Last Updated May 05, 2022, 9:07 PM

NASCAR GEICO 500 Picks, Predictions, Odds

It was well worth the wait to give us the 2022 Geico 500 Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway’s 2.66-mile wide high-banked layout as the 10th race of the Cup season. The series raced on dirt last week and it kind of felt like an off week, so my anticipation and thirst for Talladega began immediately after the Martinsville race two weeks ago.

I love the racing at Talladega and it’s not because of the wrecks but more about the possibility and danger of the wreck happening at any moment. It’s why I’m on the edge of my seat for all 188 laps, and when I’m not I’m either pacing back and forth or it’s one of the many commercials which inevitably comes back with announcer Mike Joy saying “while you were away, the first big one has happened.”

It always seems to happen like that. Why is NASCAR the only televised sport that dives into commercials when live-action or the clock is running? Because it’s always been that way is a dumb answer.

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GEICO 500 PICKS & PREDICTIONS

Superspeedway racing has always provided me with a decent betting strategy of betting I figured out by betting six to eight drivers to win and rarely bet any of the two-way props. It’s a volatile track and anyone can be taken out at any moment with no fault of their own meaning a driver at Talladega doesn’t hold his true rating as they might at Phoenix or Las Vegas. 

The odds to win index provided by most sportsbooks reflect the volatile environment of Talladega as no drivers are posted lower than 10-to-1 to win and up to 25 drivers are posted 25-to-1 or lower. If anything can happen, why offer a possibility of it happening when offering 200-to-1 or higher as we see at other tracks? Kyle Larson is usually 7-to-2 to win most races after winning 10 times last season, but he’s 14-to-1 to win Sunday.

Two veterans have proved to be the best at drafting in superspeedway races with their unique way of seeing the air and how to best manipulate it to an advantage. Brad Keselowski has seven superspeedway wins including six at Talladega. Denny Hamlin has three Daytona 500 wins and two others at Talladega and he’s feeling good about his chances.

Denny Hamlin has finished outside the Top 10 in eight of his last nine races. (Getty)

“I’m optimistic about going there,” Hamlin said. “I felt like we had a strong car in Daytona, but we got caught in a wreck and never really got to show it. As a manufacturer, the Toyotas were able to work pretty well together to get to the front. Talladega is always a numbers game when it comes to the manufacturers, so it’s going to be important that we’re able to get all the Toyotas together and hopefully put ourselves in a good position.”

Hamlin is 12-to-1 to win Sunday and I’ve already made a bet on him to win because the dude always finds his way to the front in these types of races. Keselowski is 15-to-1 at Caesars sportsbooks and I’m searching for a better price, but I will have action on him because he was born to win at Talladega and I knew the moment after he won there in 2009 as a part-time driver for an underfunded part-time team.

“For me, obviously Talladega is a special place in my mind and always will be,” Keselowski said. “It is a place of unknowns in a lot of cases, but fortunately I’ve been able to be very successful there now with six victories, which is a hard feat at any one track. We all know most of Sunday is about survival, but we also know our Superspeedway cars at RFK consistently perform at a high level. Proud to have Castrol on board with us and help carry the carbon neutral and sustainability banner as we try and go for yet another Talladega victory.”

Keselowski led six times for a race-high 67 laps in the February Daytona 500 in his first ride for RFK Racing. He’ll be fast again Sunday.

GEICO 500 BETTING RESOURCES

  • Date: Sunday, April 24, 2022
  • TV-Time: FOX, 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Talladega Superspeedway
  • Location: Talladega, Alabama
  • Distance: 500 miles
  • Laps: 188

There’s also a category for a few elite drivers that don’t do particularly well on superspeedways starting with the 2021 season champion Kyle Larson who doesn’t have a top-five in 30 superspeedway starts.

"I've watched a lot of superspeedway races to see what I can do differently to be in contention at the end of stages and at the end of the race,” said Larson. “I just never seem to be in a good position at the end – when I make it to the end. Hopefully, we can battle for stage points and have the HendrickCars.com Chevy near the front toward the end of the race."

That’s really all any driver can hope for on superspeedway races. Avoid the big one, keep the car clean, and be around for the final 10 laps to attempt a few winning moves. A few drivers do this well while others let it kind of be a burden that weighs on their minds days before each race at Talladega and Daytona. Martin Truex Jr. has dominated the cookie cutters and then became really good on shorts tracks, but the superspeedway success has eluded him. He seems optimistic about how he’ll run this weekend.

“I think you’ll see something pretty similar to Daytona,” Truex said. “Obviously, Talladega is wider, so there is always the opportunity for more three and four-wide racing. For us, I felt pretty good about how we ran at Daytona the whole time we were down there. The race went pretty clean for us and we were able to get those stage wins, so that gives me a lot of confidence in what we’re bringing this weekend.”

Martin Truex, Jr. has finished outside the Top 20 in two straight races. (Getty)

Truex was 13th in the Daytona 500 and finished first in the first two stages and led three times for 11 laps. The positive is that he managed to find his way to the front multiple times. The negative is that he’s started 68 races between Talladega and Daytona and has no wins and only five top-fives. Caesars sportsbooks have him properly listed at 30-to-1 odds to win. 

Neither Larson nor Truex will be part of my betting portfolio this week, but I found it interesting that two of the best drivers in the series have trouble winning on superspeedways where everyone has a chance to win.

GEICO 500 BETTING ANALYSIS

On another angle, we have a driver like Kyle Busch who last won on a superspeedway in 2008 at both Talladega and Daytona, but doesn’t have any since despite quality finishes such as runner-up four times and 15 top-fives combined lifetime. What’s the deal Kyle?

“You kind of look at what Denny (Hamlin) does and what Brad (Keselowski) does, the guys who are good racers at Daytona and Talladega and the guys who are fast at those places,” Busch said. “Denny makes the most out of what he’s got for equipment, and I’ve got the same stuff and I’m not quite as forceful in situations as he is, and he makes that work for him. I won’t try to put myself in a bad spot to cause something, but it’s always a challenge and it’s always different. I feel like, every time you go to Talladega it’s the same, but it’s different and you just don’t know what to expect. A lot of new drivers who are out there don’t have wins, yet, in our series who are going to be hungry and looking for wins. So they’re going to be trying to punch their ticket to the playoffs and be very aggressive. You’ve got to be mindful of that, too.”

One of those young gun drivers from the Daytona 500 scrambling for their first win was Chase Briscoe who finished third in a race won by rookie Austin Cindric. Briscoe would later win at Phoenix which boosted his confidence level to the highest it’s ever been in the Cup Series. He’s in the winners club. Now he’s one of the guys who is allowed to make the daring moves. Does he approach Talladega any differently from Daytona?

Kyle Busch won last week's Food City Dirt Race. (Getty)

On another angle, we have a driver like Kyle Busch who last won on a superspeedway in 2008 at both Talladega and Daytona, but doesn’t have any since despite quality finishes such as runner-up four times and 15 top-fives combined lifetime. What’s the deal Kyle?

“You kind of look at what Denny (Hamlin) does and what Brad (Keselowski) does, the guys who are good racers at Daytona and Talladega and the guys who are fast at those places,” Busch said. “Denny makes the most out of what he’s got for equipment, and I’ve got the same stuff and I’m not quite as forceful in situations as he is, and he makes that work for him. I won’t try to put myself in a bad spot to cause something, but it’s always a challenge and it’s always different. I feel like, every time you go to Talladega it’s the same, but it’s different and you just don’t know what to expect. A lot of new drivers who are out there don’t have wins, yet, in our series who are going to be hungry and looking for wins. So they’re going to be trying to punch their ticket to the playoffs and be very aggressive. You’ve got to be mindful of that, too.”

One of those young gun drivers from the Daytona 500 scrambling for their first win was Chase Briscoe who finished third in a race won by rookie Austin Cindric. Briscoe would later win at Phoenix which boosted his confidence level to the highest it’s ever been in the Cup Series. He’s in the winners club. Now he’s one of the guys who is allowed to make the daring moves. Does he approach Talladega any differently from Daytona?

“I don’t think much changes from how we used to prepare for the superspeedway races,” said Briscoe who is 15-to-1 to win. “You know that anything can happen, so it’s important to be in the best position possible, but do we really know what that is? Sometimes it’s safer to be upfront, sometimes you want to be in the back, out of the way. I think Daytona and Atlanta taught us a lot about how the NextGen handles in this type of racing, so you kind of know how the car is going to react in the pack or when you’re being pushed. We had some things we knew we had to look at but, overall, I think we should have a good run if we can just keep the car clean until the end.”

GEICO 500 CONTENDERS

  • Ryan Blaney +1000
  • Joey Logano +1200
  • Denny Hamlin +1400
  • Chase Elliott +1400
  • Brad Keselowski +1400
  • Bubba Wallace +1400
  • Austin Cindric +1400
  • Chase Briscoe +1400
  • More Futures Odds

Team Penske came armed for the Daytona 500 with two of the best superspeedway drivers and the rookie Cindric came away as the winner. But Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano are going to be competing for the win upfront which is why they’re 10-to-1 co-favorites to win. Logano has four wins on superspeedway and Blaney has three, one each of the last three years – two at Talladega.

William Byron is 17-to-1 to win and he’s the only driver with multiple wins in the series – eight winners through nine races. He’s going to be a champion one day and he’s also going to eventually win at Talladega. He won at Daytona in the fall of 2020 and he was runner-up in this race last season. Byron explains the difference between the two superspeedway tracks

“Talladega is quite a bit different than Daytona even though they are both superspeedways,” he said. “Talladega is a lot wider with more room for racing, but the handling of your car isn’t as important there as it is at Daytona. This race is more about how well you can push someone and how well you can receive a push. You need speed, but you need to be able to work well with others to get good runs to make it to the front and stay there. My approach doesn’t change though. You still want to be conservative at times to make sure you’re there at the end of the race, but you also need to push it early on to know what your car is capable of to set yourself up in the best position in the end. We’ve always seemed to run well at Talladega. We just haven’t always had the results to show it, but that’s part of superspeedway racing.”

The kid has it down, sounds like a veteran. But ultimately, my top pick to win this week is a native of Mobile, AL and he's been on an absolute tear on superspeedways. It’s Bubba Wallace time! The last buzz we heard from him was at Daytona when he led seven times for 12 laps. That’s what he does, get upfront. It’s a skill he is still figuring out but a skill that not many have. He’s led a lap in his last six superspeedway races. Last fall he won at Talladega for his first Cup Series win and before that, he was runner-up in the fall Daytona. 

So let’s recount. In Bubba Wallaces last three superspeedway starts he’s finished second, won, and then second again. There’s always an it guy during an era of superspeedway racing and I think right now it’s Wallace.

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GEICO 500 TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION

  1. #23 Bubba Wallace (15/1)
  2. #11 Denny Hamlin (12/1)
  3. #12 Ryan Blaney (10/1)
  4. #6 Brad Keselowski (15/1)
  5. #18 Kyle Busch (15/1)

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