YellaWood 500 Predictions, Odds & Picks (Cup Series)

  • Ford drivers are hoping to extend their dominance at NASCAR’s biggest track.
  • Now that the NASCAR Cup Playoff has begun, Denny Hamlin is on a roll.
  • William Byron is the Playoff straggler most likely to make a move on Sunday.

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NASCAR Cup Series drivers—whether they’re in the 2021 Playoff or not—have a singular goal when they come to Talladega Superspeedway: to complete the race with their cars intact.

Superspeedway racing is a unique expression of the sport. Cars run side-by-side in a tightly bunched draft, and a mistake by one driver near the front of the pack can wreck half the field.

Sunday’s YellaWood 500 will test the mettle and the nerve of the world’s best stock car drivers. The race will be contested over 188 laps (500 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 60 and 120 laps. Denny Hamlin is the defending winner of the race.

Ford Drivers Are Hoping to Extend Dominance at NASCAR’s Biggest Track

Most observers consider races at Talladega Superspeedway random events that anyone can win. Nevertheless, drivers of one particular make of car have dominated the action at the 2.66-mile track.

Fords have won 10 of the last 12 events at Talladega, with Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney accounting for eight of those victories.

Entering the second race in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff, Logano and Keselowski are barely above the cut line for the Round of 8, six points and four points ahead of ninth-place William Byron, respectively.

Keselowski’s six Talladega victories are most among active drivers, and Blaney has won two of the last four races at the track. That said, we like three-time Talladega winner Logano to take the checkered flag in Sunday’s race and advance to the next round.

Logano is +1000 via PointsBet Sportsbook, and this race is his best chance to win during the Playoff. We think he gets it done on Sunday.

Defending Talladega Winner Denny Hamlin Comes Alive During the Playoff

Denny Hamlin struggled through a winless 26-race regular season this year. Then he won the Round of 16 Playoff opener at Darlington during Labor Day weekend and earned an automatic spot in the Round of 12.

Hamlin repeated the feat in the Round of 12 openers, winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was positively giddy after the victory, secure in the knowledge that he’ll compete in the Round of 8 at some of his best tracks.

Hamlin already boasts a distinguished superspeedway record. He’s the defending winner of Sunday’s YellaWood 500, and he’s a three-time champion of the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious race.

Hamlin also has an edge this week. He’s the only driver who can approach the Talladega race without a sense of potential dread because he already has secured his place in the Playoff’s next round.

Hamlin is the only Toyota driver to win at Talladega in the last 12 events there. Despite all that, we don’t expect him to win on Sunday. He’ll be visible and competitive, but he won’t find Victory Lane, even though he’s the PointsBet Sportsbook favorite at +850.

William Byron Needs a Strong Run This Sunday—and Just Might Get It

Even though an up-and-down race at Las Vegas—which ended on the downside—left William Byron four points below the current cut line for the Round of 8, don’t count the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet out of the running.

After all, it was Byron who erased an 18-point deficit in the elimination race in the Round of 16 at Bristol and moved on to the current round.

Byron needs a similar comeback story in the next two races of the Round of 12, which ends at the Charlotte Roval on Oct. 10.

Last year, Byron won the regular-season cutoff race at Daytona, sister superspeedway to Talladega. At NASCAR’s biggest superspeedway, Byron finished second to Brad Keselowski in April, and he was fourth in last year’s Playoff race.

A top five is likely all Byron will need out of Talladega, and that’s what we think he’ll get. So plunk some cash down on Byron to finish in the top five at +150 via DraftKings Sportsbook.

How to Watch YellaWood 500

YellaWood 500 Information
Race YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series race
Location Talladega Superspeedway
Time Sunday, October 3, 2 p.m. ET
How to Watch NBC

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Reid Spencer

Expert on NASCAR

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]