The Alabama 500 on Sunday at Talladega SuperSpeedway’s monstrous 2.66-mile layout will be the final race in the Round of 12 and the sixth during the 10-race Sprint Cup Chase.
Two drivers have qualified for the Round of 8 by virtue of winning, and three others have a relatively safe lead in points. But for the other seven drivers, there’s a lot to be worried about.
Talladega might offer the most exciting brand of racing in the series because everything is huge, such as the speeds at 200 mph. The track is the longest in the circuit, has the steepest banking at 33 degrees, and the wrecks are spectacular 10 to 15-car pileups. The cars are bunched up side by side, sometimes four wide, and because of the restrictor plates, most cars are equal, meaning most drivers have a legitimate shot to win.
For betting purposes, those type of traits aren’t attractive. There’s too much randomness. There’s nothing worse than losing your bet with the best car because of another driver’s mistake.
For plate races, I’ll drop my normal weekly NASCAR bankroll down by 50 percent, and rarely will I play any matchups. I’ll then spread wagers on six to seven drivers to win and hope my highest return on investment cashes. It takes a lot of luck and little skill to cash.
Picking those drivers is almost like a lottery. It’s that random. I don’t have relevant practices to go off like a normal race, so it’s basically going by a history of drivers on plate races.
As for the practices, the times are almost irrelevant because of the massive speeds obtained during the draft. The two practice sessions from Friday aren’t going to reveal much. In fact, the drivers don’t even think it’s too important, as only 25 practiced in the final session.
Talladega is the final one of four plate races this season. Denny Hamlin (10-1) started the season by winning the nonpoints Sprint Unlimited, then won the Daytona 500 the following week. Brad Keselowski (11-2) has won the past two plate races, at Talladega in May and Daytona in July. Kyle Busch (12-1) has finished third or better in all three of the points-paying plate races.
Hamlin felt the Talladega wrath in May with a 31st-place finish. Keselowski is a four-time winner at the beastly track, including the first win of his career with a part-time underfunded team. Those two are the favorites for obvious reasons, but you can’t be faulted for taking a long shot.
Drivers who offer a great opportunity to cash at long prices come from Roush Fenway. Trevor Bayne (60-1) finished third at Daytona in July and 10th at Talladega after leading 22 laps. Bayne’s only career win was the 2011 Daytona 500, at 100-1. Greg Biffle (50-1) never has won at Talladega in 27 starts, but he was fastest in Friday’s practice and had the best 10-consecutive lap average. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (50-1) has a 12.8 average finish at Talladega in six starts, tops among active drivers.
NOTE — Martin Truex Jr. turned a lap of 193.423 mph to win the pole position Saturday. The run came after NASCAR confiscated a bolt from his Toyota, but Truex said he was not worried about ramifications to his Furniture Row Racing team. Keselowski qualified second and Matt Kenseth third.
Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1994. Follow @MicahRoberts7 on Twitter.