It is hard to say “Talladega” and not think about the Eric Church song with the same name. It is also hard to think about Talladega and not imagine carnage, chaos, and an exciting race at the superspeedway down in Alabama. That will be the site of this week’s Geico 500.
We had another surprise winner last week in Alex Bowman, so another playoff spot has been claimed by a different driver. Through nine races, we have eight winners. Martin Truex Jr. is the only repeat winner and he was right there to possibly win last week at Richmond, but it wound up going to a Chevy driver, which was maybe the bigger surprise.
This week, nothing will surprise. That’s just the nature of the beast at Talladega. We’ll break it down with odds from DraftKings Sportsbook for Sunday afternoon’s Geico 500.
This is what most people refer to as a restrictor plate race. A tailored spacer on the engine cuts down on the horsepower in the interest of safety on the enormous 2.66-mile asphalt track. This is a twice-a-year stop for the Cup Series. The next race will come during the playoffs.
“‘Dega” is known for “The Big One”, which is a crash that takes out a big portion of the field. The cars are bunched up for racing because of the modifications made to the vehicles. Because speeds still manage to get quite high with the long straightaways, a lot of rubbing and bumper-riding takes place at this track. As a result, drivers get into wrecks and there is a lot of collateral damage.
How They Stand
Denny Hamlin still has a clear lead in points, but cannot find that win. He led the most laps and won the first two stages last weekend at Richmond, but is still winless. Even without a dub, his 434 points are far and away the most of any driver. His 139 stage points are more than 40 higher than anybody else.
Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, William Byron, and Ryan Blaney, who won the spring race here last year, round out the top five in points. All five drivers have a win.
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Christopher Bell make up the rest of the top 10. Harvick and Elliott are also winless.
Who Has Had Success at Talladega?
With two stops per year, a lot of drivers have a lot of experience at Dega. Harvick and Kurt Busch lead the way with 40 career starts at Talladega. Ryan Newman has 38. Among active drivers, the Team Penske teammates of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have done the best. Keselowski has five wins to his name and Logano has three. Logano is the second favorite on the board at DraftKings at +900. Keselowski is actually the co-fourth choice at +1100.
Hamlin’s nine top-five finishes are the most and he is the favorite this week at +800. His level of consistency this season has been unmatched and he’s a deserving favorite. He’s also run well at Daytona in a similar sort of setup, which is sure to be impacting his price.
Who Has Had Recent Success at Talladega?
Chase Elliott tops this list. The youngster only has 10 starts at Talladega, but has a win, four top-five finishes, and five top-10 finishes. He’s been terrific in plate races overall and should be no different this week at +1100. When he’s been able to finish on the lead lap, he’s been quite successful.
Logano’s 343 points over the last 10 races are the most of any driver. He also has two wins. So does Ryan Blaney, who could be the pick this week at +1000. You’d probably like to move down the board a little with the unpredictability of this event, but he’s also a guy that has run very well here and you cannot discount the guys that are able to stay above the fray in these plate races.
Another Ford driver, Aric Almirola, has done very well here also and actually has the highest average finish of any driver in the last 10 races at Dega. He’s +1600, so his successes are very much reflected in the price, but this has been a kind track to him with five top-five finishes and eight top-10 results.
Picks & Handicap
Chase Elliott doesn’t have a win yet and he’s been very inconsistent with his finishes, but Elliott in plate races is always going to be a bet with a solid rationale. He likes these and does well with them.
You also have to put a Ford in the mix because the Fords have done so well here. Keselowski at +1100 seems like a safer play than Almirola at +1600, especially considering Keselowski has run pretty well overall this season and Almirola has zero top-five finishes.
The Geico 500 will be on Sunday April 25 with a 2 p.m. ET start time on Fox.