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Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

It’s been a few weeks, but we finally have some positive news to kick off this week’s article.


Chase Elliott has found his way back to victory lane.


In typical Texas fashion, plenty of contenders found trouble along the day. Cars such as Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, and Alex Bowman among others, all ran a portion of the race inside the top-10, and all ended up falling deep in the running order due to a problem at some point in the race.


Elliott used those other team’s struggles as well as a strong move on a late restart to make his way past both Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin to take control of the race, and he never looked back.


Elliott’s win was his first in 42 races, a winless streak that spanned all the way back to 2022 after a winless 2023 campaign marred by injury and suspension.


Perhaps more impressive than the Elliott winless streak was the losing streak of Elliott’s primary sponsor, Hooters.


Hooters – a primary sponsor for multiple Cup Series drivers and teams over the years – made their first tip to victory lane as a primary sponsor since they sponsored Cup Series champion Alan Kulwicki in 1992.


Elliott paid homage to Kulwicki following the race with Kulwicki’s patented Polish Victory Lap. A sight that many traditional NASCAR fans surely loved.


Outside of the Elliott victory it was a pretty okay race. As mentioned above, there was plenty of attrition. A lot of cars that had a chance to run top-10 or even win found themselves wadded up in the turn four wall.


It was also refreshing to see tire wear come slightly into play. On one of the final longer green flag runs of the race, Brad Keselowski used fresher tires to dice his way up to third-place and it seemed for a while that if the race had stayed green, he may have been able to run down both Elliott and Hamlin who were in front of him.


Another big storyline from this race includes Elliott’s teammate Kyle Larson. Larson lost a right rear tire under caution after a 35-lap green flag run which seems incredibly strange.


Either way, Larson is lucky that wheel came off under yellow and not under green, I’d imagine that hit would have hurt at full speed had that wheel come off going into turn one.


In a season-long impact, Larson will be without key pit crew members for a few weeks, as they will serve a two-week suspension for the wheel coming off on track. Larson also lost his fueler for this weekend’s race at Talladega for not wearing the proper fire-retardant gear at Texas.


I’ll be intrigued to see if these pit crew member suspensions make a difference in Larson’s performance. This weekend at Talladega, I can’t imagine there is a big impact, but pit stops will be crucial in the following race at Dover, a fast one-mile concrete monster.


I guess we should move on to Talladega now that we’ve talked about the busy weekend at Texas.


Talladega brings the return of superspeedway racing that we haven’t seen since the thrilling three-wide finish at Atlanta earlier this season when Daniel Suarez earned a win.


Talladega is a lot different than Atlanta, though the racing will likely be similar. Talladega is a much larger, much wider track than Atlanta. We’ll likely see some three-wide racing this weekend, though the majority of that will happen when the drivers are in fuel-saving mode.


Last fall, Ryan Blaney picked up the Talladega victory as he edged past Kevin Harvick for a margin of victory of 0.012 seconds, through Harvick was later DQ’d from the race for having loose windshield bolts.


In last fall’s race, 24 different drivers led a lap with Joey Logano leading the most (48). The race was fairly tame, as only eight drivers crashed out.


Going back to last spring, Kyle Busch picked up the win with Blaney finishing runner up after leading a race-high 47 laps. Last spring’s race was a little wilder, with 11 cars being involved in on-track incidents and finishing a lap or more down.


Talladega is one of the most unpredictable races out there. I wish I could tell you who was going to win, but at ‘Dega it’s anyone’s game. Below you’ll find a few guys I have my eye on and a few I’m avoiding. Let’s see if we can throw some darts this weekend and come away with a winner.


Make sure to follow me on Twitter (X) @WKFCody for my most up-to-date bets. I’ll tweet out my full card Sunday morning before the green flag.


One more quick plug, make sure to sign up for our NASCAR One & Done. Pick a driver to win every week and accumulate points all season long. Even if you missed the first quarter of the season, it’s still a fun time, and you can still possibly win some prizes.


Now, on to ‘Dega.

 

Track Facts

The Geico 500 is a 500.08-mile (188-lap) race around the 2.660-mile tri-oval at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Talladega Superspeedway has been a part of NASCAR’s schedule since 1969. The inaugural 500-mile race at Talladega was won by Richard Brickhouse in his ’69 Dodge. Never heard of him? Me either, but maybe this name rings a bell. The winningest driver in Talladega Superspeedway history is Dale Earnhardt. The intimidator knew his way around ‘Dega, winning 10 career races at the superspeedway, including his last career victory in the fall of 2000. Earnhardt’s son – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – is tied with Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski with the second-most Talladega wins. Each of those drivers have won at the track six times apiece. Talladega is unpredictable. In an era where cars and drivers are as close as ever, this will truly be anyone’s race. As long as drivers stay out of trouble throughout the day, they will have a chance at the end.

 

Who’s Hot?




NASCAR’s most recent winner, Chase Elliott leads us off this week. Elliott earned a victory at Texas to move his way up to fourth in the season-long standings. Elliott has quietly been having a solidly consistent year. Despite just snapping a 42-race winless streak, Elliott has racked up four top-10s and three top-5 finished this season. Elliott has led 126 laps this year, nearly as many as he led in the entirety of 2023 (195). This should be another good week for Elliott. The Dawsonville, Georgia native has already won twice at Talladega over the course of his young career, having won in both the spring of 2019 and the fall of 2022. Elliott has led laps in 11 of 16 career Talladega races and the second-highest average finish at Talladega among active drivers that have competed in all of the last six races at the track. Chase will have a great shot to go back-to-back this weekend if things go his way.


Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson remains on this list despite a rough finishing result at Texas. Larson is the current series points leader, and had one of the best cars at Texas. Larson qualified on the pole (his third-consecutive pole-winning performance) and dominated the opening stage. Things were looking like a good-old fashioned ass-whooping until a loose wheel derailed the team’s day. Larson struggled to regain the track position lost due to the penalty, and he eventually finished 21st. This week, Larson heads to potentially his worst track. Larson has never won a superspeedway race, and even though you should never say never, Larson hasn’t shown anything to me that he could pull off a win in one of these races. Larson opened at +2100 to win this weekend, a number that you will never see at any non-superspeedway race, but I still don’t think I’ll be investing.


Let’s stick with all Team Hendrick drivers this week and throw in William Byron. Byron had a solid day at Texas coming away with a third-place finish. Though Byron didn’t dominate the race, which has come to be somewhat expected, he still found a way to earn a top-5 finish. Byron heads to Talladega where he has never won, but he does have a pair of victories at Daytona, including this year’s Daytona 500. Daytona is as close as it gets to Talladega, so I’d say Byron has a really nice opportunity this weekend. If he comes away with another superspeedway win, it may be time to think of Byron along the same lines as Blaney and possibly even Hamlin when it comes to superspeedway racing talent.

 

Drivers I Like




As noted above, I am really high on Ryan Blaney at superspeedway tracks, especially Talladega. Blaney almost always finds himself up front at this type of track. His average finish over the last six Talladega races is 6.7. The next best driver’s average finish is Chase Elliott at 11.5. Blaney has three career wins at Talladega and eight top-10 finishes in 19 races. Blaney has led 120 laps at Talladega over the past six races and his last three Talladega finishes are 1st, 2nd, and 2nd. It doesn’t get much better than that at a superspeedway. You could make the argument that Blaney is due for a letdown, but I’m still interested in betting him at any number +1000 or better.


Denny Hamlin is back on the list again despite having not won a superspeedway race in the Next Gen era. Hamlin has led the second-most laps at Talladega over the past six races behind only Ryan Blaney. Hamlin has two top-5 finishes and three top-10 finishes in the last six Talladega races. Hamlin has historically been better at Daytona than Talladega, but he does have a pair of victories at ‘Dega in the spring of 2014 and the fall of 2020. Hamlin is due for a superspeedway win in a Next Gen car.


Brad Keselowski is right back in the drivers I like following a runner-up finish at Texas. Keselowski has had some of his best runs at superspeedways, and as I mentioned above, he is a six-time winner at Talladega. Keselowski’s average finish and top-10 stats aren’t super impressive, as he’s typically checkers or wreckers at superspeedway tracks. This is more of a gut feeling, but what better place to span a 100+ race winless streak than at a track where he has won six times.

 

Drivers to Avoid

Martin Truex Jr. is here for back-to-back weeks and it’s hard to argue against. Truex has never won a superspeedway race in his entire career. That seems hard to believe for a guy that is a champion of the sport and a 34-race winner, but heading into Talladega this weekend, Truex is a staggering 0-for-81 at superspeedways. As a matter of fact, Truex has failed to finish more superspeedway races (21) in his career, than top-10 finishes (15). Maybe he’s due, but I won’t be betting on him this weekend.


Tyler Reddick is another driver that hasn’t had much luck on superspeedways. Though he isn’t quite at Truex status, Reddick has never won a superspeedway race and is currently 0-for-23 in his career with eight DNFs and four top-10s. Reddick has failed to finish two of the last six Talladega races with a best finish of seventh. I’m out on Reddick this week.


Harrison Burton can probably be put on this list any week, but it’s important to know that on a week where it may seem as though Burton has a chance, he really might not. Burton has crashed out of four of his five career Talladega races with an average finish of 31.4. His best ever finish at Talladega came in a 20th-place run in the spring of 2021 while racing for Gaunt Brothers. Despite having a Team Penske alliance, Burton has not had the same success superspeedway racing as Blaney, Joey Logano or even Austin Cindric. Stay away from Burton this week, despite thinking he may represent some good value.

 

Keep an eye on…

Todd Gilliland absolutely must be mentioned here following his strong runs earlier this year in both the Daytona 500 and at Atlanta. Combined in those two races, Gilliland led 75 laps. Unfortunately for Gilliland, he crashed out of both events, but his speed, and Front Row Motorsports speed as a whole at superspeedways this season put him squarely on my radar this weekend. Though it won’t be worth betting top-10s this week, I’d put a small sprinkle on Gilliland to win at +5000 or higher. He's already proved to me this season that he can run up front and control the race.





Austin Cindric likely has this race circled on his calendar along with all superspeedway and road course races. Cindric is a former Daytona 500 champion but hasn’t won a race since his incredible 2022 season-opening victory. Cindric always brings speed to superspeedway races. He has had strong runs at Atlanta since the reconfiguration and has finished top-10 in two of four career Talladega races coming home fifth last fall and ninth in the fall of 2022. He even led 15 laps here last fall. Look out for Cindric to be a surprise winner that would throw a wrinkle into the current playoff picture.


Erik Jones has been oddly consistent at Talladega over the past handful of races. Prior to last fall, Jones had finished sixth in three consecutive Talladega races and carded four consecutive top-10’s. He has led laps in four straight Talladega races and also finished top-10 in this season’s Daytona 500. Jones and Legacy Motor Club haven’t taken a huge step forward in their first season under the Toyota banner, but the superspeedway promise seems to be there. Jones is also a former Daytona winner back in his Joe Gibbs Racing days. Depending on his odds, I may take a shot at Jones this weekend.

 

Current Bets

I’ve got nothing on the book yet, but here is what I have my eye on (all lines via DraftKings):

To Win:


Ryan Blaney +1000

Brad Keselowski +1000

Austin Cindric +3000

Erik Jones +3000

Todd Gilliland +4500

 

Be sure to follow Cody (@WKFCody) on X for his most up-to-date NASCAR bets and weekly NASCAR betting card posted on Sunday mornings. Also, listen to the WKF NASCAR Podcast anywhere you get your podcasts. The WKF NASCAR Podcast comes out at 7 a.m. every Friday morning over the course of the season.


Don’t forget to join our WKF Fantasy NASCAR One & Done! For more information, DM @WKFCody or @WKFNate on X.

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