NASCAR Cup Series: Top Bets for Sunday’s Talladega GEICO 500

NASCAR Cup Series: Top Bets for Sunday’s Talladega GEICO 500 article feature image

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads south to Talladega, Alabama, for the second restrictor plate race of the 2018 season. Restrictor plate racing is a unique style of racing seen only at Talladega and Daytona. Because NASCAR mandates the use of speed-limiting restrictor plates, the cars end up running in a big pack, where gaining or losing several positions in a single lap is the norm. Also the norm: the Big One. The Big One occurs when multiple cars — sometimes even more than 20 cars — wreck because of the pack racing. At a highly variable track like Talladega, it’s common to take multiple longer shots on a betting card.

The key stats that go into my machine learning model this weekend are year-to-date finishing position, track history (including finishing position and laps led), and driver rating for the past eight restrictor plate races. However, because of the nature of this style of racing, the model explains just 11 percent of the variance in finishing position. As a result, I’ll rely more heavily on the RotoViz Driver Sim Scores to gauge upside.

Restrictor plate racing often leads to a wide range of lines across different books, so as always make sure you shop around for the best lines!

Chase Elliott: +1350 at

Elliott (pictured above) really stands out in the model and Sim Scores this weekend. He projects for the second-highest average finish per the model, and the Sim Scores give him race-winning upside should he avoid any trouble. Elliott has led the third-highest percentage of laps at restrictor plate races since 2014 (counting only races in which a driver finished), and twice he has led at least 14% of the laps at Talladega in four career Cup races. Laps led eventually translate into a win.

Clint Bowyer: +2500 at

Bowyer is a two-time winner at Talladega, and he also brought home a runner-up finish in last year’s July Daytona race. Bowyer already has a 2018 win under his belt, and he boasts the third-best average finish in the Cup Series this year. The Sim Scores show that Bowyer’s upside is similar to that of betting favorite Brad Keselowski (+700 at 5dimes).

Paul Menard: +5000 at

Menard has flirted with victory at plate races throughout his career, but he has yet to seal the deal at one. However, that’s precisely what is keeping his odds so long. Menard is in premium equipment — probably the best of his career for plate racing. The Wood Brothers are a Penske affiliate, so he’ll have essentially the same equipment used by plate superstars Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney. The machine learning model gives Menard the 10th-best projected finish, and he has a race winner in his Sim Score comps. Menard has an average finish of 9.1 over his past 10 incident-free restrictor plate races and 8.0 over his past six plate races.

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