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Folks, it’s Talladega Superspeedway week — and it’s a great time to break down the race field and take a shot at who might just be the best idea to check out when you bet NASCAR online. There’s no question some NASCAR Cup Series drivers are better than others on superspeedway tracks like ‘Dega, and we break it down.
Who does like full-blown drafting action? Who avoids it so they can race for another day in a long season? There are many strategies on how to approach venues like Talladega and Daytona International Speedway — the two superspeedway locations.
NASCAR went to restrictor plates in the late 1980s when there were worries after Bill Elliott’s incredible — and troubling — pole-qualifying numbers were going above 210 mph. The track this happened on in 1987? You guessed it, Talladega. The pack-racing style of superspeedway racing makes for an exciting brand of racing where all sorts of names will have a shot … if they can make it to the end.
If you’re following the NASCAR odds this week, you’ll see some unique names atop the odds, which we’ll discuss below.
THE FAVORITE: Denny Hamlin (+650)
I was in the stands in Daytona when Hamlin kicked off his full-time NASCAR Cup Series career with a win in the 2006 Bud Shootout. The guy knows how to scoot around a restrictor-plate track, nobody questions it. Today, he’s one of the top veterans out there and has five plate-track wins on his resume and 25 top-10 finishes out of 61 starts.
That’s pretty incredible consistency at tracks that truly don’t allow for consistency. He also will start in the No. 1 position based on NASCAR’s 2021 formula for establishing the starting order (as opposed to the usual qualifying setup). But the truth is, starting in the No. 1 position — whether you earned it on speed or not — isn’t really a huge help at Talladega.
Race fans know that in superspeedway racing, strokers can win these from the 30th starting position. And veterans can easily win them from the 10th position. That’s the glory of this type of racing. Some drivers hate it, some drivers love it because it gives them a chance to get in the NASCAR postseason with a win. But again, one thing is for sure, the fans love it — and Hamlin leads the NASCAR betting lines this week.
OTHERS: Calling Brad Keselowski (+1100) an “other” candidate to win this race just feels dumb. He has won at Talladega in the NASCAR Cup Series five times, and he has won at Daytona once, too. He’s just short of batting .500 for top-10 finishes here when … so … many … things … can go wrong in a race here.
You could be sitting in sixth, minding your own business, and “The Big One” could take you out when you had nothing to do with it. That doesn’t happen as often outside of superspeedways — but it happens here all the time.
Also? Joey Logano (+900) is good at these venues, too (four superspeedway wins in the Cup Series).
THE DARK HORSE THREAT: Ricky Stenhouse (+1600)
Stenhouse just seems to like this place. He has captured one of his two career NASCAR Cup Series wins here (the other being Daytona, the other superspeedway), and he has the third-highest average finish there (12.7). For a place this unpredictable, that tells you how much he enjoys this style of racing when so many others don’t like it at all.
Stenhouse has nine top-10 finishes out of 15 attempts at Talladega and six top fives. He qualified well, too, before COVID-19 scrapped that last year. He’s an interesting guy to keep an eye on.
OTHER: Here we are stuck on Ryan Blaney (+1000) again, right? But the stats are legit. Blaney has already won two Cup races here, he is consistent at a track that doesn’t typically allow consistency (didn’t I already type that?). He’s a solid pick for a spot like this. He also starts in the No. 7 spot.
THE INTRIGUING LONGSHOT: Ryan Preece (+3500)
Preece is a fascinating youngster in this spot, and he may not be all that fascinating after this — who knows? It could go either way. But he’s in the race, starting in the No. 29 spot — but again, that depth in the starting lineup means nothing at Talladega or Daytona. Preece has run four times in the Cup Series at ‘Dega, and he has two top 10s and leads all current drivers with an 11.5 average finish. He also has two top 10s at Daytona in five attempts.
OTHERS: Good ‘ole Aric Almirola (+1600). He loves this place. His only two Cup Series wins are at superspeedways (one at Daytona, one at Talladega). And in the Xfinity Series? Two of his three career wins were at the same two tracks. He’s in solid equipment with Stewart-Haas Racing and could be a serious factor in this. Can he shed his rep of being a NASCAR journeyman? In races like this, he certainly can.
Also, Chris Buescher (+5000) is a guy whose career resume proves he likes this type of racing.