Buckle up, it’s Talladega week.
It’s one of the four races each NASCAR season where you have your best chance of catching lightning and cashing in.
They no longer use carburetor restrictor plates to sap horsepower at the two fastest tracks — Talladega and Daytona — but horses are still restrained and we continue calling them “plate races.”
Some guys have a real knack for plate-racin’ and its high-intensity, high-speed, heavy-traffic atmosphere. And some of those guys continue to draw longer odds than they probably should.
Austin Dillon, for instance, has two plate-race wins and 14 top-10s, and is also the most recent plate-race winner (August at Daytona). Yet 16 drivers, nearly half the field, are listed with better odds than his +1500 on the payout rungs.
That’s a spot ahead of Bubba Wallace, who’s at +1800 despite always — or nearly always — running among the leaders at Talladega and Daytona.
Frankly, some other capable racers are comfortably below those two.
Let’s go to the rundown and look for some potential gems as big, bad ’Dega looms.
William Byron +1200, Ryan Blaney +1200, Kyle Larson +1200, Joey Logano +1200, Denny Hamlin +1200, Chase Elliott +1200
Yes, sometimes a favorite wins a plate race. In the past four seasons, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney have won three apiece in 15 opportunities.
But at 12-to-1 — which would sound tempting anywhere else — it’s best to avoid the faves and swing for the fences.
Tyler Reddick +1500, Ross Chastain +1500, Austin Cindric +1500, Christopher Bell +1800, Bubba Wallace +1800, Kyle Busch +1800
Any other type of track and any other season, you jump at Kyle Busch here. But not during his lame-duck stretch at Gibbs Racing, and not at a superspeedway – he hasn’t won a plate race in over 14 years. That’s incredible.
Again, consider Bubba here, as well as Cindric. And by the way, Ross The Boss won the spring race at Talladega this year.
Martin Truex, Jr. +2000, Kevin Harvick +2000, Brad Keselowski +2000, Alex Bowman +2000, Daniel Suarez +2500, Austin Dillon +2500
You know what else is incredible? Martin Truex has NEVER won a plate race — he’s 0-for-life at Daytona/Talladega. That’s 0-for-70 if you want the exact number.
But again, Dillon is worth a folding bill or two this week, while Keseloswki got a second glance from this corner. That team has been trending upward, and there was a time not long ago when you had to beat Kez if you were going to Talladega’s Victory Lane — he has six career wins there.
Erik Jones +3000, Chris Buescher +3000, Chase Briscoe +3000, Aric Almirola +4000, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. +4000, Michael McDowell +4000, Ty Gibbs +5000, Justin Haley +5000
Now the juices are flowing!
I want a little nip of both Aric (with an A) and Erik (with a K) at these prices, and we’ve already talked about Michael McDowell and his willingness to run with the big dogs in these things.
Frankly, any driver in this group could leave with the trophy Sunday.
The first month of the playoffs have brought a couple shockers and nothing but non-playoff teams in Victory Lane. Don’t ignore the possibilities.
Cole Custer +7500, Noah Gragson +10000, Corey LaJoie +10000, Daniel Hemric +10000, Ty Dillon +20000, Todd Gilliland +20000, Harrison Burton +20000
Corey Lajoie and Ty Dillon, there’s your two longest of longshots who might be worth a look. They’re both among the top seven drivers with the best average plate-race finishes over the past four seasons.
Don’t want to go big? Remember your math: A $10 bet on LaJoie could bring you $1,000, while a similar bet on Dillon would bring in $2,000.
Landon Cassill +50000, J.J. Yeley +50000, Cody Ware +50000, B.J. McLeod +50000
Reminder: Justin Haley at Daytona three years ago. A round of mass pit stops found him in the lead as the clouds opened up. A while later, he was a first-time Cup Series winner without having to turn another lap.
He was as long a shot as these four guys, and yes, it’s probably the only way someone from this foursome helps you cash a massive ticket.