Last Updated Oct 05, 2022, 11:57 PM

NASCAR YellaWood 500 Picks, Predictions

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

It’s a wild card Sunday in the NASCAR Playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway’s 2.66-mile high-banked monster. The wild card is the beastly layout of the track itself where anything can happen and anyone can win. No playoff-eligible driver has won yet after four races in the playoffs and that trend is heightened by the idea this week that the Big One can take anyone out. 

The YellaWood 500 is the perfect race for the mid-point of the playoffs and also the mid-point of the Round of 12. After Next week’s race at the Charlotte ROVAL, four more drivers will get chopped.

The NextGen car has brought all kinds of parity into NASCAR 2022 but what I like most about the season is that anyone can win and not just on the superspeedways as in years past. Bettors can take long shots and cash. There have been 19 different winners through the first 30 races and favorites like Kyle Larson only have two wins. I love that about this season. 

Here’s a look at what I’m thinking this week using odds in order courtesy of BetMGM sportsbooks:


Chase Elliott 12/1 has a Talladega win but he probably should have five more wins on superspeedways. He has 27 starts on them with six top-fives and 330 laps led. He has great equipment always. He’s had five poles on them and three other front-row starts. At Daytona in August, he led five times for 31 laps but was involved in an accident and finished 29th. He was seventh at Talladega in April and 10th in the Daytona 500. But he also won at Atlanta for the first time, his home track, leading a race-high 96 laps while using the superspeedway race package like Daytona and Talladega. He’s sitting seventh in playoff points and he’s got a fear of messing stuff up, but I think he’ll be fine. Caesars has him at 13-to-1 odds. I think he’s the driver to beat. 

"It’s obviously not an ideal situation to be where we’re at in the points heading into Talladega, but it is what it is,” Elliott said. “I’ve said for years that no one is safe in these playoffs. We’ve been in similar situations in the past, so we know what we need to do these next two weeks to put ourselves in a good position to advance. I know we’re fully capable of getting the job done. We’ve proven it time and time again."

First of all, Joey Logano 12/1 Team Penske and Team Penske wins these superspeedway races a bunch since Rusty Wallace retired. He’s got four wins in 55 starts on superspeedways with 15 top-fives and 651 laps led. The NextGen car didn’t produce this season as he had in the past, but he’s always a factor. He understands the draft and he’s got lots of friends out there that trust him to roll on a giddy-up move onto a new line to the front. He’s second in points so I don’t expect many daring moves, but once he gets involved he’ll be his normal self which sometimes gets him in trouble in these races. Sometimes wrecking his own teammates late in the race.

I saw Ross Chastain 12/1 at 15-to-1 to win at Caesars so check that out if you like him. He won the April Talladega race and led just one lap, the last one. That was the old Chastain, brave and brash. That was the Chastain that chucked a watermelon after winning and gained all kinds of new fans. But the veterans put him in his place and he abided. Now he drives delicately and doesn’t tread on anyone. He’s almost corporate NASCAR worthy now. But he’s second in points and still eligible for a title. I think he waits out the Big One and puts himself in a position to win late. Come on watermelon sugar!

Ryan Blaney 12/1 is a two-time winner at Talladega and he’s comfortably sitting fourth in points. Why not just win the race and win the championship? He still has yet to win a points-paying race this season, although he did win the $1 million prize for winning the non-points All-Star Race. Team Penske equipment is always a positive.

Denny Hamlin 14/1 is the best on superspeedways. He sees the air before the air sees itself. He knows where the air is going and uses it to move where he needs to get more speed out of it. It’s magical and it's how he won three Daytona 500s. He has five superspeedway wins and 20 top-fives with 1,052 laps led. NASCAR should check him for illegal wizardry. Best of all, this BetMGM price is the highest I’ve seen on him in superspeedway races since he won his first Daytona 500. Yes, I’m down.  

“It’s really tough because you can’t predict when a wreck is going to happen,” Hamlin said about Talladega approach. “As a driver, you start to feel the intensity of the pack picking up and you start to see people making aggressive moves. You just have to make a judgement call on whether you want to be a part of it at that time. What’s difficult about the Next Gen car is that you can’t go from the back of the pack to the front like you used to be able to. It’s pretty much a two-lane road and you have to pick one lane or the other. No matter what, with these cars having so much drag on them, you can’t get the third lane going. That used to be the avenue to go from the back to the front, so you used to be able to lay back and make your charge whenever you wanted to. Now, you have to try to stay up front and that’s what we’ll try to do, but you ultimately put yourself at risk of getting in a wreck.”


In 32 superspeedway races Kyle Larson 14/1 has one top-five and it came in April at Talladega with fourth place after leading 32 laps. This type of racing has never been his thing. The cars are all bunched up and he looks uncomfortable in them. But this is the playoffs. Work through the rough patches and find a way. I wonder if he’ll play it safe here on such a volatile track. 

"I don’t think so just because there’s so many stage points on the line,” Larson said. “Yes, there might be a couple that do that, but I feel like you typically don’t see that. I think there’s so many stage points on the line that if you can get those points then, even if you wreck, you’ll have a decent points day out of it. I see everybody racing pretty hard."

William Byron's 14/1 best Talladega finish was runner-up last season and in 2020 he was fourth. He also won at Daytona in 2020. He’s good and has good enough equipment to win, but he’s got other issues. And it’s not NASCAR fining him or taking points away after his shenanigans at Texas last week. A bet on Byron means you have to trust Denny Hamlin to not exact revenge and Talladega is so easy to make a deliberate punt look like a mistake or just one of those racing things. I think he’s toxic this week with a big red siren saying stay away from the bet windows. I might take a shot at 28-to-1, though.

"Racing at Talladega is more about how well you can push someone and how well your car can receive a push,”  Byron said. “It’s a track where you really have to be able to work with other cars to not only get to the front but also stay up there. We were running up front in the spring race and lost our help in the end to stay up front, unfortunately. Once you get back in traffic, it’s a lot harder to make your way forward. With how close the points are right now, I think stage points are going to be even more crucial Sunday than they normally are in this race. With everyone trying to get every point they can, you don’t want to put yourself at risk of not finishing the race either just trying to get a stage point. It’s a fine balance for sure." 


Date: Sunday, October 2, 2022
Venue: Talladega Superspeedway
Location: Lincoln, Alabama
Distance: 500 miles
Laps: 188
Network-Time: NBC - 2:00 p.m.
Defending Champion: Bubba Wallace

The only tracks you should bet Austin Cindric 16/1 are on superspeedways and road courses so that means I’m betting him the next two weeks. I just have to find better prices. The rookie burst onto the scene with a Daytona 500 win and then was third at Daytona last month. He also was third at Atlanta using the superspeedway package. Team Penske equipment is so good on these tracks.

Shop around for the best odds, but Bubba Wallace 16/1 is someone you should have in your betting portfolio this week. BetMGM might have the best odds so far from what I’ve seen. He won this race last season for his first Cup win. He started off this season with a runner-up in the Daytona 500. He was good on superspeedways before getting great equipment and now he’s got two Cup wins. He’s proved himself, now he belongs. Now he has swagger and is at a confidence level he’s never been at. He’s going to come in saying he’s going to win and I believe him.   

Tyler Reddick 16/1 won a 2019 Xfinity Series race at Talladega and he also won a Cup race last week at Texas one week after being cut from the playoffs. So much for the lame duck theory or Childress sabotage theory. In 12 superspeedway starts he has two top-fives, one of which was the last one at Daytona last month. I still don’t want a piece of him in my betting equation.

Brad Keselowski 18/1 is a six-time winner at Talladega, the most among active drivers, and his RFK Fords have been fast everywhere lately. I can still remember his first career win at Talladega in 2009 when he was driving for an underfunded part-time team. I think him winning would be the story of the weekend. I need better odds, I’ll be shopping.

“I’m proud of the changes our company and team have continued to make in recent weeks to get our cars pretty competitive,” Keselowski said. “We’re still not where we want to be, but we’re well on the right track. Talladega is always a great opportunity for us, and it’s been a great place to me through the years. We all know what it comes down to and that’s survival, that’s about all you can hope for in these races these days. We’re looking forward to it and getting the Kohler Generators Ford out on track.”

Kyle Busch 18/1 is a lame-duck driver who probably has vacation plans set in the Caribbean and can’t wait to leave JGR. That’s the way he has driven in the playoffs. I’m not calling him a quitter, I’m just saying his body language says I don’t give a frick. But even at his best, he’s never had the patience to be successful on superspeedway tracks. He has two wins in 69 starts and both those came in 2008. 

“It doesn’t matter at all,” Busch said regarding the advantage of being a past winner. “It’s such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from.”

Christopher Bell 20/1 sits 11th in points and needs to make some magic, some shake and bake. Have a bad race here and it puts him in a tough must-win spot next week. The problem is that he doesn’t have a great past on superspeedways with one fifth-place finish at Talladega last fall being his best run and only top-five. In 11 Cup starts on superspeedways his average finish is 24th-place. His quote doesn’t give me confidence, either.  

“Unfortunately we are going into Talladega buried under the cut line, but were going to give it our all,” Bell said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.” 

Kevin Harvick 20/1 is a very good superspeedway racer with a 16th-place average finish which is fourth-best among active drivers. But just three wins in 86 starts. However, 19 top-five finishes in them show he’s always in the mix. He was 10th at Talladega in April. He shares his expertise on superspeedway racing.

“It’s one of those places where you want to race up front and race hard all day because you have to try to win stages,” Harvick said. “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. 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. It’s hard to finish a race there. As we’ve seen over the past however many years, you try to put yourself in the right position and hope you have a little bit of luck on your side that particular day. I know our Busch Light Ford Mustang will be fast enough to contend for the win, but you just have to get to the finish.”

In 70 superspeedway starts Martin Truex, Jr. 22/1 has no wins, but he does have six top-fives with the last one coming at Talladega in April when he finished fifth.

“It’s going to be typical crazy Talladega, especially for the guys in the playoffs,” Truex said. “For us, I’m looking forward to it just because our cars have been really strong on the superspeedways this year. We’ve been able to run up front and get solid finishes, which isn’t something that I can say for most of my career on these tracks just because of bad luck. So, if we can get some good fortune and stay out of trouble, I’m confident that the car that James (Small, crew chief) and the guys are bringing will be plenty capable of winning the race. We just have to make it to the end to have a shot.”


First off, Austin Dillon 25/1 is 28-to-1 at Caesars and you can probably find higher odds elsewhere. But It’s too high. He’s never won at Talladega, but he’s won twice at Daytona, including the last race of the regular season at Daytona. He was 28-to-1 then, but the sportsbooks don’t believe he can win now? Austin Cindric is getting more love from the books than Dillon? This is what Dillon does. He’s third-best among all active drivers with a 16th-place average finish on superspeedways. He was also runner-up in the April Talladega race. This is a bet you have to make because you’ll pound your head if you don’t and he wins. These odds are just plain stupid but thank you. I hope to cash as I did with him at Daytona.  


This isn’t his type of racing, although Alex Bowman's 25/1 lone top-five on superspeedways was a runner-up at Talladega in 2019, but he’s dead last in playoff points among eligible contenders. The reason you might bet him to win is because of desperation. He has to make some moves, but also stay safe so he’s not in must-win situation at the ROVAL next week. But ultimately, winning should be his goal.

"Texas put us behind in points, so our work is cut out for us heading to Talladega and the ROVAL,” Bowman said. “Our team has a lot of motivation right now and when our backs are against the wall, the crew steps up and goes the extra mile to put ourselves in the best position possible. Obviously, anything can happen at a superspeedway, so we just have to be smart and make the right moves to stay out of other's messes. We will take it one race at a time like we always do and go compete this Sunday."

Two of Aric Almirola's 25/1 three career wins came on superspeedways and he was one turn away from winning the Daytona 500 before being punted. He was good on these tracks with Petty equipment and also SHR equipment. He’s just good on superspeedways.

“Talladega is always a wild card, but there has always been a ‘comfortability’ for me at superspeedways,” Almirola said. “Back in the Petty days, those races were our only shot, so I really honed my craft at Daytona and Talladega. With a little luck on our side, it could be a great weekend to be another playoff spoiler.”

You can notice the extra zip in Chris Buescher's 25/1 step after winning at Bristol two weeks ago. It’s as if that win validated him as a Cup driver. He won before at Pocono but it came because everyone pitted halfway through the race and he stayed out and got rewarded when the downpour came. He’s got a great RFK Ford, he’s got renewed confidence, and he knows how to play the superspeedway game. He’s a good candidate to get a top-5 and maybe win.

“This is such a fun trip and always an exciting race,” Buescher said. “Those fans down there know how to have a good time, and it’s always an exciting few days. We know the name of the game in these races is simply to be there at the end, and we’ve done that in past races there, just have to get lucky and put the whole package together come Sunday in our Fastenal Ford.”

Daniel Suarez's 25/1 best finish at Talladega was 10th in 2018, but I was most impressed with him at Atlanta this season using the same superspeedway package they use at Talladega and Daytona. He was third at Atlanta in March after leading 13 laps and sixth in the July race.  

Some of Erik Jones' 28/1 recent superspeedway runs have seen him right in the mix on the last laps. He was sixth in the April races after leading 25 laps. He was ninth in this race last season. In 2020 he was runner-up after leading 13 laps and he was fifth in the spring Talladega race. He also won the 2018 summer race at Daytona. He’s certainly live this week, shop around for the best number.


Chase Briscoe 33/1 was third-place in the Daytona 500 and I think it’s possible to see him have a good run and make a push to advance to the next round. He’s still alive. He’s got championship dreams. Why not him? Only 12 drivers can say they’re eligible and this is the big wild card race.  

“Thankfully, we aren’t in a massive points deficit going into this weekend,” Briscoe said. “We made the best out of a tough situation to start in Texas and came out just outside of the top-eight in points. If we can keep doing that and just running the best race for us, I think we can continue in the playoffs. I don’t think anyone expected Texas to go the way that it did, but it was a nice primer for the chaos of Talladega.”

Michael McDowell 33/1 is having his best Cup year ever and was eighth at Talladega in April and seventh in the Daytona 500. He won last season's Daytona 500 and he was third at Talladega last year too. Even before the NextGen car, he was always a contender to win at Daytona and Talladega.

“Front Row Motorsports always performs well at Talladega,” McDowell said. “We know it’s a great opportunity for us to win. We finished eighth in the spring race, and we still have a very strong speedway program. There really is no better race for PEAK to join Love’s at. We will be contenders.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr 33/1 grabbed his first Cup win at Talladega in 2017 and then went ahead and won at Daytona in the same summer. He doesn’t have a win anywhere since then, but he’s always a threat, and he always produces some exciting racing, sometimes causing the Big One himself because he’s not afraid to make the daring move.

Justin Haley 40/1 knows how to manipulate the air very well and he has an ARCA win at Talladega along with two Xfinity Series wins on the 2.66-mile beast. He also won a Cup race at Daytona (2019) as well as a couple of Xfinity Series races there. He was 12th at Talladega in the April Cup race.

Ty Gibbs 40/1 stayed out of trouble for the most part in his first superspeedway Cup race at Daytona to end the regular season. He finished two laps down but scored a 13th as almost everyone else wrecked out. He’s going to have a fast Toyota like his teammate Bubba Wallace.


In 11 superspeedway races in the Cup Series Cole Custer 66/1 has a best of 10th at Talladega last season and was also 11th in last season's Daytona 500. He was 13th in this race last season.

“We had strong runs and we did it without any practice or qualifying, so that was definitely an adventure,” Custer said of his solid 2021 Talladega runs. “Having no practice was definitely a concern because you want as much practice as you can get to just feel things out and see what’s working and what’s not working. But we figured it out pretty quickly in the races, as it turned out. We had fast Ford Mustangs both times there that year. I think we had top-five cars at both races, and we were able to race our way to the front both times. But we ran out of fuel at the end of the June race, and ended up getting caught up in a big wreck a little past halfway in the October race. I’m optimistic we’ll bring a fast Mustang again this weekend.”

Corey Lajoie 66/1 led laps in the last races at Daytona and Talladega and has four top-10s over his career on Superspeedways. I think he’s proved he can drive well and be trusted by his colleagues in the draft. No bet is a bad bet at Talladega until it loses.

Noah Gragson 66/1 won the Xfinity Series race at Talladega in April and just like Brendan Gaughan in the past, this No. 62 ride in Cup was competitive after a while and he finished fifth at Daytona in August.

“I definitely had a lot of luck,” Gragson said. “I didn’t initially have a car capable of contending, so I just rode around in the back and waited for them to wreck. The way we were handling all day – the front tires were bouncing around the racetrack – I was super tight, so I couldn’t hold it wide open. But then we got the red flag for rain and before the race went back to green while we were still under caution, we were able to work on the car and kind of diagnose it during that rain delay. It really made it a lot better when we went back racing. I know there were fewer cars on the track, but it was like a completely different car and we were a contender. 

Daniel Hemric 66/1 has had seven Cup races on superspeedways and his best finish was fifth at Talladega in 2019. He’s got good superspeedway stuff like teammate Justin Haley.

In four Cup starts on superspeedways Harrison Burton 80/1 averaged a 28th-place finish with a best of 19th at Daytona last month. He led three laps in the Daytona 500. Remember, anything can happen and almost all the cars are equal. 


Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1 #9 Chase Elliott (13/1)
2 #11 Denny Hamlin (14/1)
3 #1 Ross Chastain (15/1)
4 #3 Austin Dillon (28/1)
5 #12 Ryan Blaney (12/1)


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