Even with the aid of NASCAR race odds, picking a winner at Talladega is the racing equivalent of throwing a peg at a dart board. While NASCAR no longer uses restrictor plates at it’s pair of superspeedways, the dynamics at Daytona and Talladega are such that the typical advantages some teams have over others are erased by pack racing.
Adding to the difficulty factor when it comes to picking a winner at Talladega is the fact that Sunday’s race will be the first Cup Series event under a new rules package aimed at improving safety. The rule changes include lessons learned from NASCAR’s investigation into Ryan Newman’s terrifying crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in February.
And because NASCAR is keeping teams away from the track as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no practice session ahead of Sunday’s race at Talladega with this new package.
The key rule changes for Talladega are the elimination of aero ducts in the front of cars and a reduction in the size of the throttle body (from 59/64” to 57/64”). The latter should slow the cars down by an estimate of one second per lap.
“As drivers, we’ll figure it out pretty quick, how the runs are and how the handling is (with the new package),” said Joey Logano, speaking with Sporting News this week on behalf of Panini America. “But don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of questions. It takes drag off the car, but it adds downforce to the car. The car should handle really well, but does that bring the pack even closer? A lot of unknowns.”
Below are the complete Vegas odds to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega, plus our top three picks of drivers who could end up taking the checkered flag.
NASCAR race odds to win at Homestead
Chase Elliott is the favorite for Sunday’s Geico 500 with good reason. He won this race last year, and he holds the best career driver rating at Talladega among those in the field. His average running position of 10.791 is the best in the Cup Series at Talladega.
Courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook, below are the complete odds to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega.
|Driver||Odds to win Homestead race|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+1100|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||+2200|
|John Hunter Nemechek||+6500|
While Elliott is the favorite, the teammates of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are close behind in the odds because Team Penske (and Ford in general) has been so dominant at Talladega of late.
When Elliott won the spring race at Talladega last year, it marked the first time a non-Ford had won at the 2.5-mile track since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2015. Fords had won seven straight Cup Series races at Talladega, and five of those victories came from Penske drivers.
Below are the top 10 career driver ratings at Talladega among those in Sunday’s field, starting with Elliott and Logano.
- Chase Elliott, 94.1
- Joey Logano, 90.6
- Kurt Busch, 90.4
- Brad Keselowski, 89.3
- Ryan Blaney, 89.0
- Matt Kenseth, 86.9
- Jimmie Johnson, 86.4
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 84.4
- Denny Hamlin, 82.8
- Kyle Busch, 82.2
Keselowski leads all active drivers with five career Cup Series wins at Talladega, followed by Logano with three. Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson have two Talladega wins each.
For whatever reason second place statistically is a more proficient starting position than the pole at Talladega. It has produced more race winners (20) in the Cup Series than any other starting position. A total of 14 pole sitters at Talladega have won the race. Denny Hamlin will start Sunday’s race second next to pole sitter Martin Truex Jr.
Below is the breakdown of wins from varying starting positions in the history of Cup racing at Talladega.
|Starting position||Winning %||Wins|
|1st||13. 86 percent||14|
|Front row||33.66 percent||34|
|Top 5||54.46 percent||55|
|Top 10||71.29 percent||72|
|Outside top 20||7.92 percent||8|
The top 10 starters for Sunday’s race at Talladega are as follows: 1. Martin Truex Jr., 2. Denny Hamlin, 3. Kyle Busch, 4. Jimmie Johnson, 5. Kevin Harvick, 6. Brad Kselowski, 7. Kurt Busch, 8. Alex Bowman, 9. Joey Logano, 10. Clint Bowyer
NASCAR at Talladega expert picks
(All NASCAR loop data stats are from 2005 through present.)
1. Joey Logano
Career stats at Talladega:
- Three wins, eight top fives, 10 top 10s
- Average finish of 16.182 (sixth-best)
- Average running position of 14.079 (fifth-best)
- Driver rating of 90.6 (second-best)
- 86 fastest laps run (ninth-best)
- 2,673 laps in top 15; 63.8 percent (seventh-most)
- 5,306 quality passes (eighth-most)
Consider this our obligatory Team Penske/Ford pick. Ford has won 11 of the last 15 Talladega Cup Series races (73.3 percent), and Team Penske specifically has won sven of the last 11 (63.6 percent). Keselowski has the most wins at Talladega, but Logano has the best driver rating at the track. Their teammate Ryan Blaney won the fall Talladega race last year.
2. Kurt Busch
Career stats at Talladega:
- Eight top fives, 20 top 10s
- Average finish of 16.167 (fifth-best)
- Average running position of 13.566 (third-best)
- Driver rating of 90.4 (third-best)
- 98 fastest laps run (seventh-best)
- 3,829 laps in top 15; 67.1 percent (series-most)
- 7,931 quality passes (series-most)
Busch has never won at Talladega, but he tends to run well at superspeedways. Combine that with the fact that the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing team has shown speed in 2020, and Busch is a good upset pick for Sunday’s race.
3. Chase Elliott
Career stats at Talladega:
- One win, three top fives, four top 10s
- Average finish of 13.250 (second-best)
- Average running position of 10.791 (series-best)
- Driver rating of 94.1 (series-best)
- 30 fastest laps run (24th-best)
- 1,119 laps in top 15; 73.8 percent (16th-most)
- 1,910 quality passes (18th-most)
Hendrick Motorsports (and Chevy in general) has been stronger in 2020 than it was last season, when Elliott won at Talladega for his first career superspeedway victory. That’s a good sign for the driver who statistically is the best in the field at this particular track.