a number of drivers in striking distance of the lead, but Ross Chastain outlasted all of them, making the right call to hug the inside lane and sneak through to win by a 10th of a second over runner-up Austin Dillon. The win was the second of the season for Chastain, who joins William Byron as the only drivers to have earned multiple wins so far this season. With eight different winners, Chastain's victory leaves eight playoff spots open in the standings for non-victors. Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick straddle the cutoff line, separated by just one point as the race for the playoffs continues to take shape.

This week the drivers head to Dover Motor Speedway for the 104th NASCAR Cup Series race at the track. The 1.0-mile concrete oval is one of the toughest tracks on the calendar and often features multicar wrecks just like Talladega. Alex Bowman took the checkered flag there last season and would become just the third driver to win multiple races this season if he repeated that performance this week.

UPGRADE

Ross Chastain – Chastain stuck to the inside line on the final lap Sunday at Talladega to become just the second driver this season to win multiple races. The victory puts Chastain equal on wins with William Byron as the two drivers to have won twice so far this season. The win is also the second for the Trackhouse Racing Team in its first season as a fully chartered team. Both Chastain and teammate Daniel Suarez have shown this season that they will be competing for wins on every type of circuit, and that quest will continue this week at Dover. Chastain has made seven career starts at the track but has yet to score a top-10 there. Fantasy players should not worry too much about his past track statistics, though. This season has shown he will be a contender each week.

Bubba Wallace – Wallace grabbed the first stage win Sunday at the track at which he earned his first series victory last season. The 23XI Racing driver lived up to his reputation on superspeedways and raced at the front early Sunday to claim the stage victory that finished under caution. Wallace held himself in contention until the final run to the checkered flag when he was among many drivers who collided battling for the lead. His 17th-place finish was not representative of how well he ran. Wallace has been competitive at times this season but showed Sunday that his best chances at wins will continue to be on the superspeedways. He has seven career starts at Dover with a best finish of 11th. That finish came last season, and he'll be looking for another top-15 this week.

William Byron – Byron led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates at the front in the final miles of the second stage, winning the segment with Hendrick teammates taking the top three positions despite the best efforts of the cars behind to break them apart. The Hendrick teammates continued to race at the front through much of the final segment, but Byron slipped back as chaos broke out off of the final turn leaving him with a 15th-place finish. He led 38 laps total and demonstrated that the Hendrick Chevrolets have closed the gap to Ford's dominance that was evident earlier in the season at Daytona. Byron has two wins so far this season and is one of just two drivers to have multiple victories. He finished fourth in his last two Dover starts and has three top-10s from seven series starts there.

Austin Dillon – Dillon earned his best finish so far with a second-place effort at Talladega. The finish was his second top-five of the season and his second finish of third or better in the last three races after he came home third at Martinsville. In fact, Dillon has been quietly climbing the standings with four top-10s in the last five races. That string of good form has boosted Dillon from 18th in the points prior to Sunday's race to 15th and inside the playoff positions heading to Dover. The new car has been a boost to Richard Childress Racing overall, and a battle is brewing between the two teammates to see who can make it to Victory Lane first. Both should be expected to be top-10 contenders again this week at Dover where Dillon finished 14th last year and has three top-10s from 16 starts.

DOWNGRADE

Tyler Reddick – Reddick's quest for his first series victory will continue after early engine trouble left Reddick on the sidelines Sunday. The Richard Childress Racing driver has been consistently quick each and every week this season with the new generation of car but hasn't had the luck to convert that pace into a victory yet. He has three top-five finishes already this year and was on his way to winning just two weeks ago at Bristol. If the No. 8 team's pace continues throughout the season, they will likely visit Victory Lane and be championship contenders in the playoffs. He'll get another chance to get that long-awaited victory this week at Dover where he has a best finish of eighth, which came last season.

Joey Logano – Logano entered Sunday's race at Talladega as one of the favorites but he faced an early exit when heavy pushing from behind sent him into the outside wall. It was early in the second stage when the chain reaction incident eliminated him and a number of other cars, which is what every driver wants to avoid when racing at Talladega. Logano is still winless in 2022 but continues to look like one of the likely drivers to get one. Dover might be a good spot for him to get that job done, too. He has not won at Dover in 25 starts, but he has finished in the top 10 a total of 15 times, including five of the last six races at the track. He finished fifth there in last year's race.

Brad Keselowski – Two pit road speeding penalties were the undoing of Keselowski's chances to win Sunday. The Ford driver was so strong at Daytona in February that he was expected to have another great chance at winning at Talladega, too. He showed some speed throughout the race, but everything was undone by those mistakes on pit road. He recovered from the first because it happened so early in the race, but the second came with less than 30 laps left to go. After that, the race was out of his hands and he finished a lap down in 23rd position. Keselowski does have one career win at Dover, however. He won the fall race there in 2012 but finished 16th last season, his worst finish there since 2017.

Denny Hamlin – Sunday was another disappointing race for Hamlin. He has a win under his belt, but has largely under-performed expectations through much of the early season. Talladega wasn't that much different either. While his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was seen near the front at times, Hamlin missed out on scoring any stage points through both segments and then apparently ran out of fuel in the final laps of the race. He was able to finish on the lead lap, which salvaged some valuable points, but he wasn't in position to battle for the win with the rest of the contenders after having to visit pit road the lap before. Joe Gibbs Racing is missing some of the punch from prior seasons and has some work to do to get their cars back to the front consistently. 

Austin Cindric - Fantasy players should have seen Daytona 500 champion Cindric as a good value for Sunday's trip to Talladega. The Team Penske rookie not only won at Daytona but also has a great superspeedway record in the Xfinity Series. He and his Penske teammates didn't have the advantage they enjoyed at Daytona in February, but they were still fast enough to be potential winners. That potential came undone for Cindric when he was caught up in a crash on lap 90. While Cindric was able to return to the track and hang onto the draft, his car was too damaged to do anything other than push, and he found himself at the back of the pack for the final miles instead of racing at the front. Despite Sunday's bad luck, Cindric should remain an attractive option for fantasy rosters at superspeedways and road courses.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Erik Jones – Jones had a top-tier performance Sunday, and his Petty GMS Motorsports team. He kept his No. 43 machine among the top runners throughout the 188 lap distance and was out front and in line to take the win in the final yards of the race until he tried to block the run of cars behind, which allowed Chastain to slip through on the inside before the line. Jones was visibly disappointed following the race but can take heart in how competitive he and the team were throughout the afternoon, finishing sixth and taking stage points in both opening segments. While Dover isn't likely to present the same opportunity for a win as Talladega, Jones may still be able to punch above his weight. He finished 22nd there last year and has two top-10s from nine series starts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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