NASCAR Betting Guide: GEICO 500
A mistake we make when discussing NASCAR betting is lumping Daytona and Talladega into one bucket. Although there are similarities, there are massive differences that should influence how we view outrights.
Specifically, Daytona is more of a demo derby than Talladega. Each track has hosted four races since the series moved away from restrictor plates on the engines. At Daytona, 36.9% of entrants have failed to finish, compared to 29.6% at Talladega. This makes sense with how wide Talladega is compared to Daytona, meaning you've got more room for error.
It has led to more predictable winners at Talladega in recent past. The "big four" organizations (Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, and Stewart-Haas Racing) have combined to win 13 of the past 14 races here. The lone exception was Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was driving for a third-tier-but-not-underfunded team at Roush-Fenway Racing. It's still wild, but we're not getting massive longshots in victory lane.
Despite that, oddsmakers are treating this race similarly to Daytona. Nobody at FanDuel Sportsbook has outright odds shorter than +700, and just two drivers are shorter than +1000. We should look to take advantage of that with our betting approach.
Once we account for the way Talladega races relative to other tracks, which bets should we make for the GEICO 500? Let's check it out.
Brad Keselowski to Win (+1200)
Currently, my win simulations see value in three drivers at the top of the odds board: Joey Logano (+900), Brad Keselowski (+1200), and Kyle Busch (+1600). It is still a high-variance track, so we shouldn't bet all three. There is wiggle room for two, though, so we'll focus on the two with the longest odds in Keselowski and Busch.
Keselowski has the longest odds of the Team Penske drivers (Ryan Blaney is +1000), and you can understand why. Since the start of 2018, Keselowski's best finish at Daytona or Talladega is 10th, and his ledger is littered with crashes. He's not in the Denny Hamlin (+700) mold where he sniffs out danger and dips out of line; he acts as a magnet toward it.
That doesn't mean Keselowski hasn't come close. He was chasing down Logano on the last lap of this year's Daytona 500 before a block led to a massive crash.
They've already been told to play nice this time around.
That's not the lone near-miss for Keselowski. He has had a top-10 average running position in Talladega in all four races using the current rules package. He's a five-time winner on this track, and it's unlikely he suddenly forgot how to close out a finish. My win simulations have Keselowski in victory lane 9.1% of the time, so with his implied odds at 7.7%, he's a valuable outlet.
Kyle Busch to Win (+1600)
The bigger overall edge, though, actually lies with Busch. His implied odds are 5.9%, but the simulations have him winning 7.6% of the time. Although you can understand why the odds are long, we've got plenty of incentive to plug Busch here.
Busch is similar to Keselowski: results have swung against him of late on these tracks. His lone Talladega win came in 2008, and he hasn't hit the podium since 2017. The results have been better in Daytona, but he hasn't won there since 2008, either.
So, why bet him at +1600? It's because he's constantly in contention for the win, even if he's not closing the deal.
Busch has had a top-10 average running position in two straight races at Daytona, and he hit that mark in both 2019 Talladega races, which were run in the same rules package. Even in the downswing Busch has experienced since midway through 2019, he has been competitive at these tracks.
We also know Busch will have help at the front. Hamlin constantly is running at the end, and the other big three Toyota cars all have outright odds of +2500 or shorter. We should take advantage of the elongated odds we're getting here on a talented driver.
Chris Buescher to Win (+5000)
As mentioned before, non-elite teams haven't won often in Talladega recently. The one exception in that stretch came in the car that Chris Buescher currently pilots, and he has proven numerous times that he's skilled on these tracks, as well.
For the longest time, Buescher tended to pop only at Daytona. Three of his first five career top-fives came at Daytona, and through 2019, he had never finished better than 11th in Talladega.
That changed last year. Buescher moved to a better team, and with equipment seemingly mattering more at Talladega, it should be no surprise that he got his best results to date. Buescher led 15 laps and had an eighth-place average running position in the fall. In the spring, he was running second on the final lap before getting shuffled and finishing sixth.
Even in lackluster equipment, Buescher showed he could be competitive on these tracks. Now that he has more ponies under the hood, he's contending for wins in Talladega. My win simulations have him showing value to win (2.7% versus 2.0% implied) and to podium (9.1% versus 7.7% at +1200), so this is a good spot to split your unit, putting half on the outright and half on the podium for increased wiggle room.
Kaz Grala to Finish Top 10 (+550)
Kaz Grala doesn't currently have a top-10 market at FanDuel Sportsbook, so you'll have to go elsewhere to bet this. With his number being +550 for a top-10 at DraftKings, though, we need to hunt around and try to get something down in this market.
This will be Grala's third Cup Series race, and it's the fourth for Kaulig Racing. That would normally be a red flag. In this specific circumstance, though, we should still have confidence.
Kaulig is a hyper-competitive team in the Xfinity Series, running a three-car operation, so you know funding is no issue. They've also shown speed in a limited sample in the Cup Series, posting a top-10 at the Daytona road course and a 13th-place finish in the 2020 Daytona 500.
Grala has proven his abilities, as well. His first Cup Series start came at the Daytona road course last year, filling in for Austin Dillon. He finished seventh in that race.
That shouldn't matter much here, given the differences in the track type, but he has flashed plenty of skill at Daytona and Talladega in lower series. In six races between the two tracks in either the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series, Grala has a win, three top-fives, and four top-10s. One of the top-10s came at Talladega in a truck last year.
Grala's number here is in line with drivers who are in absolute dud equipment. Kaulig isn't that. And Grala can wheel it at spots like this. If your book is offering Grala at this number to get a top-10, you should take it and run.