GEICO 500: Preview, Odds & Best Bets

The famed Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway is a track beloved for its high action and unpredictability. And those are apt adjectives for NASCAR’s Cup Series competition this season as well, with eight different winners through the first nine races.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway high banks for Sunday’s GEICO 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) which is traditionally a sure-bet season highlight.

There have been four different winners in the last four races at Talladega, including a career-first NASCAR Cup Series trophy earned by 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace last fall (October).

Wallace is among the pre-race favorites. He opened at +1100 at BetMGM but had drawn just 1.9 percent of the bets and 2.3 percent of the handle by Thursday. By Friday, his odds had lengthened a bit to +1200.

Keselowski Seeking Spark

Former series champion Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of this spring race and with six career Talladega victories is the winningest driver in the field. He boasts an impressive double the number of victories there as any other active driver.

Keselowski is being offered at +1400 with 4.4 percent of the bets and 4.6 percent of the handle supporting him.

A win would definitely be a huge boost for Keselowski, whose only top-10 finish of this season was a ninth place in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Brad Keselowski
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The new owner-driver for RFK Racing was penalized after the Atlanta race when NASCAR inspectors found the team modified a “single source” supplied part on the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford. Keselowski lost 100 driver points and 10 playoff points and crew chief Matt McCall was suspended for four races. And now Keselowski shows up at one of his career-best tracks ranked 30th in the driver standings.

A victory this weekend would go a long way toward turning the season around for the Keselowski. He scored a win and a runner-up finish in his two Talladega starts last year.

Trio Of Top Contenders

Perennial crowd favorite Chase Elliott has led the championship standings for four of the last five weeks. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet currently holds a slim three-point edge on Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney and a 21-point advantage over Blaney’s Penske teammate Joey Logano heading to Talladega.

Interestingly, these three drivers ranked highest in the series driver standings are all still winless on the season. But they are all former Talladega winners and race favorites this weekend.

Blaney has the shortest odds at +1000 and has been backed by the highest percentage of tickets at 6.6. He is followed by Logano at +1100 and Wallace and Denny Hamlin at +1200.

Elliott is from nearby Dawsonville, Ga., and considered a “hometown” favorite at Talladega. He dramatically won the October 2019 playoff race at the track but has only a single top-five finish in the five races since. When it comes to superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega), however, Elliott has collected six top-five and nine finishes on his career.

Elliott has held steady at +1400 with 3.7 percent of the bets and 3.3 percent of the handle backing him.

Blaney has two victories – fall 2019, spring 2020 – and is the first driver to score back-to-back wins at Talladega since NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon swept the 2007 races. However, as with Elliott, Blaney has had a rough go otherwise, with only three top-10 finishes (including those two victories) in the last 11 Talladega races despite leading laps in eight of those 11 outings.

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Logano, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, trails only Keselowski in the victory count with three wins, the last coming in the spring 2018 race. He also has struggled recently with only a single top 10 (third place in fall 2020) in the last five races. He does boast nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in his 26 career starts, however, and has led laps in 12 of the last 13 races.

Any of these drivers has a compelling case to win this Sunday – past Talladega performance plus a desire to score that first 2022 victory.

William Byron Drawing Support

And not to be overlooked is the season’s only multiple-winner, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron. He was runner-up to Keselowski in this race last year and has top-five finishes in two of the last three Talladega races.

The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win on the series’ other superspeedway in Daytona Beach in August 2020.

“Talladega is one of those places where you just don’t know how your day is going to end up,” Byron said. “I think that’s why driving smart and just doing what you can to make it to the checkered flag is the main focus. Your race can change so fast if you’re in the wrong lane or you get caught up in someone else’s mistake.

“I think if you can avoid those things and finish the race, you’re going to have a decent result.”

Byron is BetMGM’s third-biggest liability, drawing a sportsbook-high 14.7 percent of the handle. His odds have shifted from +2000 to +1800 throughout the week.

The biggest liabilities are Daniel Suarez (4.6 percent of the handle at +6600) and Ross Chastain (8.2 percent of the handle at +3300)

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 is schedule for Saturday morning at 11 a.m. ET on FS1.

NASCAR Cup Series

  • Next Race: GEICO 500
  • The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
  • The Date: Sunday, April 24
  • The Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • The Purse: $7,420,008
  • TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
  • Distance: 500 miles (188 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 188)

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia) NASCAR NewsWire contributed to this story