Top Favorites, Betting Trends For Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

TALLADEGA, Ala – Friday was an important day for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams at the Talladega Superspeedway. See, it was the first chance to figure out what these cars are going to do in the draft with this new aero package.

No longer are restrictor plates on these cars. For the first time since 1987, we will have a tapered spacer, not a plate. That made the horsepower rise from 450 to 550. Because of what we saw on Friday, we’ve already seen an adjustment to the aero configuration and gearing on these cars.

So, who’s going to win the unpredictable?

This is a good race to bet on based off the odds alone. Other than that, it’s a difficult one too. Picking a winner on a superspeedway is like picking the correct lottery numbers. It’s hard.

Ford has won the last three spring races in Talladega to go along with the last five races in the fall. They should win, so long as they don’t get in each others way. But, we saw in Daytona, they had intra manufacturer fighting.

Surprise winner?

Each year, we talk about the four annual races at Daytona and Talladega being “wild card” races. But, when it’s all said and done, one of the favorites still lands in victory lane.

Think about it, since 2014, here are the race winners at Talladega.

Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski (2014)

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano (2015)

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano (2016)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski (2017)

Joey Logano, Aric Almiorla (2018)

None of those are real “wild card” winners. Yes, Stenhouse Jr’s win in 2017 could be attributed at the time as one, but he later won the July race in Daytona and has turned into one of the best plate races.

Aric Almirola’s win last year wasn’t because he was already in the playoffs.

Really, the last real “surprise” winner was David Ragan back in 2012. But, in that season, we didn’t have the rules like we have today where you win and you’re into the playoffs. Other than that, just go back to 2004 (postseason rules started) and look at all the spring race winners.

So, if you give me favorites and they have +700 or worse odds, it’s a good race if you can hit.

But, who can you hit on?

Try these drivers.

Favorites

Joey Logano (+750)

Trends say he will win on Sunday. He finished third in Bristol and second at Richmond. 3, 2…1? That’s all possible too. Logano, won this race last year and was fifth in the fall race. Since 2015, in his last 22 plate starts, he has 15 top five finishes with five of which being wins and four more being runner-ups. He’s too good to leave off the table here.

Kyle Busch (+1000)

Busch isn’t known as a plate racer but he does have two top three finishes in his last three spring race starts at Talladega. He won this race in 2008 and also finished runner-up in February’s Daytona 500. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver hasn’t finished worse than 10th all year and was fifth in final practice.

Denny Hamlin (+1000)

Hamlin is a very good plate racer including scoring three wins overall. He won the Daytona 500 and has 15 top 10 finishes in his last 25 plate starts, 13 of which being in the top six.

Aric Almirola (+1400)

This may be the best option for the value. Almirola, is a great plate racer and won the last time the Cup Series drivers were on the track at Talladega. Since 2016, Almirola has finished in the top eight five straight times. Go with Almirola here.

tss1_mencs_kubuschprac_042619
Action during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 26, 2019 in Talladega, Alabama.

Sleepers

Kurt Busch (+1600)

His Daytona 500 didn’t go well, but overall, Busch is a great plate racer. At Talladega, he has five top 10 finishes in his last seven tries. One of the two races he didn’t finish in the top 10 was last Fall where he led 108 laps but had a bad break on a late race caution. Busch, finished runner-up in this race last year and was sixth the year before. Also, he hasn’t finished outside the top 12 since Daytona in February.

Jimmie Johnson (+1800)

Believe it or not, this could be a chance for Johnson’s chance to end a near two year long winless drought. Johnson, is a past winner in Talladega and has two top 10 finishes in his last four starts on the 2.66-mile oval. He won the Clash back in February and if he and Hendrick have the same speed in them like at Daytona, then if luck is on his side, he can win. Also, on the season, Johnson has two top 10 finishes in his last three starts and hasn’t finished worse than 12th in a month.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+2000)

If he’s going to win a race, this is the one. Stenhouse, won this race in 2017 and finished in the top five in both Talladega races a year ago. That has him as arguably one of the more talented plate racers in the game today. He has 11 top 10 finishes in his last 20 overall plate starts including eight top five finishes since 2016.With these odds, go with him as a sleeper.

Erik Jones (+3000)

The odds are favorable. Jones, won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 last July for his lone Cup Series victory. He followed that up with an eighth place run in the Fall race at Talladega. After that, Jones was third in the Daytona 500. Sounds all good right? Well, he was in the top six in both practice session on Friday as well.

Value Picks For Long Shots

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500
TALLADEGA, AL – MAY 07: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fifth Third Bank Ford, leads the field past the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 7, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Matt DiBenedetto (+4000)

This is a high value pick. DiBenedetto was running in the lead group of the final laps of the Daytona 500. Unfortunately, he made a mistake and sparked the Lap 190 melee. Still, he led a race high 49 laps that day. Leavine Family Racing always has a good car on superspeedway’s, so his No. 95 Toyota could be strong again.

Ryan Newman (+4000)

The Roush Fenway Racing driver enters hot. Newman, has three straight top 11 finishes on the season. At superspeedways, Newman also has 10 top 15 finishes in his last 11 tries. His No. 6 Ford will be strong and he has the aggression to get it done.

Chris Buescher (+6600)

Chris Buescher finished 15th and 11th respectively in the two races at Talladega last year and on superspeedways, he’s finished in the top 15 in five of his last seven tries. Definitely a sleeper here, especially with Hendrick engines.

Ryan Preece (+8000)

Believe it or not, JTG Daugherty Racing actually has a good restrictor plate program. Rookie Ryan Preece finished eighth back in February at Daytona and that same No. 47 Chevrolet that was previously driven by AJ Allmendinger scored seven top 10 finishes in its last 10 plate starts. Can’t go wrong here.

Ty Dillon (+10000)

He’s making a milestone start on Sunday to go along with showing some good speed in his No. 13 Chevrolet lately. Also, Dillon has four top 15 finishes at Talladega in as many tries to go along with being sixth in the Daytona 500.

David Ragan (+10000)

Ragan has always been a good plate racer. Both of his victories came on plate tracks and each year, he’s always strong. Three of Ragan’s last four Talladega finishes were in the top 10. From 2012 though 2013, the Georgia native had four straight top 10 finishes as well.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500
TALLADEGA, AL – MAY 07: Cars race during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 7, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Questionable

Brad Keselowski (+750)

He didn’t finish in the top 25 in either race at Talladega last year. In fact, he hasn’t scored a top 10 in his last eight plate starts. But, he does have five wins overall at Talladega though. That’s why he’s questionable.

Kevin Harvick (+1000)

Harvick, wasn’t real strong in Daytona back in February (26th) and has scored just one top five finish at Talladega since the fall of 2011. On the flip side, that top five was in this very race last year (4th). Like Keselowski, he’s a tough one to bet on this weekend but also wouldn’t be shocked if he won.

Clint Bowyer (+1100)

Over the last month, Bowyer hasn’t finished worse than seventh. On plate tracks, he’s typically really good. But, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has just one top five finish at Talladega since 2014. Like Harvick though, that came last year in a second place finish last Fall. Another tough one to figure out.

Chase Elliott (+1400)

Could this be his first win of 2019? Elliott has been feast or famine at Talladega. In the spring race, he has two top five finishes in three tries. In the fall race, he has finishes of 12th, 16th and 31st respectively. So what happens on Sunday?

Paul Menard (+2500)

Menard is always a good plate racer, he just needs to be a tad more aggressive. He was strong in Speedweeks this past February and has scored six top 12 finishes in his last nine plate starts. The problem is, in his last four Talladega starts, he’s finished ninth, 12th, 30th and ninth respectively. That’s why he’s questionable.

Austin Dillon (+3300)

The odds are nice here, especially for a driver who won the 2018 Daytona 500. Also, Dillon hasn’t finished worse than 15th in over a month. But, he also hasn’t scored a top 15 in his last four Talladega starts either. Be weary of this pick here.

Michael McDowell (+10000)

This is a very underrated plate racer. McDowell, finished fifth in the Daytona 500 after being ninth in that very race last year. The problem is, all of plate success has come at Daytona with very minimal luck at Talladega. That’s why he’s questionable here.

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A 5 car draft during Friday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice session at the Talladega Superspeedway

Don’t Touch

Ryan Blaney (+1200)

It would seem like this would be a viable option, but Blaney has just one top five finish in nine Talladega tries. He hasn’t scored a top 10 finish in fact since 2016. On the season, he’s finished outside the top 25 in two of the last three races too.

Martin Truex Jr. (+1600)

Yes, he won on a short track in the last race of the season in Richmond, but I don’t think he gets rid of two demons in-a-row. Truex, has one top five finish at Talladega since 2007 and hasn’t scored a top 10 there since 2015. His last six finishes are 13th, 40th, 35th, 23rd, 26th and 23rd respectively.

Daniel Suarez (+2000)

This isn’t one of Suarez’ better tracks. He’s not the best plate racer. The new Stewart-Haas Racing driver has one top 10 finish (10th) but no top fives in four tries. I just don’t think he wins this weekend.

Alex Bowman (+3000)

I’d like to see Bowman fare well, but I think he’d be a pusher on Sunday and settle for a solid top 10 rather than risking a crash and going for a win. The reason? Bowman sits 21st in the Cup standings and has one top 15 finish in his last six starts on the season. Plus, he’s yet to earn a top 10 this season. Yes, he finished eighth in last year’s spring race but was 33rd in the fall.

Kyle Larson (+3000)

This has not been his season. Larson, has failed to score a top five all year and enters with five straight races of finishing 12th or worse. Plus, at Talladega, he’s never scored a top five before either and has two top 10’s in 10 tries.

William Byron (+4000)

He was fast in Daytona but finished 21st. Byron, also has just one top 10 all season. I have a feeling if he is up front, he may be like Bowman and want to salvage a solid day instead of risking further damage. He sits 20th in the standings and can’t risk falling much further.

 

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