It’s that time of year folks – the greatest sports week of the year. We’ve got the NBA playoffs (go Magic!), the NHL playoffs (go Flyers!) and, of course, NASCAR action at the high banks of Talladega. It’s only fitting that one of the more exciting sports weeks of the year is capped off by arguably the most exciting Cup Series event on the calendar.
But while racing at Talladega is fun to watch, for fans who have money or a fantasy team at stake… it can be more than a little nerve wracking. While restrictor-plate racing is more of a crapshoot, and thus difficult to bet on, it also provides fans who like to bet on NASCAR events the opportunity to pick some fliers. I wish I could go back and see what the odds were for Brad Keselowski one year ago – or even Regan Smith two years ago – but I assure you both were AT LEAST 50/1 to win.
With that said let’s take a look at some of the favorites for this weekend, and those long-shots that can make one hell of a payday come Monday in this week’s edition of Bettin’ the Horsepower.
All odds are taken from BetUS.com as of Thursday afternoon. Note that these odds tend to change throughout the year and what you see in this column may or may not be the odds you see at the time of your bet.
While no bet at Talladega is a guarantee by any means, there are a few drivers that have proven themselves on superspeedway in recent years. We can start with Jamie McMurray, who won this year’s Daytona 500 and has been consistently strong at the plate tracks as of late and can be had at 15/1. He was strong in Roush equipment and is 1-for-1 with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing on plate tracks… I’d say that’s as solid of a bet as any.
Another driver I really like is a man who has owned the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona as of late and was in the thick of it for the win in this year’s Daytona 500 – Kevin Harvick. He’s one of the favorites this weekend – at least in terms of odds – and rightfully so at 10/1. Surprisingly Harvick’s teammate Jeff Burton (15/1) is the leading points scorer at Talladega over the past two seasons.
Other guys of note are the usual cast of Hendrick drivers: Jimmie Johnson (12/1) who always runs strong when he doesn’t crash, Jeff Gordon (12/1), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12/1) and Mark Martin (20/1). All will likely be in contention if they can survive the infamous Big One.
Play the Odds
Tony Stewart is always a favorite at the plate tracks, but in terms of odds is the favorite at 10/1. I don’t know if I like him THAT much this weekend. Watch the Roush cars as well. All are equally competitive at Talladega in my mind, but Greg Biffle (30/1) and David Ragan (20/1) can be had at much better odds than Carl Edwards (15/1) and Matt Kenseth (20/1). Ragan has the second most points scored at ‘Dega over the past three years.
Long-shots Worthy of a Flier
This is where the money is this weekend. Last year’s winner Keselowski can be had 25/1. Take it. Joey Logano has been strong as of late both on plate tracks and off. He can be had 35/1. Take it.
A couple of other guys I feel may sneak up and have a surprising shot at the win are Elliott Sadler (50/1) and the driver who I feel could be this year’s Keselowski/Smith is Paul Menard (50/1). Vegas knows Talladega is a crapshoot and limit the number of drivers you can select, but you can also take the field at 20/1.
Everybody has a shot to win at Talladega so there aren’t a lot of guys I wouldn’t take – other than anticipated start and parks of course. But if I had to pick one this weekend it’s Juan Pablo Montoya (20/1). He’ll run strong, but boy does that guy have some bad luck on his side right now.
Perhaps I’m crazy, but I think this could be the week Ragan picks up his first Cup Series win. Heck, anything can happen and Ragan has not only run strong at plate tracks on the Cup side… he’s also won at Talladega in the Nationwide Series.