The second round of the Playoffs with the wild cards of Talladega and the Charlotte Roval was always going to be wild – especially for NASCAR Bets. Another non-playoff driver, in the person of Tyler Reddick, won on Sunday. We are in uncharted territory as no driver in the playoffs has won a race. In addition to a fourth non-playoff winner with Bell, Bowman, and Elliott having early exits on Sunday, the round has reached peak chaos.
As most of you know, Talladega like Daytona is a long track with high banking in the corners. The speed at Talladega and Daytona is unparalleled on the circuit. Besides the speed, the racing is fundamentally different than short or intermediate tracks with a focus on pack drafting. This means that a driver who falls out of the draft can quickly find himself losing pace and falling back quickly. However, while both Talladega and Daytona are drafting tracks, they are different in one key aspect; that is the width of the track. Daytona is relatively narrow compared to Talladega and so there are some differences in racing style.
Despite the differences in the tracks, we can generally look to performance at Daytona as reasonably predictive of driver performance at Talladega. That said, these tracks have a high degree of randomness to them. So while we know who is good at these tracks, the results are still very hard to accurately predict. The high variance means that, like at Daytona, value is most often found in long shots. So lets get to the picks.
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Early NASCAR Betting Picks: Yellawood 500
#47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr +4000 | (DraftKings Sportsbook and BallyBet)
Here at Garage Guys we stan Rickey Stenhouse Jr. Have I called him Wrecky? Of course. Have I called him Steakhouse? Also of course. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think the man can’t drive. In fact, but for a few blown tires I think Ricky might already have a win or two under his belt this year. So +4000 is clear value to me.
In 2017 Ricky won at both Daytona and Talladega. Since 2017 he has continued to show strength at plate tracks. During that time he has three Top 5 finishes at Talladega and had multiple Daytona races where he led laps. This year Ricky led 16 laps in the Daytona 500, as well as 22 laps at the new drafting version of Atlanta. Additionally, Ricky is just running well right now. He led laps last week at Texas and was in contention at Kansas three weeks ago. With six races left to go has more top 10 finishes than he has had since 2017. I have half a unit on this and would bet it down to +3500.
#43 Erik Jones +3000 | (DraftKings Sportsbook, PointsBet, and Bally Bet)
It wouldn’t be a drafting race if I didn’t write up a bet on Jones. My reasoning behind Jones is much the same as the reasoning behind Stenhouse. I’m willing to go shorter on Jones than Stenhouse just because Jones is having an even better year.
Jones won the July 2018 Daytona race. Since that time he has five Top 10 finishes at Talladega, including a second in 2020. He has also led laps in five of eight Talladega races and three of eight Daytona runs. Finally, when he doesn’t crash, he has finished on the lead lap in every race at Talladega that he has started. Hanging around the lead lap in in these races means good things will happen. I have half a unit on Jones, but I wouldn’t go under this number.
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#77 Landon Cassill Top 5 +5000 | (DraftKings Sportsbook and PointsBet)
Every once in a while Cassill sneaks up in one of these drafting tracks to steal a Top 5. He did it earlier this year at Daytona and in 2014 at Talladega. Yes, it takes chaos for him to get into the Top 5, but he has done it in two of his 37 “plate track” starts. That is good for 5.4% of the time vs 1.96% implied odds.
Even if he hadn’t made it at the Daytona cutoff race he would be 1 for 36. That’s a rate of 2.7%, which is clear of that 1.96% implied odds. It’s also not just pure luck that he gets these finishes. In his 37 starts he has finished on the lead lap 18 times, good for nearly 50%. If you take out wrecks and equipment failures where he DNF’d that jumps to 18 of 29 (62%) starts with lead lap finishes.
If you are on the lead lap at the end of a plate track race, a little bit of luck going your way can turn you into a Top 5 driver. This year in two starts at Daytona and one at Talladega he has finished on the lead lap all three times (15, 19 and 4). Do I expect Cassill to go back to back Top 5 at a plate track? Its unlikely, but its value up at 50/1 where DraftKings and PointsBet have him priced (and 52/1 where I got it at BallyBet). I’d bet down to +4500.
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