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Geico 500 Picks

Geico 500 Picks
Date: Sunday May 1, 2016
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Time: 1 pm ET
TV: FOX

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

Richmond proved to live up to short track expectations, with Kyle Busch losing the race to teammate Carl Edwards in the last lap of the race. Edwards took the checkers for his second consecutive win of the season, very clearly securing his spot in the Chase and his fortitude for a championship run this year. Honestly, I didn’t think we’d see so much so soon from Edwards, but he’s got a lot figured out. This weekend may just throw a wrench in everyone’s plans, thoug, as we head to Talladega, one of the crapshoot races of the season.

After leaving a trail of short tracks, these drivers will have a big adjustment coming to the largest track of the circuit. Talladega opened in September 1969. Today’s current configuration shows the speedway as a 2.666 mile asphalt tri-oval with 33 degree banking through turns 1 and 2, 32.4 degree banking through turn 3, and 32.5 degree banking through turn 4. While this may not seem significant, those slight variances in banking can play heck on tires for the drivers. The tri-oval creates even more issue with 16.5 degree banking, while the backstretch evens things out with a mild 3 degrees of banking.

Talladega is very much a tire track as well as a track position track. With the draft being somewhat modified throughout the years with the exclusion of bump drafting, drivers still have the opportunity to line up and create some serious speed with a long line of cars. In this year’s field, we will likely see at least 3 to 4 cars lining up to push each other over the double-car teams that we saw a few years back. The newer configuration of the cars eliminates the ability of 2 cars to really move away from the field like seasons prior. I anticipate that the field will run on track position and fuel mileage this year.

While tire wear will play a role in the race, the draft creates a whole new element with track position and fuel mileage. To be removed from the main draft is suicide. There are generally 2 solid lines to run with, often with the outside line leading the inside as momentum on the top is better. That being said, drivers often are reluctant to leave this momentum and have to figure out fuel mileage at that point. Tires do play a role, especially with the variable banking, but with the draft, they can often overcome tires that may be a few laps older. If we take a look at previous winners here, our most recent Spring winner is Dale Jr. With a relatively disappointing Richmond finish, Jr. will most certainly be looking for a win here at ‘Dega. Superspeedways are his dad’s legacy. This is an Earnhardt type of track. I anticipate that he will likely be fighting for a win here. The issue is that Talladega brings a lot of questions to the table. There is quite a bit of unpredictability here. That being said, our veterans are still the best bet. Logano is the most recent winner here, winning the October race. He’s been strong this year, but somewhat inconsistent. This may be a track where he can get up front and use the Penske horsepower to stay there. I anticipate that he will be the one to beat on Sunday. Here’s a look at your potential winners here at Talladega:

My Pick to Win: Joey Logano
Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer
Dark Horse Prediction: AJ Allmendinger. Bet your Geico 500 picks at an online auto racing site where you can use your credit card to fund your account and where you'll receive a generous 50% bonus on your 1st deposit! ---> Bovada Sportsbook.

I know these picks aren’t the most popular, but I think that they are the most logical. Jr. is bringing back “Amelia” to Talladega, but she failed to impress on her last circuit out. I don’t think that he’s one to count out because of that, but I do believe that Penske has something for everyone. Bowyer, in my opinion, is getting frustrated. I find him to be an interesting pick, as I think that he will be a little more aggressive to move through the pack and make his way to the front in order to secure his spot in the Chase. As far as Allmendinger goes, well, he needs to step up after an impressive Martinsville finish and a lackluster Richmond finish. He’s moving out of the points and needs to make up some ground.

Here are your current top 16 after last week's race:

1. Carl Edwards
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kyle Busch
5. Joey Logano
6. Kurt Busch
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Chase Elliot
12. Austin Dillon
13. Jamie McMurray
14. Kasey Kahne
15. Matt Kenseth
16. Ryan Newman

Talladega is honestly a mess. This place can serve up any finish that you can dream of. A rookie may be able to take the checkers after a spectacular wreck, or we may just see that the experience of the veterans takes the cake. Regardless, I am still betting on the horsepower of Penske to see victory lane this weekend. Jr. may have something to bring to the table, but he will have to outmaneuver Logano and everyone else trying to get to the front of the pack. Stay tuned for the awesomeness Sunday afternoon and good luck with your Talladega predictions!

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