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Best bet for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeeway

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The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega this weekend for the third drafting race of the year. Talladega is a 2.66-mile tri-oval track with steep banking in the turns. Like Daytona, and to a lesser extent Atlanta, Talladega features pack racing with cars drafting and pushing each other.

Despite the similarities to Daytona there are differences. Talladega is wider than Daytona, so going three wide isn’t quite as risky. The finish line being just before turn 1 also means that the final sprint to the finish is significantly longer than at Daytona. This means that a final drag race to the finish offer more opportunities for chaos. Ultimately though, the nature of pack drafting often leads to at least one large wreck that takes out multiple cars, aka “the big one.

The nature of big wrecks means that good cars can get caught up in incidents not of their own making. This levels the field in some ways, which means it can be harder to find value. So we need to be cautious when betting on these races.

Michael McDowell +105 over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. | DraftKings

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Stenhouse and McDowell are both drivers who have a reputation as drafting specialists. Both have won the Daytona 500 in late race chaos. Stenhouse has another pair of drafting wins from the 2017 season. Ultimately right now, at drafting tracks, I view these two as a toss up though.

Over the nine races at Daytona and Talladega in the Gen 7 car McDowell is 5-4 against Stenhouse in this head to head. Looking at Front Runners from Win the Race, their true average running position favors Stenhouse. 17.86 to 21.16. Average finish however favors McDowell at 20.44 to 23.00. McDowell has also survived better, completing 94% of all possible laps compared to Stenhouse at 88%.

The Speed Geeks Sim Center at Win the Race also has this as value. With the simulations showing that McDowell should actually be slightly favored.

Ultimately given the unpredictability of these races I view this as a 50/50 proportion. So getting +105 on McDowell to win this head to head at DraftKings is thin value, but is value. I wouldn’t go under +105, but at that price I’m backing McDowell to finish ahead of Stenhouse for one unit.

Gambling involves risk. Please gamble responsibly and never bet more than you are able to lose. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call, text or chat, the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

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