Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Talladega Superspeedway should produce some wild moments. We also will have a lot of uncertainty too. See, we have a brand new racing package for Sunday’s Geico 500 (2 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). No longer will a restrictor plate be used. Sunday will mark the first race on a superspeedway with the new tapered spacers.
With that being said, it’s hard to predict how Sunday’s race will play out because of that.
Plus, 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. Will that happen again on Sunday?
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)
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)
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 racers.
Aric Almirola’s win last year wasn’t because he was already in the playoffs and with one of the top teams in the sport.
Really, the last real “surprise” winner, you have to go all the way back to David Ragan 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.
Jeff Gordon, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano respectively.
Anyone really surprise you other than Ragan there?
So, the odds of having a driver steal a playoff spot on Sunday are really more slim than you’d think. Plus, between Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske, they’ve combined to win every race this season and 11 in-a-row overall if you go back to last season. Do they keep that streak going on Sunday?
Chevrolet has yet to win a race in 2019 and have won just once in the spring race since 2012 and only once since 2011 in the fall race. Do their drivers took up with the Toyota’s? Toyota has just three career wins at Talladega themselves.
No shock here, but the favorites are among the JGR and Penske bunch. Rightfully so too. Penske has won two of the last three spring races at Talladega and four of the last five in the fall.
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.
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.
TALLADEGA, AL – MAY 07: Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford, lead a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 7, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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.
Value Picks For Long Shots
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.
during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 14, 2018 in Talladega, Alabama.
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.
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, in his previous three Talladega starts, he was 33rd, 36th and 39th respectively. He has one top 10 finish in his last seven races on the year too.
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.
TALLADEGA, AL – OCTOBER 15: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 15, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
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.