Race: Geico 500
Date: Sunday April 29, 2018
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Time: 2 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Kyle Busch does it again! Three in a row for the driver who can’t seem to be stopped. Busch won from the deepest starting position ever, starting in 32nd spot. His qualifying efforts obviously failed him, so it was impressive that the team put together a package strong enough to not only drive through the field but also to win. Kyle Busch was very vocal in praising his pit crew and his crew chief in their efforts to get him out front and keep him there, especially with so many late restarts. The last 40 laps proved to be crucial for Busch and his team, but those short runs were exactly what he needed. Typically, we don’t see too many short runs when it comes to Richmond as compared to the other short tracks being that this is the biggest small track there is out there. That said, the rarity worked in Kyle Busch’s favor, where many of the drivers and teams set their cars up for running on longer runs.
The race ended in overtime, with Chase Elliott coming home in the runner-up spot for the eighth time in his career. He was grateful for his second-place finish for once because he admitted that their car just wasn’t worthy of winning. He managed to pass Denny Hamlin, though, and come home with a very respectable finish. Hamlin finished third with Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top 5 spots. Harvick was lucky to finish in the top five after one of his pit crew members garnered a penalty for throwing equipment over his car during a pit stop. This is a no-no in NASCAR. Harvick has been vocal in the past about his difficulties with pit stops, so this serves as no surprise in his frustration that his pit crew once again potentially cost him spots. One of the more interesting battles of the night was between Kyle Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray. Rarely do you see teammates going at it, but these guys were trading paint during the caution laps. It will be interesting to see if any developments come from that little debacle.
This weekend, hold on to your hats. We’re headed to the one and only Talladega. This week is a complete 180 degree turn around from the short track racing we’ve been watching for the last couple of weeks. Talladega is a nail-biter because you just never know when the field is going to run into each other and cause some sort of catastrophic wreck. You also never know if and when you’ll see a car flying into the catch fence. It’s a pretty crazy race no matter how you play your cards, thus the predictability kind of flies out of the window. This track is quite a site, sitting at 2.66-miles. This asphalt tri-oval boasts 33-degree banking through turns one and two, 32.4 degrees, in turn, three, and 32.5 degrees in turn four. The tri-oval itself has a relatively mild 1635 degrees of banking, with only 3 degrees of banking on the backstretch. With this size of a track, we are talking track position as the absolute key. The difference here is that track position is dependent on the drafting. We’ve seen the field change from tandem drafting to full-on group drafting. It seems with the makeup of these cars that group drafting is favored once again, which, as a fan, makes the racing better in my opinion. That being said, drivers really have to be confident in their spotters because we’re talking inches determining a catastrophe.
When it comes to picking a winner, there are a few different factors to take into consideration. We have those drivers who favor superspeedways and restrictor plates and know how to utilize that setup to get ahead. Then we remember that a driver, no matter how good, can get wiped out in the blink of an eye because of the closeness and speed of the packs going around the track here. With that, I’m going to put out some names that I think are going to be the top drivers to watch this weekend. One of the strongest contenders this weekend is going to be Brad Keselowski. With him winning three of the last seven restrictor-plate races, mostly at Talladega, this team has something figured out. It doesn’t hurt that Penske has the horsepower thing figured out too. That’s a fundamental element to anything pertaining to restrictor plate racing. I hate to do this to Brad, but I think that his teammate might have something on him. Joey Logano gained a valuable asset to his team in TJ Majors, who just so happened to be Dale Jr.’s longtime spotter. That is definitely going to be a strength going into this weekend. Let’s look at all of your potential winners heading into Talladega:
My Pick to Win: Joey Logano
Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer
Dark Horse Prediction: Paul Menard
Menard isn’t doing terribly. He’s also got a thing for making bad situations turn in his favor. I believe that should Menard survive the carnage that is Talladega; he will be a driver to watch quietly move into the front of the pack. He will, of course, have to fend off drivers like Clint Bowyer. Bowyer is the last winner we’ve seen since Kyle Busch. Bowyer is also a bit of an unpredictable cat when it comes to restrictor plate races, but that team and all of SHR is showing some strength. Look for Bowyer to be a factor for a good portion of the race.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Joey Logano
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Ryan Blaney
9. Kurt Busch
10. Kyle Larson
11. Aric Almirola
12. Erik Jones
13. Alex Bowman
14. Austin Dillon
15. Jimmie Johnson
16. William Byron
Joey Logano is creeping his way to the top of the standings. Coming off a fifth-place finish at Richmond, the team has gained some momentum heading into Talladega. The key will be to stay with the front pack and to avoid the potential big wrecks. Logano and team have enough experience to move to the front of the field and break his over-a-year-long no wins streak. This should be the weekend for him. He will ward off many eligible drivers, but I think that Logano has this one in the bag. Stay tuned for an awesome weekend of restrictor plate racing at Talladega! - Looking for more than just standard driver to win NASCAR bets? Check out 5Dimes!