The NASCAR Cup Series makes the jump from short-track to superspeedway racing this week as it heads to Talladega, Ala., for the GEICO 500.
The past three Cup races were at tracks less than a mile long – and all in Virginia: Richmond, Bristol and Martinsville. This Sunday, however, the series heads to the biggest non-road-course track on the circuit: the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.
Eleven former Talladega winners make up this week’s field, including six-time champion Brad Keselowski (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021), who has the second-most wins ever at the track behind Dale Earnhardt’s 10.
Joey Logano has three Talladega wins (2015, 2016 and 2018), while Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney all have two.
Predicting a winner at the 2.66-mile superspeedway is nearly impossible for one reason: The Big One.
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Because of the high speeds and bumper-to-bumper racing, the inevitable crash that wipes out a good portion of the field is always lurking.
“I believe you have better odds at the front of the pack when it comes to staying out of a wreck if you can keep that track position all day,” said Kevin Harick, who has one win at Talladega in 2010. “You’re going to race in a pack – three-wide at times – and you’re going to get pushed and have to push at times.
“You just never know what’s going to happen because Talladega is its own animal.”
FrontPageBets takes a look at the drivers to watch as the green flag drops on the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday (3 p.m., FOX).
(All odds courtesy of FanDuel and are subject to change)
Pick to win: Chase Elliott (+1200)
Elliott will make his second start since returning from a broken leg he suffered in early March in a snowboarding accident.
The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet missed six races, but was back behind the wheel last week at Martinsville, where he finished 10th.
Elliott has won twice at Talladega, including last fall’s race.
The 27-year-old from Dawsonville, Ga., and the son of one of the best superspeedway drivers ever, has seven top-10 finishes in 14 starts at Talladega, including five top-5s. His average finish is 14.2, while he’s led 183 career laps.
Top-3 pick: Ross Chastain (+400)
Ross Chastain, who drives the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Team Chevy, earned his first win at the superspeedway last spring, leading only the final lap.
This season, Chastain is second in Cup points and has three top-5 finishes in nine races.
In eight starts, the 30-year-old has two top-5 finishes at Talladega and has led 59 laps.
Chastain finished ninth at Daytona and third at Fontana, two tracks that measure 2-or-more miles.
Top-10 pick: Brad Keselowski (-135)
Not only does Keselowski, the driver of the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford, have six Talladega wins, he also has 13 top-10 finishes in 28 starts, including nine top-5s.
His average finish is 15.7; and he’s led 313 laps at the Alabama track.
This season, Keselowski has just one top-5 finish – runner up at Atlanta. He finished seventh at Fontana and 10th at Richmond – his only other top-10s this season.
But the 39-year-old veteran knows Talladega and what it takes to finish well at the 2.66-miler.
Odds-on favorites to win Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
Joey Logano +1000
Ryan Blaney +1100
Chase Elliott +1200
Denny Hamlin +1200
Ross Chastain +1300
William Byron +1400
Brad Keselowski +1400
Christopher Bell +1600
Kyle Busch +1600
Kyle Larson +1600
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Mike Szvetitz is the General Manager and Content Director for FrontPageBets.com. Szvetitz is a 23-year veteran reporter and editor, including serving 17 years as a sports editor in Florida, Alabama and Virginia, covering everything from preps to pros. His "View From The Lazy Boy" column won multiple state and national awards. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.