NASCAR Barometer: Logano’s Commanding Talladega Win

NASCAR Barometer: Logano’s Commanding Talladega Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

It was more than a year in the making, but Joey Logano returned to Victory Lane in Sunday's GEICO 500 after running up front the entire race. He was in firm command of the race for the final laps, and successfully prevented the rest of the field from mounting any serious challenge to his dominance on his way to victory. The win is his first of the season and allays his fears of potentially missing the playoffs for a consecutive season.

Sunday's race featured two signature Talladega Superspeedway multicar crashes, one of which took out Logano's teammate Brad Keselowski. In the end, the lead-lap cars just couldn't do enough to make a challenge for the lead, and that was all Logano needed to triumph. The series has to shift gears again this week for yet another completely different circuit in Dover International Speedway. The concrete surface and high banks make for fast and hard racing. Jimmie Johnson has been the man to beat at the track, and he will be this week's defending champion.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano – Logano spent a significant amount of time running up front at Talladega and watched his mirror in the final laps as no one behind him could gather enough momentum to make a move during his waltz to his first win in more than a year. Ever since the team was slapped with an encumbered win last season they haven't had their swagger and strength, but all that returned on Sunday as he

It was more than a year in the making, but Joey Logano returned to Victory Lane in Sunday's GEICO 500 after running up front the entire race. He was in firm command of the race for the final laps, and successfully prevented the rest of the field from mounting any serious challenge to his dominance on his way to victory. The win is his first of the season and allays his fears of potentially missing the playoffs for a consecutive season.

Sunday's race featured two signature Talladega Superspeedway multicar crashes, one of which took out Logano's teammate Brad Keselowski. In the end, the lead-lap cars just couldn't do enough to make a challenge for the lead, and that was all Logano needed to triumph. The series has to shift gears again this week for yet another completely different circuit in Dover International Speedway. The concrete surface and high banks make for fast and hard racing. Jimmie Johnson has been the man to beat at the track, and he will be this week's defending champion.

UPGRADE

Joey Logano – Logano spent a significant amount of time running up front at Talladega and watched his mirror in the final laps as no one behind him could gather enough momentum to make a move during his waltz to his first win in more than a year. Ever since the team was slapped with an encumbered win last season they haven't had their swagger and strength, but all that returned on Sunday as he was the dominant driver throughout the 500 miles at Talladega. Assuming no major penalties arise from post-race inspection, the monkey should be considered to be off of his back. He should also be a good fantasy play for this week's race, too. In 18 career Dover starts he has 10 top-10 finishes.

Kurt Busch – There are few drivers who can be considered a confident play at either Talladega or Daytona, but Busch is clearly one of them. He is one of the best racers in the draft, and showed he can lead as well as push with his Daytona 500 victory. He was in the supporter's role late in Sunday's race when he made a quick move to overtake teammate Kevin Harvick to finish as runner-up at Talladega, his best finish at the circuit. That result was his first top-five of the year and leaves him in position to qualify for the playoffs. He has one Dover victory from 2011. He only has one top-five in his last five visits but will be riding the boost of Sunday's top finish.

Aric Almirola – Almirola demonstrated again why he should always be a consideration for fantasy rosters at a restrictor-plate circuit. The Stewart Haas Racing driver started last in the field, avoided the crashes and put himself among the lead pack in the closing laps of the GEICO 500. He was less than one lap away from winning February's Daytona 500 and has his only career Cup series win on a restrictor-plate circuit as well. His finishes have been better on nearly every type of track since joining this team, too. At Dover he has two top-fives and three top-10s from 11 career starts, and fantasy owners should expect him to have another shot at a top-10 there, too.

Chase Elliott – Ever in search of a top run, Elliott found one Sunday at Talladega. The Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet cars were never the favorites, but the team started to show some strength late in Sunday's race. Elliott was part of that turn in performance and wound up being the highest-place teammate in third position. In fact, he was the only non-Ford driver in the top seven finishers. Elliott could keep the ball rolling this week at Dover, too. In four career starts at the track he has yet to finish worse than fifth. That is an impressive run for a young driver, and shows he has what it takes to get the job done and perhaps score his first series win.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski grabbed his fourth stage victory of the season in the first segment of Sunday's GEICO 500, and was an ever-present fixture among the top runners all afternoon. He was racing to support teammate Joey Logano art the front of the field before being shuffled deep into the top 20 just before the second multi-car crash of the afternoon unfolded. Keselowski almost worked his way through that melee, but couldn't avoid slowing teammate Ryan Blaney directly in front of him. That was enough to end his promising race. His quest for his first win of the season will continue this week in Delaware. Keselowski has one Dover victory, and he led 39 laps there last fall on his way to a 10th-place finish.

DOWNGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex was clipped by Trevor Bayne coming off of the second turn in the second stage of Sunday's GEICO 500, turning him into a spin and the inside wall. Truex was an innocent bystander in the wreck but suffered the worst Talladega has to offer as a result. Unlike others caught in the same wreck, Truex was able to make repairs and return to the race. That helped since there was one more multicar incident to come, and that allowed the No. 78 to move back up to the 26th-place finishing position. That was disappointing, but Truex does have two Dover wins, though. He hasn't started or finished outside of the top five there in the last three races, either.

Trevor Bayne – Bayne's week started on the worst possible foot even before arriving at Talladega to begin the weekend. Roush Fenway Racing announced that Bayne would be sharing driving responsibilities with Matt Kenseth for the remainder of the season. In effect, Bayne was fired. Things got even worse in the middle of Sunday's race when he was part of the first multicar wreck of the afternoon. Sunday's race should have been his opportunity to stake a claim to his ride, but instead he gave up one of his best chances of retaining it. Kenseth will take over in Kansas, and it remains to be seen when or how many more races we'll see Bayne behind the wheel in 2018.

Erik Jones – Jones also was caught up in the first multicar crash on Sunday afternoon. While the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas weren't the favorites on Sunday, it was still an opportunity for Jones to put his restrictor-plate racing talent on display. He didn't get that opportunity after sparking the early accident. Damage from the incident left the team no chance to return to the track, and he was classified in 39th position for the afternoon. Jones was also in a crash at Dover last spring. He finished 15th in that outing and came back to finish 12th in the fall race. This team needs to capitalize on their speed and avoid mistakes to truly begin delivering fantasy value.

Denny Hamlin – Despite running within a shot of the lead, Hamlin racked up consecutive speeding penalties on pit road. The initial infraction was on a green flag stop, and then he fell afoul of the speed limit again while serving that penalty. He was well out of contention after that, and then only had to hope cautions and attrition fell his way with less than 50 laps remaining. Those things happened, and he was back on the lead lap with a shot at the win despite the incredible mistakes, ultimately coming home in 14th wondering what might have been. Hamlin has never won at Dover and only has three top-fives from 24 career starts. Before finishing 35th due to a mechanical issue last fall he had three consecutive top-10s at the track, though.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Paul Menard – Menard held off Joey Logano to score the first stage victory of his career in the second segment of Sunday's race at Talladega. He was also back at the sharp end of the field as laps were winding down but ended up right in the thick of the second big accident of the afternoon. The crash ruined an otherwise great outing for the team continuing to search for traction. The veteran driver hasn't found instant success with Wood Brothers Racing, but there have been flashes of potential at times. Last week's stage win, and legitimate run at the front, will give them something from which to build. Menard has three Dover top-10s in 21 career starts and crashed out of last spring's race.

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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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