NASCAR Betting Picks: 3 Driver Matchups for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega

NASCAR Betting Picks: 3 Driver Matchups for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega article feature image

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NASCAR Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin (11).

  • NASCAR's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway will go green at 2:19 p.m. ET on Sunday (FOX).
  • Nick Giffen offers his best driver matchup bets for Talladega.

Sunday’s race at Talladega should race like a traditional superspeedway race. That means pack racing, passing, crashes and lots of randomness. We can take advantage of the random nature of these races by playing underdogs and long shots in our prop bets.

To illustrate the nature of the randomness at Talladega, consider that I have created a statistical model for every NASCAR race since 2015. Talladega is the track with the least predictive accuracy, with only 11% of the variance in finishing position explained by the factors in my model.

At traditional tracks, the average is around 60%, so we’re really throwing darts when trying to predict a finishing order.

However, those darts can come in handy when betting this race. Be sure to check back on Sunday for updates to this article as more props get posted. In the meantime, here are several prop bets that offer value in what’s expected to be a wild race at NASCAR’s largest track.

William Byron +110 over Alex Bowman

If we compare the average finish of these two drivers at superspeedways, we see why the line leans toward Bowman. Bowman’s average finish during his time at Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) is 19.2 while Byron’s is 25.0. However, average finish doesn’t tell the whole story.

Byron has been caught up in more incidents, posting a 60% did-not-finish (DNF) rate while Bowman has finished all six of his superspeedway races during his time at HMS.

When adjusting average finish for incident rate, Bowman actually rates as the worst full-time driver in the Cup Series, while Byron falls in the middle of the pack.

Because incident rate at superspeedways is random for all drivers except extreme backmarkers, we can say that Byron has been unlucky relative to Bowman.

Let’s also consider that Byron has led more than 9% of the laps he’s run at superspeedway races, while Bowman’s tally is only 3.5% during his time at HMS.

Bottom line, Byron should be the superior finisher if he avoids bad luck.

Aric Almirola +110 over Denny Hamlin

This line is widely available and doesn’t make much sense to me. Almirola and Hamlin each have a 22% incident rate over the past nine superspeedway races, with Almirola posting an average finish of 11.0 to Hamlin’s 13.1. Head-to-head, Almirola has won eight of the last 11 superspeedway matchups between the two, including each of the past four at Talladega.

Almirola starts on the front row, while Hamlin is mired in the back half of the field (23rd). That gives Hamlin a higher chance of getting caught up in an early incident.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr -110 over Martin Truex Jr.

Another head-scratching line that is widely available is this Stenhouse-Truex matchup. All the numbers favor Stenhouse, yet bookmakers have set this as an implied 50/50 matchup.

Stenhouse not only has the better driver rating and average finish since 2017, but he’s also superior in these two categories when adjusting for incident rate. Stenhouse has also dominated more, leading 7.4% of his laps run at superspeedways since 2017, while Truex sits at just 1.7%.

Stenhouse is a bit safer as well, starting on the third row, while Truex starts 20th. (Update: Both Stenhouse and Truex will start from the rear after an unapproved adjustment for each. This doesn’t change the pick.)