GEICO 500 (Cup Series) Predictions, Betting Odds & Picks
- Which winless marquee driver (if any) can score a victory at NASCAR’s biggest track?
- Ford drivers—specifically Team Penske stars—look to maintain dominance.
- Will expanded list of potential winners allow a dark horse to find Victory Lane?
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After a steady diet of short-track racing—Bristol Dirt, Martinsville and Richmond—the NASCAR Cup series heads for the sport’s largest oval track, 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway. As is the case with sister track Daytona, the colossal speedway in the Alabama heartland features white-knuckled side-by-side racing in large aerodynamic packs, where one twitch or bobble can wreck half the field.
Sunday’s GEICO 500 will be contested over 188 laps (500 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 60 and 120 laps. Ryan Blaney is the defending winner of the race. Denny Hamlin is the most recent winner at Talladega.
How to Watch GEICO 500
|Geico 500 Information|
|What||GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series Race|
|When||Sunday, April 25, 2 p.m. ET|
|How to Watch||FOX|
Marquee Drivers Are Still Seeking First 2021 Victories at Talladega
The first nine races of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season have produced eight different winners. Only Martin Truex Jr. has managed to find Victory Lane for a second time. What’s most surprising is the list of drivers who haven’t taken a checkered flag yet.
Denny Hamlin (+650), the most recent Talla dega winner, hasn’t triumphed yet this year—after posting seven victories in 2020. Kevin Harvick (+2000) likewise is winless—after accumulating nine victories last year. Chase Elliott (+1100), who won five times en route to the NASCAR Cup Series championship last season, hasn’t scratched this year.
There are nine former Talladega winners in the field for Sunday’s race. Only two of them—Ryan Blaney (+1000) and Joey Logano (+900)—have won a Cup event this year. The have-nots include Harvick, Hamlin, Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Of those we like Keselowski, who is undervalued at +1100, given that he leads all active drivers with five wins at the track.
Ford Drivers—Specifically Team Penske—Have Been Dominant at Talladega
Ford Drivers have won nine of the last 11 NASCAR Cup Series events at Talladega Superspeedway, and Team Penske drivers are responsible for seven of those. Joey Logano has won three times during that stretch and Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney twice each.
The Penske drivers enter Sunday’s GEICO 500 with an understanding—that they’ll take care of each other down the stretch. In the season-opening Daytona 500, Keselowski and Logano wrecked while dueling for the lead on the final lap. Blaney had been eliminated in a crash on Lap 14.
“We just had a (Zoom) call with myself, Joey, Brad, Matt DiBenedetto (from affiliate Wood Brothers Racing), RP (team owner Roger Penske) and other Penske members, just trying to figure out what’s the best way to approach these races and how to finish them out,” Blaney said on Thursday.
“Even though I was on the couch watching the end of that race because we wrecked so early, you’re still a part of it and still hopefully find yourself in a situation at the end of the race to where yourself or your teammate—if we are in a spot where we’re one-two coming to the end of this thing, how do we go about that? How do we go about to make sure and do our best that we finish one-two no matter who wins?”
If the Penske drivers can maintain discipline, Keselowski is looking better and better.
Talladega Is a Great Place to Pick a Dark Horse to Win—But Which One?
The conventional wisdom is that anyone can win at Talladega, based simply on the very nature of superspeedway racing. Over the years, Talladega has given such drivers as Richard Brickhouse, Ron Bouchard, Lennie Pond, Bobby Hillin Jr. and Phil Parsons their first and only NASCAR Cup Series victories.
Recently, however, the power teams have tended to dominate the 2.66-mile track, particularly Team Penske, as noted above. But that doesn’t mean drivers who aren’t in the mix at short tracks and intermediate speedways should give up hope.
If you’re inclined to wager on long shots, here are our best bets: Matt DiBenedetto (+3000), driving a Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, a Team Penske affiliate; Austin Dillon +(3000), a former Daytona 500 winner; and Bubba Wallace, a former Daytona 500 runner-up who has shown a knack for superspeedway racing.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]